The October 1, 2014 Associated Press article linking the walrus gathering to melting sea ice, lacks historical perspective and contains serious spin that would lead readers to erroneous conclusions about walruses and the climate.
Zoologist Dr. Susan Crockford weighs in:
‘The attempts by WWF and others to link this event to global warming is self-serving nonsense that has nothing to do with science…this is blatant nonsense and those who support or encourage this interpretation are misinforming the public.’
First off, walruses are not endangered. According to the New York Times, “the Pacific walrus remains abundant, numbering at least 200,000 by some accounts, double the number in the 1950s.”
The AP article titled, “35,000 walrus come ashore in northwest Alaska”, claims “the gathering of walrus on shore is a phenomenon that has accompanied the loss of summer sea ice as the climate has warmed.” The AP even includes the environmental group World Wildlife Fund, to ramp up climate hype. “It’s another remarkable sign of the dramatic environmental conditions changing as the result of sea ice loss,” said Margaret Williams, managing director of the group’s Arctic program, by phone from Washington, D.C.
But the AP is recycling its own climate stories on walruses. See: 2009: AP : Walruses Gather as Ice Melts in the Arctic Sea (Sept. 17, 2009) Also see fact check on “melting” Arctic sea ice. See: Paper: ‘Myth of arctic meltdown’ : Stunning satellite images show ice cap has grown by an area twice the size of Alaska in two years – Despite Al Gore’s prediction it would be ICE-FREE by now
The media and green groups are implying that walrus hanging out by the tens of thousands is a new phenomenon and due to melting Arctic ice. But dating back to at least the 1604, there have been reports of large walrus gatherings or haulouts.
“Walruses became only really known in Europe after the 1604 expedition to the Kola Peninsula of the ship “Speed” of Muscovy Company, commanded by Stephen Bennet. On the way back to England the Speed reached what some years before a Dutch expedition had named “Bear Island”. The crew of the Speed discovered a haulout numbering about a thousand walruses on the island’s northern coast.”
According to a National Geographic article in 2007, walrus populations were not endangered. See: “While scientists lack a firm population estimate for the species, researchers have encountered herds as large as 100,000 in recent years”
Even the green activist group, the WWF, admits walrus ‘hangouts’ of tens of thousands are not unprecedented.
A 2009 WWF blog report noted: “WWF Polar Bear coordinator Geoff York returned on 17 September from a trip along the Russian coast and saw a haul out there with an estimated 20,000 walruses near Ryrkaipiy (on the Chukchi Peninsula).”
AP’s own reporting debunks walrus claims
Are 35,000 walruses gathering in “haulouts” on the shoreline with many be stampeded to death really that unusual? The answer is No!
The AP reported on 40,000 walruses in a haulout just 7 years ago in a single location. See: AP 12/14/2007: “40,000 in one spot” – “As a result, walruses came ashore earlier and stayed longer, congregating in extremely high numbers, with herds as big as 40,000 at Point Shmidt, a spot that had not been used by walruses as a “haulout” place for a century, scientists said.”
As climate blogger Tom Nelson noted in a December 28 2007 analysis: “Are you saying that that spot *was* used as a haulout in earlier years?” Nelson wrote.
Nelson noted the media reported that “Walruses are vulnerable to stampedes when they gather in such large numbers. The appearance of a polar bear, a hunter or a low-flying airplane can send them rushing to the water.”
Nelson then asked: “Are stampedes ever caused by the appearance of researchers or low-flying research planes?”
Walrus stampede deaths drop dramatically from 3,000 to 50?
The October 1, 2014 AP article notes with obvious concern for the walrus species: “Observers last week saw about 50 carcasses on the beach from animals that may have been killed in a stampede…”
Fifty walrus carcasses? That number is a significant improvement from 2007 when there were a reported 3000 dead walruses discovered from the late summer and fall on the Russian side of the Arctic, according to the AP’s own earlier reporting. See: 2007: ‘3,000 walruses die in stampedes tied to Climate’
Are walrus stampede deaths declining in recent years? It is difficult to say based on reports, but a high of 3,000 deaths in 2007 (for a whole season) to a low of 50 deaths in 2014 for a single location, but it does not appear to be an alarming trend. Why does the AP fail to put any historical perspective on their climate scare stories, especially when the AP’s own reporting from 7 years ago calls into question their claims?
The next issue is whether or not sea ice extent is critical to walruses in late summer and fall. According to this report, ice extent is not critical. As Nelson noted in 2007:
“When I read this in the (2007) ‘walrus’ Wikipedia entry, I’m also not convinced that lack of summer ice is necessarily a big deal.”
