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Malawi's government and conservationists have announced plans to move 250 elephants from a park in the country's south to a central one that has lost nearly all its population to poaching. But communities living near the park fear the new arrivals could lead to greater human-wildlife conflict. The month-long exercise starts Monday, when the animals will be transported approximately 350 kilometers by road from Liwonde National Park in southern Malawi to Kasungu National Park in central Malawi. Brighton Kumchedwa, Malawi’s Director of National Parks and Wildlife, said that in addition to boosting Kasungu’s elephant population, the relocation will minimize human-wildlife conflict in the communities surrounding Liwonde. He said there are currently about 600 elephants in Liwonde, twice as many as the park was intended to hold. “The elephants in Liwonde have exceeded the carrying capacity of the park,” he said. “Now what is happening is the destruction of the habitats, as they go about looking for food and water. And also, at the same time human-elephant conflict whereby people have been killed, their property damaged. So, now one way of minimizing that problem is to have these animals relocated.” The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) supports the transfer of the elephants. It says Kasungu National Park was home to about 1,200 elephants in the 1970s. The population drastically declined because of poaching, with only 50 elephants left by 2015. Since then, anti-poaching efforts have helped boost the population back to 120. Patricio Ndadzela, a top IFAW official. said the new elephants will help Kasungu attract more tourists, and that more animals may follow. “Looking at Kasungu to be the center of tourism attraction to the country, we thought that by bringing more animals in the park, including elephants, and in the future, we are thinking of bringing the big five; there are already leopards there,” he said. “So, we are talking about lions and other species associated with that.” But communities living near Kasungu fear the new elephants, which will triple the park’s elephant population, may lead to more human-wildlife conflict. Rosemary Banda, a small-scale farmer at Linyangwa village in the Kasungu district, is among wary local residents. “Our worry is that the presence of many elephants here would contribute to food shortages because elephants have in the past been destroying our crops,” she said. “There was a time when elephants destroyed my crops and left me without enough food as a person who relies on farm produce for survival.” Allaying local fears, Kumchedwa said the government has constructed a 40-kilometer-long fence in Kasungu to prevent the elephants from entering villages. “If well maintained, it's an effective barrier,” he said. “You don’t get elephants frequently going into the community. But also, to support that when these animals get dropped into Kasungu, some of them will be collared for easy monitoring. But also, we have teams for both on ground and aerial support so that we give real time protection to the communities should these elephants be breaking off.” Malawi undertook one of the largest elephant relocations in history in 2016 when 520 elephants were moved to repopulate the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. At the time of its last survey in 2015, Malawi had about 2,000 elephants in all, a drop of 50% since the 1980s.
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The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday shielded police from the risk of paying money damages for failing to advise criminal suspects of their rights before obtaining statements later used against them in court, siding with a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff. The justices ruled 6-3 in favor of deputy sheriff Carlos Vega, who had appealed a lower court decision reviving a lawsuit by a hospital employee named Terence Tekoh who accused the officer of violating his rights under the U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. Tekoh was charged with sexually assaulting a hospital patient after Vega obtained a written confession from him without first informing the suspect of his rights through so-called Miranda warnings. Tekoh was acquitted at trial. The court's six conservatives were in the majority in the ruling written by Justice Samuel Alito, with its three liberal members dissenting. The rights at issue were delineated in the Supreme Court's landmark 1966 Miranda v. Arizona ruling that, under the Fifth Amendment, police among other things must tell criminal suspects of their right to remain silent and have a lawyer present during interrogations before any statements they make may be used in a criminal trial. Vega was backed by President Joe Biden's administration in the appeal. At issue was whether the use in court of statements collected from suspects who have not been given a Miranda warning may give rise to a civil lawsuit against the investigating officer under a federal law that lets people sue government officials for violating their constitutional rights. Vega in 2014 investigated a claim by a Los Angeles hospital patient that Tekoh, who worked as an attendant at the facility, had touched her inappropriately while she was incapacitated on a hospital bed. Vega said Tekoh voluntarily offered a written confession even though he was not under arrest