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AP
Migrants march toward US border in show of force
 
 11.25.18

TIJUANA, Mexico — U.S. border agents fired tear gas on hundreds of migrants protesting near the border with Mexico on Sunday after some of them attempted to get through the fencing and wire separating the two countries, and American authorities shut down border crossings from the city where thousands are waiting to apply for asylum.

The situation devolved after the group began a peaceful march to appeal for the U.S. to speed processing of asylum claims for Central American migrants marooned in Tijuana.

Mexican police had kept them from walking over a bridge leading to the Mexican port of entry, but the migrants pushed past officers to walk across the Tijuana River below the bridge. More police carrying plastic riot shields were on the other side, but migrants walked along the river to an area where only an earthen levee and concertina wire separated them from U.S. Border Patrol agents.

Some saw an opportunity to breach the crossing.

An Associated Press reporter saw U.S. agents shoot several rounds of tear gas after some migrants attempted to penetrate several points along the border. Mexico’s Milenio TV showed images of migrants climbing over fences and peeling back metal sheeting to enter.

Honduran Ana Zuniga, 23, also said she saw migrants opening a small hole in concertina wire at a gap on the Mexican side of a levee, at which point U.S. agents fired tear gas at them.

Children screamed and coughed. Fumes were carried by the wind toward people who were hundreds of feet away.

“We ran, but when you run the gas asphyxiates you more,” Zuniga told the AP while cradling her 3-year-old daughter Valery in her arms.

Mexico’s Interior Ministry said around 500 migrants tried to “violently” enter the U.S.

The ministry said in a statement it would immediately deport those people and would reinforce security.

As the chaos unfolded, shoppers just yards away on the U.S. side streamed in and out of an outlet mall.

Throughout the day, U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopters flew overhead, while U.S. agents held vigil on foot beyond the wire fence in California. The Border Patrol office in San Diego said via Twitter that pedestrian crossings were suspended at the San Ysidro port of entry at both the East and West facilities. All northbound and southbound traffic was halted.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement that U.S. authorities will continue to have a “robust” presence along the Southwest border and that they will prosecute anyone who damages federal property or violates U.S. sovereignty.

“DHS will not tolerate this type of lawlessness and will not hesitate to shut down ports of entry for security and public safety reasons,” she said.

More than 5,000 migrants have been camped in and around a sports complex in Tijuana after making their way through Mexico in recent weeks via caravan. Many hope to apply for asylum in the U.S., but agents at the San Ysidro entry point are processing fewer than 100 asylum petitions a day.

Irineo Mujica, who has accompanied the migrants for weeks as part of the aid group Pueblo Sin Fronteras, said the aim of Sunday’s march toward the U.S. border was to make the migrants’ plight more visible to the governments of Mexico and the U.S.

“We can’t have all these people here,” Mujica told the Associated Press.

Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum on Friday declared a humanitarian crisis in his border city of 1.6 million, which he says is struggling to accommodate the crush of migrants.

U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter Sunday to express his displeasure with the caravans in Mexico.

“Would be very SMART if Mexico would stop the Caravans long before they get to our Southern Border, or if originating countries would not let them form (it is a way they get certain people out of their country and dump in U.S. No longer),” he wrote.

Mexico’s Interior Ministry said Sunday the country has sent 11,000 Central Americans back to their countries of origin since Oct. 19, when the first caravan entered the country. It said that 1,906 of those who have returned were members of the recent caravans.

Mexico is on track to send a total of around 100,000 Central Americans back home by the end of this year.


Environment
Baylor scientists: Earwax study shows humans are stressing out whales
 Phillip Ericksen  / 
 11.25.18

The furies of war and the perils of climate change perpetuate stress, and not only in humans. Just check whale earwax, Baylor University researchers say.

The new study found that whales have been stressed for nearly 150 years, based on the determination of cortisol, a stress-induced hormone, located in thick earplugs of wax.

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte  

Biologists examine the layers of whale earplugs to determine hormone and chemical exposure of the whales. Baylor University researchers have now identified stress levels within whales by studying the earwax.