2007 Wikipedia entry:
“In the non-reproductive season (late summer and fall) walruses tend to migrate away from the ice and form massive aggregations of tens of thousands of individuals on rocky beaches or outcrops.” [Note: This line has been omitted from the Wikipedia entry in 2014]
Walrus stampede deaths benefit polar bears
In addition, a 2007 WWF post inadvertently noted that the carcasses of stampeded walruses may actually be a great benefit to polar bears.
“Last fall some 20,000-30,000 animals were piled up there. No one has actually counted them all, but the Vankarem residents are certain the number is growing…In early winter, when the ice is re-forming and walruses leave the beach, up to 100 carcasses remain behind. These blubbery animals offer a perfect meal for wandering and hungry polar bears… In mid-November, a truck driver alerted the patrol to bear tracks on the beach. The wave had begun. For the next three weeks, bears making their way along the coast stopped to graze on the carcasses at this so-called “feeding point” instead of proceeding to the village. At one time alone, Sergey and his team counted 96 bears feeding on the walrus. In total they estimated that 185 bears had been circulating with a six mile radius around the village.”
The stampeded remains of 100 walruses fed up to 185 polar bears!
But despite the easily accessible historical data on walruses, the WWF and the AP and other media in 2014, continue to spin the haulouts as evidence of “climate change.”
Margaret Williams, WWF’s managing director of the Arctic program said in a September 18, 2014 article:
“The massive concentration of walruses onshore—when they should be scattered broadly in ice-covered waters—is just one example of the impacts of climate change on the distribution of marine species in the Arctic.”
Is the WWF correct? Should walruses be “scattered broadly in ice-covered waters”? Not exactly. As Tom Nelson noted on Twitter, (Tom Nelson@tan123) “If walrus haulouts are a new thing, why was this walrus haulout sanctuary established in 1960”
According to the Alaskan government, walrus haulouts are not unusual and have long been recognized and islands have been set aside for such gatherings.
“The Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary (WISGS), protects a group of seven small craggy islands and their adjacent waters in northern Bristol Bay, approximately 65 miles southwest of Dillingham. The WISGS includes Round Island, Summit Island, Crooked Island, High Island, Black Rock and The Twins. The WISGS was established in 1960 to protect one of the largest terrestrial haulout sites in North America for Pacific walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens).”
The Alaskan government report noted that numbers of 14,000 walrus haulouts in a single day were not unusual.
“Each summer large numbers of male walruses haul out on exposed, rocky beaches. Round Island is one of four major terrestrial haulouts in Alaska; the others are Capes Peirce (Togiak NWR), Newenham (Togiak NWR), and Seniavin (near Port Moller). Male walrus return to these haulouts every spring as the ice pack recedes northward, remaining in Bristol Bay to feed they haul out at these beach sites for several days between each feeding foray. The number of walrus using the island fluctuates significantly from year to year. However, up to 14,000 walrus have been counted on Round Island in a single day.”
Hunters have relied on large hangouts of walruses. This report details how walruses were “predictably present” and made for “clean and efficient butchering.”
“Qayassiq was especially important for walrus hunting because it was accessible in good weather; walruses were predictably present on the beach during the preferred fall hunt; and the beach is rocky, not sandy, promoting clean and efficient butchering. Hunting on haulouts was a highly organized activity.”
‘The attempts by WWF and others to link this event to global warming is self-serving nonsense that has nothing to do with science… this is blatant nonsense and those who support or encourage this interpretation are misinforming the public.’ – Large haulouts of walruses — such as the one making news at Point Lay, Alaska on the Chukchi Sea (and which happened before back in 2009) — are not a new phenomenon for this region over the last 45 years and thus cannot be due to low sea ice levels. Nor are deaths by stampede within these herds (composed primarily of females and their young) unusual, as a brief search of the literature reveals. At least two documented incidents like this have occurred in the recent past: one in 1978, on St. Lawrence Island and the associated Punuk Islands and the other in 1972, on Wrangell Island (Fay and Kelly 1980, excerpts below)… Here is how the WWF is spinning this recent gathering at Point Lay:
“We are witnessing a slow-motion catastrophe in the Arctic,” said Lou Leonard, WWF’s vice president for climate change.”
Crockford Summed it up: “this is blatant nonsense and those who support or encourage this interpretation are misinforming the public.”
Google currently shows about 14,000 hits for “walruses stampedes”.
Excerpts from a typical scare story, along with my comments:
The giant, tusked mammals typically clamber onto the sea ice to rest, or haul themselves onto land for just a few weeks at a time.
Ok, so it’s not unusual for them to haul up on land. Google shows a lot of pictures of them on land.
As a result, walruses came ashore earlier and stayed longer, congregating in extremely high numbers, with herds as big as 40,000 at Point Shmidt, a spot that had not been used by walruses as a “haulout” for a century, scientists said.
Are you saying that that spot *was* used as a haulout in earlier years?
