In­ves­ti­ga­tors blocked from at­tack site in Syria

The Detroit News - - News - BY BASSEM MROUE As­so­ci­ated Press BY SETH BORENSTEIN | AP Sci­ence Writer

Douma, Syria – Syr­ian and Rus­sian au­thor­i­ties pre­vented in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tors from go­ing to the scene of a sus­pected chem­i­cal at­tack, the head of the chem­i­cal watch­dog group said Mon­day, block­ing in­ter­na­tional ef­forts to es­tab­lish what hap­pened and who was to blame.

The U.S. and France say they have ev­i­dence that poi­son gas was used in the April 7 at­tack in the op­po­si­tion-held town of Douma, killing dozens of peo­ple, and that Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad’s mil­i­tary was be­hind it.

But they have made none of that ev­i­dence pub­lic, even af­ter they, along with Britain, bom­barded sites they said were linked to Syria’s chem­i­cal weapons pro­gram.

Syria and its ally Rus­sia deny any chem­i­cal at­tack took place, and Rus­sian of­fi­cials went even fur­ther, ac­cus­ing Britain of stag­ing a “fake” chem­i­cal at­tack. Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May ac­cused the two coun­tries – whose forces now con­trol the town east of Da­m­as­cus – of try­ing to cover up ev­i­dence.

The lack of ac­cess to Douma by in­spec­tors from the watch­dog group, the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons, has left unan­swered ques­tions about the at­tack.

OPCW Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral Ah­met Uzumcu said Syr­ian and Rus­sian of­fi­cials cited “pend­ing se­cu­rity is­sues” in keep­ing its in­spec­tors from reach­ing Douma.

“The team has not yet de­ployed to Douma,” Uzumcu told an ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil meet­ing of the OPCW in The Hague.

In­stead, Syr­ian au­thor­i­ties of­fered them 22 peo­ple to in­ter­view as wit­nesses, he said, adding that he hoped “all nec­es­sary ar­range­ments will be made … to al­low the team to de­ploy to Douma as soon as pos­si­ble.”

Rus­sian mil­i­tary

Wash­ing­ton – Global warm­ing is screw­ing up na­ture’s in­tri­cately timed din­ner hour, of­ten mak­ing hun­gry crit­ters and those on the menu show up at much dif­fer­ent times, a new study shows.

Tim­ing is ev­ery­thing in na­ture. Bees have to be around and flow­ers have to bloom at the same time for pol­li­na­tion to work, and hawks need to mi­grate at the same time as their prey. In many cases, global warm­ing is in­ter­fer­ing with that tim­ing, sci­en­tists said.

A first-of-its-kind global mega anal­y­sis on the bi­o­log­i­cal tim­ing of 88 species that rely on an­other life form shows that on av­er­age species are mov­ing out of sync by about six days a decade, al­though some pairs are ac­tu­ally mov­ing closer to­gether.

While other stud­ies have looked at in­di­vid­ual pairs of species and how warm­ing tem­per­a­tures have changed their mi­gra­tion, breed­ing and other tim­ing, the study in Mon­day’s Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tional Academy of Sciences gives the first global look at a wors­en­ing tim­ing prob­lem.

These changes in species tim­ing are con­sid­er­ably greater than they were be­fore the 1980s, the study said.

“There isn’t re­ally any clear in­di­ca­tion that it is go­ing to slow down or stop in the near fu­ture,” said study lead au­thor Heather Kharouba, an ecol­o­gist at the Uni­ver­sity of Ot­tawa.

po­lice were ready to help pro­tect the OPCW ex­perts on their visit to Douma, said Maj. Gen. Yuri Yev­tushenko of the Rus­sian mil­i­tary’s Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Cen­ter in Syria. Igor Kir­illov, a Rus­sian chem­i­cal weapons pro­tec­tion ex­pert in The Hague, said the team is set to visit the site Wed­nes­day.

Ear­lier Mon­day, Rus­sian Deputy For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Ryabkov said the in­spec­tors could not go to the site be­cause they needed ap­proval from the U.N. Depart­ment for Safety and Se­cu­rity. He de­nied that Rus­sia was ham­per­ing the mis­sion and sug­gested the ap­proval was held up be­cause of the West­ern airstrikes.

“As far as I un­der­stand, what is ham­per­ing a speedy res­o­lu­tion of this prob­lem is the con­se­quences of the il­le­gal, un­law­ful mil­i­tary ac­tion that Great Britain and other coun­tries con­ducted on Satur­day,” he said.

How­ever, U.N. spokesman Stephane Du­jar­ric said the United Na­tions has “pro­vided the nec­es­sary clear­ances for the OPCW team to go about its work in Douma. We have not de­nied the team any re­quest for it to go to Douma.”

At least 40 peo­ple are be­lieved to have died April 7 in Douma, which un­til Satur­day was the last re­bel­held town near the cap­i­tal and the tar­get of a gov­ern­ment of­fen­sive in Fe­bru­ary and March that killed hun­dreds and dis­placed tens of thou­sands.

For ex­am­ple in the Nether­lands, the Eurasian spar­row hawk has been late for din­ner be­cause its prey, the blue tit, has – over 16 years – ar­rived al­most six days ear­lier than the hawk.

It’s most no­tice­able and cru­cial in Wash­ing­ton state’s Lake Wash­ing­ton, where over the past 25 years, plant plank­ton are now bloom­ing 34 days ear­lier than the zoo­plank­ton that eat them. That’s cru­cial be­cause that’s mess­ing with the bot­tom of the food chain, Kharouba said.

In Green­land, the plants are show­ing up al­most three days ear­lier than the cari­bou, so more of the baby cari­bou are dy­ing “be­cause there wasn’t enough food,” Kharouba said.

With warmer tem­per­a­tures, most species moved their habits ear­lier, but in­ter­de­pen­dent species didn’t al­ways move at the same rate. It’s the rel­a­tive speed of changes in tim­ing that’s key, Kharouba said.

Be­cause of the small num­ber of species in­volved in small ar­eas over dif­fer­ent stud­ies, Kharouba’s team could not find a sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant link be­tween tem­per­a­ture and changes in how species sync to­gether. But what she saw, she said, “is con­sis­tent with cli­mate change.”

“It demon­strates that many species in­ter­ac­tions from around the world are in a state of rapid flux,” Bos­ton Uni­ver­sity bi­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor Richard Pri­mack said.

Sergei Grits / AP

a blue tit flies among dried plants cov­ered with hoar­frost near Dukora, Be­larus. A study says global warm­ing is mess­ing up na­ture’s timed din­ner hour.

Matt Dun­ham / AP

Pro­tes­tors in Lon­don chant against the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment car­ry­ing out airstrikes in Syria.

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