Daily Archives: January 19, 2010

US accused of ‘occupying’ Haiti as troops flood in


U.S. Marines arrive at a camp near Cite Soleil January 18, 2010. U.S. troops protected aid handouts and the United Nations sought extra peacekeepers in earthquake-shattered Haiti on Monday as marauding looters emptied wrecked shops and desperate survivors began to receive medical care and air-dropped food. Some 2,200 Marines with heavy earth-moving equipment, medical aid and helicopters were arriving on Monday, and the White House said more than 11,000 U.S. military personnel are on the ground, on ships offshore or en route. Reuters

France accused the US of “occupying” Haiti on Monday as thousands of American troops flooded into the country to take charge of aid efforts and security.

Planes carrying vital medical supplies were being turned away by American air traffic controllers.

Telegraph | Jan 18, 2010

By Aislinn Laing, and Tom Leonard in Port-au-Prince.

The French minister in charge of humanitarian relief called on the UN to “clarify” the American role amid claims the military build up was hampering aid efforts.

Alain Joyandet admitted he had been involved in a scuffle with a US commander in the airport’s control tower over the flight plan for a French evacuation flight.

“This is about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti,” Mr Joyandet said.

Geneva-based charity Medecins Sans Frontieres backed his calls saying hundreds of lives were being put at risk as planes carrying vital medical supplies were being turned away by American air traffic controllers.

But US commanders insisted their forces’ focus was on humanitarian work and last night agreed to prioritise aid arrivals to the airport over military flights, after the intervention of the UN.

The diplomatic row came amid heightened frustrations that hundreds of tons of aid was still not getting through. Charities reported violence was also worsening as desperate Haitians took matters into their own hands.

The death toll is now estimated at up to 200,000 lives. Around three million Haitians – a third of the country’s population – have been affected by Tuesday’s earthquake and two million require food assistance.

While food and water was gradually arriving at the makeshift camps which have sprung up around the city, riots have broken out in other areas where supplies have still not materialised.

Haiti was occupied by the US between 1915 and 1935, and historical sensitivities together with friction with other countries over the relief effort has made the Americans cautious about their role in the operation.

American military commanders have repeatedly stressed that they are not entering the country as an occupying force.

US soldiers in Port-au-Prince said they had been told to be discreet about how they carry their M4 assault rifles.

A paratrooper sergeant said they were authorised to use “deadly force” if they see anyone’s life in danger but only as a “last resort”.

Capt John Kirby, a spokesman for the joint task force at the airport, said the US recognised it was only one of a number of countries contributing to a UN-led mission.

He also emphasised the US troops, which he said would rise to 10,000 by Wednesday would principally be assisting in humanitarian relief and the evacuation of people needing medical attention.

The main responsibility for security rests with the UN, which is to add a further 3,000 troops to its force of 9,000.

However, it was agreed on Sunday night that the Americans would take over security at the four main food and water distribution points being set up in the city, Capt Kirby said.

“Security here is in a fluid situation,” he said. “If the Haitian government asked us to provide security downtown, we would do that.” He played down the threat of violence, saying: “What we’re seeing is that there are isolated incidents of violence and some pockets where it’s been more restive, but overall it’s calm.”

Severe deep freeze inflicted major toll on fish in Florida

A deep freeze in the shallow waters of Florida Bay and Everglades took a heavy toll on snook and other native fish.

Cold snap took steep toll on warm-water fish

miamiherald.com | Jan 18, 2010

Everywhere he steered his skiff last week, Pete Frezza saw dead fish.

From Ponce de Leon Bay on the Southwest Coast down across Florida Bay to Lower Matecumbe in the Florida Keys — day after day, dead fish. Floating in the marina at Flamingo in Everglades National Park alone, he counted more than 400 snook and 400 tarpon.

“I was so shook up, I couldn’t sleep,” said Frezza, an ecologist for Audubon of Florida and expert flats fisherman. “Millions and millions of pilchards, threadfin herring, mullet. Ladyfish took it really bad. Whitewater Bay is just a graveyard.”

