Trump admin sued over

stalling to protect sea turtles

 

AFP

MIAMI

A US environmental group filed suit Friday against the Donald Trump administration for allegedly stalling on a deal to protect sea turtles from getting trapped in shrimp nets. Oceana relaunched its lawsuit against the US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross - who also heads the US Fisheries Service - after no action was taken on a deal struck in September 2016. Then, the federal government, headed by President Barack Obama, had agreed to release a proposed rule to protect sea turtles in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico by December 15, 2016. But Trump took office in January 2017, and the final regulations were not released by the mid-June 2017 deadline, so Oceana pressed ahead with its lawsuit Friday. “At this point, every single day of delay means more threatened and endangered sea turtles dying preventable deaths in fishing nets,” said Oceana campaign director Lora Snyder.

“All that remains is approval of the rule from the White House Office of Management and Budget, yet the Trump administration has taken ample time without taking this straightforward step. Any further stalling is unacceptable.”

The proposed rule would require special escape hatches for turtles in US skimmer, pusher-head and wing net shrimp trawls.

Oceana said adding these Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) to shrimp nets would save as many as 2,500 endangered and threatened sea turtles every year.

Less than half of the US shrimp fleet is currently required to use them.

The proposed rule would extend the requirement to about 5,800 other boats in the southeast US region.

The agreement to add more TEDs came after a 2015 Oceana lawsuit that alleged the US government had violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to adequately consider the risk posed to sea turtles by shrimp fishing.

 

 

 

‘We need to do more’ about misinformation, Google says

 

AFP

DUBLIN

A top Google executive has said the US internet giant has to do more to crack down on illegal content and misinformation, after American firms were grilled in Congress over Russian meddling in the 2016 US election.

“We’ve made some progress and we obviously need to do more,” Matt Brittin, president of Google’s Europe, Middle East and Africa division, told reporters at Google’s European headquarters in Dublin on Thursday.

A day after bombshell indictments in a US probe of Moscow’s election interference and possible coordination between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia, Facebook, Google and Twitter told concerned lawmakers Tuesday they were taking necessary steps to rid their platforms of disinformation, propaganda and provocation.

In their testimony, the social media companies revealed startling new data showing many more millions of Americans were exposed to the fake news than previously thought.

In another hearing on Wednesday, Facebook said the apparent political meddling included use of its image-oriented messaging service Instagram, and that those suspect accounts were seen by some 20 million Americans last year.

The latest data on Instagram was on top of the estimated 126 million Americans exposed to Facebook posts from Russian entities seeking to create divisions during the election campaign.

In Thursday’s interview, Brittin revealed that “there had been a very limited use” of their advertising by Russian interests during the election, highlighting two accounts which spent “about $4,700 on advertising” that was not targeted on demographics or geography.

“But any misrepresentation is bad, and we have continued to look at how we can improve our policies and transparency,” he said.

But misinformation is not the only battle Google is facing.

In March, The Times newspaper revealed that ads for companies and other organisations were being promoted alongside extremist content, including videos posted by American white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan member David Duke as well as by Wagdi Ghoneim, an Islamist preacher banned from the UK for inciting hatred.

The scandal exposed the weaknesses of a system of automated sale of advertising space based on algorithms, and shook advertiser confidence. It led to a slew of companies pulling ads from Google’s internet platforms.

“The advertisers pullback has been limited but relatively serious,” Brittin said, but there was “no big impact on our numbers”.

The group has in any case passed a battery of measures to reassure advertisers - which can now more precisely determine the type of content on which they want their ads to appear.

Google has also invested in ways to better detect suspicious content, including with artificial intelligence and machine learning tools, hiring significant numbers of people, and putting in place faster procedures in case of emergency.

Brittin also said Google was committed to developing its European operations, which count about 14,000 employees.

“We want to continue to invest in Europe,” he said, even as the European Union wages a major crackdown on member states bending rules to give big international firms unfair tax breaks, with Apple and Google in the firing line.

In June, the EU slapped Google with a record fine of 2.4 billion euros ($2.8 billion) for illegally favouring its shopping service in search results, accusing the company of booking huge profits while denying state-coffers much-needed money.

“Taxes are due where we make our profits and that’s in the US,” Brittin said.

 

 

Florida woman arrested for

‘drunk-driving’ a horse

 

AFP

MIAMI

After one drink too many, a four-legged animal might seem a better option than a four-wheeled vehicle. But sadly for one Florida woman, the police did not agree - arresting her Thursday for “drunk-driving” a horse. Donna Byrne, 53, was arrested in Polk City, central Florida, for “DUI on a horse,” the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said Friday. Byrne is also accused of animal neglect for failing to provide proper protection for the horse, placing it at risk of injury or death while riding it along the busy road. According to police, who were called by a passerby, Byrne appeared intoxicated when officers arrived on the scene. “Ms Byrne was obviously not in any condition to be on the road. She not only put herself and the horse in danger, but also anyone who was driving on the road, which is typically very busy,” Sheriff Grady Judd said.

The horse was taken to a sheriff’s office animal shelter.

 

 

 

6.8-magnitude quake off

Tonga, no tsunami threat

 

AFP

SYDNEY

A 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Tonga Saturday in the tectonically active Pacific region, but there was no tsunami threat, seismologists said. The tremor hit at a depth of 10 kilometres (six miles) some 90 kilometres off the Tonga island of Niuatoputapu, and 230 kilometres southwest of the Samoan capital Apia, the US Geological Survey reported. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no current tsunami threat. The quake lasted for almost one minute, and caused residents to leave their homes for open spaces across Samoa, according to reports cited by the Samoa Observer news website. Tonga and Samoa are part of the “Ring of Fire”, a zone of tectonic activity around the Pacific that is subject to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.