Friday, February 17, 2012

CELESTIAL CONVERGENCE: Planet Venus Shifts Gear - Scientists Puzzled as Planet is Found to be Spinning Slower Than it Should; Length of Day is 6.5 Minutes Shorter Than Previously Thought?!

The Venus Express spacecraft has peered through the crushing and poisonous atmosphere of the planet, and found that it's spinning slower than expected.

Using the orbiter's VIRTIS spectrograph at infrared wavelengths, to penetrate the thick cloud cover, scientists studied surface features and discovered that some were more than 10 miles from where they should be. The length of Venus's day is 6.5 minutes shorter than previously thought. The discovery could help scientists understand the forces at work on the hostile planet, and plan missions to its surface. These detailed measurements from orbit are helping scientists determine whether Venus has a solid or liquid core, which will help our understanding of the planet’s creation and how it evolved.  The orbit could be being affected by Venus's dense atmosphere – more than 90 times the pressure of Earth’s and high-speed weather systems, which are believed to change the planet’s rotation rate through friction with the surface.

Earth experiences a similar effect, where it is largely caused by wind and tides. The length of an Earth day can change by roughly a millisecond and depends seasonally with wind patterns and temperatures over the course of a year. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Venera and Magellan orbiters made radar maps of the surface of Venus, long shrouded in mystery as well as a dense, crushing and poisonous atmosphere. These maps gave us our first detailed global view of this unique and hostile world. Over its four-year mission, Magellan was able to watch features rotate under the spacecraft, allowing scientists to determine the length of the day on Venus as being equal to 243.0185 Earth days.

However, surface features seen by Venus Express some 16 years later could only be lined up with those observed by Magellan if the length of the Venus day is on average 6.5 minutes longer than Magellan measured. This also agrees with the most recent long-duration radar measurements from Earth. When the two maps did not align, I first thought there was a mistake in my calculations as Magellan measured the value very accurately, but we have checked every possible error we could think of, said Nils Müller, a planetary scientist at the DLR German Aerospace Centre, lead author of a research paper investigating the rotation. Scientists, including Özgur Karatekin of the Royal Observatory of Belgium, looked at the possibility of short-term random variations in the length of a Venus day, but concluded these should average themselves out over longer timescales.

On the other hand, other recent atmospheric models have shown that the planet could have weather cycles stretching over decades, which could lead to equally long-term changes in the rotation period. Other effects could also be at work, including exchanges of angular momentum between Venus and the Earth when the two planets are relatively close to each other. In accurate value for Venus’ rotation rate will help in planning future missions, because precise information will be needed to select potential landing sites, noted Håkan Svedhem, ESA’s Venus Express project scientist. While further study is needed, it’s clear that Venus Express is penetrating far deeper into the mysteries of this enigmatic planet then anyone dreamed. - Daily Mail.

MASS BIRD DIE-OFF: Hundreds of Dead Birds Mysteriously Fall on I-95 in Laurel?!

Hundreds of birds just dropped from the sky and landed onto I-95 Wednesday, bringing afternoon rush hour traffic to a crawl. They were common Starlings, and while there were a few in the grass and on the shoulders of the highway, the vast majority landed right on the northbound travel lanes in Laurel.

“We were just kind of curious about running them over and getting them stuck in your tires and all that nastiness,” says Tammy Johnson. “I travel this all the time and have never seen anything like that before,” says Ray Wheltle. Traffic backed up as drivers slowed down out of concern for the birds and their cars. A highway crew swept and shoveled what they could while the drivers crept by scratching their heads. State biologists say they've also seen Starlings, which tend to fly in large tight flocks, crash into the sides of tractor trailers. Some suspect something sinister. "Environmental hazards, toxins in the air and in the environment maybe," a person said.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources biologist Peter Bedel believes the Starlings flew into a truck. He does not suspect any disease and is sending samples to a lab just in case. Laurel resident Dan Kennedy said something weird happened nearby a week or two ago. "A bunch of birds flying into a parking lot and diving in thinking its water," Kennedy said. "A bunch of birds died." Some are linking the deaths to similar incidents elsewhere. "Down in Alabama or Mississippi something like that where a whole bunch of birds just died and fell out of the sky," said Richmond resident Doug Morris. One possible culprit is nearby power lines. The birds could have encountered something deadly simultaneously. But with no definitive cause named for killing the birds, some continue to worry about a hidden danger to themselves. "We're next, they're the canaries," a person said. - ABC 7.
WATCH: Bird Mystery on the 1-95.

WORLD WAR III: Countdown to Armageddon - Iranian Naval Ships Enter Mediterranean Via Egypt's Suez Canal; Destroyer and Supply Ship Heads to the Syrian Coast!

Two Iranian naval ships have sailed through Egypt's Suez Canal into the Mediterranean, in a move likely to be keenly watched by Israel.

"Two Iranian ships crossed through the Suez Canal (on Thursday) following permission from the Egyptian armed forces," a source in the canal authority said Friday. The destroyer and a supply ship could be on their way to the Syrian coast, the source added. Iran and Syria agreed to cooperate on naval training a year ago, and Tehran has no naval agreement with any other country in the region.

