Poaching of Turtles Skyrockets as Demand for them as Pets Rises
Poaching of turtles, driven by rising demand for pets in the United States, Asia, and Europe, according to wildlife trade experts, is contributing to a worldwide decline of rare freshwater turtles and tortoises.
According to one study, over half of the 360 surviving turtle and tortoise species face extinction.
Such concerns have prompted proposals to strengthen freshwater turtle protection at the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora meeting in Panama.
Precise figures on the turtle trade, particularly illegal, can be difficult. Tara Easter, a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan who studies the trade, estimated the commercial export trade for mud turtles in the United States increased from 1,844 in 1999 to nearly 40,000 in 2017 and for musk turtles from 8,254 in 1999 to more than 281,000 in 2016.
The United States and several Latin American countries cited data from Mexico in their CITES proposal to ban or limit commercial trade in more than 20 mud turtle species, finding that nearly 20,000 were confiscated, mostly at the Mexico City airport, between 2010 and 2022.
Freshwater turtles are among the world’s most trafficked animals, targeted by criminal networks connecting with buyers on the internet before transporting them to black markets in Hong Kong and other Asian cities. They are then sold as pets, collectors, commercial breeding, food, and traditional medicine.
The Turtle Trade is poorly regulated.
The lucrative business — some turtle species prized for their colourful shells or unusual appearance can fetch thousands of dollars in Asia.
Poachers are especially dangerous, according to experts, because they target rare turtle species and adult breeding females.
Many turtle species, which can live for decades, do not reach reproductive maturity for at least a decade.
“The loss of large numbers of adults, particularly females, can send turtles into a spiralling decline from which they cannot recover,” said Dave Collins, Turtle Survival Alliance’s director of North American turtle conservation. “Turtles reproduce at an extremely low rate, producing only a few eggs per year.”
The United States Association of Reptile Keepers, which advocates for responsible private ownership and trade in reptiles and amphibians, stated that “limiting captive breeding and legal trade is counterproductive in addressing reductions in wild populations.”
“If there aren’t enough of a species on Earth,… the solution should be to create more of them,” Daniel Parker, the group’s Florida chapter’s director of media, said in a statement. “By cracking down on breeding and trade, authorities are missing out on potentially effective free market conservation solutions.”
Since 2018, the Collaborative to Combat the Illegal Trade in Turtles, a group of mostly state, federal, and tribal biologists dedicated to combating North American turtle poaching, has documented at least 30 major smuggling cases in 15 states. Some involved only a few dozen turtles, while others involved thousands.
Over the last 20 years, Easter at the University of Michigan has identified 59 cases involving approximately 30,000 illegally traded turtles in the United States.
Earlier this year, a federal judge in North Carolina sentenced a man to 18 months in prison and fined him $25,000 for violating the Lacey Act by trafficking turtles. The law prohibits the illegal taking, possessing, transporting, or selling of fish, wildlife, or plants.
Through a middleman, the man trafficked 722 eastern box turtles — North Carolina’s state reptile — as well as 122 spotted turtles and three wood turtles for markets in Asia. The turtles are worth $1.5 million in Asia, and the man received more than $120,000 for them.
After previously pleading guilty to financing a nationwide smuggling ring that sent 1,500 turtles worth more than $2.2 million from the United States to China, a Chinese national was sentenced to 38 months in prison and fined $10,000 for money laundering in 2021.
The man used PayPal to buy the turtles from American buyers, advertised them on social media and reptile websites, and sold them to reptile markets in Hong Kong.
A New Jersey man was sentenced to two years probation and ordered to pay $350,000 in restitution and fines in 2020 for transporting 1,000 three-toed and western box turtles from Oklahoma to New Jersey in candy wrappers and socks.
The illegal trade has prompted governments to propose listing 42 turtle species under CITES for the first time, including North American musk turtles.
Although some species, such as the eastern musk turtle, are common, a listing means that traders will need a permit to sell them internationally.