Cold snap kills fish at alarming rate

Waters all around Florida are about to get very stinky over the next few days as hundreds of thousands of fish killed by the extended cold weather begin to decompose and float to the surface.

From the Panhandle to the Keys, from the Gold Coast north to the First Coast, anglers and fisheries scientists venturing out into chilly bays, estuaries, rivers, canals, and even the open ocean, are finding dead and stunned fish in a wide range of sizes and species — freshwater and saltwater. And this is just the beginning, experts say.

“It’s gross. It turns your stomach,” said Luiz Barbieri, chief of marine fisheries research at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) in St. Petersburg. “The magnitude of this is unbelievable. It’s really dismal and sad to see.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Friday afternoon issued an executive order to extend the closed season for snook statewide until September and to impose temporary closures for bonefish and tarpon until April. The order also suspends some saltwater fishing regulations to allow residents to collect and dispose of dead fish. The measures take effect at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, and are set to expire Feb. 1 unless repealed or extended.

Anglers throughout the state have reported seeing thousands of dead fish in bays, rivers, estuaries, lakes and even the open ocean over the past week as water temperatures dipped far below normal and stayed there.

Fish in every part of the state were hammered by this month’s record-setting cold snap. The toll in South Florida, a haven for warm-water species, was particularly extensive, too large to even venture a guess at numbers. And despite the subsequent warm-up, scientists warn that the big bad chill of 2010 will continue to claim victims for weeks.

“Based on what I saw in 1977 and 1989, there is a good chance we’ll have a second wave,” said William Loftus, a longtime aquatic ecologist for Everglades National Park.

During those last two major cold fronts, weakened survivors succumbed to infections from common bacteria, such as aeromonas, that they would normally ward off, he said.

“It’s a nasty-looking thing,” he said. “It’s a tissue eater. It creates open ulcers on the side of the fish.”

In response, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Friday ordered an emergency statewide closure of the snook fishery until at least September, and imposed temporary closures for bonefish and tarpon until April. Catch-and-release is still allowed for all three species.

Veteran Everglades fishing guide Benny Blanco believes the die-off was so severe — particularly for snook, a prized game and eating fish particularly sensitive to cold — that he would support taking them off the dinner table for years.

“I haven’t see a swimming snook in 10 days,” Blanco said Monday, after returning from a charter trip to the Glades. “All I have seen is floating snook.”

Judging by the floating carcasses, the most widespread kills were in Florida Bay and Whitewater Bay in the park. Water temperatures in the bay hovered in the low 50s for days and, according to the National Weather Service, dipped to a record 47.8 degrees at their lowest.

DEEPER WATERS

But even denizens of the deeper, warmer waters of Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean didn’t escape the cold, said Jerry Ault, professor of marine biology and fisheries at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School, who oversees annual counts of bonefish and reef fish.

His research staff collected about 200 bonefish from the Florida Keys, he said. “It wasn’t just bonefish. It was grunt, snapper, pilchards, moray eel. When the water temperature drops below 50 degrees, that’s reasonably lethal for most of these species.”

The duration of the cold and high winds worsened things, Ault said, pushing colder, heavier waters off shallow flats into deeper channels where fish typically seek warm refuge. “Even the channels became a tomb,” he said.

GAME FISH

While it might take snook and other saltwater game fish years to rebound, the cold snap should at least temporarily help less-popular freshwater natives such as sunfish by knocking off walking catfish, Mayan cichlids and other tropical exotics that have invaded the Everglades and many of South Florida’s canals and ponds, said Loftus, who retired from the park last year and now runs a consulting business, Aquatic Research and Communication in Homestead.

It also might help him in his current job of trying to knock back exotic fish populations at Fairchild Tropical Gardens, he said.

“I’m dancing a jig here,” he said.

Police use dogs and helicopter to swoop on pacifist student

thisislondon.co.uk | Jan 18, 2010

by Justin Davenport and Ted Hynds

Pacifist: Jeremy Moulton was arrested and his home was raided by police

A pacifist is suing police for malicious arrest after he was held under anti-terror laws for staging a protest outside an Army base.

