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January 30, 2014 - Image 6

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6A - Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

6A - Thursday, January 30, 2014 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Sochi chief:
city is the
most secure
venue'
Over 50,000
police and soldiers
deployed to Sochi
LONDON (AP) - After all the
talk of terror threats, corruption,
overspending and anti-gay legisla-
tion,theheadoftheSochiOlympics
is determined to show the world
the games will be ahuge success.
Nine days before the opening
ceremony, organizing committee
chief Dmitry Chernyshenko said
Wednesday that Sochi is "fully
ready" and will deliver safe,
friendly and well-run games that
defy the grim reports that have
overshadowed preparations.
"History will be made," he said
of Russia's first Winter Games.
With Sochi facing threats of
terrorist attacks from insurgents
from the North Caucasus, Cher-
nyshenko said the city is the "most
secure venue at the moment on
the planet" and promised that
tight security measures will not
detract from the atmosphere of
the games.
"I can assure you that Sochi
will be among the most security-
friendly games and all the pro-
cedures will be very gentle and
smooth," he said in a conference
call with reporters.
Russia is deploying more than
50,000 police and soldiers to
guard the Olympics. A Muslim
militant group claimed respon-
sibility for back-to-back suicide
bombings that killed 34 people in
Volgograd in late December and
threatened attacks on the games.
"You will see thousands of
(security) people around but it's
important to understand that the
Olympics is a global event and
the security is also a global multi-
national event and state authori-
ties are doing (their) utmost to
deliver Sochi as safest for every-
one," Chernyshenko said.
Referripg to the Russian law
banning gay "propaganda" among
minors, he repeated assurances
that Russia will not discriminate
against anyone at the Olympics on
the basis of sexual orientation.

Monarch butterfly
numbers drop to
two decade low

ASIA NIEDRINGHAUS/AP
U.N. Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi reacts during his daily press briefing at the United Nations headquar-
ters in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, Jan. 29.w
Bitterness of Syrian civil war
demonstrated at U.N. talks

Supporters and
opponents of Assad
have first meeting
in three years
GENEVA (AP) - The bit-
terness and rancor stirred by
Syria's civil war were on full
display this week at peace talks
in Switzerland - and not just
in the closed room where rival
delegations are seeking a way
to end the three-year conflict.
For the first time since
the country devolved into its
bloody civil war, supporters
and opponents of President
Bashar Assad - many of them
journalists - are meeting face
to face. The mix is produc-
ing more than just awkward
moments between people with
vastly different views.
In the hallways of the U.N.'s
European headquarters and on
the manicured lawns outside,
tempers have flared. Scuffles
have broken out as journalists
interrupt rival reports, govern-
ment officials have received
extraordinary public grillings,
and a distraught mother con-
fronted the Syrian government

delegation at their hotel.
More than 130,000 people
have died since the uprising
against Assad began in March
2011, and millions of people
have been uprooted from their
homes. The conflict has pit-
ted neighbor against neighbor.
People who were once friends
have stopped talking to each
other. Journalists who once
worked together have been
separated. Sectarian tensions,
once tamped down under
Assad's grip, have exploded
into the open.
Many journalists have
been forced to leave the coun-
try, either thrown out by the
regime or going into self-
imposed exiled in order to con-
tinue their work freely. Many
have switched jobs to work
with opposition or government
outlets.
"It has been a rare opportu-
nity to meet and get to know
each other again," said Ibrahim
Hamidi, a Syrian journalist
working for the London-based
Arabic regional newspaper, Al-
Hayat. "It's unnerving for both
sides."
In Geneva, anti-government
activists accuse journalists
supporting the regime of com-

ing with a specific mandate to
ask disruptive questions. And
for government officials used
to controlling the narrative
back home, the experience has
been frazzling.
"The regime's delegation feel
besieged here, they are on the
defensive - clearly the weaker
party," claimed Rima Fleihan, a
member of the Syrian National
Coalition opposition group.
During an impromptu brief-
ing at last week's opening
session in Montreux, Syrian
Information Minister Omran
al-Zoubi was hounded by a
widely known anti-govern-
ment activist who pressed him
on the government's indis-
criminate use of barrel bombs
against civilians in the hard-hit
northern city of Aleppo.
"Who is using barrel bombs
in Aleppo?," Rami Jarrah
asked. "I will give you the
Google coordinates of ISIL
headquarters in Raqqa. Why
don't you bomb them?," he
demanded, referring to the
al-Qaida-linked Islamic State
of Iraq and the Levant, which
hopes to turn the war into a
regional conflagration that
would allow it to take deeper
root.

