Friday, February 18, 2011

Animal rights group shuts down Japan's whaling season.

It's great to see good news. From CNN:
Japan has canceled the rest of its winter whaling season, with a top official reasoning that environmentalists' obstructive efforts made it dangerous for whalers to stay on the high seas.

Japanese Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Michihiko Kano told reporters Friday that the country's government halted whaling because of actions taken by the animal rights group, Sea Shepherd. He stressed that Japan did not want to do so, but felt its hand was forced.

"From the viewpoint of our crew's safety, we have decided to cut short the research whaling at this time, against our will," he said.

The decision marks the first time Japan has canceled its whale hunt in the waters of the Antarctic since it started the practice in 1987. In 2005, Sea Shepherd began its bitter battle with Japanese whalers, monitoring them and occasionally getting into altercations. What Japan calls its winter whaling season typically extends into mid-March.

On Thursday, Hiroshi Kawamura, a government official in charge of research whaling, said Japan had decided to a temporary halt while it determined its next step -- one that it later ended up taking .

Japan has left its fleet of four whaling vessels in the Antarctic, as it decides what to do about the winter hunt, according to the ministry.

Capt. Paul Watson, who is helming a Sea Shepherd vessel called the Steve Erwin off the coast of Antarctica, said early Friday that at least some of those whalers were still in the Antarctic region.

"If it's true, this is great news," said Watson, who heads Sea Shepherd's operations in the Antarctic. "But we'll keep tailing them until they leave these international waters."

Watson said he and his colleagues have gained momentum and numbers steadily in recent years, while Japanese whalers have become less of a force -- especially economically. He suggested that his group was able to "bankrupt" the fleet so that it wasn't economically feasible to keep going..

He said it was wrong for the Japanese minister to label him and others as dangerous, adding that no one has ever been hurt in their efforts.

"We're getting more support every year, so it's working out that we're wearing them down," Watson said. "We've found a way where, once we're on them, they can't kill whales."

"We're very stubborn and very persistent. We've clearly frustrated them," he added.

Japan annually hunts whales, despite a worldwide moratorium on whaling, under the auspices it is conducting scientific research. The moratorium allows the culling of whales for purposes of scientific research.

Critics call Japan's hunt a cover for commercial whaling, since the whale meat ends up in supermarkets and restaurants. Animal rights groups, from Greenpeace to Sea Shepherd, and the governments of Australia and New Zealand, have publicly condemned Japan's hunts.

"I hope this is the end of whale hunting by Japan," said Watson. "But if they return next year, we'll be here."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Woman sues Century 21 for 80 cents.

From the NY Daily News:
A coupon-clipping New Jersey mom insists Century 21 short-changed her and is suing the famed department store to recoup a grand total of...80 cents.

That's right, 80 cents.

Tova Gerson claims in court papers that she used a $5 coupon when she bought more than $100 worth of stuff last month at the chain's Paramus, N.J., store.

When she returned one item a week later, Gerson claims she got back $17.17 instead of the $17.97 she had been expecting because the coupon had been pro-rated over all the goods she purchased.

So she hired a New York lawyer and tried to up the ante by filing a class action lawsuit on Feb. 10 for damages.

Gerson has "been injured as a result of defendant's fraudulent conduct," the lawsuit states.

Reached at her suburban home in Bergenfield, N.J., Gerson refused to answer any questions about the case.

"It's not a good time," she said, accompanied by a pair of kids. "I'm a mom. It's not a good time."

Told there was going to be an article about the suit, Gerson said, "I'd really rather you didn't."

Gerson's lawyer, Harry Katz in Fresh Meadows, Queens, did not return repeated calls to his office.

There was also no comment from Century 21's legal team.

Katz and Gerson, who records suggest are related, teamed up before to launch a similar lawsuit in December 2008 against the Modell's sporting goods chain.

In that case, Gerson bought more than $100 worth of gear using a $25 coupon and complained "the consumer lost the full benefit" of the coupon if they returned "some or all items."

It was not immediately clear what happened to that suit - or whether Gerson was getting any other disgruntled consumers to go after Modell's.

In the Century 21 case, Gerson claims she bought $108.16 from the store on Jan. 10.

Included in the court papers are a copy of a receipt for purchases of tights, leggings, "faux suede" moccasins and other items. It says Gerson paid cash and got the $5 off.

On Jan. 19, Gerson returned a pink, two-piece, infant girl's outfit citing "incorrect size," according a copy of another receipt.

