NEWS: Trump/Elephants

I’m sending two newsletters back-to-back today as I’m covering radically different topics! Please forgive me!

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NEWS: US to Oppose Proposal by African Nations to Sell Ivory Stockpiles 

Elephants in Africa are in crisis because of poaching, climate change and a host of other issues.

But I just learned that they’re getting a bit of a reprieve from the Trump administration.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just confirmed to me that the United States is officially opposing a proposal that would allow four nations in southern Africa—Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe—to sell their ivory stockpiles. These stockpiles mainly come from the ivory of dead elephants and those seized from traffickers. 

The proposal to sell ivory stockpiles was presented by three of the nations, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe, at the CITES meeting in Geneva. CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an agreement among 183 countries on the regulation of wildlife trade and any wildlife products, including ivory sales. 

The reason this opposition is such a victory for elephants is that the last time Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe were allowed to sell their ivory stockpiles, in 2008, it led to a catastrophic rise in illegal poaching. At the time, the sale, which was made to Japan and China, was intended to flood the market and reduce prices, but it had the opposite impact; after the sale, elephant poaching increased by 66 percent and has only recently started to slow. In the past 10 years, hundreds of thousands of elephants have been slaughtered for their ivory. 

The countries seeking to get permission from CITES to sell their ivory stockpiles have been frustrated that they can’t decide what to do with the ivory from their elephants. They’ve implied directly, and indirectly, that the restrictions imposed on them by countries that don’t have elephants smack of neo-colonialism. 

Zimbabwe, which is facing a horrific economic crisis (inflation soared to 175 percent in June), is among the most strident voices on the subject of selling ivory stockpiles.

“Our ivory stockpile is worth over $300 million, which we can’t sell because countries without elephants are telling those with them what to do with their animals,” Nick Mangwana, a Zimbabwe government official, tweeted in May

Here’s a partial statement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on its decision to oppose a limited sale of ivory from the four nations in southern Africa: 

“Given the continuous high levels of elephant poaching and illegal ivory trade, the United States believes it is premature to agree to a resumption of trade in ivory at this time. The United States believes that re-opening international trade in ivory, at this time, will further endanger elephant populations across Africa.

It is extremely difficult to differentiate legally acquired ivory from ivory derived from elephant poaching. USFWS criminal investigations and anti-smuggling efforts have clearly shown that the legal ivory trade can serve as a cover for illegal trade to launder illegally obtained ivory. Therefore, allowing legal ivory to enter the marketplace could mask trade in illegal ivory and contribute to increased elephant poaching, undermining the efforts to date that may have resulted in the slight reduction in poaching observed in some range countries or areas.” 

Scoop: Bank of America/Pakistan

I’m sending two newsletters back-to-back today as I’m covering radically different topics! Please forgive me!

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SCOOP: Bank of America CEO to Have ‘Dinner and Conversation’ with Pakistan’s Prime Minister 

Bank of America’s CEO and Chairman Brian Moynihan is planning to sit down with Imran Khan, the prime minister of Pakistan, in September for what’s being billed as a “Dinner and Conversation,” according to an invitation that a source shared with me. 

The Sept. 23 event is being hosted at the St. Regis New York hotel by Tina Brown, the former editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker and founder of Tina Brown Live Media. 

That the chairman and CEO of one of the world’s largest banks is willing to sit down with the prime minister of Pakistan in what is likely to be a friendly conversation during heightened tensions caused by the crisis in Kashmir is surprising to say the least.  

This move is sure to anger some of Bank of America’s Indian clients. (The same would be true of some of its Pakistani clients if Moynihan was set to have a similar dinner and conversation with Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India.)

A former top Bank America executive that I sent the invite to replied with a short text in reaction, “Why is he [Moynihan] doing this now? He doesn’t have a shortage of people to speak to!”

I’ve reached out to a Bank of America spokesperson for comment. 

If you’re not aware of what’s happening in Kashmir, I can’t do it justice in a short newsletter post, so I suggest you read this story:

Exclusive: Julián Castro/Animal Welfare

Exclusive: Julián Castro To Announce Ambitious Animal Welfare Plan

Julián Castro is announcing an ambitious animal welfare plan Monday as part of his presidential campaign. The plan calls for ending the euthanization of domestic dogs and cats in shelters and seeks to improve federal housing policy for those with pets. It also says Castro would sign into law legislation that would make animal cruelty a federal crime, establish federal minimums for space for farm animals, prohibit the testing of cosmetic products on animals, and ban the unlicensed ownership of large cats like lions and tigers.

