One of several polar bears spotted around Ryrkaipyi village in Siberia, 19 October 2017. Photo: Tatyana Minenko / The Siberian Times

19 October 2017 (The Siberian Times) – Around 20 beasts have surrounded  Ryrkaypiy, with one bear cub trying to get into a house through the window.

The polar bears were attracted by 5,000 walruses that appeared this year at a special protection zone in Chukotka.

Many of the frightened flippered marine mammals fell off cliffs at Kozhevnikova Cape as they sought to flee the invaders.

Several hundred fell to their deaths, and the polar bears then ate the carcasses.

Head of WWF project Polar Bear Patrol, Viktor Nikiforov, said: “This autumn the situation is alarming. Many crashed, falling from a height. Their rookery had attracted polar bears. The walruses were obviously frightened by the predators, panicked and fell from the top to their deaths.

“Up to 5,000 walruses were on the rookery, but there were a lot of dead animals - several hundred …Now the walruses have migrated away but the village remains surrounded.

Up to 5,000 walruses hauled out on Cape Kozhevnikov, Siberia, 19 October 2017. Photo: Maxim Deminov / WWF

“Now the walruses are gone, but about 20 polar bears remain practically next to the village,” he said.

“There is enough food for them (from the many fallen walruses), but several young bears approach to the houses out of curiosity.” [more]

Village besieged by polar bears as hundreds of terrorised walruses fall 38 metres to their deaths

Puerto Rico's representative in Congress, Jenniffer González-Colón. Photo: Bridget Mulcahy / POLITICO

By Edward-Isaac Dovere
17 October 2017

(Politico) – Just before the interview starts, Jenniffer González-Colón tries four different numbers she’s been trying to reach back home in Puerto Rico. She gets the same error message for all of them. Can’t connect.

One call that does come through is from the White House, which is trying to explain away the president’s tweets warning that the federal response to Hurricane Maria wouldn’t go on forever. Her reaction was off the record.

González-Colón, Puerto Rico’s nonvoting representative in Congress, is using what limited power she has to wheedle, cajole and beg agencies to help with an island territory she says has been put back a century—some 86 percent of Puerto Ricans are still without electricity, three weeks after the hurricane knocked out the island’s power grid, and 29 percent don’t even have potable water.

She’s calling in favors and firing off text messages to get patients dialysis or chemotherapy, with no time to think about the damage to her own house. González-Colón happened to be home during the storm, and she was literally holding the door closed. Now in Washington to lobby for a more vigorous relief effort, she’s anxious about all the damage that continues to mount from rain that keeps coming down on homes that don’t have roofs anymore.

“Your life,” González-Colón told me with tears in her eyes during an interview for POLITICO’s Off Message podcast, “is like stopping without knowing what is going to happen next.”

Days after we spoke, on Monday, President Donald Trump was standing in the Rose Garden of the White House, explaining why he shouldn’t be blamed for a lackluster hurricane response that has exasperated Puerto Ricans and infuriated many other Americans back on the mainland.

Trump cited the pre-existing debt, said the island “was in really bad shape” before the storm, ripped local authorities for making the military participate in handing out food in a way that “they shouldn’t have to be doing,” and insisted he’d been doing an “outstanding job.”

The word González-Colón—a lifelong Republican—kept using to describe presidential statements like this is “shocking.”

Two weeks ago, she hitched a ride on Air Force One to San Juan, and came back with a red Make America Great Again hat signed by the president and what seemed like commitments to the recovery. She doesn’t understand why the president, having seen the disaster with his own eyes, hasn’t prioritized federal resources and instead issued threats.

Does the president get what is going on? I asked her.

“You know what?” she answered. “Maybe I’m going to be nice here: I don’t know.” She was clearly choosing her words carefully.

“This is not the time to be talking about withdrawing the help,” she continued, a flash of anger in her voice. “This is not the time to talk about how much it’s costing the U.S., because we are American citizens.” [more]

Puerto Rico Rep. Calls Trump Comments ‘Shocking’

Daphne Caruana Galizia, a Maltese investigative journalist who exposed her island nation’s links with the so-called Panama Papers, was assassinated when a bomb destroyed her car on 16 October 2017. Photo: Reuters

By Luke Harding, David Pegg, and Juliette Garside
17 October 201

(The Guardian) – In her last blogpost, published the day she died, Daphne Caruana Galizia signed off with a sentence that seems particularly chilling now.

“There are crooks everywhere you look. The situation is desperate.”

Caruana Galizia, 53, felt she had good reason to feel pessimistic about Malta, and her enemies had good reason to fear her. Someone, it seems, was worried enough to want her silenced.

