House Bill Takes Aim At Human Rights Abuses In Conservation

Key Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives have signed onto a bill that would bar the US government from funding international conservation groups that finance or support human rights violations.

The proposed law would require federal agencies to monitor international projects they support for abuses and, if any are discovered, to stop sending money. And every year, agencies would have to submit to Congress a report on human rights abuses that have occurred at US-funded projects.

The House Committee on Natural Resources has been looking into the issue in response to a 2019 BuzzFeed News investigation that found that the World Wide Fund for Nature, a beloved wildlife conservation charity and a longtime partner of the US government, had closely backed anti-poaching forces who tortured and killed people in national parks in Asia and Africa.

Villagers living near the parks had been whipped with belts, attacked with machetes, beaten unconscious with bamboo sticks, sexually assaulted, and shot, according to reports and documents obtained by BuzzFeed News. Rangers at WWF-supported parks committed several alleged unlawful killings.

In 2019, now-retired Republican member of Congress Rob Bishop of Utah, then the committee’s ranking member, proposed a law covering similar ground. Bishop’s bill stalled, but since then lawmakers in both parties have picked the issue back up.

This year’s bill has bipartisan support. Its sponsors are committee chair Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, Democrat of Arizona, and ranking member of Rep. Bruce Westerman, Republican of Arkansas. The rest of the committee will now

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Hugo Boss Cuts Ties With Esquel

Hugo Boss has quietly removed subsidiaries of a Chinese textile giant from its supplier list days after BuzzFeed News raised questions about the Chinese company’s deep ties to the Xinjiang region, where forced labor is rampant.

Last month BuzzFeed News reported that Hugo Boss and several other major clothing brands were continuing to ship clothes made by Esquel Group, a company that gins and spins cotton at facilities in Xinjiang, where the Chinese government is carrying out a campaign of mass imprisonment and forced labor targeting Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities.

Forced labor is so widespread in the region and supply chain audits are so difficult to carry out that it is almost impossible to establish whether forced labor is being used there, experts say. The US placed trade restrictions on one of Esquel’s Xinjiang-based subsidiaries in July 2020, and in January 2021 banned all cotton from Xinjiang, both times citing concerns about forced labor.

But Hugo Boss and other apparel brands kept sourcing clothes from other Esquel companies based in Guangdong, southern China, and importing them to the United States to sell. Procurement records and company statements reviewed by BuzzFeed News show that Esquel’s Guangdong branch works together with its Xinjiang-based cotton spinning factories, and Esquel’s own public statements make clear that its Xinjiang cotton production is deeply intertwined with its worldwide clothing operation.

Since the ban against all cotton began, at least 17 Esquel shipments have arrived in the US for Hugo Boss, according to Panjiva shipping

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Russia Launches Invasion Of Ukraine

KRAMATORSK, Ukraine — Europe was plunged into its gravest crisis in decades early Thursday as Russia defied international law and threats of devastating economic sanctions by mounting a deadly full-scale invasion of Ukraine, threatening the safety of millions and sending citizens across the country scrambling for refuge as missiles fell from the sky.

The Russian attack began in the early morning hours and came by land, air, and sea. Shelling and explosions struck all parts of the country, far beyond the front lines in eastern Ukraine, signifying a dramatic escalation of Russia’s 2014 invasion.

“We woke up to a drastically different world,” Emine Dzheppar, Ukraine’s first deputy foreign minister, told BuzzFeed News.

The Russian military claimed to have destroyed more than 80 Ukrainian military sites, including 11 airfields, Maj. Gene. Igor Konashenkov said in a briefing from Moscow.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed his country late Thursday, swapping his suit and tie for a military uniform. He said that at least 137 Ukrainians had been killed so far in the Russian invasion, including both civilian and military casualties.

Zelensky ordered a full military mobilization, calling up all conscripts and reservists in order to combat Russia’s actions, which he compared to those of the Soviet Union, describing the invasion as the “sound of the new Iron Curtain that’s falling and closing Russia from the civilized worlds.”

“Our task is for that curtain not to fall on the Ukrainian territory,” Zelensky said.

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