Commercial sales of other species, such as alligator snapping turtles, which can weigh up to 200 pounds and are found in the Gulf states of the United States, would be restricted.
Proposals would also tighten regulations on 13 others who are already protected.
“We think that’s important because of the trends that we’ve seen over the last couple of decades in international reptile and particularly turtle trade,” said Matthew Strickler of the U.S. Department of the Interior, who will lead the American delegation at CITES.
“There is significant demand from Southeast Asia for food and the pet trade, but there is also demand from Europe for pets,” he said. “We’ve seen a pattern of turtles being depleted in one location, followed by poachers, traffickers, and traders moving to another.” Southeast Asia had been depleted. They relocated to Africa. They are now relocating to the Americas.”
A Rhode Island Environmental Police intern discovered the tiny musk turtles for sale online. They only cost $20 each. The turtles are brown or black with a white or yellow line down the middle of their heads and can live for decades.
In September, police arrested the seller after arranging an undercover purchase at his home. The seller paid a $1,600 fine for illegally possessing a reptile. The turtles, now quarantined at the Providence Zoo, are expected to be healthy and disease-free when released back into the wild.
“When native species are removed even for pets, it has a significant impact,” said Harold Guise, an environmental police detective who handled the case. “Wildlife commercialization impacts wildlife that we can’t measure until it’s too late.” We must get ahead of these issues.”
It reminded Perrotti, the conservation director, that illegal trade, which was previously focused in Asia, is increasingly occurring in his backyard.
“I couldn’t believe there was a market for it and that someone was mass producing or mass collecting these to make a few dollars,” he said. “It’s a $20 turtle.” That is absurd… Wildlife is not a commodity that can be profited from.”
Canada Extradites Former Soldier to Thailand to Face Murder Charge
An Alleged contract killer and former Canadian soldier Matthew Dupre has been discreetly deported from Canada to Thailand to face a murder charge for the shooting of Canadian criminal Jimi Sandhu in Phuket on February 4, 2022.
Last week, a special Airbus A340 flight carrying 10 members of the CSD’s Hanuman special weapons and tactics unit led by Pol Col Wichak Tarom, a deputy CSD commander, and 30 members of a Royal Thai Air Force special operations unit took off from Don Mueang airport for Vancouver, Canada, to bring Dupre back to Thailand.
The special flight, which included Dupre, returned to Thailand and landed at Don Mueang airport’s Wing 6 terminal at 11 p.m. on Sunday. The airport was closed temporarily due to strict security. Around 30 other Hanuman unit members and RTAF ground security met the flight.
The suspect was driven from the airport to CSD headquarters in a motorcade. His incarceration is now being monitored by the Central Investigation Bureau.
On February 4, 2022, at approximately 10.30 p.m., two foreign men shot Canadian gangster Jimi Singh (Slice) Sandhu dead in the parking area of his rented beachfront villa on Rawai beach in Phuket’s Muang district. A security camera captured the killers entering the villa.
Matthew Dupre was recognised as a suspect by Phuket and CSD police investigations.
On February 11, 2022, the Phuket Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Dupre and his accused accomplice on counts of premeditated murder, illegally possessing guns and ammunition, and carrying and using the guns in public.
According to a police investigation, the two suspects departed Thailand for Canada on February 6th.
On February 15, the Royal Thai Police international affairs section issued a letter to the Attorney General’s Office, along with the arrest warrants. Under the Extradition Act of 2008, the OAG was asked to cooperate with Canada for Dupre’s extradition.
The OAG then took the desired measure.
The Alberta Provincial Court in Canada issued an arrest warrant for Matthew Dupre at the request of the Alberta Attorney General’s Office.The Royal Canadian Mounted Police apprehended Dupre on February 20, 2022, at his house in Sylvan Lake, Alberta, near Red Deer.
The Court of Alberta in Edmonton later approved Dupre’s extradition to Thailand under Canada’s Extradition Act of 1999. Gene Lahrkamp, the second wanted suspect in the investigation, died in a tiny plane crash in Canada in May 2022.
