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Nevertheless, a pair of belugas, named Little Grey and Little White, are enjoying their first taste of the sea since 2011, thanks to a leviathan relocation project that has been years in the making.

After being captured at a very young age off the coast of Russia and spending years in a Chinese aquarium, the whales are about to get used to the freedom of an 8-acre sanctuary at Klettsvik Bay in Iceland.

“It’s been quite the journey for these two,” Audrey Padgett, the Beluga Whale Sanctuary’s general manager, told CNN on a video call in front of the belugas. “It hasn’t been easy, but it’s definitely been a labor of love.”

Back in 2011, Little Grey and Little White were moved from a Russian research facility to the Changfeng Ocean World aquarium in Shanghai. The following year, the aquarium was bought by Merlin Entertainments, a company opposed to keeping whales and dolphins in captivity.
And so the idea of taking the whales back to the sea was born.

The belugas’ new home, run by the Sea Life Trust charity, is a much “larger, natural environment” with lots of potential benefits, Padgett said.

More than 300 belugas are in captivity around the world, she told CNN.

“Some belugas are in cramped and unsuitable conditions,” she added. “And if what we can learn here from Little White and Little Grey can help improve welfare for other animals … that’s really the point.”

Although Padgett wasn’t involved in the logistics of transporting the whales from China, she stressed that moving two belugas was no easy task.

'Spy' beluga having a whale of a time in Norway

They each weigh a little more than a ton and consume around 110 pounds of fish per day between them.

The operation involved specially designed equipment, veterinarians and a whole lot of water and ice to keep them hosed down, Padgett said.

The belugas had bespoke “stretchers” or slings to move them overland, and the team did “practice runs” to get them used to being moved via trucks, tugboats and cranes, according to Padgett.

“If you’re trying to take your cat or your dog somewhere, you want them to have a positive association with travel … We had to make the belugas a comfortable as possible,” Padgett continued.

The Sea Life Trust team transfer Little Grey from a tugboat to to a care pool.

After their arrival in Iceland, the whales were kept in a care facility with a quarantine pool for several months, to allow them to adjust to the colder Icelandic environment.

And though the final leg of the journey from the care facility to the sanctuary was a shorter one, the Covid-19 pandemic complicated it significantly.

“We’re already in a pretty remote location here in Iceland. It affected our ability to get experts here to help us with the move. It affected our ability to get supplies and just the length of time it took to do things,” Padgett told CNN.

“We also needed to protect our staff and put them into quarantine, because we need our people to take care of our animals.”

Little Grey and Little White’s odyssey isn’t quite over. They are currently in an “acclimatization space” within the sanctuary that will allow them to adjust safely to their new home.

Padgett says, however, that they will have free rein of the sanctuary any day now.

Little Grey and Little White get used to their new home in Iceland.

Little Grey and Little White will be assessed around the clock as they get used to being back in the ocean environment.

And while the whales benefit from more space to explore and new kinds of seaweed, kelp and fish to enjoy, the whole operation also helps humans understand belugas better, Padgett explains.

“It’s kind of the finish line for these two,” she said, “but it’s a new chapter for belugas around the world.”

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House GOP super PAC seeks to shore up additional Republican seats

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“CLF is doubling down and pressing even deeper into our top offensive opportunities, reinforcing our swing-seat incumbents and providing a small insurance policy in a few seats to ensure a win this November,” CLF President Dan Conston said in a statement.

Notable new reservations include $865,000 to boost Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska); $500,000 to help Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.), $500,000 for Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), $750,000 for Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), $740,000 for Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) and $750,000 for an open seat in central Virginia where Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) lost renomination in a district convention.

CLF also reserved $850,000 in Meadows’ former district, where the Republican nominee is 25-year-old businessman Madison Cawthorn. Court-ordered redistricting last year made the seat more favorable to Democrats by uniting the liberal enclave of Asheville, but President Donald Trump still carried it by 17 points.

