Europe’s unfolding horsemeat scandal took a new twist on Saturday when it emerged that key intermediaries involved in the trade appeared to be using a similar secretive network of companies to the convicted arms trafficker Viktor Bout.
The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) identified an intermediary firm, Draap Trading, based in Limassol, Cyprus, as playing a pivotal role in shipping horsemeat across Europe, Telegraph reported.
Draap has confirmed that it bought horsemeat from two Romanian abattoirs. The company sold the meat to French food processors, including Spanghero, which supplied another French company, Comigel, that turned it into frozen meals for the likes of food firm Findus, some of which had a meat content that was almost 100 percent horse.
Draap, which is owned by a trust in the British Virgin Islands tax haven, insists the meat it sold into France was labeled as horse. Spanghero says the meat arrived labeled ‘beef’.
Jan Fasen, who runs Draap and has denied any wrongdoing, was convicted last year of selling South American horsemeat as German and Dutch beef.
In a development that sheds light on the mysterious networks operating in the European food chain, it has emerged that Draap’s sole director is an anonymous corporate services company called Guardstand, set up in 1996 and based in Limassol.
A 2011 joint report by the International Peace Information Service and TransArms, an organization that researches arms shipments, produced evidence that Guardstand also owned a share in a business called Ilex Ventures, a connection that links the company to the global arms trade and Viktor Bout.
Documents filed in a New York court by US prosecutors allege that in 2007, Bout and an associate transferred almost $750,000 (£483,000) to Ilex for the purchase of aircraft to fly arms and ammunition around Africa’s trouble spots in breach of embargos.
The prosecutors said Ilex was owned and controlled by Bout, an international weapons dealer known as the “merchant of death”, who last April was sentenced to 25 years in jail for arms smuggling.
But who owns Guardstand and why Draap employs it as a director is a mystery that is likely to be studied closely by fraud investigators.
Guardstand’s sole shareholder is Trident Trust, a business based in Cyprus that specializes in establishing companies in tax havens, chiefly for Russian and Ukrainian clients, and which helped set up Ilex.
Relaxation Techniques for Stress Relief
For many of us, relaxation means zoning out in front of the TV at the end of a stressful day. But this does little to reduce the damaging effects of stress.
To effectively combat stress, we need to activate the body`s natural relaxation response. You can do this by practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, rhythmic exercise and yoga.
Fitting these activities into your life can help reduce everyday stress and boost your energy and mood, Banglanews24.com reported.
Stress is necessary for life. You need stress for creativity, learning and your very survival. It is only harmful when it becomes overwhelming and interrupts the healthy state of equilibrium that your nervous system needs to remain in balance.
Unfortunately, overwhelming stress has become an increasingly common characteristic of contemporary life. When stressors throw your nervous system off balance, relaxation techniques can bring it back into a balanced state by producing the relaxation response, a state of deep calmness that is the polar opposite of the stress response.
When stress overwhelms your nervous system, your body is flooded with chemicals that prepare you for “fight or flight”. While the stress response can be lifesaving in emergency situations where you need to act quickly, it wears your body down when constantly activated by the stresses of everyday life.
The relaxation response puts the brakes on this heightened state of readiness and brings your body and mind back into a state of equilibrium.
A variety of different relaxation techniques can help you bring your nervous system back into balance by producing the relaxation response. The relaxation response is not lying on the couch or sleeping but a mentally active process that leaves the body relaxed, calm and focused.
Learning the basics of these relaxation techniques isn’t difficult, but it does take practice. Most stress experts recommend setting aside at least 10 to 20 minutes a day for your relaxation practice. If you’d like to get even more stress relief, aim for 30 minutes to an hour. If that sounds like a daunting commitment, remember that many of these techniques can be incorporated into your existing daily schedule--practiced at your desk over lunch or on the bus during your morning commute.
There is no single relaxation technique that is best for everyone. When choosing a relaxation technique, consider your specific needs, preferences, fitness level and the way you tend to react to stress. The right relaxation technique is the one that resonates with you, fits your lifestyle and is able to focus your mind and interrupt your everyday thoughts in order to elicit the relaxation response.
In many cases, you may find that alternating or combining different techniques will keep you motivated and provide you with the best results.
Afforestation has increased by 13 percent in Iran.
Announcing this, Sattar Babaie, director general of Afforestation and Parks Department of Forests, Rangelands and Watershed Management Organization, expressed satisfaction over expansion of forest lands in different provinces of Iran over the past few years.
“About 11,065 hectares of forest lands were created in the three provinces of Ardebil, North Khorasan and Semnan in the last Iranian year (ended March 19, 2012,” he said, adding that the figure is satisfactory because a year earlier only 3,860 hectares of forest areas were created in these provinces.
Babaie announced that Gilan province ranks first in the country in terms of afforestation, adding that the province accounts for 6,000 hectares of forest land in the country.
The official noted that in terms of revival and expansion of forests, Gilan province ranked first.
“Gilan province has revived about 400 hectares of forest land followed by Golestan province with 320 hectares,” he said.
Asked about the rate of tree plantation in the current Iranian year (ending on March 20, 2013), Babaei said tree plantation is conducted during autumn and winter every year and it takes a year to evaluate the function of government in this regard.
From the forestry viewpoint, Iran is divided into five vegetation regions. The annual rate of afforestation is 63,000 ha, mostly implemented by the government.