In that last post, which appeared just before a bomb blew up the car she was driving, Caruana Galizia had taken aim, and not for the first time, at Maltese politicians. But they were far from the only people in the firing line.

She believed, in essence, that malign and criminal interests had captured Malta and turned it into an island mafia state; she reported on a political system rife with corruption, businesses seemingly used to launder money or pay bribes, and a criminal justice system that seemed incapable, or unwilling, to take on the controlling minds behind it all.

Proof of her fears included the 15 mafia-style assassinations and car bombings that have taken place on the island in the last 10 years – and, ultimately, perhaps, her own murder too. […]

Caruana Galizia’s investigation was built on documents uncovered in the Panama Papers, published in April last year. [cf. The Panama Papers: Politicians, criminals, and the rogue industry that hides their cash; How Panama became a tax haven to the world – ‘This has been going on for so long, and is so obvious and problematic, that the question is, “How come nothing was done about it before?”’; 300 economists urge leaders to reject tax havens – ‘While all countries are hit by tax dodging, poor countries are proportionately the biggest losers’]

Among the many names of government officials were two Maltese politicians: Keith Schembri, chief of staff to Muscat, and Konrad Mizzi, the country’s energy minister.

Both had set up similar structures, involving Panamanian companies owned by New Zealand trusts.

The allegation: the trusts were used to receive kickbacks from rich Russians who bought Maltese passports. The publication led to street protests and caused disquiet in Brussels. [more]

‘The situation is desperate’: murdered Maltese journalist’s final written words

Huge waves whipped up by Storm Ophelia batter the coast at Porthleven in Cornwall, 17 October 2017. Photo: APEX

By Danny Boyle and Chris Graham
17 October 2017

(The Telegraph) – Three people are dead and hundreds of thousands still without power following Storm Ophelia; the worst storm in recorded history on the island of Ireland.

The storm force winds cleared Ireland's coast by midnight, but people were warned to remain cautious in the aftermath of the extreme weather. A second day of disruption was expected in Scotland and North East England due to fallen trees blocking rail lines.

Fallen trees blocking roads and downed power lines are some of the likely hazards on Tuesday as the country begins to return to normal following a day when the island of Ireland went into lockdown.

Violent winds of more than 96mph (156kph) in places caused widespread damage to electricity networks, uprooting trees and damaging properties.

Two men and a woman were killed in separate incidents in the Republic of Ireland. […]

The storm has caused major disruption to power supplies and 330,000 homes and businesses were still without power on Monday night. […]

Met Eireann described the storm as the most powerful to have been this far east in the Atlantic. [more]

Ophelia: Ireland recovers from worst storm on record that killed three

Address by His Holiness Pope Francis. World Food Day Ceremony, FAO Headquarters (Plenary hall), 16 October 2017. Photo: Giuseppe Carotenuto / FAO

16 October 2017 (UN News) – Food security for all requires tackling climate change and ending conflicts, His Holiness, Pope Francis, stressed Monday at an official ceremony for World Food Day held at the Rome headquarters of the United Nations agriculture agency.

“It is clear that wars and climatic change are a cause of hunger, so let’s not present it as if hunger is an incurable disease,” the Pontiff said during his key note address marking the Day at headquarters of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Under this year’s theme ‘addressing migration through investing in food security and rural development,’ Pope Francis called for governments worldwide to collaborate to ensure voluntary and safer migration; for a disarmament commitment; and to protect the planet while using its resources – producing and consuming food.

Noting that it was unfortunate that some countries are moving away from the Paris Agreement on climate change, Pope France underscored” “What is at stake is the credibility of the whole international system.”

Referring to the negotiation of a Global Pact for Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration – he asserted that managing human mobility “requires coordinated, systematic intergovernmental action in line with existing international norms, and full of love and intelligence.”

This year, World Food Day is being marked as hunger is on the rise for the first time in over a decade, affecting 815 million people – 11 per cent of the global population. The increase is largely due to the proliferation of violent conflicts and climate-related shocks, which are also major drivers of distress migration.

“It is our intention to address the root causes of migration, such as poverty, food insecurity, inequality, unemployment and lack of social protection,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

“We firmly believe that increasing investments in food security, sustainable rural development and in efforts to adapt agriculture to climate change, will help create the conditions whereby people, especially the youth, will no longer be forced to abandon their lands in order to seek a better life elsewhere,” he added.

Calling today’s biggest problem “man-made conflict,” World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley revealed that conflicts consume 80 per cent of the agency’s expenditure – over $6 billion.