Link To My Story:

Breaking: Scientology Sued By Four Women

Four women who have accused Danny Masterson of raping them filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court against the actor, the Church of Scientology, to which he belongs, and the church’s controversial leader, David Miscavige. 

The suit accuses Scientology, which has long been accused of illegal and unethical conduct, and Masterson of engaging in stalking, physical invasion of privacy and a conspiracy to obstruct justice, among other allegations detailed in the complaint that HuffPost obtained from a source who provided a copy on the condition that they not be identified. 

Read My Story Here (going to update it throughout the night):

Exclusive: Feral Hog Man

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Exclusive: Feral Hog Man Speaks Out

There are exclusives and then there are EXCLUSIVES.

I’m pleased to share with you that I am the first reporter to speak with Willie McNabb, the man whose tweet about feral hogs went viral and spawned a meme.

After we spoke, McNabb sent me a statement which I have included below.

I’m not going to bore you with tons of background if you’re already aware of the story, but here are a few links to catch you up in case you aren’t aware.

McNabb was replying to singer/songwriter Jason Isbell’s tweet about assault weapons. (If you don’t know about Jason, learn quick…he’s a great musician.)

Jason Isbell’s Original Tweet

Willie McNabb’s Reply To Jason Isbell

A Story About The Feral Hog Memes

Washington Post Story About Feral Hogs

Here Is Willie McNabb’s Full Statement:

“I grew up in rural North Carolina, 20 minutes from a small town called Murphy. Like most kids in the South, I spent a lot of my time playing basketball, fishing, and hunting. My earliest memories are of hunting squirrel, grouse, dove, quail, and deer. I learned how to handle a shotgun and a rifle by the time I was 10 years old. I realize that may seem strange in today’s world, but it was a way of life for me and many like me who grew up in the rural South. We ate what we harvested and didn’t hunt just to kill. 

After graduating from college, I moved to Arkansas for job opportunities. After several years of living in town in El Dorado, I moved back to the country. I had a larger home, more land, and few neighbors—peaceful country living.

For the first couple of years of living there—and having had no encounters with hogs to that point—I would let my children play outside. One spring day, when the oldest was no more than 5, the kids were playing in our yard. My wife yelled out to me that there were “pigs” in the yard. The first thing I did was go to my safe and get my hunting rifle, a .270 Remington with a three-shell clip plus one in the chamber. I ran out onto my back porch, and there were hogs everywhere—all of them running wild over my two-acre yard. As my wife frantically tried to protect our kids, I picked the safest targets and started shooting. I killed three quickly. This all happened within three to five minutes. My kids were shaken but safe. My wife and I were shocked, to say the least. I collected the dead hogs and took them to a co-worker for processing. 

I immediately began asking friends and neighbors if this was unusual. They told me it was common in some areas. During heavy rains, the water can rise in the low-lying areas and push the herds to higher ground. Some people I spoke to said they used ARs and AKs because the hogs ruined their farmland and their yards. I have never owned a military-style assault rifle, but after the experience I went through, it didn’t seem completely unreasonable.

The hogs came back three times over the next decade. Those times were not like the first—I would go out and shoot one, and the rest would run off. My family was never hurt. 

So, no, I do not have packs of murderous feral hogs in my yard every day. But I know people who have farms and timberland that this is an issue for. There are numerous reports by news outlets and governmental agencies documenting this. 

After the reaction to my tweet this week, my initial thought was to stay out of this debate. I am a law-abiding citizen, and this brought much unwanted attention to my family. I received numerous interview requests and declined all of them. However, after continuing to read and engage with people on my Twitter feed regarding this issue, I realized that a large portion of our country found this entire issue implausible. That’s why I’m making this statement. I also intend to reach out to and work with groups such as the Arkansas Feral Hog Eradication Task Force and other organizations to help educate the public and come up with viable solutions.

I don’t know the answer to the gun debate. I’m not the avid outdoorsman I was when I was younger, but I do believe in my right to protect my home and my family. I’m for common-sense gun laws, including background checks, closing gun-show loopholes, and mental health requirements. I’m willing to look at anything that will help this carnage stop. 

And finally, regarding Jason Isbell, I love music and always have. My favorite band is Pearl Jam. They have always challenged my beliefs and opened me up to different perspectives, different ideologies, and a broader worldview. I find the same type of inspiration from Jason’s music. That’s why I asked him the question: because he grew up in the South and might be able to understand my perspective. At the heart of my question is a legitimate problem, and I firmly believe we don’t learn anything living in a vacuum. We must push ourselves as a people and a society to be more tolerant of our fellow humans, even the ones we disagree with.”

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