The Extradition Act of Canada
The Extradition Act of Canada is a law that governs the process of extraditing individuals from Canada to foreign countries, as well as from foreign countries to Canada. The current version of the Extradition Act was enacted in 1999 and has undergone subsequent amendments.
The purpose of the Extradition Act is to establish a legal framework for extradition, which is the formal process by which one country requests the surrender of an individual located in another country for the purpose of facing criminal charges or serving a sentence.
Here are some key features of Canada’s Extradition Act:
1. Dual Criminality: Extradition can only be granted if the alleged conduct for which extradition is sought is considered a criminal offense in both Canada and the requesting country. This principle ensures that a person cannot be extradited for an act that is not considered a crime in Canada.
2. Extraditable Offenses: The Act provides a list of offenses that are considered extraditable, which includes a wide range of serious crimes such as murder, terrorism, drug trafficking, and fraud. The list can be expanded through bilateral treaties or multilateral agreements.
3. Extradition Process: The Act outlines the steps involved in the extradition process, including the submission of an extradition request, judicial review of the request, and the surrender of the individual if the extradition is granted.
4. Judicial Involvement: The Act emphasizes the role of the judiciary in the extradition process. Courts are responsible for reviewing the evidence presented by the requesting country to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to justify extradition. The courts also consider factors such as human rights and the possibility of the death penalty or cruel and unusual punishment.
5. Ministerial Discretion: The Minister of Justice in Canada has the final authority to make the decision on whether to surrender the person for extradition after the judicial process is complete. The Minister can refuse extradition in certain circumstances, such as if there are concerns about the person’s safety or if the request is politically motivated.
6. Appeal Process: The Act allows for an appeal process, where the person sought for extradition can challenge the decision through the Canadian courts, up to the Supreme Court of Canada in some cases.
It’s important to note that the Extradition Act is subject to international treaties and agreements, which may modify or supplement its provisions in specific cases. The Act provides a legal framework to ensure that extradition requests are handled in a fair and transparent manner while protecting the rights of the individuals involved.
Jan. 6 Rioters Are Bringing In thousands In Donations. Now The US Is Coming After Their Haul
Daniel Goodwyn, a Texan who pled guilty to storming the U.S. Capitol, made an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s former Fox News show less than two months after his plea and promoted a website where people could donate money to help him and other rioters, who the website referred to as “political prisoners.”
An increasing government effort to prohibit rioters from personally profiting from an act that rattled the foundations of American democracy has resulted in the Justice Department demanding that Goodwyn return more than $25,000 he raised.
Prosecutors in the more than one thousand criminal cases dating back to January 6, 2021, are increasingly requesting judges to impose fines in addition to prison sentences to balance donations from supporters of the Capitol rioters, according to a study of court documents by the Associated Press.
Prosecutors have acknowledged nothing improper about defendants setting up Internet fundraising efforts to help with legal expenditures. Since many of the accused have had government-funded legal representation, the Justice Department has occasionally raised concerns about the true use of the funds.
Most of these campaigns can be found on GiveSendGo, which promotes itself as “The #1 Free Christian Fundraising Site” and has become a safe haven for those originally banned from utilizing popular crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe on January 6. Even as they make deals to plead guilty and assist authorities, the rioters frequently declare their innocence and portray themselves as victims of government oppression.
Their ability to raise money demonstrates that many Americans maintain the false assumption that Democrats plotted to steal the 2020 presidential election from Donald Trump. The idea has been bolstered by the previous president’s promise to pardon rioters if he is re-elected.
More than $16,000 was gathered for Markus Maly’s family through an internet campaign that referred to him as a “January 6 P.O.W.” Maly is a Virginia man due to be sentenced next month for attacking police at the Capitol. Although a public defender represented Maly at no cost to himself, prosecutors have asked for a punishment of $16,000 or more.
An increasing government effort to prohibit rioters from personally profiting from an act that rattled the foundations of American democracy.