Reps. Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.), Kendra Horn (D-Okla.) and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.) are each getting over a million in new ad reservations against them from the group — a sign that Republicans are still pushing to pick off incumbents. The group is also making large six-figure buys against Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.), Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) and Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.). And earlier this week it laid down a new offensive target with a $2 million ad buy against Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.).

The vast majority of CLF’s total spending for the cycle is on offensive targets, and Republicans feel confident they will make gains in November, particularly if Trump tightens the presidential race. Democrats are defending 30 districts that the president carried in 2016.

But most of the districts in this new wave of reservations are Republican-held. CLF is increasing its buys to help Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.) — and in open seats on Long Island and in the suburbs of Indianapolis, Houston and Dallas.

Democrats, meanwhile, are scaling back their defensive buys and shifting resources away from once-vulnerable incumbents. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this week scrapped four TV flights set to run from early-to-mid October in districts held by Reps. Jared Golden (D-Maine), Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), Haley Stevens (D-Mich.) and Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) — a show of confidence in their reelection prospects. All four hold seats won by Trump in 2016.

Republicans are hampered by the cash advantage of Democratic candidates and by their large number of open seats. Members like Hill and Young were outraised by their opponents last quarter — and Young trails in cash on hand. And retirements by longtime incumbents in Indiana, New York and Texas deprived the GOP of the war chests they amassed over the years.

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Matt Hancock Must Guarantee MPs A Vote On New Coronavirus Restrictions Or The Government Will Be Defeated, Says Rebel Ringleader Graham Brady

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The leader of a growing band of Tory rebels, Sir Graham Brady, says Matt Hancock must offer “explicit guarantees” MPs will get to vote on new coronavirus restrictions before they come into force or the government faces defeat on its flagship pandemic legislation.

Pressure is mounting on Boris Johnson to cave to the demands of his backbenchers after dozens of Conservatives signed an amendment put forward by Sir Graham, the chair of the powerful 1922 Committee.

He told PoliticsHome it is “a fundamental matter of principle that the House ought to be consulted” before new lockdown measures are put in place.

It comes amid growing anger from MPs the Commons has been ignored by ministers as they have repeatedly changed the rules, affecting the lives of their constituents.

Sir Graham said he was spurred to act after his own constituency of Altrincham and Sale West was put into and then taken out of extra local restrictions, only to be put back under the measures hours later.

“It’s been a frustration for a long time, I was wary even back in March when we gave the emergency powers very rapidly. And I accepted it on the basis the House was about to go into recess and there was plausible concern NHS critical care capacity would be overwhelmed.

“But then when we found that every review of the lockdown, the government simply continued, and that when Parliament returned on 21 April we still didn’t have decisions put to the House of Commons.

“I thought that was wrong.”

He added: “But I guess it came to a head really with the experience of the additional local restrictions that were put in for Trafford and Greater Manchester at the end of July.

“And then the experience of the government removing Trafford from the extra restrictions at the end of August – and then 12 hours putting us back in again.

“And in none of this was the House of Commons, or me as a local MP, able to express a view.”

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With the six-month renewal of the coronavirus powers due for a vote on Wednesday, he has written an amendment which could bind the government into more votes. It has more than 50 signatories, including 42 Tories as of Friday afternoon – enough to defeat the government if selected, but there is some debate as to whether it will be allowed.

Such a motion would not normally be amendable; it would simply be the case that MPs either back it or not, with the final decision to be taken by the Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle on the morning of the debate.

On whether it would be selected for debate, Mr Brady said: “Some people have suggested it is ‘disorderly’ in itself. It was drafted by a very senior clerk, who when I raised that with him gave me a very clear explanation why he is right.

“So I’m confident that it is selectable, but it is still – as with any amendment – a decision for the Speaker.”

He confirmed he had been to see Sir Lindsay, who he said suggested it was “more likely to be selected” if it had support from across the House, which is why he was pleased to have chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party, John Cryer, put his name to it along with party grandees Harriet Harman and John Spellar.