Two Iranian warships sailed along the strategic waterway on February 17 last year, in a move that Israel called a "provocation." Syria and Iran are hostile to Israel. Egypt's military, which has a close defense ties with the United States, has been governing the country since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak a year ago. The Suez Canal cuts through Egypt and allows shipping to pass from the Middle East to Europe and vice versa, without going around southern Africa. - Reuters.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Rising and Higher Sun Angle - Mild Winter Weather Continues to Break Records; Rapid Snow Melting After 41 Days of Freezing Which Exceeded the Last 4 Winters Combined?!

We begin tonight with our weather…or lack of it. Today's temperatures approached 40. Now thanks to a high angle of the sun, what little snow we have will melt in a hurry. Daryl Ritchison – WDAY Storm TRACKER Meteorologist: “This is an example of what the higher sun angle is doing for us. You'll notice a melting off of the snow right here, this is something this time of day 2 or 3 weeks ago that we would not have seen.”

In the last 4 winters combined there were only 34 days above freezing,
and right now we have 41 days so far this winter.
Storm TRACKER Meteorologist Daryl Ritchison says that's because a few weeks ago the sun was sitting right around 25 degrees at solar noon. It's now up to 30 degrees. That number is up from 19 degrees on December 21st. Daryl Ritchison: “You know in the summer time it will go all the way up to 66, but 30 degrees seems to be that magical mark at least that will start being more noticeable, again especially for the roads that they start melting with the sun being out in the day.” Because of the higher angle it doesn't matter if we see below freezing temperatures, we could still see melting.

Daryl Ritchison: “Sun angle is sufficiently high enough in the sky that you will notice melting on pavement really no matter what the temperature is, even if it is 2 to 3 degrees below zero in the afternoon. Being able to see your way around the parking lot isn't the only good news. The days will now be getting longer and warmer, which can only mean one thing: spring is upon us. Daryl Ritchison: “Most people have noticed the sun sets nearly at 6 o'clock now, whereas around the winter solstice it was 20 minutes to 5 around 4:40.” It may be hard to believe spring is coming when it feels like it is already here, NDSU Climatologist Adnan Akyuz says nothing about this winter has been ordinary. Adnan Akyuz – NDSU Climatologist: “Currently we are experiencing the warmest September through today period in the history.” With the record breaking winter there is just one more record to beat.. We are just 3 days away from having the most winter days above freezing ever. In the last 4 winters combined there were only 34 days above freezing, and right now we have 41 days so far this winter. - WDAY.

WATCH: Rising Sun Angle.


EXTREME WEATHER: Texas Drought Sparks Water Well Drilling Frenzy!

In the Central Texas town of Spicewood, near the much-diminished Lake Travis, a Bee Cave Drilling crew used a 35-ton, 40-foot-tall drilling rig to create a hole 350-feet deep in the yard of a home.

Workers with Bee Cave Drilling install a jackhammer bit on the drilling rig while putting
in a water well on a private lot in Spicewood, Texas on February 6, 2012.
After the hole was drilled, workers put a casing down it and sealed the area with cement, creating a water well that would allow the homeowners to collect groundwater and avoid relying on the public water system for irrigation. As the most intense drought in state history drags on, plenty of Texans are waiting for months to have such wells drilled, fearful that their municipalities could impose stricter limits on water use. But this increased demand is causing concerns that groundwater in some places will start drying up, and regulators are working on rules to maintain certain groundwater levels. Bee Cave Drilling, a Dripping Springs-based company, has a four-month waiting list, compared with a normal winter wait of two weeks, according to Jim Blair, its president. “It was crazy this summer,” he said. “We had to bring on extra people just to answer the phone, and it has roared right on through winter.”

According to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, the number of licensed water well drillers and pump installers has increased by 1 percent, to 1,662 this January from 1,639 in January 2011. That slight uptick, however, seems to lag far behind the demand. A number of Austinites, Blair said, are rushing to get a well in case Austin bans outdoor watering, a possibility that had been discussed for this spring, before the recent downpours slightly increased the water supplies. “I have a lot of nervous customers who are begging me to get to their property” before that happens, Blair said.

The Texas Water Development Board estimates that up to 1.5 million water wells have been drilled in the state since 1900, although up to 500,000 of these may now be abandoned. Hiring a driller these days is not cheap. A new residential well costs $12,000 to $30,000, Blair said, with the difference due to variables like how deep the well goes and the size of the pump. The well drilled in Spicewood took a day. But lots of Texans want one, and the wait can be frustrating. G.W. Franzen, a Matagorda County rice farmer, plans to drill two test wells on his land to see if enough groundwater exists to replace some surface water, which he fears losing access to because of emergency measures by the Lower Colorado River Authority. But he cannot get a driller until May or June. “That’s not soon enough for the 2012 crop,” he said. - Texas Tribune.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Hawaii’s Volcanic Gases Spur Renewed Disaster Declaration for the Agriculture Industry - Damage Caused by Emissions From the Kilauea Volcano!

The U.S. department of Agriculture has renewed a disaster claim for Hawaii regarding lingering volcanic gasses that are causing damage to agriculture.

The state is well known for its many volcanoes, which have become an attraction for tourists around the world. While the volcanoes are famously beautiful and awe inspiring, they are also the source of dangerous emissions that can kill plant life and cause serious health problems. The renewed disaster declaration concerns gasses coming from Kilauea Volcano, which began spewing fumes late last year. The declaration will allow farmers to access emergency loans and financial support from the federal government that will help mitigate the financial damages they face from the volcano emissions.