Walruses are vulnerable to stampedes when they gather in such large numbers. The appearance of a polar bear, a hunter or a low-flying airplane can send them rushing to the water.
Are stampedes ever caused by the appearance of researchers or low-flying research planes?
Sure enough, scientists received reports of hundreds and hundreds of walruses dead of internal injuries suffered in stampedes. Many of the youngest and weakest animals, mostly calves born in the spring, were crushed.
Biologist Anatoly Kochnev of Russia’s Pacific Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography estimated 3,000 to 4,000 walruses out of population of perhaps 200,000 died, or two or three times the usual number on shoreline haulouts.
Were anecdotal reports of “hundreds and hundreds” used to come up with the estimate of 3,000 to 4,000? How much actual counting was done? What’s the baseline number of annual stampede deaths? Is anyone checking that any animals found dead were killed in stampedes, rather than dying from some other cause?
No large-scale walrus die-offs were seen in Alaska during the same period, apparently because the animals congregated in smaller groups on the American side of the Bering Strait, with the biggest known herd at about 2,500.
So when a walrus herd of 2,500 is panicked, stampede deaths are not a big deal, but when the herd reaches tens of thousands, we can expect lots of stampede deaths?
It seems to me that more walruses worldwide may die from hunting than from stampedes. Note an excerpt from this Sea World link:
As the Pacific walrus population grew, annual subsistence catches by indigenous Arctic peoples ranged from about 3,000 to 16,000 walruses per year until about 1990, and then decreased to an average of 5,789 animals per year from 1996 to 2000.
A related paragraph is here:
Pacific walrus meat has been used for the past 40 years to feed foxes which are kept on government – subsidised fur farms in Chukotka. One estimate made by natives was of an annual kill of 10,000 – 12,000 walruses per year, but this may have been overstated. Recent investigations have found that much of the meat is left to waste and that there are no markets for the resultant fox furs. Fox farming operations in Chukotka are currently in decline due to economic recession. Local unemployment caused by the general economic situation and the closure of the farms has however led to a recent increase in illegal head-hunting.
Some more background information is in this 2007 WWF post:
Last fall some 20,000-30,000 animals were piled up there. No one has actually counted them all, but the Vankarem residents are certain the number is growing.
In early winter, when the ice is re-forming and walruses leave the beach, up to 100 carcasses remain behind. These blubbery animals offer a perfect meal for wandering and hungry polar bears.
As soon as the walruses departed, the polar bear patrol spent several days working to collect the remains of walruses killed in the stampedes. Using a tractor, they carted the carcasses six miles west of the village, anticipating that the bears would come from the west in the fall. In the end, they scattered some 80 walruses around selected sites — and then they waited.
In mid-November, a truck driver alerted the patrol to bear tracks on the beach. The wave had begun. For the next three weeks, bears making their way along the coast stopped to graze on the carcasses at this so-called “feeding point” instead of proceeding to the village. At one time alone, Sergey and his team counted 96 bears feeding on the walrus. In total they estimated that 185 bears had been circulating with a six mile radius around the village.
My comments: Eighty-100 dead walruses out of 20,000-30,000 hauled out on land seems quite low, if Kochnev’s estimate of 3,000-4,000 total stampede deaths is correct (remember, his estimate is based on a population of maybe 200,000, many of which are not hauled out in huge herds).
Also, if polar bear numbers are so threatened by global warming, what are 185 of them doing within six miles of the village?
When I read stuff like this, I’m also not completely convinced that walruses are threatened with extinction:
… researchers have encountered herds as large as 100,000 in recent years…
When I read this in the “walrus” Wikipedia entry, I’m also not convinced that lack of summer ice is necessarily a big deal:
“In the non-reproductive season (late summer and fall) walruses tend to migrate away from the ice and form massive aggregations of tens of thousands of individuals on rocky beaches or outcrops.”
In the same entry, when I read this, I’m not convinced that polar bears really need year-round sea ice in order to feed successfully.”
Polar bears hunt walruses by rushing at beached aggregations and consuming those individuals that are crushed or wounded in the sudden mass exodus, typically younger or infirm animals.
The Department of Energy (DOE) is drafting a solicitation to provide as much as $12.6 billion in loan guarantees for nuclear energy projects.
The goal of the loan guarantees is to commercialize advanced nuclear technologies that could not otherwise get financing for research and development.
Any nuclear project that would reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions is eligible, but DOE said it is particularly interested in advanced nuclear reactors, small modular reactors, upgrades at existing facilities and front-end nuclear projects.
“For the first time in more than 30 years, new nuclear power plants are under construction in the United States,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a Tuesday statement.
“This solicitation would build on that investment and help support the construction of the next generation of safe and secure nuclear energy projects.”