A spokesperson for the Speaker would only confirm the motion is “technically amendable”.

They added: “The Speaker will take advice from the clerks about whether the amendment is in scope before deciding whether to select it.”

There is also debate over whether any amendment, if passed, would have any binding effect on the government, given it is not a vote on the legislation itself.

Sir Graham said: “It wouldn’t have statutory force because the motion itself isn’t statute, so what it would be is a resolution of the House instructing ministers to do something – and that has constitutional force.”

And Tom Tugendhat, chair of the foreign affairs select committee, told PoliticsHome: “This isn’t supposed to be an epic rebellion but an indication that people want to have wider consultation.

“I think what this is a very clear sign of, and I think the government recognises this, is the whole country needs to be involved in decision making and the decisions that we are taking and for us to  have consent we need to consult widely and part of that consultation is with the people sent to Parliament to represent their communities.”

Mr Spellar said: “What we are trying to do is say to government you can’t just go rampaging around making decisions based on a very small group of advisers. 

“If you say you’ve gone from the science, there’s a significant division in the scientific world.”

It is a view echoed by Sir Graham: “I’m quite sceptical about a number of these measures, I think they are grossly intrusive into people’s civil liberties, the right to family life, but I suspect that there is a fairly strong majority of the House that would support the government in most of what it’s doing.

“So I don’t think by securing these votes we’re suddenly going to see the government losing them all and these powers being stripped away.

“I think it’s just a fundamental matter of principle that the House ought to be consulted, that if people’s liberties are being removed it should be done with the consent of parliament on their behalf.

“And also that ministerial decision-making will be improved if they know they’ve got to justify themselves in the House of Commons and the House will express its views in a vote.”

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Mr Johnson is likely to want to avoid another confrontation with his own backbenchers after already having to change tack on the Internal Markets Bill, with talks set to take place with Mr Brady and other rebels on Monday.

One MP suggested more names could go down on the amendment over the weekend ,with another signatory telling PoliticsHome it would be “dumb” if the government did not reflect on the number of disaffected Tories and try to come up with a compromise, or table their own amendment.

On whether he would pull the amendment, Sir Graham said it would need Matt Hancock to say from the despatch box that MPs will get votes on new restrictions before they are enacted, a point he said he had already pressed upon Number 10.

“If there were sufficient explicit guarantees given on the floor of the House then I may not press it to a vote,” he said.

“But I think it’s really important to have the opportunity to press it to a vote to make sure the health secretary gives those explicit guarantees.”

He said the time lag between announcements being made and the restrictions coming into force was the perfect time to hold a debate, pointing to the ‘rule of six’ policy.

“That was leaked to the press on Tuesday, the PM made a statement about it on Wednesday, it wasn’t going to come into force until the following Monday – but the Thursday was just general debates in the House of Commons,” he explained.

“It would have been entirely possible to change the schedule, put in a full day’s debate on the ‘rule of six’ with a vote at the end of it, and the government simply chose not to.”

Pressed on whether his amendment was in response to ministers not listening to backbench concerns, he said: “I put the point to Matt Hancock in the chamber as to why these powers had not been put to the House on the Wednesday, and he said ‘I’m talking to the business managers about how this can happen’, but it still hasn’t happened two weeks later, there still hasn’t been a debate or a vote on what was introduced then.”

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The PM’s spokesman has repeatedly said there would be a vote on the renewal of the Coronavirus Act 2020, and that MPs also have the chance to vote on individual regulations.

But there has been criticism of that system, which is known as an ‘affirmative statutory instrument’, which allows the Commons a vote within 28 days of the legislation coming into force.

Some MPs have said they want new powers to be created as ‘draft affirmative statutory instruments’, where the vote takes place before they start to take affect.

But the government have said with a backlog of legislation from the summer, along with the fact the process can pass through the Commons quickly, but takes weeks to get though the House of Lords, they have argued it was not possible.

