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Hong Kong customs seize four tons of smuggled ivory

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Hong Kong customs officers seized almost four tonnes of ivory worth about $3.4 million, hidden in shipments from Kenya and Tanzania, officials said Saturday.

The 1,209 pieces of raw ivory tusk and a small number of ivory ornaments were discovered in two containers marked “plastic scrap” and “roscoco beans”, shipped to Hong Kong earlier this week, a customs official said.

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The smuggled ivory, weighing 3.81 tonnes (8,400 pounds) — Hong Kong’s largest ever seizure — was found hidden among bags of plastic scraps and beans by customs officers acting on a tip-off from counterparts in mainland China.

“The total seizure is worth about HK$26.7 million ($3.4 million),” the Hong Kong customs department said, adding that it will step up efforts with mainland Chinese authorities to combat transnational smuggling activities.

Mainland Chinese authorities arrested seven individuals, including a Hong Kong resident, in relation to the seizure, public broadcaster RTHK said.

Under Hong Kong law, anyone found guilty of importing unmanifested cargo into the southern Chinese city — a major shipping hub — faces imprisonment of up to seven years and a maximum fine of HK$2 million.

In addition, those guilty of importing, exporting or possessing an endangered species for commercial purposes face up to two years in jail and a maximum HK$5 million fine, customs officials said.

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The international trade in elephant ivory, with rare exceptions, has been outlawed since 1989 after elephant populations in Africa dropped from millions in the mid-20th century to some 600,000 by the end of the 1980s.

However, a rise in the illegal trade in ivory has been fuelled by demand in Asia and the Middle East, where elephant tusks are used in traditional medicines and to make ornaments.

Africa is home to an estimated 472,000 elephants whose survival is threatened by poaching, illegal game hunting and habitat loss.

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[Image via Agence France-Presse]


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No vaccine, no carnival, Rio’s samba schools warn

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Some of Rio's biggest samba schools say they will not participate in next year's Carnival unless a coronavirus vaccine is widely available, Brazilian media reported Tuesday.

Five of the 12 top samba schools, including Mangueira and Beija Flor, told Brazil's O Globo newspaper they would vote to postpone the parades at a meeting set for Tuesday.

"It's simple. If there's no vaccine, there will be no samba," said the head of the Sao Clemente school, Renatinho Gomes.

"How can you gather crowds without collective immunity?"

The mayor of the northwestern city of Salvador de Bahia, where festivities also attract thousands of tourists, has proposed postponing the carnival season nationwide until April or June.

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New York couple point guns at Black Lives Matter protesters marching past their house

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A New York couple pointed guns at protesters marching past their house during a Black Lives Matter rally, and activists want them to be charged.

Protesters were nearing the end of their parade route when a white man came out of his home shouting obscenities in an apparent attempt to incite the group, and then yelled to his wife to get his gun, reported WNYT-TV.

Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson, who took part in the march, said the woman came back outside and started waving the gun around.

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Australian columnist aghast at America’s ‘rotten’ COVID-19 response: ‘We are witnessing the fall of a great power’

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A columnist for an Australian newspaper has been watching the United States' response to the novel coronavirus with a mix of shock and horror -- and he now believes "we are witnessing the fall of a great power."

Crispin Hull, an editor and columnist for The Canberra Times, argues in his latest column that President Donald Trump's disastrous handling of the pandemic is symbolic of deep rot within the American political system.

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