DOE said the loans align with the Obama administration’s “all-of-the-above” approach to energy as well as the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Officials released a draft solicitation for the projects Tuesday. It will take comments on the draft for 30 days before writing a final version.
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. (Photo: Gerald Ford Library)
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger ordered a series of secret contingency plans that included airstrikes and mining of Cuban harbors in the aftermath of Fidel Castro’s decision to send Cuban forces into Angola in late 1975, according to declassified documents made public today for the first time. “If we decide to use military power it must succeed. There should be no halfway measures,” Kissinger instructed General George Brown of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during a high-level meeting of national security officials on March 24, 1976, that included then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. “I think we are going to have to smash Castro,” Kissinger told President Ford. “We probably can’t do it before the [1976 presidential] elections.” “I agree,” the president responded.
The story of Kissinger’s Cuban contingency planning was published today in a new book, Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana, co-authored by American University professor William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh who directs the National Security Archive’s Cuba Documentation Project. Research for the book, which reveals the surprising and untold history of bilateral efforts towards rapprochement and reconciliation, draws on hundreds of formerly secret records obtained by the authors. The documents detailing Kissinger’s Cuban contingency planning in 1976 were obtained by Kornbluh through a Freedom of Information Act request to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library.
According to the book, Kissinger’s consideration of open hostilities with Cuba came after a protracted effort of secret diplomatic talks to normalize relations — including furtive meetings between U.S. and Cuban emissaries at La Guardia airport and an unprecedented three-hour negotiating session at the five-star Pierre Hotel in New York City. Cuba’s efforts at supporting the anti-colonial struggle in Africa, the authors write, “was the type of threat to U.S. interests that Kissinger had hoped the prospect of better relations would mitigate.”
The book describes Kissinger as “apoplectic” with Castro — in oval office meetings Kissinger referred to the Cuban leader as a “pipsqueak” — for Cuba’s decision to deploy thousands of soldiers to Angola to assist the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party of António Agostinho Neto against attacks from insurgent groups that were supported covertly by the United States and apartheid regime of South Africa. Concerned that Castro would eventually broaden his military incursion beyond Angola, Kissinger counseled Ford that they would have to “crack the Cubans.” “If they move into Namibia or Rhodesia, I would be in favor of clobbering them,” Kissinger told the president, according to a March 15, 1976, Oval Office memorandum of conversation.
In the March 24 meeting with an elite national security team known as the Washington Special Actions Group, Kissinger expanded on the domino scenario. “If the Cubans destroy Rhodesia then Namibia is next and then there is South Africa,” Kissinger argued. To permit the “Cubans as the shock troops of the revolution” in Africa, he argued, was unacceptable and could cause racial tensions in the “Caribbean with the Cubans appealing to disaffected minorities and could then spillover into South America and even into our own country.”
Moreover, the lack of a U.S. response to the global exercise of military power by a small Caribbean island nation, Kissinger feared, would be seen as American weakness. “If there is a perception overseas that we are so weakened by our internal debate [over Vietnam] so that it looks like we can’t do anything about a country of eight million people, then in three or four years we are going to have a real crisis.”
Drafted secretly by the Washington Special Actions Group in April 1976, the contingency plans outlined punitive options that ranged from economic and political sanctions to acts of war such as mining Cuba’s harbors, a naval quarantine, and strategic airstrikes “to destroy selected Cuban military and military-related targets.” The contingency planners warned Kissinger, however, that any act of aggression could trigger a superpower confrontation. Unlike the 1962 missile crisis, stated one planning paper, “a new Cuban crisis would not necessarily lead to a Soviet retreat.”
Indeed, “a Cuban/Soviet response could escalate in areas that would maximize US casualties and thus provoke stronger response,” Kissinger’s national security advisers warned. “The circumstances that could lead the United States to select a military option against Cuba should be serious enough to warrant further action in preparation for general war.”
Back Channel to Cuba was released today at a press conference at the Pierre Hotel, the site of the first official secret meeting to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba in July 1975. The authors suggested that the history of such talks, and the lessons they hold, remain especially relevant at a time when both President Obama and President Raul Castro have publicly declared the urgency of moving beyond the legacy of perpetual hostility in U.S.-Cuban relations.
Document 1: Memorandum of Conversation, February 25, 1976
During a conversation with President Ford in the Oval Office, Secretary of State Kissinger raises the issue of Cuba’s military incursion into Angola, implying that Latin American nations are concerned about a “race war” because of Cuba’s efforts in Africa. “I think we are going to have to smash Castro. We probably can’t do it before the elections.” The president responds, “I agree.”
Document 2: Memorandum of Conversation, March 15, 1976
In another Oval Office conversation, Kissinger raises the Cuban military involvement in Africa and expresses concern that Castro may deploy troops elsewhere in the region. “I think sooner or later we have to crack the Cubans … I think we have to humiliate them.” He continues to argue that, “If they move into Namibia or Rhodesia, I would be in favor of clobbering them. That would create a furor … but I think we might have to demand they get out of Africa.” When President Ford asks, “what if they don’t?” Kissinger responds, “I think we could blockade.”