The tree species planted are generally limited to indigenous or acclimatized species. To ensure maximum success, most plantations are irrigated over 2 to 3 seasons.
Water shortage is a major constraint to tree plantation, particularly in arid zones. Site preparation costs are high and establishment of irrigation facilities is also very expensive.
Iran covers an area of 1.65 million square km, enclosed within 8,731 km of frontiers, of which 2,700 km constitute coastal boundaries and 6,031 km are land borders. Almost 60 percent of the landmass are mountainous, while deserts of the central plateau cover one-third of the territory.
Iran displays a variety of climates ranging from hyper arid (central and eastern regions) to Mediterranean semi-arid and sub-humid (mountainous regions) and humid (Caspian coastal area and Zagros mountainous regions).
With a mean annual rainfall of 253 mm, Iran is drought-prone, precipitations being erratic and highly variable.
Endowed with a rich diversity of ecosystems, plant and animal species, Iran is one of the world’s most important gene pools. It counts 8,200 plant species (1,900 endemic), over 500 bird species and 160 species of mammals.
Five plant species, 20 mammals, 14 birds, eight reptiles, two amphibians, seven fish and three invertebrates are considered endangered, threatened or vulnerable.
Historical evidence indicates that the vast, arid areas of central Iran were once covered with valuable pastures and forest vegetation.
Human activities are believed to have strongly contributed to deforestation.
UK’s Army Of Unpaid Recyclers
Adrian Ablett is a little nervous about starting his new job. After being made redundant last year, the 40-year-old is pleased to have found work again but worried about the effect it might have on his ambition.
The self-styled ‘can-man’ of Leicester has been keeping himself busy out on the city streets three or four times a week for several hours at a time, picking up other people’s rubbish like a 21st-century Womble.
“In an ideal world, I would do this 24/7,” he said. “I genuinely love it and I’m out in all weathers,” Guardian reported.
Ablett has specialized in aluminum drinks cans, which he removes from pavements, gutters, grass verges, bushes and parks, and takes to a recycling center.
Since he began a little under three years ago, he has recycled 62,000 cans. Most were collected when he walked around on foot for several miles, pulling a heavy, modified wheelie bin.
Now he has upgraded to a bike and trailer donated by a local bicycle repair shop and he hopes the extra power to his collecting elbow will enable him to reach his goal of 100,000 cans this year.
Ablett is just one of an army of litter vigilantes. Unpaid and unasked, they are ordinary men and women who have simply got so fed up with litter and mess that they have taken it upon themselves to do something about it. Many receive abuse for their trouble and others have run into problems with local councils that can sometimes take umbrage at unauthorized citizen cleanups.
Britain has a massive rubbish problem; some 30 million tons are dropped on our streets every year.
Along with dog mess, litter is the most complained-about issue to MPs and local authorities, which spend some £500 million a year picking it up.
Rubbish is not just unsightly, it is a hazard to wildlife and the environment--some supermarket plastic carrier bags will take 500 years to decompose.
Climate Change Poses Real Economic Risk
The president of the World Bank on Saturday warned the finance chiefs of the world’s leading economic powers that global warming is a real risk to the planet and already affecting the world economy in unprecedented ways.
Addressing the G20 finance ministers at their meeting in Moscow, Jim Yong Kim called on world powers to “tackle the serious challenges presented by climate change”, KhaleejTimes reported.
“These are not just risks. They represent real consequences,” said Kim, calling the lack of attention to the issue by finance ministers and central bank chiefs “a mistake”.
He said failing to tackle the challenges of climate change risked having “serious consequences for the economic outlook”.
“Damages and losses from natural disasters have more than tripled over the past 30 years,” said Kim, giving as examples the $45 billion of losses from the 2011 floods in Thailand, whose effects “spread across borders disrupting international supply chains.”
“Years of development efforts are often wiped out in days or even minutes,” Kim said, asking the G20 to “face climate change, which is a very real and present danger.”
The G20 finance ministers’ agenda in Moscow is dominated by concerns about competitive currency devaluations and a new drive by EU powers to force big business to pay a fair share of tax.
Mass Wedding in S. Korea
Thousands of people have been married in South Korea in the first mass wedding organized by the Unification Church since the death of its founder.
Some 3,500 identically-dressed couples took part in the ceremony in Gapyeong in the northeast of the capital, Seoul, AFP reported.
A further 24,000 followers--often known as Moonies--were also married in other countries via video link.
The ceremony was presided over by Hak Ja-han, the widow of Sun Myung Moon, who died in September.
An estimated 30,000 people attended the 92-year-old’s funeral.
Four hundred of the Church’s members who were married on Sunday chose to have their partners selected for them by Hak, something her late husband also did.
“I was pretty nervous,” Jin Davidson, a 21-year-old American, told the AFP news agency. “Then all of a sudden she popped up in front of me, and I said OK.”
Davidson, whose parents were paired off by Moon, said he struggled to communicate with his Japanese bride, Kotona Shimizu, 21.
“I speak no Japanese at all, and she only speaks a little English, but we see it as an exciting challenge and proof of our faith,” he added.
The mass weddings began in the early 1960s and over the years grew in size. In 1997, some 30,000 couples were married in Washington.
The church has been accused of brainwashing its followers and embezzlement.
Fresh smog shrouded Beijing and some other provinces in China early on Sunday, disrupting highway traffic and flights.