The money will also help farmers replace equipment that is being eroded by the harmful gases, such as fencing and other metal infrastructure. Hawaii insurers will be fielding claims from farmers for the coming months and will be working with state regulators to resolve any issues that may arise. The disaster puts crop insurance into the limelight yet again. Crop insurance is expected to be a major issue this year for federal lawmakers. Farmers are anxious to see how the nation’s crop insurance regulations will change and how those changes will affect their business and ability to generate profit. Some legislators are looking to abolish the regulation that ensures that farmers continue to make money regardless of whether their crops yield anything useful. Others have plans to ensure that this regulation stays in place.
- Live Insurance News.

THE AGE OF OBAMA: The Emerging Global Police State - ObamaCare Requires RFID Chip Implanted In Every American By March 2013!

On Sunday March 21, 2010 President Obama's Healthcare Bill HR3200 (ObamaCare) was passed and signed into law the following Tuesday. This new law requires an RFID chip implanted in all of us.

This chip will not only contain your personal information with tracking capability but it will also be linked to your bank account. And get this, Page 1004 of the new law (dictating the timing of this chip), reads, and I quote: “Not later than 36 months after the date of the enactment”. It is now the law of the land that by March 23rd 2013 we will all be required to have an RFID chip underneath our skin and this chip will be link to our bank accounts as well as have our personal records and tracking capability built into it.
H.R. 3200 section 2521, Pg. 1001, paragraph 1. “The Secretary shall establish a national medical device registry (in this subsection referred to as the ‘registry’) to facilitate analysis of post-market safety and outcomes data on each device that— ‘‘is or has been used in or on a patient; ‘‘and is— ‘‘a class III device; or ‘‘a class II device that is implantable, life-supporting, or life-sustaining.”

Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act:
A class II implantable device is an “implantable radio frequency transponder system for patient identification and health information.” The purpose of a class II device is to collect data in medical patients such as “claims data, patient survey data, standardized analytic files that allow for the pooling and analysis of data from disparate data environments, electronic health records, and any other data deemed appropriate by the Secretary.” Class III devises are items such as breast implants, pacemakers, heart valves, etc. A Class II device that is implantable is, as you seen from the FDA, an implantable radio frequency transponder, RFID chip. From breast implants, to pacemakers, to RFID chips which one is the only possible one that can used for the stated purpose in section B which is, “for linking such data with the information included in the registry”? As we know from subsection A, the information in the registry is the name of a device. In plain speak, we are in a clear way being told that our electronic medical records are going to be linked to a class II implantable device!

“The Secretary to protect the public health; shall establish procedures to permit linkage of information submitted pursuant to subparagraph (A, remember subparagraph A is the class 2 implantable device reference) with patient safety and outcomes data obtained under paragraph (3, which is electronic medical records); and to permit analyses of linked data;”

Continuing on to page 1007, in the STANDARDS, IMPLEMENTATION CRITERIA, AND CERTIFICATION CRITERIA section, the secretary of health and human services is given full power to intact all mandates from the laundry list of to-do items in the creation process of the registry as well as dictate how the devises listed in the National Medical Device Registry are to be used and implemented.

“The Secretary of the Health Human Services, acting through the head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, shall adopt standards, implementation specifications, and certification criteria for the electronic exchange and use in certified electronic health records of a unique device identifier for each device described in paragraph 1 (National Medical Device Registry), if such an identifier is required by section 519(f) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 360i(f)) for the device.” - Polidics.

See it for yourself, click HERE (PDF)

This new law – when fully implemented – provides the framework for making the United States the first nation in the world to require each and every one of its citizens to have implanted in them a radio-frequency identification (RFID) microchip for the purpose of controlling who is or isn’t allowed medical care in their country.

Don’t believe it? Look it up yourself. Click HERE (PDF) for Healthcare Bill H.R. 3200.

SOLAR WATCH: Vast and Tremendous Planet-Sized Tornado Whirling Across the Sun - 300,000mph Winds as Large as Earth!

A tremendous tornado whirling across the surface of the sun was captured by a NASA satellite recently - an amazing wonder of the solar system that may be as big as the Earth itself.

The video was recorded by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), a sun-watching satellite that has transmitted a series of stunning photos of solar flares in recent months. The new video shows darker, cooler plasma shifting back and forth above the sun's surface over the span of nearly 30 hours stretching from Feb. 7 to Feb. 8. And the giant tornado may be as large as the Earth itself, with gusts of up to 300,000 mph, explained Terry Kucera, deputy SOHO project scientist and a solar physicist with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “It’s about 15,000 degrees Fahrenheit -- relatively cool,” Kucera told After all, the sun’s corona is a whopping 2 million degrees, she explained.

Such tornadoes (Kucera classed it a “solar prominence”) have been known of for decades; the European Space Agency's SOHO spacecraft captured evidence of them as early as 1996, mainly near the Sun's north and south poles at the time. And though they resemble their cousins here on Earth, they’re created entirely differently, Kucera said -- through magnetism, not pressure and temperature fluctuations. “Those motions you see, it’s all just moving along the magnetic field somehow -- but we’re still looking to understand what’s happening with these things,” Kucera said.

