Texas anti-abortion tipster site booted by web host

In this March 30, 2021 file photo, anti-abortion rights activists demonstrate outside the capitol in Austin, Texas, while the Senate debated bills banning abortion. (Austin American-Statesman via AP)
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Updated 04 September 2021

Texas anti-abortion tipster site booted by web host

  • GoDaddy says prolifewhistleblower.com violated the web hosting company’s terms of service
  • Ride-hailing services Lyft and Uber assures legal support for any driver who is sued under Texas' anti-abortion laws

WASHINGTON: A webpage seeking tips from the public to enforce Texas’s severe new abortion restrictions has been told to find a new company to host its site or go offline.
GoDaddy said in a statement Friday it had informed prolifewhistleblower.com on Thursday that it had violated the US web hosting company’s terms of service and had to move to a different provider.
The prolifewhistleblower.com website was set up by anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life to collect anonymous tips under the law barring terminations after six weeks of pregnancy — before many women know they are pregnant.
According to the law, anyone living in Texas can sue an abortion provider or anyone suspected of “aiding” an abortion to take place, with $10,000 rewards if they win in a civil case.
Calls to flood the website with bogus tips sprouted on social media, while by late Friday, an attempt to reach the tip portion of the site was blocked, with a message saying access was denied by a GoDaddy firewall.
Texas Right to Life communications director Kimberlyn Schwartz told AFP the website was in the process of transferring to a new service provider and expected to be back in action within 48 hours.
“We will not be silenced,” Schwartz said.
“We are not afraid of the mob. We will not back down.”
According to GoDaddy’s terms, users cannot collect information about people without their consent.
The website featured links for reporting “anyone who is... aiding or abetting a post-heartbeat abortion,” referring to the law’s banning of abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
“Report any person or entity that aids or abets (or that intends to aid or abet) an illegal abortion in Texas,” it adds.
The US Supreme Court formally refused Wednesday to block the law, the biggest hit to abortion rights in the United States in 50 years.
Texas Right to Life has called it a blow to “the unjust ruling of Roe v. Wade,” the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that legally enshrined a woman’s right to an abortion.
Roe v. Wade guaranteed the right to an abortion in the United States so long as the fetus is not viable outside the womb, which is usually not until the 22nd to 24th week of pregnancy.
President Joe Biden on Friday called the Texas measure “vigilante” justice and said there may be existing legal avenues “to limit the independent actions of individuals in enforcing... a state law,” but did not elaborate.

Ride-hailing services Lyft and Uber sounded the alarm on Friday over possible repercussions of the law for their drivers, with Lyft saying in a blog post it “threatens to punish drivers for getting people where they need to go.”

A passer-by walks past a sign offering directions to an Uber and Lyft ride pickup location at Logan International Airport, in Boston. Ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft say they will cover the legal fees of any driver who is sued under the new law prohibiting most abortions in Texas. (AP file)

Lyft announced the creation of a Driver Legal Defense Fund to cover 100 percent of legal fees for drivers sued under the new law for providing a ride on the platform.
“This law is incompatible with people’s basic rights to privacy, our community guidelines, the spirit of rideshare, and our values as a company,” Lyft said in the blog post.
“Imagine being a pregnant woman trying to get to a health care appointment and not knowing if your driver will cancel on you for fear of breaking a law.”
Uber chief executive Dara Khosroshahi praised Lyft’s move and said it prompted Uber to similarly cover any driver legal costs related to the new law.
“Drivers shouldn’t be put at risk for getting people where they want to go,” Khosroshahi tweeted in reply to Lyft chief executive Logan Green.
“Team Uber is in too and will cover legal fees in the same way. Thanks for the push.”
Lyft also said it is donating $1 million to Planned Parenthood for health care transportation needs.

Over 3,000 Ukrainian inmates seek to join military

Updated 4 sec ago

Over 3,000 Ukrainian inmates seek to join military

Ukraine is suffering critical ammunition and manpower shortages on the battlefield
“We predicted this before the adoption of this law,” Deputy Minister of Justice Olena Vysotska said

KYIV: Thousands of Ukrainian inmates are seeking to join the military, Kyiv said Tuesday, following a decision by lawmakers enabling some categories of prisoners to join the armed forces.
The move echoes a policy in Russia, where tens of thousands of prisoners have been sent to Ukraine with the promise of amnesty and were killed in gruelling battles that produced few gains.
Ukraine is suffering critical ammunition and manpower shortages on the battlefield that have allowed Russian forces to advance on the eastern and northern front lines.
“This is more than 3,000 people. We predicted this before the adoption of this law,” Deputy Minister of Justice Olena Vysotska said, referring to the number of prisoners who have submitted applications to join the military.
She said authorities had identified 20,000 eligible prisoners and that of them, 4,500 had “expressed interest” in joining. She added that the figure was likely to fluctuate.
Only prisoners with fewer than three years left on their sentence can apply. Mobilized prisoners are granted parole rather than a pardon.
Among those not eligible to serve include those found guilty of sexual violence, killing two or more people, serious corruption and former high-ranking officials.
Russia has recruited prisoners to serve on the front lines since the first days of its invasion, initially offering presidential pardons for six months’ service.