Extreme weather,
reduction of
butterfly habitat are
culprits
The stunning and little-
understood annual migration of
millions of Monarch butterflies
to spend the winter in Mexico
is in danger of disappearing,
experts said Wednesday, after
numbers dropped to their lowest
level since record-keeping began
in 1993.
Their report blamed the dis-
placement of the milkweed the
species feeds on by genetically
modified crops and urban sprawl
in the United States, extreme
weather trends and the dramatic
reduction of the butterflies' hab-
itat in Mexico due to illegal log-
ging of the trees they depend on
for shelter.
After steep and steady
declines in the previous three
years, the black-and-orange
butterflies now cover only 1.65
acres (0.67 hectares) in the pine
and fir forests west of Mexico
City, compared to 2.93 acres
(1.19 hectares) last year, said the
report released by the World
Wildlife Fund, Mexico's Envi-
ronment Department and the
Natural Protected Areas Com-
mission. They covered more
than 44.5 acres (18 hectares) at
their recorded peak in 1996.
Because the butterflies clump
together by the thousands in
trees, they are counted by the
area they cover.
While the Monarch is not in
danger of extinction, the decline
in their population now marks a
statistical long-term trend and
can no longer be seen as a com-
bination of yearly or seasonal
events, experts said.
The announcement followed
on the heels of the 20th anni-
versary of the North American
Free Trade Agreement, which
saw the United States, Mexico
and Canada sign environmen-
tal accords to protect migratory
species such as the Monarch.
At the time, the butterfly was
adopted as the symbol of trilat-
eral cooperation.
"Twenty years after the sign-
ing of NAFTA, the Monarch
migration, the symbol of the
three countries' cooperation,
is at serious risk of disappear-
ing," said Omar Vidal, the World
Wildlife Fund director in Mexi-
co.
Lincoln Brower, a leading
entomologist at Sweet Briar Col-
lege in Virginia, wrote that "the
migration is definitely proving
to be an endangered biological
phenomenon."
"The main culprit," he
wrote in an email, is now
genetically modified "herbi-
cide-resistant corn and soy-
bean crops and herbicides in
the USA," which "leads to the
wholesale killing of the mon-
arch's principal food plant,
common milkweed."
While Mexico has made
headway in reducing logging in
the officially protected winter
reserve, that alone cannot save
the migration, wrote Karen
Oberhauser, a professor at the

University of Minnesota. She
noted that studies indicate that
the U.S. Midwest is where most
of the butterflies migrate from.
"A large part of their repro-
ductive habitatin that region has
been lost due to changes in agri-
cultural practices, mainly the
explosive growth in the use of
herbicide-tolerant crops," Ober-
hauser said.
Extreme weather - severe

cold snaps, unusually heavy
rains or droughts in all three
countries - have also appar-
ently played a role in the
decline.
But the milkweed issue now
places the spotlight firmly on
the United States and President
Barack Obama, who is scheduled
to visit Mexico on Feb. 19, with
events scheduled for Toluca, a
city a few dozen miles from the
butterfly reserve.
"I think President Obama
should take some step to support
the survival of the Monarch but-
terflies," said writer and envi-
ronmentalist Homero Aridjis.
"The governments of the United
States and Canada have washed
their hands of the problem, and
left it all to Mexico."
It's unclear what would hap-
pen to the Monarchs if they no
longer made the annual trek
to Mexico, the world's biggest
migration of Monarch but-
terflies and the second-largest
insect migration, after a species
of dragonfly in Africa.
There are Monarchs in many
parts of the world, so they would
not go extinct. The butterflies
can apparently survive year-
round in warmer climates, but
populations in the northern
United States and Canada would
have to find some place to spend
the bitter winters. There is also
another smaller migration route
that takes butterflies from the
west to the coast of California,
but that has registered even
steeper declines.
Oberhauser noted that some
Monarchs now appear to be win-
tering along the U.S. Gulf coast,
and there has been a movement
in the United States among gar-
deners and home owners to
plant milkweed to replace some
of the lost habitat. But activists
say large stands of milkweed
are needed along the migratory
route, comparable to what once
grew there. They also want local
authorities in the U.S. and Cana-
da to alter mowing schedules in
parks and public spaces, to avoid
cutting down milkweed during
breeding seasons.
The migration is an inher-
ited trait. No butterfly lives to
make the full round-trip, and it
is unclear how they remember
the route back to the same patch
of forest each year, a journey
of thousands of miles to a for-
est reserve that covers 193,000
acres (56,259-hectares) in cen-
tral Mexico. Some scientists
think the huge masses of migrat-
ing butterflies may release
chemicals that mark the migra-
tory path and that if their num-
bers fall low enough, not enough
chemical traces would remain
and the route-marking might no
longer work.
The human inhabitants of
the reserve had already noted a
historic change, as early as the
Nov. 1-2 Day of the Dead holi-
day, when the butterflies usually
arrive.
"They were part of the land-
scape of the Day of the Dead,
when you could see them flitting
around the graveyards," said
Gloria Tavera, the director of
the reserve. "This year was the
first time in memory that they
weren't there."

Losing the butterflies would
be a blow for people such as
Adolfo Rivera, a 55-year-old
farmer from the town of Los
Saucos who works as a guide for
tourists in the Piedra Herrada
wintering ground. He said the
butterflies had come later and in
smaller numbers this year, a fact
he attributed to a rainy winter.
"This is a source of pride for us,
and income," Rivera said.

KtntSt sUA I .- imursauay, Januar y ou, --'1
Los Angeles Times Daily Crossword Puzzle
Edited by Rich Norris and Joyce Nichols Lewis
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