Document 3: Washington Special Actions Group Meeting, Cuba, March 24, 1976
Kissinger convenes The Washington Special Actions Group-a small elite team of national security officials-on March 24 to discuss a range of options and capabilities to move against Cuba. “We want to get planning started in the political, economic and military fields so that we can see what we can do if we want to move against Cuba,” he explains. “In the military field there is an invasion or blockade.” Kissinger shares his domino theory of Cuban military involvement in the region. “If the Cubans destroy Rhodesia then Namibia is next and then there is South Africa. It might only take five years,” Kissinger argues. In discussing military options, he states, “if we decide to use military power it must succeed. There should be no halfway measures – we get no reward for using military power in moderation.” Kissinger orders the group to secretly draw up plans for retaliation if Cuban troops go beyond Angola.
Document 4: Cuban Contingency Plan Summary, (ca. April 1976)
This document is a summary of the Cuban Contingency survey considering the possible U.S. reactions to continued Cuban and USSR “Angola style” intervention. The summary notes that the U.S. is already engaging in some efforts to dissuade further intervention through “public warnings, signals to the USSR, changes in our African policy and some measures designed to isolate Castro.” While any U.S. response will affect U.S.-Soviet relations, “It is easier to bring pressure on Cuba, as the closer and weaker partner in a tightly interwoven relationship, than on the Soviet Union.”
Document 5: Cuban Contingency Plan Paper 1, (ca. April 1976)
According to this lengthy contingency planning paper, the objective of these plans is to prevent a pattern in which Cuba and the USSR “arrogate to themselves the right to intervene with combat forces in local or regional conflicts.” The contingency plan outlines four courses of action that vary on a scale of seriousness for deterring continued Cuban intervention, including: political pressure, actions against the USSR, a scenario of actions (combining political, economic and military measures), and military steps. Any actions taken towards Cuba could spur greater tension with the USSR. “In short, confronting Cuba — the weaker partner — is an obvious step toward confronting the USSR.” Political measures are presented as the best option for dissuading Cuba because of the increased chances of a U.S.-Cuban “incident” stemming from military actions. Along with the possibility of an incident, this document notes that “one of Cuba’s main foreign policy objectives has been to normalize relations with the countries of this hemisphere.”
The document outlines the option for a quarantine. As Cuba is highly dependent on imports and foreign military equipment (from the USSR), especially by sea, the U.S. would be able to exacerbate Cuba’s greatest vulnerability. On that same theme, the paper points to the U.S. base at Guantanamo as the greatest vulnerability for a Cuban response to any U.S. military actions. Other military steps outlined in the plans include mining Cuban ports and conducting punitive strikes against selected targets.
Document 6: Cuban Contingency Plan Paper 2, (ca. April 1976)
This paper covers several categories of U.S. actions against Cuba: deterrence, pressure to cease and desist, interdiction of Cuban action under way, and retaliation. Any form of deterrence taken by the U.S. would have to be “predicated on a willingness to take some action if the deterrence failed.” However, and reiterated once again, any action taken to confront Cuba would also incite a confrontation with the USSR. The possible military measures presented include three forms of quarantine (selected war materiel, POL imports, maritime blockade excluding food and medicine), mining Cuban ports, and punitive airstrikes on selected targets.
The document notes two important ambiguities — the role of Cuban military involvement in Africa and the threshold to determine the U.S. response to a Cuban provocation. “In sum, there is a good chance the US will be confronted by an ambiguous situation, in which Cuban intervention is not clearly established.” As well, there is “no precise threshold” which would determine the U.S. response, except to state that the threshold would be low if Cuban action were directed against the US or its territories (Puerto Rico), higher in the Caribbean and Latin America, and highest in Africa.
The document states that “we should further make it clear that we are not reverting to the shenanigans of the early 1960’s” and that the U.S. is not violating any international agreements. While the Soviets in 1970 indicated that they regarded the 1962 U.S.-Soviet agreement as still in force, the “failure of the Cubans to permit the UN supervision renders the US pledge technically inoperative.”
Document 7: Kissinger Aide-Memoire to Cuba, January 11, 1975
This conciliatory message drafted by an aide to Kissinger, and approved by the Secretary of State, was given to the Cuban side at the first meeting between U.S. and Cuban representatives, which took place at a cafeteria in La Guardia airport. “We are meeting here to explore the possibilities for a more normal relationship between our two countries,” it begins. The objective is to “determine whether there exists an equal determination on both sides to settle the differences that exist between us.” While the ideological differences are wide, Kissinger expresses hope that such talks will “be useful in addressing concrete issues which it is in the interest of both countries to resolve.” As a gesture to the Cubans, the U.S. will permit Cuban diplomats (accredited to the UN) to travel from New York to Washington and may begin granting additional visas to Cubans for cultural, scientific and education meetings. For Kissinger, “no purpose is served in attempting to embargo ideas.”