“We will never achieve Zero Hunger by 2030 until we end conflict,” he stressed.

“I call on the people in power, the people with guns, to stop the fighting now,” said Mr. Beasley, who has met many people fleeing conflict and violence in Yemen, South Sudan and Bangladesh over the past few months.

“I saw their wounds with my own eyes and I heard their stories with my own ears. They were frightened, hungry and malnourished after enduring a nightmare that most people cannot even imagine. If we are truly going to end hunger, we must stop this kind of inhumanity,” he said.

The future of migration

In his statement commemorating the day, William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), called climate action “paramount” in mitigating displacement saying: “Climate change is having far-reaching effects on agricultural productivity and food security. It is among the main reasons for the record numbers of people compelled to migrate from rural areas to towns and cities around the world.”

Under the premise that migration should be a choice, not a necessity, IOM is working towards this change with FAO, as 2018 co-chairs of the UN Global Migration Group – collaborating on projects to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable populations in rural areas to the impacts of natural hazards, climate change, food security and displacement.

“It is a cooperation that I think will continue to grow and strengthen as migration continues to be a megatrend in the world, which will become only greater with the worsening effects of climate change,” Mr. Swing said.

At UN event in Rome, Pope Francis urges action on climate change, conflicts to end global hunger

U.S. Army 1st Special Force Command Sgt. Kenneth McAnally surveys a section of a road that collapsed and continues to erode days after Hurricane Maria swept through the island on 7 October 2017 in Barranquitas, Puerto Rico. Photo: Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By Sean Breslin
17 October 2017

(weather.com) – President Donald Trump addressed Puerto Rico's recovery from Hurricane Maria during a Monday press conference, saying the military is being asked to perform tasks that other groups should be able to do instead.

"They have to distribute the food to the people of the island," Trump told reporters. "So, what we've done is, we now actually have military distributing food – something that really they shouldn't have to be doing."

According to CNBC.com, Trump also described the recovery as "very tough," adding that the island "was in very poor shape before the hurricanes ever hit." Trump was referring to the $70 billion of debt the U.S. commonwealth had before the storm.

As of Tuesday morning, less than 20 percent of the island had power almost a month after the storm made landfall, according to a website that tracks the progress of the recovery. Nearly 35 percent of the island remains without drinking water, and there have been reports in recent days that U.S. citizens are so desperate that they've been drinking polluted water just to stay alive.

Puerto Rican leaders on both sides of the political aisle have said they're less than pleased with the response from the U.S. mainland.

"This is not the time to be talking about withdrawing the help," Jenniffer Gonzalez, Puerto Rico's non-voting representative in Congress and a lifelong Republican, told Politico. "This is not the time to talk about how much it’s costing the U.S., because we are American citizens."

In some parts of the island – including areas where Trump visited earlier this month – additional rainfall hasn't just hindered the cleanup, it has reversed progress. According to CNN.com, mudslides and flooding occurred Monday in the town of Guaynabo, located just a few miles from San Juan.

In that town, some residents, like Efrain Diaz, told CNN.com they haven't seen a single FEMA staffer or any emergency supplies since Maria ravaged the island. [more]

Trump Says Military Distributing Supplies in Puerto Rico Is 'Something ... They Shouldn't Have to Be Doing'

By Michael Melia
16 October 2017

CAGUAS, Puerto Rico (Associated Press) – Raw sewage is pouring into the rivers and reservoirs of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. People without running water bathe and wash their clothes in contaminated streams, and some islanders have been drinking water from condemned wells.

Nearly a month after the hurricane made landfall, Puerto Rico is only beginning to come to grips with a massive environmental emergency that has no clear end in sight.

"I think this will be the most challenging environmental response after a hurricane that our country has ever seen," said Judith Enck, who served as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency region that includes Puerto Rico under President Barack Obama.

With hundreds of thousands of people still without running water, and 20 of the island's 51 sewage treatment plants out of service, there are growing concerns about contamination and disease.

"People in the U.S. can't comprehend the scale and scope of what's needed," said Drew Koslow, an ecologist with the nonprofit Ridge to Reefs who recently spent a week in Puerto Rico working with a portable water purification system.

People in Puerto Rico cluster along roadways to bathe and do laundry using water sent down from higher elevations in PVC pipes. Some collect water to take home, for flushing toilets and cleaning. Carmen Rodriguez, 70, bathes using the improvised water system. Photo: Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo / The New York Times

EPA officials said that of last week they still had not been unable to inspect five of the island's 18 Superfund sites — highly contaminated toxic sites targeted for cleanup because of risks to human health and the environment — including the former U.S. Navy bombing range on the island of Vieques.