The storm was created by competing magnetic forces, which pull the charged magnetic particles on the sun back and forth, creating a spinning mass of plasma that tracks along strands of magnetic field lines, NASA explained. The spinning top of the tornado is mesmerizing, but Kucera noted the span of the prominence as well. The long, ribbon shapes could span hundreds of thousands of miles, she said. “In total length, this could be dozens of Earths -- quite large,” she said. Such detailed, high-resolution recordings of the immense tornadoes was not possible until the launch of SDO.  The satellite has several cameras on board that capture solar activity in different wavelengths and frequencies, all in the name of science.  “Each wavelength of light tells us something different,” she said. - FOX News.
WATCH: Planet-size Tornado on the Sun.

TERMINATOR NOW: Rise of the Machines - Pentagon's "Project Avatar"; Same as the Movie, but With Robots Instead of Aliens!

Soldiers practically inhabiting the mechanical bodies of androids, who will take the humans’ place on the battlefield. Or sophisticated tech that spots a powerful laser ray, then stops it from obliterating its target.
If you’ve got Danger Room’s taste in movies, you’ve probably seen both ideas on the big screen. Now DARPA, the Pentagon’s far-out research arm, wants to bring ‘em into the real world. In the agency’s $2.8 billion budget for 2013, unveiled on Monday, they’ve allotted $7 million for a project titled “Avatar.” The project’s ultimate goal, not surprisingly, sounds a lot like the plot of the same-named (but much more expensive) flick.

According the agency, “the Avatar program will develop interfaces and algorithms to enable a soldier to effectively partner with a semi-autonomous bi-pedal machine and allow it to act as the soldier’s surrogate.” These robots should be smart and agile enough to do the dirty work of war, DARPA notes. That includes the “room clearing, sentry control [and] combat casualty recovery.” And all at the bidding of their human partner. Freaky? Um, yes. But the initiative does strike as the next logical step in DARPA’s robotics research. For one thing, the agency’s already been investigating increasingly autonomous, lifelike robots, including Petman (a headless humanoid), designed to mimic a soldier’s physiology, and AlphaDog (a gigantic, lumbering, four-legged beast), meant to lug gear during combat. And just last week, when DARPA released a new video of AlphaDog cavorting through the forest, the agency noted that they wanted the ‘bot to “interact with [soldiers] in a natural way, similar to the way a trained animal and its handler interact.” AlphaDog is even being designed to follow a human commander using visual sensors, and respond to vocal commands. Based on DARPA’s description of the “Avatar” project, which notes “key advancements in telepresence and remote operation of a ground system,” it sounds like the agency’s after an even more sophisticated robot-soldier synergy. They don’t specify the means, but DARPA’s already funded successful investigations into robots that are controlled with mind power alone. Granted, that research was performed on monkeys. But it does raise the tantalizing prospect that soldiers might one day meld minds with their very own robotic alter egos.
And the “Avatar” project isn’t DARPA’s only nod to sci-fi in their new budget plan. The agency’s “Counter Laser Technologies” project, on which they’re spending $4.1 million, seeks to develop “laser countermeasures” that’d protect the military’s weapons from high-energy lasers, and maybe even thwart potential attacks. No, Death Stars are not specifically mentioned. Of course, such super-powerful blasters aren’t yet combat-ready. (Just ask the Army, which has a $38 million laser cannon — without a laser; it’s complicated.) But once they are, the lasers could do some serious damage to existing weapons systems, which is why the Pentagon’s already been after methods that’d safeguard its existing arsenals. In 2008, for example, the Air Force asked scientists to develop laser-proof coatings for weaponry. The Navy in 2009 also launched its own counter-laser initiative, looking for ideas to protect against myriad different blasters, high-energy lasers included. DARPA’s project will try to accomplish some of those same goals. For example, the agency mentions an interest in “material treatments” that’d protect weaponry from a laser able to “melt through, fracture or weaken the body.” But DARPA’s also looking for a more comprehensive array of tools. It wants “warning systems” that can detect high-energy lasers, and “determine the attributes of the threat” (including wavelength and power). Plus, the agency’s after technology that can thwart a laser attack entirely, by “altering the laser’s internal optics or modifying the laser’s line of sight.” - WIRED.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC CONTAGION: The Euro Zone Crisis and the Greece Death Spiral - Senior US Bankers Given Explicit Time for Greek Default on March 23rd! UPDATE: Credit Suisse The Sequel - "Probability Of The Largest Disorderly Default Loss In History On March 20 Has Increased"!

A written document giving firm dates and detailed actions for a planned Greek default has been in the possession of two top Wall Street bank currency trading bosses since the second week in January. The Slog has separate but corroborative sources affirming the existence of the document, and a conviction among senior bank staff that – at least at the time – the plan represented “a timetable, not a contingency”. The plan gives a firm date of March 23rd for default to be announced after the close of business.