Five years ago, Stephen Trumble and Sascha Usenko discovered that analyses of whale earwax can determine a lifetime’s worth of hormone and chemical exposure in the marine mammals. The finding represented advancement from decades of whale research, which was mostly based on examinations of whale blubber.

The duo’s latest work linked high cortisol levels to dangerous periods for whales: World War II in the 1940s, the height of the whaling industry in the 1960s, and a dramatic rise in sea temperatures in the 1990s.

“The stress hormones were probably the more indicative of anything that’s going on,” said Trumble, an associate professor of biology. “We always get stress hormones. If we can figure out the response of the animal, and then we look at what’s involved with this response, we get some sort of a clue what’s going on. … The cool thing was we put all these stress hormones together and kind of made a profile over time.”

Naval battles with ships and submarines during World II likely caused an increase in whale stress levels in the 1940s, the study found, and stress brought on by whaling activity continued until the 1970s, when international agreements began to curtail whale hunts.

Trumble said year-to-year whaling data matched well alongside what he and his colleagues were finding in the earplugs. And the effects of global warming on whales could include a changing diet, or any number of factors.

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte 

Stephen Trumble, an associate professor of biology of Baylor University, discusses his latest research, which found stress levels in whales based on their earwax. 

“There is something there,” Trumble said. “This is what we’re going to build on.”

Their research of whale earplugs started almost 10 years ago, when they wondered if earplugs could be used to determine age and other characteristics. The Smithsonian Institution was ready to dispose of about 1,000 earplugs before Trumble inquired about them.

Similar to tree rings, whale earplug layers are used to age whales, which can span decades. For example, gray whales are believed to have a typical lifespan of 40 to 80 years.

“We take a photo pretty close up, mess around with contrast and brightness, and I just try to make those layers come out as much as possible,” said Dani Crain, a graduate student in the biology department. “I age it before I start cutting the layers apart.”

The research into whale earwax is set to continue under the direction of the Baylor professors who first highlighted its significance.

“(The earplugs) literally went from being thrown away, now they’re the objects of wonder at the Smithsonian,” Trumble said.


AP
Ukraine, Russia tensions soar after Black Sea naval incident
 
 11.25.18

MOSCOW — The Ukrainian navy said Sunday that Russia’s coast guard opened fire on and seized three Ukrainian vessels and wounded two crew members in the Black Sea following a tense standoff off the coast of the Crimean Peninsula.

Ukraine’s navy said that two of its vessels were struck and that Russian coast guard crews boarded them and a tugboat and seized them. The Russian Federal Security Service, known as the FSB and which is in charge of the coast guard, said that it has evidence that Ukraine was responsible for the clashes.

“There is irrefutable evidence that Kiev prepared and orchestrated provocations ... in the Black Sea,” the FSB said in a statement. “These materials will soon be made public.”

There have been growing tensions between Ukraine and Russia, which annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has steadily worked to increase its zone of control around the peninsula.

Earlier Sunday, Russia and Ukraine traded accusations over another incident involving the same three vessels, prompting Moscow to block passage through the Kerch Strait.

The Ukrainian vessels apparently wanted to travel through the strait to other ports in Ukraine, and Ukrainian authorities said they had given advance notice to the Russians.

The tensions began Sunday morning. Russia’s coast guard said that the three Ukrainian vessels made an unauthorized crossing through Russian territorial waters, while Ukraine alleged that one of its boats was rammed by a Russian coast guard vessel.

The Kerch Strait is a narrow body of water nestled between Crimea and the Russian mainland.

The incident began after the Ukrainian navy claimed a Russian coast guard vessel rammed one of its tugboats, which was traveling with two Ukrainian navy artillery boats from Odessa on the Black Sea to Mariupol in the Sea of Azov, via the Kerch Strait.

“Russian coast guard vessels ... carried out openly aggressive actions against Ukrainian navy ships,” the Ukrainian navy statement said. It said a Russian coast guard ship damaged the tugboat’s engine, hull, side railing and a lifeboat.

The statement added that Russia had been informed in advance about the planned journey.

Russia then blocked off the strait.

