Thursday, March 8, 2018

Tillerson goes to Africa offering nothing -- other than Zinke's OK on killing its elephants

Here’s a pair of AP reports featured in yesterday morning’s Daily Star.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Africa on a damage-control mission for Trump.

WASHINGTON (AP) — As far as Africa’s concerned, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Trump administration have some explaining to do.

President Donald Trump’s description of “shithole countries” in January was greeted with a mix of horror and outrage in Africa, where many don’t know what to think about the U.S. president — or what he thinks of them. He’s rarely spoken about priorities for the continent, which garnered a mere seven paragraphs on the very last pages of Trump’s National Security Strategy.

It falls to Tillerson to mend the damage as he travels to the continent on Tuesday, becoming the most senior U.S. official to set foot there since Trump took office more than a year ago.

Making Tillerson’s job harder, he’s showing up on the continent with few concrete goals or new actions to announce. As one senior State Department official briefing reporters on condition of anonymity put it: “There’s really no deliverables.”

In Djibouti, China’s development of its first overseas military base just a few miles away has been cause for concern for the U.S., illustrating the military side of a broader competition between the U.S. and China playing out across the continent. Another top concern is African nations’ growing indebtedness to Beijing, which is building infrastructure across the continent.

Tillerson, in his speech, warned that China’s approach to development in Africa “encourages dependency” that undermines its sovereignty and risks its stability.

“Chinese investment has the potential to address Africa’s infrastructure gap, but its approach has led to mounting debt and few if any jobs in most countries,” Tillerson said.

So what concretely is the U. S. committed to do in Africa? It looks like the answer is very little. China is a different story. Tillerson can pooh-pooh China’s investment but they are doing something seriously concrete, like building airports. There is an vacuum that is created by the lack of U. S. investment that is now filled by China.

What else can we offer the sub-saharan African nations? Butchery of their wildlife by Trump’s kids - among others. This second AP report from this morning’s Daily Star exposes the Trump administration’s rebranding slaughter of elephants as “conservation” in Trump administration once again lifts elephant trophy ban.

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has quietly decided once again to allow Americans to import the body parts of African elephants shot for sport, despite presidential tweets decrying the practice as a “horror show.”

President Trump personally intervened in November when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service first said it would lift an Obama-era ban on elephants imported from Zimbabwe and Zambia. The agency contends that encouraging wealthy big-game hunters to kill the threatened species would help raise money for conservation programs.

“Big-game trophy decision will be announced next week but will be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal,” Trump tweeted on Nov. 19, placing the policy on hold after a public backlash to the earlier decision.

More than three months later, the federal agency overseen by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke issued a letter dated March 1 announcing that the importation of elephant trophies will now be approved on a “case-by-case basis.” The letter cites a December ruling in a long-running lawsuit challenging the ban filed by Safari Club International and the lobbying arm of the National Rifle Association.

Nether Interior nor Fish and Wildlife issued a media release over the last week to announce the decision, which was quickly condemned by environmental advocates.

“The Trump administration is trying to keep these crucial trophy import decisions behind closed doors, and that’s totally unacceptable,” said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Elephants aren’t meant to be trophies, they’re meant to roam free.”

Trump’s two adult sons are trophy hunters. A photo of Donald Trump Jr. holding the bloody severed tail of an elephant he reportedly killed in Zimbabwe in 2011 has sparked outrage among animal-rights activists.

Zinke is an avid hunter who last year ordered the arcade game “Big Buck Hunter Pro” to be installed in the employee cafeteria at the agency’s Washington headquarters, a move he said would promote wildlife and habitat conservation. added this additional reporting from AP.

In June, the department removed longstanding protections for grizzly bears near Yellowstone National Park, a step to potentially allow them to be hunted. The Fish and Wildlife Service also quietly began issuing permits in October allowing African lions killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia to be imported. Previously, only wild lions killed in South Africa were eligible.

The world’s largest land mammal, the African elephant has been classified as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act since 1979. A licensed two-week African elephant hunt can cost more than $50,000 per person, not including airfare, according to advertised rates.

Illicit demand for elephant ivory has led to devastating losses from illegal poaching as the natural habitat available for the animals to roam has also dwindled by more than half. As a result, the number of African elephants has shrunk from about 5 million a century ago to about 400,000 remaining. And that number continues to decline each year.

According to the United Nations, as many as 100,000 African elephants were killed between 2010 and 2012. For forest elephants, the population declined by an estimated 62 percent between 2002 and 2011.

So once again this administration engages in Orwellian double-speak. Killing elephants for their ivory is conservation. This is another example of an administration adrift: Trump says one thing and his administration does something else.

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