Document 8: Memorandum for the Secretary, Meeting in New York with Cuban Representatives, January 11, 1975
In a briefing paper on the first secret meeting at La Guardia airport, Kissinger’s aide Lawrence Eagleburger reports on the tone and exchange of views. The Cubans stated they had no authority to negotiate at that time, but emphasized the importance of removing the embargo as a “sine qua non” for talks. Eagleburger reports that he wanted to “leave both Cubans with a clear understanding that while I had received their message, I was in no way prepared — even unofficially — to accept [removing the embargo] as a precondition to further talks.” Even though at times there was a seemingly difficult tone in the meeting, as Eagleburger explains, “the atmosphere of the meeting was extremely friendly.”
Document 9: Memorandum of Conversation, Pierre Hotel, U.S.-Cuba Meeting, July 9, 1975
This meeting marks the first formal negotiating session to explore normalized relations between the United States and Cuba. To break the ice, Eagleburger suggests that Kissinger is disposed to meet with the Cuban foreign minister during the upcoming UNGA meetings in September. Assistant Secretary of State William D. Rogers begins by explaining that Washington would support lifting multilateral sanctions at the OAS and that the United States would then begin to dismantle the trade embargo, piece by piece, in response to similar gestures from the Cubans. Over the course of the next three hours the U.S. and Cuban officials discuss a series of reciprocal and bilateral improvements of relations, with much of the meeting focused on the Cuban responses to the points raised by the U.S. side. Responding to the piece by piece approach of the U.S., the Cuban representatives reiterate that any precondition for talks remains the lifting of the embargo. “We cannot negotiate under the blockade,” Ramon Sánchez-Parodi argues; “until the embargo is lifted, Cuba and the United States cannot deal with each other as equals and consequently cannot negotiate.”
Buenos Aires – President Cristina Fernandez has taken a harder stance against the United States, even issuing a warning against groups inside Argentina confabulating with foreign forces to topple the government, after the ruling by New York judge Thomas Griesa that decreed Argentina in contempt.
“Don’t think for a moment that this is simply an isolated action by a senile judge in New York,” she said in four speeches last night at government headquarters, the first at the Bicentennial Women’s Hall, where she announced policies to encourage public works and urban renewal.
The other speeches were delivered at each of the three courtyards at the presidential palace where young political leaders and union members were gathered.
In response to a request from the vulture funds, Griesa declared Argentina in contempt for its non-compliance with his previous ruling that demanded the country pay the speculative groups $300 million.
Fernandez asked who would ever bet on Argentina again “if we ruin everything” for the 92.4 percent in order to favor the one percent, alluding to the vulture funds who launched the litigation under the protection of the U.S. judicial system.
“The absurdity has never gone so far, and yet the absurdities continue to mount. What a coincidence that the ruling came out the day before we were to make our second payment (of the year) to our creditors,” she pointed out.
Fernandez charged that the real motive is to throw the entire restructuring of Argentina’s restructured debt out the window and return the country to forced debt payments in the billions.
“And if that means doing away with sovereignty, international respect, they have no problem with that, except that afterwards, they cloak themselves in the gorgeous robes of defenders of the law,” she criticized, insisting that “sovereignty is not negotiable.”
“I wouldn’t be the least surprised to see them insist on economic sanctions 20 days from now,” in relation to the possible fine threatened by Griesa.
With respect to the confabulations against the national and popular plan that she is pushing forward, she warned that “they are exerting pressure on the exchange rate so that the currency can be devalued and collective agreements liquidated.”
Fernandez said that economically and politically powerful groups are looking to unleash an internal crisis. “This is not an economic problem; these are concentrated sectors that want to overturn the government,” she denounced.
In the same vein, she warned about the interference from the interim Charge D’Affaires at the U.S. embassy in Argentina, Kevin Sullivan, even calling the alleged threat against her from the terrorist Islamic State group, published in the opposition newspaper, Clarin, a tall tale that has no factual basis.
“If something happens to me, no-one should look east; look northward instead,” Fernandez emphasized, in a clear allusion to the United States of America.
At least 11 people have been killed and 40 others have been injured in Donetsk, where a school and a bus stop came under fire – reportedly from Ukrainian Army positions.
Two people are reported to have died at the school, and nine at the bus stop, according to Donetsk People Republic’s Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Purgin.
No children were killed in the shelling of school №57, the Donetsk People’s Republic ‘s Interior Ministry said, as cited by TASS. The ministry’s press service added that parents and teachers became victims of the shelling.