According to court documents, prosecutors believe it is inappropriate for the defendant to “capitalize” on his involvement in the Capitol breach by using the fame he has achieved due to his criminal activities.
According to the A.P.’s count, prosecutors have sought fines totaling over $390,000 from at least 21 riot suspects this year. These fines have ranged from $450 to over $71,000.
This year, judges have fined at least $124,127 amongst 33 riot suspects. Over the prior two years, over a hundred riot defendants were fined over $240,000.
To repay the nearly $2.8 million in damages to the Capitol and other expenses incurred on January 6, judges have ordered hundreds of convicted rioters to pay over $524,000.
The harshest sentences for those rioters who faced the most serious charges are finally being handed down. They are also the most active in soliciting donations, which may account for the uptick in requests for monetary penalties.
A judge earlier this month handed Nathaniel DeGrave a sentence of almost three years in prison and a fine of $25,000. Prosecutors said the Nevada man “incredibly” collected over $120,000 through GiveSendGo campaigns labeling him “Beijing Biden’s political prisoner” in “America’s Gitmo,” a reference to the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay.
Despite “seeking to cooperate with the government and admitting he and his co-conspirators were guilty since at least November 2021,” the prosecutor wrote, “he did this.”
DeGrave’s attorney William Shipley, who has also represented more than two dozen other January 6 offenders, said his clients should not raise money as a political prisoners if they want to enter a guilty plea.
They have every right to scream from the rooftops that the only reason they are being kept is because of politics until they admit to having committed a crime, as Shipley put it. To quote the First Amendment: “It’s just free political speech.”
An increasing government effort to prohibit rioters from personally profiting from an act that rattled the foundations of American democracy
According to Shipley, he proved to the judge that DeGrave had $25,000 more in donations than legal fees.
“I’ve never had clients that had third-party fundraising like this,” Shipley said, “so I’ve never had to do it.” “There is a section of the population that feels sorry for these accused.”
Heather Wilson, the co-founder of the crowdfunding platform GiveSendGo, explained that accepting contributions for the legal defense of those accused in the Capitol riot “is rooted in our society’s commitment to the presumption of innocence and the freedom for all individuals to hire private attorneys.”
Just over 500 defendants have been punished for offenses committed on January 6, marking a milestone in the largest federal investigation in American history and prompting the government to argue for higher punishments.
When prosecutors ask for a fine, judges are sometimes granting them.
Peter Schwartz, a guy from Kentucky who attacked Capitol police with pepper spray and a chair, was facing a fine of almost $70,000, according to prosecutors. This month, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta gave Schwartz one of the heaviest jail terms handed down in a case involving the Capitol incident, although he did not impose a fine.
Prosecutors accuse Schwartz of trying to make money via his GoFundMe page, “Patriot Pete Political Prisoner in D.C.” However, Dennis Boyle, who represents him, claims no such proof exists.
In this case, the judge “basically said that if the money was being used for attorneys’ fees or other costs like that, there was no basis for a fine,” Boyle said.
John Strand, a cover model for romance novels, was found guilty by a jury of storming the Capitol alongside Dr. Simone Gold, a prominent California physician in the anti-vaccine movement. The judge will sentence Strand on Thursday, and prosecutors ask for a $50,000 fine and jail time.
Prosecutors claim that Strand has raised over $17,300 for his defense, even though he uses a publicly financed attorney. The fact that Strand can afford to live in a mansion that cost over $3 million indicates that he has “substantial financial means,” as the authorities have put it.
“Strand has raised, and continues to raise, money on his website based upon his false statements and misrepresentations on the events of January 6,” the prosecutors stated.
Goodwyn will be sentenced in April after appearing on Carlson’s show in March. The defense team’s attorney, Carolyn Stewart, referred to the $25,000 fine requested by prosecutors as “demanding blood from a stone.”
“He received that amount in charity to help him in the debt for legal fees for former solicitors and this for unknown reasons is bothersome to the government,” Stewart wrote.