"By pro-rating the $5.00, the plaintiff lost the amount of $0.80 she would have been entitled to as part of a coupon she used," the lawsuit states.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

South Dakota may legalize the murder of abortion doctors.

This is horrifying. These legislators are lunatics. From Alternet, submitted by Coozer-Phile Duff:
We knew the abortion debate was moving to scary extremes, but WHAT? New legislation in South Dakota is being introduced that would make killing abortion doctors a 'justifiable homicide.' Legal. Murder. It's too shocking to comprehend. Mother Jones:

A law under consideration in South Dakota would expand the definition of "justifiable homicide" to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus—a move that could make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions. The Republican-backed legislation, House Bill 1171, has passed out of committee on a nine-to-three party-line vote, and is expected to face a floor vote in the state's GOP-dominated House of Representatives soon.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Phil Jensen, a committed foe of abortion rights, alters the state's legal definition of justifiable homicide by adding language stating that a homicide is permissible if committed by a person "while resisting an attempt to harm" that person's unborn child or the unborn child of that person's spouse, partner, parent, or child. If the bill passes, it could in theory allow a woman's father, mother, son, daughter, or husband to kill anyone who tried to provide that woman an abortion—even if she wanted one.

Originally the bill was meant to clarify language in the state's justifiable homicide laws, but the anti-choicers immediately latched on with the abortion amendment after testimony in support made by representatives of the Family Heritage Alliance, Concerned Women for America, the South Dakota branch of Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, and a political action committee called Family Matters in South Dakota.

Sara Rosenbaum, a law professor at George Washington University, told Mother Jones, "It takes my breath away. Constitutionally, a state cannot make it a crime to perform a constitutionally lawful act."

Drug trafficking submarine found in Colombia.

From CNN:
The Colombian military has seized a 100-foot-long submarine capable of transporting eight tons of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico, news reports say.

The vessel was found in a jungle area in Timbiqui in southwestern Colombia on Sunday, according to a report from RTT News.

Colombian navy officials said the homemade sub had two diesel engines and sophisticated navigational equipment that would enable it to travel to Mexico while remaining up to 30 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

The vessel was set up for a crew of four but was unoccupied when found, RTT reported. Officials estimated it would have cost $2 million to build.

The submarine is just the latest example of crafts smugglers have made to try to get their illicit cargo past law enforcement.

US veterans sue Pentagon for ignoring rape victims.

It is shameful, if not downright evil, that our army and government turn a blind eye to this. From Daily Mail:
Fourteen U.S. veterans who say they were raped and abused by their comrades today accused the Pentagon of ignoring their claims.

More than a dozen female and two male current or former service members will launch a legal action today, claiming that servicemen get away with rape and other sexual abuse.

One woman claimed that two male colleagues raped her in Iraq and videotaped the attack, circulating it around the base.

She was bruised from her shoulders to her elbows from being held down but charges were not filed as the commander said she 'did not struggle enough or act like a rape victim'.

Victims have also claimed that they are often ordered to serve alongside those they say attacked them.

So incensed are some of the victims about the way complaints were handled that several women have waived their anonymity to speak out.

In a federal class-action lawsuit to be filed today, they want an objective third party to handle such complaints because individual commanders have too much say in how allegations are handled.

The alleged attackers in the lawsuit include an Army criminal investigator and an Army National Guard commander. The abuse alleged ranges from obscene verbal abuse to gang rape.

It also specifically names Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and his predecessor Donald Rumsfeld who they say both failed to take aggressive measures to protect women.

In 2009, there were 3,200 sexual assaults reported in the military with fewer than a quarter of those prosecuted, many for lesser charges.

In fact statistics show it is more likely for a woman to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire.

Panayiota Bertzikis, who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit and claims she was raped in 2006, said: 'The problem of rape in the military is not only service members getting raped, but it's the entire way that the military as a whole is dealing with it.

'From survivors having to be involuntarily discharged from service, the constant verbal abuse, once a survivor does come forward your entire unit is known to turn their back on you. The entire culture needs to be changed.'

After 20 years of legal battles, Chevron fined $8 billion for Amazon pollution.

From Treehugger (thanks Jen):
It's been a long battle: people of the Ecuadorean Amazon against Chevron, which is accused of dumping more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste sludge into the Amazon, leaving people sick with cancer and suffering miscarriages and birth defects. But the BBC reports that, after a lawsuit lasting nearly 20 years, a court in Ecuador has fined Chevron $8 billion for the pollution.