The city council stated that all 70 children studying at the school were in the building at the moment of the strike. They were hastily evacuated. The school building was damaged in the attack.
The Russian Foreign Ministry describes the attack as a cynical and blatant breach of international law.
“The particular cynicism of this shelling is the very fact that today was the children’s first day at school. And on this day, artillery directly targets them. These are blatant, intolerable things,” the ministry’s human rights ombudsman Konstantin Dolgov said.
No Ukrainian sources have confirmed the information yet.
“Heavy artillery fire is being heard in Donetsk. The Kievsky district has been under fire – many residential areas and other buildings have been damaged, civilians have been killed and wounded,” the city council said in a statement.
Public transport has been changing routes due to the shelling.
One hundred and forty-six schools in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic had commenced classes out of 150, Minister of Education of Donetsk People’s Republic Igor Kostenok said.
A ceasefire between the Ukrainian government and the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics’ authorities was signed in Minsk, Belarus, on September 5.
ComputerCOP: Dubious ‘Internet Safety Software’ that hundreds of police agencies have distributed to families
For years, local law enforcement agencies around the country have told parents that installing ComputerCOP software is the “first step” in protecting their children online.
Police chiefs, sheriffs, and district attorneys have handed out hundreds of thousands of copies of the disc to families for free at schools, libraries, and community events, usually as a part of an “Internet Safety” outreach initiative. The packaging typically features the agency’s official seal and the chief’s portrait, with a signed message warning of the “dark and dangerous off-ramps” of the Internet.
As official as it looks, ComputerCOP is actually just spyware, generally bought in bulk from a New York company that appears to do nothing but market this software to local government agencies.
The way ComputerCOP works is neither safe nor secure. It isn’t particularly effective either, except for generating positive PR for the law enforcement agencies distributing it. As security software goes, we observed a product with a keystroke-capturing function, also called a “keylogger,” that could place a family’s personal information at extreme risk by transmitting what a user types over the Internet to third-party servers without encryption. That means many versions of ComputerCOP leave children (and their parents, guests, friends, and anyone using the affected computer) exposed to the same predators, identity thieves, and bullies that police claim the software protects against.
Furthermore, by providing a free keylogging program—especially one that operates without even the most basic security safeguards—law enforcement agencies are passing around what amounts to a spying tool that could easily be abused by people who want to snoop on spouses, roommates, or co-workers.
EFF conducted a security review of ComputerCOP while also following the paper trail of public records to see how widely the software has spread. Based on ComputerCOP’s own marketing information, we identified approximately 245 agencies in more than 35 states, plus the U.S. Marshals, that have used public funds (often the proceeds from property seized during criminal investigations) to purchase and distribute ComputerCOP. One sheriff’s department even bought a copy for every family in its county.
In investigating ComputerCOP, we also discovered misleading marketing material, including a letter of endorsement purportedly from the U.S. Department of Treasury, which has now issued a fraud alert over the document. ComputerCOP further claims an apparently nonexistent endorsement by the American Civil Liberties Union and an expired endorsement from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Law enforcement agencies have purchased a poor product, slapped their trusted emblems on it, and passed it on to everyday people. It’s time for those law enforcement agencies to take away ComputerCOP’s badge.
Palestinian medical sources in Bethlehem said that a child was seriously injured, on Tuesday evening, when an explosive device, dropped by the Israeli army during training, detonated near him as he was herding the family sheep.
The sources said Malek Abu Dayya, 12 years of age, was injured in the al-Manshiyya area in Teqoua’ town, southeast of Bethlehem.
He was first moved to a local clinic before he was moved to a hospital in Bethlehem due to the severity of his injuries.
The area is frequently used by Palestinian shepherds for grazing, while the army largely uses it, as well as other areas in the West Bank, for military drills using explosives and live ammunition.
There have been dozens of similar incidents, many leading to fatalities, mainly in the Plains area of the Jordan Valley, where the many military bases are located, and the soldiers use the surrounding areas for training.
Many Bedouin communities have been repeatedly displaced for settlement activities, and for the army to build bases, and conduct live fire training.
RAMALLAH – 83 Palestinian prisoners and detainees died during the Aqsa uprising in September 2000 due to either medical neglect, torture, or assassination.
The Palestinian prisoners center for studies said on Monday that 206 Palestinian prisoners have died in Israeli jails since 1967, 83 of them were killed during the Aqsa uprising.
24 prisoners died in Israeli jails due to medical neglect, while three were tortured to death. Another one was burned to death.
54 Palestinians were directly shot dead during their detention despite the fact that they did not pose any threat to Israeli forces.
In 2002, 25 prisoners died in Israeli jails, most of them were deliberately shot by Israeli soldiers shortly after their arrest.