SOURCE – (AP)
Regulators Take Aim At AI To Protect Consumers And Workers
NEW YORK — The nation’s finance authority has pledged to ensure that businesses comply with the Regulators law when utilizing artificial intelligence in light of rising concerns over increasingly capable AI systems like ChatGPT.
Automated systems and algorithms already heavily influence credit scores, loan conditions, bank account fees, and other monetary factors. Human resources, real estate, and working conditions are all impacted by AI.
According to Electronic Privacy Information Centre Senior Counsel Ben Winters Regulators, the federal agencies’ joint statement on enforcement released last month was a good starting step.
However, “there’s this narrative that AI is entirely unregulated, which is not really true,” he argued. “What they’re arguing is, ‘Just because you utilise AI to make a judgement, it doesn’t mean you’re exempt from responsibility for the repercussions of that decision. This is how we feel about it. “We are watching.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued fines to financial institutions in the past year for using new technology and flawed algorithms, leading to improper foreclosures, repossessions, and lost payments of homes, cars, and government benefits payments.
These enforcement proceedings are used as instances of how there will be no “AI exemptions” to consumer protection, according to regulators.
Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Rohit Chopra stated that the organization is “continuing to identify potentially illegal activity” and has “already started some work to continue to muscle up internally when it comes to bringing on board data scientists, technologists, and others to make sure we can confront these challenges.”
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) joins the Federal Trade Commission, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Justice, and others in claiming they are allocating resources and personnel to target emerging technologies and expose their potentially detrimental effects on consumers.
Chopra emphasized the importance of organizations understanding the decision-making process of their AI systems before implementing them. “In other cases, we are looking at how the use of all this data complies with our fair lending laws and Regulators.”
Financial institutions are required to report reasons for negative credit decisions by law, per the Fair Credit Regulators Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, for instance. Decisions about housing and work are also subject to these rules. Regulators have warned against using AI systems whose decision-making processes are too complex to explain.
Chopra speculated, “I think there was a sense that, ‘Oh, let’s just give it to the robots and there will be no more discrimination,'” I think what we’ve learned is that that’s not the case. The data itself may contain inherent biases.
Regulators have warned against using AI systems whose decision-making processes are too complex to explain.
Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Charlotte Burrows has pledged enforcement action against artificial intelligence (AI) Regulators recruiting technology that discriminates against people with disabilities and so-called “bossware” that illegally monitors employees.
Burrows also discussed the potential for algorithms to dictate illegal working conditions and hours to people.
She then added, “You need a break if you have a disability or perhaps you’re pregnant.” The algorithm only sometimes accounts for that kind of modification. Those are the sorts of things we’re taking a careful look at… The underlying message here is that laws still apply, and we have resources to enforce them; I don’t want anyone to misunderstand that just because technology is changing.
At a conference earlier this month, OpenAI’s top lawyer advocated for an industry-led approach to regulation.
OpenAI’s general counsel, Jason Kwon, recently spoke at a technology summit in Washington, DC, held by software industry group BSA. Industry standards and a consensus on them would be a good place to start. More debate is warranted about whether these should be mandated and how often they should be revised.
At a conference earlier this month, OpenAI’s top lawyer advocated for an industry-led approach to regulation.
The CEO of OpenAI, the company responsible for creating ChatGPT, Sam Altman, recently stated that government action “will be critical to mitigate the risks of increasingly powerful” AI systems and advocated for establishing a U.S. or global body to license and regulate the technology.
Altman and other tech CEOs were invited to the White House this month to confront tough questions about the consequences of these tools, even though there is no indication that Congress would draught sweeping new AI legislation like European politicians are doing.
As they have in the past with new consumer financial products and technologies, the agencies could do more to study and publish information on the relevant AI markets, how the industry is working, who the biggest players are, and how the information collected is being used, according to Winters of the Electronic Privacy Information Centre.
He said that “Buy Now, Pay Later” businesses had been dealt with effectively by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “The AI ecosystem has a great deal of undiscovered territory. Putting that knowledge out there would help.
SOURCE – (AP)
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