Technically, Texaco did the dumping—into unlined pits and rivers between 1972 and 1992, destroying large areas of rainforest—but the company merged with Chevron in 2001 and has never taken responsibility for the mess or its cleanup.

Chevron has called the ruling a "product of fraud" and plans to appeal—but one lawyer for the plaintiff also said he might consider an appeal, because the damages award is too small.

Considering the company tripled its profit in the second quarter of last year to $5.4 billion, it's not crazy to think people in Ecuador would be entitled to at least $8 billion for 20 years' worth of ongoing and irreparable health problems and damage to delicate ecosystems.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cairo's cats forgotten as its humans rebel.

From Time:
Trying to reach Cairo's Tahrir Square through clouds of tear gas and volleys of rubber bullets, Egyptian TV anchor Mona Khalil was forced by the tumult into a side street. There, she remembers, "I saw cats running, running, running, and trying to get into houses or staircases or buildings and some of them were really gasping." Two kittens had found shelter under a car. She managed to take them inside a building, away from the toxic fumes. Others were not so lucky. "Going back later I found two cats that were lying on their sides, dead," she adds. For Khalil, 43, who is also one of the leaders of Egypt's fledgling animal rights movement, the event had particular resonance. It was, she said, "the first slap in the face that, oh my God, those streets are filled with cats and dogs."

While the world has focused on the many troubles faced by humans during the 18-day uprising, the four-legged residents of Cairo have been left to fend for themselves. Many Egyptians, expats, and tourists have been forced by authorities to flee the country without their pets; zoos and pet shops were also abandoned. The chaos of the uprising put a tremendous strain on the nation's largest animal rights organization, the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals (ESMA), of which Khalil serves as treasurer. "It's very common to see stray cats and dogs on the street, but not for us to see [abandoned] Persians and Siamese," she says.

[...] So much of what Westerners know about Egypt is animal related, from riding camels around the Pyramids to studying about the worship of cats in Pharaonic times. The recent political turmoil has revealed many deep-rooted, previously overlooked problems in that country, the plight of their animals not the least among them. "A couple of people have asked me why they should care about animals all the way in Egypt," says Cooper. "My response has been to say that animals aren't citizens of countries. They're citizens of our hearts, and our hearts have no borders."
ESMA's web site can be found here.

Woman, 55, beats back tiger with soup ladle, saves husband.

From BBC:
A man has been rescued from a near-fatal attack by a tiger in northern Malaysia by his wife.

She entered the fray wielding a wooden soup ladle at the tiger - which fled.

Tambun Gediu, now badly lacerated and recovering in hospital, had tried hitting the tiger away in vain and says his wife saved his life.

Wildlife rangers plan to track the tiger and send it further into dense, unpopulated jungle in the the northern state of Perak.

"I was trailing a squirrel and crouched to shoot it with my blowpipe when I saw the tiger.

"That's when I realised that I was being trailed," Mr Gediu said after surgery.

The tiger pounced not far from the Gediu home in a jungle settlement of the Jahai tribe.

Mr Gediu had tried climbing a tree to escape the animal, but was dragged down by the tiger.

His wife, 55-year old Han Besau, rushed out of the kitchen on hearing his screams and used the kitchen implement to good effect.

"I was terrified and I used all my strength to punch the animal in the face, but it would not budge," the New Straits Times newspaper quoted him as saying.

"I had to wrestle with it to keep its jaws away from me, and it would have clawed me to death if my wife had not arrived."

It was the first time anyone in the village had been attacked by a tiger.

Wild Oats CEO arrested in child prostitution sting.

From CNN:
The chief executive officer of a Western grocery store chain resigned after he was arrested in a child prostitution sting, according to police and CNN affiliate KNXV.

Michael Gilliland, 52, was one of eight people arrested in the sting, said Steve Martos, spokesman for Phoenix police. He is accused of soliciting sex online from a girl who identified herself as a minor on Thursday, he said.

Nevertheless, "the suspect arranged a meeting with this underage female" and allegedly drove to a hotel to meet her, authorities said. "The suspect agreed to pay the underage female for sexual intercourse," police said.

Gilliand founded Wild Oats Market, which was bought by Whole Foods in 2007, and was the CEO of Sunflower Farmers Market. He was charged with felony child prostitution.