Politics student Jeremy Moulton, 19, has accused police of “overkill” after his home was raided by officers and dogs while a helicopter hovered overhead. He was arrested and cautioned after standing outside an Army cadet training base in Staines with a banner reading: “Stop training murderers”.

Officers then raided his home and the student was kept in cells overnight before he agreed to a caution for breach of the peace. But he says he did not understand that doing so would give him a criminal record.

Speaking at his parents’ home in Staines, Mr Moulton said: “I only accepted the caution because I was frightened. I didn’t feel I had breached the peace. The police response had been out of all proportion. They treated me like an al Qaeda suspect, questioned me for hours and took away my computer and student books.

“It must have cost tens of thousands of pounds. When the duty solicitor advised me to accept a caution I jumped at the chance to get out of there. I didn’t realise the serious consequences of doing that. Nobody told me I would have a criminal record.

“I had only made a placard after I discovered the cadets were taught to shoot by firing at human-shaped targets. I have been against war all my life and I wanted to make my opinion heard.”

Hours after leaving the placard outside the base in June 2008, police swooped on his home, including armed officers, Mr Moulton claims. But he added: “About four or five armed officers were all set to come into the house until my mum persuaded them not to. She was worried about my young sister who was terrified. My parents, who are prominent in our local church, were also frightened.”

Mr Moulton, a student at Hull University, said he was taking action because he was refused an internship at the House of Commons and was barred from entering the US because of his criminal record. “That’s when I became aware of the full powers of the State. It was a terrifying experience,” he said.

His lawyer, Alex Tribick, said: “There is still a basic right to freedom of speech in this country and Jeremy has been the victim of heavy-handed policing.”

A Surrey Police spokeswoman said they were contacted by a member of the public who had seen him measuring the Army cadet gates and acting suspiciously. She said officers could not find him and a helicopter was deployed.

“An 18-year-old was arrested, interviewed, and cautioned for a public order offence. Suspects are made fully aware that accepting a caution constitutes an admission of guilt. Surrey Police is satisfied this offender was dealt with correctly,” the spokeswoman said.

London gets first urban ‘average speed’ cameras

It is the first time that average speed cameras — traditionally used on sections of motorway — will enforce the limit on a road with multiple entrance and exit points, in an urban setting.

thisislondon.co.uk | Jan 18, 2010

by David Williams

Speeding motorists who slow down for cameras face a new threat as Britain’s first urban average speed traps are switched on in the capital.

Eighty-four new cameras are being placed on the A13 to the east of London in a bid to reduce the high accident rate on the commuter route.

They check speeds at 37 locations along a seven-and-a-half-mile stretch of the road.

Any motorists who let their speed creep above the limit between Canning Town and the Goresbrook Interchange could face a £60 fine and three points on their licence.

Unlike Gatso cameras, the network of devices monitors vehicles across the area, capturing individual motorists’ average speed.

It is the first time that average speed cameras — traditionally used on sections of motorway — will enforce the limit on a road with multiple entrance and exit points, in an urban setting.

Ben Plowden, director of integrated programmes at Transport for London, which runs the project, said: “Traditional safety cameras are very effective at reducing the numbers of people killed or seriously injured on London’s roads.

“However, roads such as this 12km stretch of the A13, which has a high level of speed-related collisions, have huge potential to benefit from the new average speed camera systems.”

TfL hopes the new cameras will also reduce collision-related congestion and smooth traffic flow.

The cameras, made by Worcestershire firm RedFusion, are undergoing a trial, but will go live — issuing fines — from early summer.

The speed limit on the section of the A13 to the east of the Canning Town flyover and the Goresbrook interchange will rise from 40mph to 50mph once the new system begins enforcing in the summer.

The limit across the Lodge Avenue and Canning Town flyovers will stay as it is for safety reasons.

A spokesman for the AA said that motorists would initially feel that the scheme was a “bit like Big Brother”, but added: “It is good to give this kind of technology a go to see what we can learn from it, especially if there are safety gains.”

On the affected part of the A13, nearly 500 collisions, including three fatal and 34 serious accidents, were recorded between 2006 and 2008.