One potential solution may be to give MPs the guarantee that an ‘affirmative’ SI will be debated within seven days, rather than it taking the full month, but the government have stuck to the line that “the current position does provide for parliamentary scrutiny”.

 Disclosure: Sir Graham Brady is editor of the House magazine, which is part of the Dods Group.

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Charlie Hebdo: Stabbings suspect ‘was trying to target magazine’

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  • November 2015 Paris attacks

image copyrightEPA

image captionPolice stand guard outside the former offices of Charlie Hebdo

A man suspected of stabbing two people with a meat cleaver in Paris has admitted to deliberately targeting the former offices of the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine, French media report.

The man, an 18-year-old born in Pakistan, reportedly linked his actions to the magazine’s recent republication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Charlie Hebdo did this as a trial over the 2015 Islamist attack on the magazine which killed 12 people began.

The magazine’s location is now secret.

The building in the French capital’s 11th district which used to house Charlie Hebdo’s offices is now used by a television production company.

But the attacker apparently believed the magazine’s offices were still there, a source close to the investigation told the AFP news agency, confirming other French media reports.

The two victims of Friday’s attack have not been officially named but police said they were a man and woman who worked at the production company.

Prime Minister Jean Castex told reporters at the scene – near Boulevard Richard-Lenoir – that their lives were not in danger.

What is the suspect reported to have said?

The suspect, who was arrested not far from the scene on Friday, had “taken responsibility for his action”, sources told AFP, adding that he placed his actions “in the context of the republication of the cartoons”.

He has not been named, but French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the teenager arrived in the country three years ago “as an isolated minor” of Pakistani nationality.

image copyrightEPA
image captionSecurity was tight as police combed the scene of the attack on Friday

Six other people are in police custody over the stabbings, including a former flatmate of the main suspect. One man was released late on Friday after he was confirmed as a witness who had “chased the assailant”, reports say.

Mr Darmanin said the attack was “clearly an act of Islamist terrorism” and police had underestimated the threat level in the area.

He said he had ordered security to be stepped up around synagogues this weekend for Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

How did the attack unfold?

Colleagues of the victims said they had been outside the Premieres Lignes news production agency smoking a cigarette when they were attacked.

The firm has offices in Rue Nicolas Appert, a street off Boulevard Richard-Lenoir. A mural honouring those killed in the January 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo is nearby.

“I went to the window and saw a colleague, bloodied, being chased by a man with a machete,” one employee, who asked not to be named, said.

“They were both very badly wounded,” Paul Moreira, the founder and co-head of Premieres Lignes, told AFP.

Police quickly sealed off the area and a large blade was recovered nearby. Arrests were later carried out in the vicinity and during a search of a property north of Paris believed to be the main suspect’s home.

  • CThree days of terror

  • Charlie Hebdo and its satirical role

In a tweet, Charlie Hebdo expressed its “support and solidarity with its former neighbours… and the people affected by this odious attack”.

What about the new trial and republication of the cartoons?

Fourteen people went on trial earlier this month accused of helping two jihadists carry out the 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people in and around the magazine’s offices, including some of France’s most celebrated cartoonists.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionA mural in tribute to those killed in the Charlie Hebdo attack was erected on the Rue Nicolas Appert

The defendants are also accused of helping another jihadist carry out related attacks in Paris, killing five people, including a police officer.

The 17 victims were killed over a period of three days. All three attackers were killed by police.

The killings saw the beginning of a wave of jihadist attacks across France that left more than 250 people dead.

Charlie Hebdo marked the start of the trial by reprinting its controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The original cartoons had sparked anger and protests in several Muslim-majority countries.

In response to the reprinting, the militant group al-Qaeda – which claimed the 2015 attack – renewed its threat against the magazine.

The magazine’s head of human resources said earlier this week that she had moved out of her home after receiving death threats.

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