Senior bankers on Wall Street have been given detailed documentation setting out a timetable to Greek default, including firm dates and technical ‘orders’ about last use of the euro as a currency there. The revelation arrived at Slogger’s Roost last Monday, since when I have been trying to obtain corroboration. This arrived in the early hours of today (Thursday). One of the banks is Barclays Capital (Barcap) run by controversial figure Bob Diamond. The other must remain anonymous for the time being, in order to protect sources. The document asserts that Greece will officially be declared in default by all the ratings agencies after the close of business on Friday march 23rd . At the weekend all Greek bank accounts will be frozen, with emergency measures detailed to prevent the flight of capital. Included in the paperwork is a list of very limited exceptions to the ‘no withdrawals’ order. All major banks ‘are instructed  not to deal with euro exchange  as of open of business in Greece on Monday 25th march. All Greek markets will close for one day ‘at least’. As yet, I have been unable to establish the source of the documents. But one of my informants admitted, “I have strongly suggested to Greek business friends and clients that they sell up fast, do a sale and leaseback on property, empty bank accounts, and change to a hard currency.” I have little doubt that such a critical path analysis leading to default in Athens can be easily brushed aside as contingency planning. But this is not the impression Slog sources were given: and its existence is bound to further raise suspicions in ClubMed about the real intentions of ‘EU Nord’, Washington and the Troika – especially the IMF. In particular, the alleged creation of the document both supports (and/or coincides closely with):
. Washington going cold on further IMF funding;
IMF intervention in the Athens debt talks;
Persistent rumours surrounding Wolfgang Schauble’s plans
Evidence previously assembled by concerning Americo-German coordination
A string of delaying tactics by senior EU and Troika officials since mid January.
- The Slog.

A week ago we presented an excerpt from Credit Suisse's most excellent piece "The Flaw" - merely the latest in one of the best overviews of the neverending Greek soap opera by William Porter. Yet every soap opera eventually ends. Although when it comes to Nielsen ratings, the denouement is usually a whimper. In the case of Greece, it will be anything but. Yet listening to the daily cacafony of din from Europe's leaders, who are likely more clueless than the average reader as to what is really going on, one may be left with the impression that there is a simple solution to the problem, and Greece may be "saved... in hours." It can't. In fact, as of today, Porter's s conclusion is: "we are left with a sense that the probability of delivering the largest default loss in history in a disorderly way on or before 20 March has increased relative to doing so in an orderly way."

As a reminder, Credit Suisse was the one smart enough bank which chose to completely ignore day to day newsflow out of Greece as it is literally noise with absolutely no signal. Wish we could say the same for FX traders. As such, CS' "view remains that, in any case, the chance of a disorderly outcome after 20 March is high, so to that extent the immediate events are not really central to our view, but of course are fascinating." Quite fascinating indeed, because they show to what extent an unravelling financial system will go to pretend that the number one unfixable problem in Europe - the lack of money good assets, available to either be sold, repoed, pledged, equitized, or otherwise monetized. As we have observed previously, at this point it doesn't matter for Greece- even if the country gets the second bailout, which will be used almost exclusively to recycle cash into the banking system, Europe will have a first lien on nearly 150% of its GDP. At that point the country is both a de facto and de jure colony of the Troika. The longer the bang, or whimper, is delayed, the fewer assets will remain in Greek possession, and the poorer the population will be for the inevitable fresh start, with or without the Euro. So meandering regurgitations aside, because all this has been said one hundred times already, here is Credit Suisse's latest attempt at a fresh take on events.

We are cautious about reports of the exchange “running out of time”: the 20 March binding constraint is a GGB maturity. Greece is sovereign and has run out of money; it can choose the timetable. The case might be different if the maturity were an English law bond (but perhaps not much.) The real issue remains the ECB’s exposure to the BoG, in our view. Protecting that (i.e., ensuring that Greece does not systematically default via introducing a new currency) becomes the bottom line, as the latest Flash explored. Since our objection to ‘leaving EMU’ is that its corollary is systematic default, bank nationalization and the like, once the latter problems are a given, a situation towards which we seem to be heading rapidly in Greece, then the cost of the incremental step of introducing a new currency become less.

Our view remains that the economy would subsequently euro-ize but potentially at a different cost level. The effect of the delay would have been to transfer the cost from Greek citizens (who have now moved substantial sums out of the country, providing in fact a source of subsequent BoP financing that makes the equation even more attractive) to the ECB. The core has a very serious problem and again should swerve, but the probability of a ‘crash’ is rising.  We remain very cautious about the long-term sustainability of the debt after restructuring, and it is just possible (not our core case) that the troika takes the rational decision that it is cheaper to let Greece default and reimburse the ECB for its approx. €30bn of GGB  losses than to pay the rising but nominally €130bn. Yet it was only on 14 February (two days before writing) that the ECB was confidently talking of distributing its GGB profits, so we are cautious about second-guessing the analytical framework being used. Overall, we are left with a sense that the probability of delivering the largest default loss in history in a disorderly way on or before 20 March has increased relative to doing so in an orderly way. (Our view remains that, in any case, the chance of a disorderly outcome  after 20 March is high, so to that extent the immediate events are not really central to our view, but of course are fascinating)
. - Zero Hedge.
WATCH: Nigel Farage discusses the Greece Crisis with RT.

THE AGE OF OBAMA: The Emerging Global Police State - First Implantable, Wirelessly Controlled and Drug-Releasing Microchip Passes First Test in Humans!

It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie: A patient visits a doctor's office and, after a brief surgical procedure, walks away with a microchip under her skin that delivers medication in precisely timed and measured doses.