EU states push for June start to Ukraine membership talks

Updated 31 min 32 sec ago

EU states push for June start to Ukraine membership talks

  • To actually begin the negotiations the bloc’s member states still have to sign off on a formal framework for the process
  • At a meeting in Brussels, France’s EU affairs minister Jean-Noel Barrot called for “the effective opening of negotiations“

BRUSSELS: Several EU countries on Tuesday called for the bloc to start membership negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova in June, but Hungary threatened to throw a spanner in the works.
The 27-nation EU took the landmark step in December of agreeing to open talks on its war-torn neighbor — and fellow ex-Soviet state Moldova — joining the club.
But to actually begin the negotiations the bloc’s member states still have to sign off on a formal framework for the process, proposed in March by Brussels.
At a meeting in Brussels, France’s EU affairs minister Jean-Noel Barrot called for “the effective opening of negotiations” before Belgium’s rotating presidency concludes at the end of June.
That statement was echoed by other ministers — including from Ireland and Sweden.
The push to move Ukraine onto the next step in its quest for EU membership comes amid fears that Hungary, the friendliest country with Moscow in the bloc, could stall progress when it takes over the presidency after Belgium.
Budapest has been hostile to Kyiv’s bid to join, arguing that Ukraine is getting pushed ahead in the queue without meeting the required criteria.
“There can be no exception on the basis of political or ideological considerations,” Hungarian minister Zoltan Kovacs said.
“There is very little, if any, progress. Again, I can repeat to you that membership, approval should be a merit based process. No exceptions.”
Another possible hurdle could come from a new right-wing government being formed in The Netherlands opposed to any new enlargement of the bloc.
Ukraine applied to join the EU shortly after Russia launched all-out invasion in February 2022.
Starting the negotiations would put Ukraine still only at the start of what is likely to be a years-long process of reforms before it can finally become a member.

Philippine island boasts world’s largest concentration of unique mammals

Updated 43 min 49 sec ago

Philippine island boasts world’s largest concentration of unique mammals

  • 93% of mammals in Luzon are found nowhere else
  • Island has higher biological diversity than Galapagos

MANILA: Luzon may be known as the largest and most populous island of the Philippines, but it is also home to the greatest concentration of unique mammal species on Earth. Most of them are found nowhere else in the world.

The island, where the Philippine capital Manila is located, had never been connected to any continental land. Throughout the ages, this allowed the species that arrived there from the Asian mainland to evolve, diversify, and thrive in different habitats of its mountain ranges and peaks isolated by lowlands.

It is also one of the oldest islands, with geological research indicating that parts of it have been dry land areas continuously for some 27 million years.

“It’s a really old island. So, there’s time for rare events to take place. That’s a big part of it,” Dr. Lawrence Heaney, biologist and curator of mammals at the Field Museum in Chicago, told Arab News.

“There are no countries in continental Europe that have (this number of) unique species of mammals.”

Heaney is one of the first researchers to document the island’s diversity and has been leading American and Filipino scientists studying mammals in the Philippines since 1981.

His team’s 15-year study, which started in 2000, concluded that there were 56 species of mammals — not including bats — on the island, and 52 of them were endemic.

This means that 93 percent of Luzon’s non-flying mammals are found nowhere else, making it a biological treasure trove.

Luzon beats even the Galapagos islands, where each has been known for its diverse and unique array of wildlife.

“Luzon takes it another step further because there are isolated mountain ranges and isolated mountain peaks that are separated from all others by lowlands. They function as islands. Islands in the sky. Each one of those islands in the sky has its own unique set of species. Luzon island is made up of islands within the island,” Heaney said.

“What’s in the northern Sierra Madre, you know Cagayan province ... is very different from what’s in the mountains that are in Aurora province, because there’s an area of lowlands that separates those two different mountain chains. Then the mountains, the next set of mountains down also are separated by another low-lying area ... There are species of mammals that occur there that don’t live anywhere else in the world.”

Many of those mammals are tiny — the size of the house mouse. When most people think about mammal species, they usually imagine those on the larger part of the spectrum, like themselves.