Dozens of Palestinian detainees suffering from chronic diseases also died shortly after their release from Israeli jails because they did not receive proper medical care inside jails.
The center called on human rights groups to necessarily reveal the real reasons behind the death of 206 Palestinian prisoners during their detention and provide protection for the Palestinians in Israeli jails.
A top UN rights expert has expressed alarm at the impact of Israel’s attack on Gaza for civilians, concluding that “Israel’s claim of self-defense against an occupied population living under a blockade considered to be illegal under international law is untenable.”
Makarim Wibisono, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, spoke Monday at the end of his first mission to the region.
In a press release, Wibisono stated that the Israeli military killed almost 1,500 civilians, including more than 500 children, with “a staggering 11,231 Palestinian civilians, including 3,436 children” injured and many “now struggling with life-long disabilities”.
Tens of thousands of children live with the trauma of having witnessed the horrific killings of family members, friends, and neighbours before their own eyes.
Wibisono, echoing similar and even stronger conclusions by the likes of Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross, said that “this raises serious questions about possible violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law.”
Wibisono related three demands from Palestinians: “the need for accountability, an end to the blockade, and an end to the occupation”. Affirming this call, the UN official said that “those responsible for violations of international law must be brought to justice in order to avoid yet another round of deadly violence in the near future”.
The Special Rapporteur had a special focus on children in Gaza, noting that “there wasn’t a single child…who has not been adversely affected”. Wibisono pointed to an estimated 7,000 unexploded ordinances “littered across” the territory, and described how over “50 days of relentless bombing and shelling”, some 228 schools were damaged, including 26 destroyed or damaged beyond repair.
According to Wibisono, around 60,000 Palestinians remain in 19 shelters in the Gaza Strip, while medical professionals report a “critical shortage” of medicines and equipment. “Israel must immediately lift the seven year land, sea and air blockade of Gaza”, Wibisono urged, “and urgently allow needed materials for reconstruction and recovery.”
The Special Rapporteur also spoke to the “excessive use of force” used by Israeli forces in the Occupied West Bank over the summer, “noting that during the period from 12 June to 31 August 2014, a total of 27 Palestinians were killed, of whom five were children, with the youngest victim only 11 years-old.” Wibisono stressed that “the use of live ammunition against Palestinians even if they were throwing stones, is unjustifiable.”
The Special Rapporteur will report fully on his findings and recommendations to the 28th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2015.
Russia is ready to resume gas deliveries to Ukraine only after it pays $2 billion of its debt and makes a $1.9 billion advance payment for future supplies, Russian Minister of Energy Aleksandr Novak said.
“There will be no new supplies if part of the debt is not paid. Otherwise, it turns out to be a game with only one goal, where we deliver the gas and the debt payment is postponed,” he argued.
Novak said that Ukraine is prepared to pay $3.1 billion of its Russian gas debt.
“They calculated the cost at their own virtual price at $268.5 [per thousand cubic meters of gas],” the Minister said.
However Russia is happy to sell its gas at $385 which amounts to $1.9 billion for the 5 billion cubic meters Ukraine wants to purchase. Together with the debt payment it amounts to $3.9 billion.
Prepayment will likely be made every month, according to the needs of Ukraine. The amount of $3.1 billion has to be paid in two tranches: $2 billion before supplies are resumed, and the remainder – by the end of the year, Novak said.
Russia is ready to fulfill the agreements reached on Friday in Berlin and is waiting for a Ukrainian response, Novak said answering a question concerning the possibility of sealing the deal this week.
All the agreements of the so-called “winter plan” worked out on September 26 were verbal, and the gas price remains an unresolved issue.
The money for this plan has already been provided to Ukraine by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Novak said.
Ukraine’s southeastern regions could cooperate with Kiev in the spheres of security and economy, but a political union is out of the question, Andrei Purgin, Deputy Prime Minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) said in an interview with Russian Channel One on Tuesday.
“Federalism could not be discussed…Economic relations are possible, partly security… But [the republics] do not see a political union,” Purgin said, adding that this position is shared by an overwhelming majority of people in Ukraine’s southeastern regions.
After local residents voted for the independence of the people’s republics at the referendums held in May and lost thousands of lives in the armed conflict with Ukrainian forces, they cannot imagine a life under the power of the Kiev authorities, Purgin said.
A violent internal conflict erupted in Ukraine in mid-April, when Kiev launched a military operation against independence supporters in the southeastern regions of the country, who refused to recognize the new Ukrainian government which came to power as a result of the February coup.
The status of Ukraine’s southeastern regions remains a matter of debate. Kiev says it is ready to offer special status only to areas controlled by independence supporters, while the authorities of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics (DPR and LPR) claim they want full independence and will not agree to any status that regards them as a part of Ukraine.