That scenario doesn't seem so futuristic anymore. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced today that they have successfully completed the first trial of a drug-releasing microchip in humans. The results were published on the website of the journal Science Translational Medicine. The pacemaker-sized microchip devices, which were implanted near the waistline of seven 60-something women in Denmark, worked as intended, releasing up to 19 daily doses of an osteoporosis drug that ordinarily requires injections. The implants proved safe, and tests revealed that they delivered the medication as effectively as once-a-day shots.

The devices won't be ready for mainstream use for at least another four years. But the researchers say the technology will ultimately enable people who take injectable drugs for conditions such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis to swap their needles for microchips. Other drugs that could potentially be delivered in this manner include chemotherapy, fertility hormones, and vaccines, they say. "It's almost like 'Star Trek,' but now it's coming to life," says study coauthor Robert Langer, Jr., Sc.D., an institute professor at MIT's Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Langer, a chemical engineer, came up with the idea for the drug-delivery device about 15 years ago, while watching a TV show on how microchips are made in the computer industry. Langer and his colleagues at MIT worked on the idea throughout the 1990s, and published the first paper on their research in 1999. That same year, Langer cofounded a privately held company, MicroCHIPS, Inc., to license the technology from MIT and commercialize the device.

Here's how it works: Microchips containing tiny reservoirs of concentrated, freeze-dried medication are secured to the surface of a titanium housing, which also contains a wireless transmitter that communicates with a small portable computer. A surgeon implants the device via a one-inch incision, in an outpatient procedure requiring local anesthesia only. Each reservoir on the microchip holds a single dose of medication and is sealed by a thin metal membrane. When instructed by the computer, the implant sends an electrical current through a membrane and melts it, allowing body fluids to flow into the reservoir and the powdered drug to diffuse into the body. (The melted metal resolidifies on the chip and is not released.) In the recently completed trial, the microchips were loaded with Forteo (teriparatide), a drug used to build bone mass in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. The study participants carried the implants for a total of 103 days, and received medication on 20 of those days. Overall, the devices successfully released 94% of the doses as planned. - CNN.

ICE AGE NOW: Cold Snap in Eastern Europe Kills More Than 650 - Tens of Thousands Have Been Trapped in Often-Freezing Homes and Villages!

Europe continues to do battle against extreme weather, as plunging temperatures and heavy snowfall sweep through large parts of the continent.  The cold snap that has killed 650 people to date – about a quarter in eastern Europe, and many of them homeless – shows no signs of stopping, while hundreds of Eastern European villages remain cut off because of cold and snow.

A snow plow clears a road near Harrachov in the Krkonose Mountains (Giant Mountains),
80 miles northeast of Prague, Wednesday, Feb. 15.
More than 650 people have died during a record-breaking cold snap in Eastern Europe, authorities said Wednesday, as officials in the Czech Republic blamed two massive car crashes on blinding snow. Since the end of January, the region has been pummeled by the deep freeze, which has brought the heaviest blizzards in recent memory. Tens of thousands have been trapped in often-freezing homes and villages by walls of snow and unpassable roads, and officials have struggled to reach out to the vulnerable with emergency food airlifts. Authorities in Russia and Ukraine alone reported Wednesday that more than 300 people have died in the bitter cold.

About 100 damaged cars blocked a major highway in the Czech Republic connecting the capital, Prague, with the eastern part of the country and Slovakia. Seven people were injured in two separate accidents, authorities said, warning it could be hours before the mangled vehicles are cleared. Some 40 cars crashed before midday Wednesday during a heavy snowstorm 188 miles (300 kilometers) east of Prague, injuring two people. Dozens of vehicles, including a bus, were involved in a separate crash southeast of Prague, which injured five, according to Czech public CT24 television. Authorities in Russia said 205 people have died this year in the frigid cold, while Ukraine has had 112 cold fatalities and Poland had 107. Seven people have died in Romania in the past 24 hours, bringing the total there to 86 deaths. In Lithuania, there have been 23 deaths. Deaths were also reported in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia.

In hard-hit Romania, some 23,000 people remain isolated in 225 eastern communities where more than one week of heavy snow has blocked roads and wreaked havoc on the rail network. Residents were worried that their houses could collapse under the heavy snow as authorities struggled to bring them food, water, medicine and wood. A flight instructor flew his homemade powered parachute — a motorized vehicle that flies at low altitude — making several 45 minute-trips to deliver bread and canned food to people who have been cut off for days. A five-month-old girl with severe pneumonia was taken to a hospital early Wednesday by sled and an army vehicle after authorities struggled for six hours to reach her. Romanian farmers — faced with up to 15 feet of snow in some areas this week — are concerned about their sheep, goats, horses and cows. One farmer said he dug his pigs out of the snow and brought them into his home. - MSNBC.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Earthquake Swarm Developing Near Katla and Henggil Volcanoes in Iceland!

Two of Iceland's most known and active volcanoes are showing signs of unrest. 