or in custody. Tekoh disputes Vega's version of events and contends that he was interrogated by Vega, who coerced a false confession. Tekoh was arrested and charged in state court with sexual assault. His incriminating statement was admitted as evidence during the trial, but a jury acquitted him. Tekoh then sued Vega in federal court, accusing the officer of violating his Fifth Amendment rights by extracting an incriminating statement without Miranda warnings, leading it to be used against him in a criminal prosecution. The jury reached a verdict in favor of Vega, but the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2021 ordered a new trial on the officer's liability. The 9th Circuit found that using a statement taken without a Miranda warning against a defendant in a criminal trial violates the Fifth Amendment, giving rise to a claim for monetary damages against the officer who obtains the statement. Appealing to the Supreme Court, Vega's attorneys said in a legal filing that the 9th Circuit's decision threatened to "saddle police departments nationwide with extraordinary burdens in connection with lawful and appropriate investigative work." Vega's lawyers added that "virtually any police interaction with a criminal suspect" might lead to liability for officers.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned that Russia could cut gas supplies to Europe entirely in order to boost its leverage against the West following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. Russia has severely restricted gas flows to Europe in recent days. The Kremlin blames a delay in servicing equipment caused by European Union sanctions, while Europe accuses the Kremlin of playing geopolitics. "Considering this recent behavior, I wouldn't rule out Russia continuing to find different issues here and there and continuing to find excuses to further reduce gas deliveries to Europe and maybe even cut it off completely," IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement to the Reuters news agency. "This is the reason Europe needs contingency plans." Energy crisis A full cutoff of Russian gas would plunge Europe into an energy crisis, said Tom Marzec-Manser, head of gas analytics at Independent Commodity Intelligence Services. "Gas supplies from Russia at the moment — pipeline supplies, that is — are literally a quarter of what they were a year ago. So, the volumes are very, very low, and clearly that's causing concerns. It means rebuilding storages, storage stocks, ahead of the upcoming winter is that much more difficult," he told VOA. Storage Currently, Europe's gas storage facilities are 55% of capacity. The EU announced last month that it aims to reach 80% of capacity by November. "All the LNG [liquefied natural gas] from America, in particular, has come to Europe, and it's helped rebuild storages at a faster rate than usual," Marzec-Manser said. The declining pipeline flows from Russia have raised doubts over whether the EU storage target can be achieved. The Nord Stream 1 pipeline that carries gas from Russia to Germany is due to close for maintenance next month. The soaring gas prices since the invasion of Ukraine has benefited Russian state-owned Gazprom, Marzec-Manser added, referring to the Russian gas company. "A huge amount of money has been made in a short period of time, which is probably going to carry Gazprom through for the next few years at least, in terms of being able to really restrict flows but still have money in the bank," he said. German emergency Germany gets around one-third of its gas from Russia. The government declared Thursday it had entered the "alarm stage" of its emergency gas plan, calling on Germans to reduce consumption. "We have a disruption of the gas supply in Germany, that is the definition, which is why it's necessary to declare this emergency gas plan," Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck told reporters Thursday. "Gas is from now on in short supply in Germany." European consumers must play their part to avert an energy crisis, German economic analyst Claudia Kemfert said. "It was expected that this situation would come sooner or later. But what is important now is that we do everything we can to save gas," she told Reuters. Analysts say the industrial and power sectors will also be asked to reduce consumption, raising fears that an energy crunch could plunge Europe into a recession. "The industrial demand sector, the power sector, is really going to have to play a key role in conserving gas. We've seen proposals from many governments around Europe to permit continued use of coal," Marzec-Manser told VOA. Continued coal use would reverse Europe's pledge to phase out coal and other fossil fuels. Calls are growing for the faster development and rollout of renewable energies. "That means more space for wind energy. That means a faster program of solar energy on as many roofs as possible — that's not going fast enough. I would like to see a booster program for renewable energies, which is appropriate to the situation because we are in a crisis and emergency situation," Kemfert said. European leaders have been scrambling to find alternatives to Russian gas. U.S. LNG imports have risen sharply, while the EU this month signed a deal to boost LNG supplies from Israel and Egypt. Analysts, however, say Europe will struggle to replace Russian gas within the next few months and warn that a cold winter would exacerbate the crisis.
Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, met officially with leaders in Egypt, Jordan and Turkey this week. His goal, say analysts, is to unify their positions on security issues, such as mounting concerns over Iran. Enhancing economic cooperation and strengthening bilateral relations with oil-producing Saudi Arabia also were part of the visits, analysts say, as the COVID-19 pandemic and Russian invasion of Ukraine continue to take a heavy toll. Bin Salman’s visits this week in the region, analysts say, signal his desire for recognition on the global stage and an end to years of international isolation following the 2018 murder and dismemberment of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, of which the prince has denied personal involvement. U.S. President Joe Biden had labeled Saudi Arabia a “pariah” when he campaigned, but the two countries are historic allies. Jordanian analyst Amer al-Sabaileh told VOA that Russia’s war in Ukraine, while driving up oil prices and causing food shortages around the world, has opened for Saudi Arabia “changes in the rules of engagement with the American administration.” Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter and the Middle East’s strategic political kingpin. A non-resident fellow at the Washington-based Stimson Center, al- Sabaileh said that Biden’s participation in a July 16 summit in Jeddah, bringing together the leaders of the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries along with those from Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, gives MBS, as Bin Salman is known, “a kind of credit” and an ability to help set the regional agenda, particularly on Iran and Israel. Saudi Arabia is one of the GCC members. “It’s obvious that he wants to pave the way for his regional presence and re-bring this old issue of the Sunni [axis] in facing Iran, the danger of Iran,” al-Sabaileh said. “Then he has another important card he wants to play politically—the relation with Israel. If you have the Emiratis and Bahrainis in the Abraham Accords and you don’t have Saudi Arabia, it has nothing. Without Saudi Arabia as the representative of the Sunni world, it doesn’t function.” The United States brokered the Abraham Accords in 2020, normalizing diplomatic and economic relations between Israel and the Gulf states of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Neither country had ever been at war with Israel, unlike Egypt and Jordan, which signed peace treaties with the Jewish state in 1979 and 1994 respectively. Jordanian political commentator Osama al-Sharif told VOA that Jordan “is a bit anxious about the agenda of the summit” if it means preparing “an anti-Iranian alliance” of Sunni Muslim states as that could undermine the country’s moderate stance. Jordan, a key U.S. ally, is also a longtime champion of the two-state solution for ending the festering Israel-Palestinian conflict. In a joint statement Wednesday after Bin Salman’s visit with Jordan’s King Abdullah, both leaders underscored their support for international efforts to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons as well as curbing Iran’s “destabilizing activities” in Arab nations, such as Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. As an oil swing producer with money to invest, Al Sharif says Bin Salman is plying Saudi funds to finance projects in Egypt, Jordan and Turkey, which are all suffering from severe economic downturns due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. “Economically, Saudi Arabia is a very important supporter of Jordan, the biggest investor with about between $10- to $13 billion of investments in the country,” al-Sharif said. “A $3 billion fund has been very active, signing MOUs [memoranda of understanding] with regard to investing in Jordan’s railway system, in start-ups, in new ventures. In Cairo, they signed deals [worth] $7.7 billion.” Saudi Arabia and Turkey are signing agreements on energy, security and economy, including a plan for Saudi funds to enter capital markets in Turkey, according to Reuters. Turkey is experiencing its worst economic crisis in two decades. Some analysts believe that Washington may encourage Arab states to take on a greater role to defend themselves and work in coordination with Israel to combat ongoing threats posed by Iran. But Khaled Shneikat, the head of the Jordanian Political Science Society, told the online Middle East Eye publication it is likely that "regional countries are going to request a bigger security role for the U.S.” at the summit.