“We think about water buffalo and horses and lions and tigers and bears,” Heaney said. “There are actually very few large mammals, overwhelmingly, most mammals are small, less than 200 grams ... Not surprisingly, given that, most of the things that we have discovered that were previously unknown are small.”

Mariano Roy Duya, associate professor at the University of the Philippines’ Institute of Biology, who has been working with Heaney, told Arab News that 28 out of the 56 mammal species identified in Luzon were rodents.

Two of them — the Banahaw shrew rat and the Banahaw tree mouse — were endemic to Mt. Banahaw, which is only 100 km from Manila.

The Banahaw shrew-rat has a long, slender snout, a short tail, and weighs 150 grams, while the Banahaw tree mouse is the smallest member of the cloud rat family at 15.5 grams, and navigates tree branches and vines.

Their habitat is now protected due to the efforts of the Biodiversity Conservation Society of the Philippines, a group that was created thanks to the work of scientists like Heaney and Duya, who now serves as its vice president.

The society is an organization that the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources consults on the country’s conservation efforts.

Some 20 percent of the species Heaney, Duya, and other researchers studied during their long Luzon project are vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered due to habitat loss, hunting, and illegal wildlife trade.

“(These include) deer, warty pigs, cloud rats, flying foxes, cave-dwelling bats, and civets,” Duya said.

“According to the hunters we meet in the forest, these animals are becoming hard to find.”

Most of the threats to Luzon’s wildlife were observed in lowland forests, which are usually lost to human development, overlogging, conversion to agricultural fields, and trafficking.

“Close monitoring of illegal wildlife trade and regular enforcement activities should be a priority,” Duya said.

“Securing these forests, as well as forest fragments, will provide refuge to many of these endemic faunae.”

Germany: ICC asking for arrest warrants for Hamas leaders is logical

Updated 43 min 19 sec ago

Germany: ICC asking for arrest warrants for Hamas leaders is logical

  • “The accusations of the chief prosecutor are serious and must be substantiated,” said the spokesperson

BERLIN: A request by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for arrest warrants for Hamas leaders is logical and no comparisons can be made with Israel’s prime minister and defense minister, for whom warrants are also being sought, a German government spokesperson said.
“The accusations of the chief prosecutor are serious and must be substantiated,” said the spokesperson on Tuesday. He added that Germany assumed Israel’s democratic system and rule of law with a strong, independent judiciary would be taken into account by judges deciding whether to issue the warrants.

Indonesia, UAE to build mangrove research center in Bali

Updated 21 May 2024

Indonesia, UAE to build mangrove research center in Bali

  • Countries are part of Mangrove Alliance for Climate launched at COP27
  • Southeast Asian country is home to about 23% of global mangrove ecosystems

JAKARTA: Indonesia and the UAE are collaborating to build a mangrove research center in Bali as part of a partnership to promote nature-based solutions to climate change.

The Southeast Asian country is home to about 23 percent of all mangrove ecosystems in the world. In the face of climate change, mangroves are essential in protecting coastal communities against rising sea levels and capturing massive amounts of emissions and greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

At COP27, the 2022 UN climate summit held in Egypt, the archipelagic country partnered with the UAE to launch the Mangrove Alliance for Climate, an initiative focused on nature-based efforts to address issues related to climate change. It was later joined by dozens of other countries, including Australia and India.

As part of that cooperation, the two countries will start building an international mangrove research center in Bali, following a groundbreaking ceremony held over the weekend.

“This institution represents one of the UAE’s most important contributions in its partnership with Indonesia to promote nature-based solutions to address impacts of climate change in the two countries and in the world,” UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment Dr. Amna bint Abdullah Al-Dahak said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Taking into consideration the significant decline of mangrove forests in the world, the UAE is aware that losing even more mangrove trees will worsen the impacts of climate change … this research center will work to create solutions.”

Al-Dahak attended the ceremony alongside Suhail Mohamed Al-Mazrouei, a special envoy of the UAE president, and Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating minister of maritime affairs and investment.

According to Indonesia’s Maritime Affairs and Investment Ministry, the center will focus on conducting research, conservation and providing education related to mangroves, particularly on harnessing biotechnology and innovative uses of artificial intelligence to identify and restore mangrove ecosystems.

“I’m proudly announcing that the International Mangrove Research Center will be built in a strategic location in Bali, which has already shown its success in preserving mangrove ecosystems and will garner international attention,” Pandjaitan said.

Indonesia has made mangrove planting a key feature in the international events that it hosts, including the Group of 20 Meeting in 2022 and the 10th World Water Forum, which runs until May 25. The research center will be built within the Ngurah Rai Forest Park, Bali’s largest mangrove conservation area covering about 1,300 hectares.