Recent earthquakes beneath Katla and Hekla volcanoes (Icelandic Met Office).
Another seismic swarm (after the last one around 3 Feb) occurred at Katla volcano yesterday, although it was weaker than the previous ones. Most likely, the swarm was caused by another shallow dike injection (magma intrusion) beneath the crater, confirming the ongoing unrest at the volcano. A small, but very shallow 1.2 magnitude quake happened beneath the summit of Hekla volcano at just 100 m.
Time and depth of recent quakes. Seismicity in Iceland during the past 2 days (Icelandic Met Office)
Small seismic swarms have occurred near Katla volcano (S Iceland), Henggil volcano (SW Iceland) and a weaker swarm near Askja (N-Central Iceland) during the past 48 hours. The cause of the swarms is unclear and their intensity is not alarming. They are not necessarily volcanic, but could related to tectonic stress release around the main Icelandic rift zones. - Volcano Discovery.

EARTH CHANGES & THE GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS: Weather Around the World Dramatically Affecting Crop Prices!

No matter what time of year it is, weather is always a key factor for crop markets. In general, crop prices declined late in 2011, but they rebounded in early 2012. The key factor in the recent price moves has been weather developments in key corn and soybean production regions of Argentina and Brazil. Droughts in those key producing countries have led to declines in production forecasts, and these lower production forecasts have boosted prospects for U.S. corn and soybean exports.

The drought has been severe in Argentina. Some key growing areas received almost no rain in December suffering through the worst drought in at least 50 years. It was still drier than normal in January but most areas received between 50 percent and 75 percent of normal precipitation. Weather conditions have improved recently with good rains in northern Buenos Aires and southern Santa Fe. It is too early to know for sure how much the rains will help but drought conditions have eased at least for now. February is midseason for both corn and first crop soybeans in the region so rainfall now can have a significant impact on production, especially for soybeans. Early in the season, Argentina’s corn production was expected to be near 27.5 million tonnes. As the drought has persisted the size of the crop has been revised down. USDA’ estimate in January was 26 million tonnes and in February the figure was 22 million tonnes. Crop production estimates from private forecasters in Argentina are as low as 20 million tonnes or less. With a smaller crop in Argentina, USDA raised the 2011/12 forecast for U.S. corn exports to 1.70 billion bushels, up from 1.65 billion in January.

Soybean and corn production prospects in Brazil have also been affected by the dry weather so far this growing season. Soybean production in Rio Grande do Sul is put at around 8 million tonnes for this year, down from more than 11 million tonnes last season. Yield potential has also been reduced in other parts of the country. USDA forecasts Brazil’s soybean production of 72 million tonnes, but some other forecasters put production down at 70 million tonnes. Brazil’s corn crop is put at 61 million tonnes, unchanged from the January forecast. The drought in South America is attributed to the influence of the La Niña weather pattern in the Pacific. Temperatures have been well below normal since last summer and forecast models show the condition remaining in place, albeit weakening, until spring. Models indicate that ocean temperatures could move above normal by late spring. The La Niña weather pattern affected the drought in the southern U.S. last year and weather forecast maps show the dry weather across the south continuing at least through May.

Temperatures in the last couple of weeks in Europe have been so cold that it is logical to assume that there has been some winterkill. Rapeseed is of course the major oilseed crop there and the agronomists believe that there has been some damage. That speculation has supported soyoil prices this week. The head of the agriculture department of Ukraine’s meteorological service says that the country’s winter grain crops have been hit by record low temperatures and that production could fall by between 42 and 58 percent. The crops got off to a poor start due to drought in July through November and were in poor shape before the severe freeze hit. There was only modest snow to protect the crops from the very cold weather. Production at this point is forecast at between 10 million and 14 million tonnes. The Ukrainian wheat was in bad shape going into winter and It has probably suffered more losses. In addition to the dry weather in the southern U.S. there has been little or no precipitation in the northern Plains and the western Corn Belt states. Forecast maps show above normal precipitation in the region over the March through May period. With the spring planting season only a couple of months away, the region will need above normal precipitation to recharge soil moisture supplies. - Pork Network.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: New Ash Eruptions From the New Southeast Crater at Mount Etna, Italy!

Mount Etna, an active volcano in began erupting Monday, just eight days after its last eruption.

Emissions of ash on the morning of February 16, 2012.
New ash eruptions have started from Etna's New SE crater. informs weak ash emissions were first seen this morning on the webcam and were occurring at a frequency of a few minutes of each other, originating from the summit crater of the cone. The ash plumes rose a few tens of meters beyond the crater edge and were then blown to the east into the Valle del Bove. It was not possible to estimate the exact time this activity has started (due to bad weather preventing detailed observations in recent days). At the moment, visibility is limited due to intermittent cloud cover in the summit area. Whether this heralds another slow (or fast?) build-up towards paroxysm nr 21, the next days or weeks will tell! - Volcano Discovery.
Mount Etna on the island of Sicily, Italy's most active volcano, is in an eruptive phase again, with explosions occurring minute to minute. The webcam shows many explosive events occurring, with lava appearing quite brightly on the images. The image refreshes about twice a minute, and is not a live 'stream' so it is unfortunately difficult to get a real great picture of what's going on there. The eruptions seem to be emanating from a large cone/fissure system near the summit. Etna has more or less been continuously active throughout human history, with frequent lava flows, cone building episodes, and paroxysmal events that keep residents on their toes. Eruptions are frequent, and occasionally dangerous, although by and large this volcano poses no threat to the surrounding community, which occasionally has to deal with "vog" (volcanic gas fog) and light ash fall on surrounding towns. - Volcano Science.
WATCH: Raw video - Mount Etna erupts.