"I just wish we had more resources to deal with it," said Catherine McCabe, the EPA deputy regional administrator. [more]

Raw sewage contaminating waters in Puerto Rico after Maria

People in Puerto Rico cluster along roadways to bathe and do laundry using water sent down from higher elevations in PVC pipes. Some collect water to take home, for flushing toilets and cleaning. Photo: Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo / The New York Times

By Caitlin Dickerson
16 October 2017

CHARCO ABAJO, Utuado, P.R. (The New York Times) – When Hurricane Maria swept away the bridge that led in and out of Charco Abajo, a remote village in the mountainous inland of Puerto Rico, Carlos Ocasio and Pablo Perez Medina decided that they could not wait for help to arrive.

When the wind and rain calmed, the welder and the retired handyman climbed off the edge of the bridge and jumped down onto a pile of debris. They crossed the Vivi River, whose waters had risen to their chests, and walked several miles to a hardware store, where they bought a cable, a metal harness and wheels.

They built a pulley that now spans the gap where the bridge once was, and attached a shopping cart, after removing its legs and wheels, which they have been using to transfer food, water and supplies across the divide. Though aid groups began to arrive a week later, the two men, both 60 years old, raised a sign to describe how it felt in Charco Abajo immediately after the storm. It reads “Campamento de los Olvidados,” Spanish for “Camp of the Forgotten.”

Nearly a month after Maria devastated this island commonwealth, life remains a struggle. Even as some assistance has arrived, residents have learned to improvise without power or running water, especially those who live in remote areas, who waited the longest for help from emergency responders and for whom recovery is the farthest off.

The winding roads that once paved a lush, tree-lined route from San Juan, the capital, to Utuado now appear post-apocalyptic. Leafless, branchless trees, denuded by Maria’s winds, are tangled around one another and spill out into the highway. Rock formations, once covered with vegetation, have been stripped bare. Permanently windblown palm trees look like half-shaven heads. And houses that were once tucked neatly into the hills are now roofless, irreparably damaged wrecks sliding down the sides of them.

All that remains of the many wooden, one-room houses that once dotted the hills here are tall and narrow three-sided concrete structures that were built to protect bathroom plumbing, and which are now surrounded by piles of rubble.

Examples of the creativity of people living in the mountains are on display across the countryside. All day and night, people who live in the mountains cluster along roadways to bathe and do laundry in places where locals have redirected water from higher up that spews out of PVC pipes. They fill empty bottles and buckets, which they use to clean their homes and flush toilets.

But for some, the situation is more fragile than it is for others.

More than 100 bridges in Puerto Rico were damaged by Maria and 18 have been closed indefinitely, according to Ivonne Rosario, a spokeswoman for Puerto Rico’s transportation department. An unknown number collapsed during the storm, leaving entire communities like Charco Abajo stranded. [more]

Stranded by Hurricane Maria, Puerto Ricans get creative to survive

The opening of the Climate Engineering Conference 2017 in Berlin, 10 October 2017. Photo: Dirk Enters / IASS

By Kate Connolly
14 October 201

(The Guardian) – Leading climate scientists have warned that geoengineering research could be hijacked by climate change deniers as an excuse not to reduce CO2 emissions, citing the US administration under Donald Trump as a major threat to their work.

David Keith, a solar geoengineering (GE) expert at Harvard University has said there is a real danger that his work could be exploited by those who oppose action on emissions, at the same time as he defended himself and colleagues from the claims GE strengthens the argument for abandoning the targets set by the Paris climate agreement.

“One of the main concerns I and everyone involved in this have, is that Trump might tweet ‘geoengineering solves everything – we don’t have to bother about emissions.’ That would break the slow-moving agreement among many environmental groups that sound research in this field makes sense,” Keith said on the sidelines of the Climate Engineering Conference (CEC) in Berlin.

Indeed, utterances from people in or close to the Trump administration – most notably GE proponent secretary of state Rex Tillerson, who has referred to climate change as “just an engineering problem” – make it clear they either tacitly or directly support the idea of climate engineering. […]

“All the techniques being proposed have potentially severe environmental impacts,” said Silvia Ribeiro of the ETC Group, leading campaign monitors of new technologies and their possible impact on the world’s poorest.

“They also ignore the question as to why there’s not enough political will to have done more to tackle climate change until now and they in turn serve to justify the inaction,” she added. [more]

Geoengineering is not a quick fix for climate change, experts warn Trump

 

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