The Kerch Strait is the only passage into the Sea of Azov beyond it. The strait is crossed by the recently completed Kerch Bridge, connecting Crimea to Russia. Transit under the bridge has been blocked by a tanker ship, and dozens of cargo ships awaiting passage are stuck.

Russia has not given any indication of how long it will keep the strait blocked off, but a long-term closure to civilian traffic would amount to an economic blockade of Ukrainian cities on the Azov coast. And Russia’s Black Sea Fleet greatly outmatches the Ukrainian navy.

Ukrainian cities on the Sea of Azov include strategically vital centers such as Mariupol — the closest government-controlled city to Donetsk and Luhansk, the breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed separatists.

The FSB told Russian news agencies Sunday after the first incident that the Ukrainian ships held their course and violated Russian territorial waters. The FSB accused the Ukrainian navy of staging a provocation against Russia.

“Their goal is clear,” an FSB statement said — “to create a conflict situation in the region.” The statement didn’t mention ramming a Ukrainian tugboat.

Though a 2003 treaty designates the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov as shared territorial waters, Russia has been asserting greater control over the passage since 2015.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in an earlier statement that Russia’s actions were a violation of the U.N. Charter and international law, and pledged to “promptly inform our partners about Russia’s aggressive actions.”

“Such actions pose a threat to the security of all states in the Black Sea region,” the statement said, “and therefore require a clear response from the international community.”

Dmitry Kiselyov, a commentator on the state-controlled Rossiya channel, told viewers of his Sunday evening news program that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko — encouraged by the U.S. — is looking to pick a fight with Russia in the Black Sea.

The talk show host also said that the U.S. talked Poroshenko into staging a provocation against Russia as a means to disrupt the upcoming meeting between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump at this week’s Group of 20 summit in Argentina.

“What is happening now at the (Kerch) bridge threatens to turn into a very unpleasant story,” Kiselyov warned.


AP
Ex-Trump campaign adviser loses bid to delay prison sentence
 
 11.25.18

WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Sunday rejected a last-minute bid by former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos to delay his two-week prison term and ordered him to surrender Monday as scheduled.

Papadopoulos sought the delay until an appeals court had ruled in a separate case challenging the constitutionality of special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment.

But in an order Sunday, U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss said Papadopoulos had waited too long to contest his sentence after it was handed down in September. Moss noted that Papadopoulos had agreed not to appeal in most circumstances as part of his plea agreement and the judge said the challenge to Mueller’s appointment was unlikely to be successful in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Four different federal judges have upheld Mueller’s appointment as proper.

“The prospect that the D.C. Circuit will reach a contrary conclusion is remote,” Moss wrote.

Papadopoulos had filed an initial motion on Nov. 16, nearly two months after the deadline for appealing his conviction or sentence. He followed up with a request to delay his sentence pending that motion on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.

“Papadopoulos waited until the eleventh hour to seek relief; indeed, he did not file his second motion — the stay request — until the last business day before he was scheduled to surrender to serve his sentence,” Moss’ 13-page order states. “He has only his own delay to blame.

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty last year to lying to federal agents about his interactions with Russian intermediaries during the 2016 presidential campaign. He also forfeited most of his rights to contest his conviction.

His lawyer argued that the appellate case could constitute new evidence that could allow him to mount a challenge. That case was brought by a witness refusing to comply with a Mueller grand jury subpoena.

Papadopoulos’ sentence, issued by Moss on Sept. 7, was far less than the maximum six-month sentence sought by the government but more than the probation that Papadopoulos and his lawyers had asked for. Moss at the time noted that many similar cases resulted in probation but said he imposed a sentence of incarceration partly to send a message to the public that people can’t lie to the FBI.

Papadopoulos, the first campaign aide sentenced in Mueller’s investigation, triggered the initial Russia investigation two years ago. Memos written by House Republicans and Democrats and now declassified show that information about Papadopoulos’ contacts with Russian intermediaries set in motion the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation in July 2016 into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.

The White House has said that Papadopoulos was a low-level volunteer on the campaign.