View live webcam HERE.

ICE AGE NOW: Europe's Cold Snap - Ukraine's Death Toll From Cold Spell Reaches 151!

Health officials say 151 people have died in the Ukraine during Eastern Europe's record-breaking cold spell, with alcohol regularly a contributing factor.

People spend time in a snow-covered park in Kiev Feb. 16, 2012.
The health ministry said Thursday that nearly 4,000 others have been hospitalized with hypothermia and frostbite. Emergency officials say in 90 percent of cases, people died because they were under the influence of alcohol, which increases the risk of hypothermia and generally decreases a person's ability to feel and respond to the cold. The cold spell has prompted authorities to close nurseries, schools and colleges across the country. Heavy snowfalls have also caused power outages and trapped hundreds of vehicles on motorways in southern Ukraine, as well as several ships in the Sea of Azov. Since the end of January, Eastern Europe, Russia and Ukraine have been pummeled by the deep freeze, which has brought the heaviest blizzards in recent memory. Tens of thousands have been trapped in often-freezing homes and villages by walls of snow and unpassable roads, and officials have struggled to reach out to the vulnerable with emergency food airlifts.

Authorities in Russia said 205 people have died this year in the frigid cold, while Poland had 107. Seven people have died in Romania during a 24 hour period this week, bringing the total there to 86 deaths. In Lithuania, there have been 23 deaths. Deaths were also reported in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia. In hard-hit Romania, some 23,000 people remain isolated in 225 eastern communities where more than one week of heavy snow has blocked roads and wreaked havoc on the rail network. Residents were worried that their houses could collapse under the heavy snow as authorities struggled to bring them food, water, medicine and wood. - MSNBC.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Thermal Anomalies - Steam and Ash Plume Over Tinakula Volcano, South Pacific Island!

Tinakula is a small, volcanic, South Pacific island located about 2,300 kilometers (1,400 miles) northeast of Brisbane, Australia. This natural-color satellite image (top) shows a plume of volcanic gas, possibly mixed with a little ash, rising above the island’s summit.

On February 13th and 14th, 2012, NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) detected heat signatures on Tinakula, and a small plume was apparent in visible imagery (lower image). Over the past decade satellites have detected intermittent “thermal anomalies” that suggest eruptions have taken place, but eyewitness observations are infrequent.

These images were collected by the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on the Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite (top) and MODIS on the Terra satellite on February 14, 2012. NASA images by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon (Earth Observatory), using EO-1 ALI data (top), and Jeff Schmaltz MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA-GSFC (lower).  - Earth Observatory.

DELUGE: Widespread Flooding in New South Wales - Goats Sit in Trees to Escape Flooding!

Graziers south of Cunnamulla are reporting goats taking refuge in trees from record floods.

Record flooding was kept out of the town but nearby grazing and cropping properties were not so lucky.
Not only is a big body of water heading south from Dirrinbandi, but floodwaters in the Warrego River are now heading towards Bourke in NSW. Livestock manager at Landmark Cunnamulla, Neal Elliott, says a grazier from Mirage Plains, 80 kilometres south of town, has seen some of his goats in the branches of trees. "As the floodwaters are rising they are taking refuge on higher branches. They will probably starve though because the water usually takes a few days to go down again."  The town of Cunnamulla itself has fared well with the levy protecting the town from near record flooding. The water has now dropped from 9.95 metres to 7 metres. - ABC Rural.

Meanwhile, flood engineers say the huge floods that devastated Brisbane last year could also happen on a similar scale in Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, the Gold Coast and Newcastle.
They argue that thanks to Australia's three levels of government, flood planning around the country is patchy at best, allowing for houses to be built where they should not. On Wednesday, ABC Radio's PM aired the first of a two-part look at Australia's flood planning. Now it looks more broadly at how well Australia is prepared for flooding and the battle between development and nature. Last week Federal Minister for Emergency Services Robert McLelland stood on a levee bank as floods surrounded the southern Queensland town of Charleville. He liked what he saw. "We've literally stood up on the levee bank - dry on one side - looking over the moving water on the other," Mr McLelland said.

"It unquestionably, unquestionably saved the town and I think from the long-term point of view of resilience, we need to methodically go through these areas that have been effected and look at mitigation steps we can take." Talk to any flood engineer and they will tell you that is an admirable proposal, but they want more. Steve Molino, a consultant who has advised on flood plain planning for 20 years, says places which have not flooded recently also need to be examined. "You do need to look at the places that have flooded but you also need to look at the places that did not flood," he said. "There's many places in Queensland that got out of the floods this year and got out of the floods last year scot free, but are at just as much risk of flooding as many of the places that flooded last year or this year. "Those places need to be encompassed in any studies that are done." And that is just Queensland. Mr Molino says the potential flood risk across all of Australia is "huge". Hayden Betts, who has a PhD in flood plain management and works for KPR consulting engineers in Brisbane, agrees. "I'm not sure how many hydrologists and hydro-engineers there are in the country - must be a thousand or two. If they applied their mind to it, I think there'd probably be enough work to keep them going for a decade or three," he said. - Yahoo Australia.