Friday, April 27, 2012

HIGH STRANGENESS: "Montauk Monster" - Mysterious Creature Washes Up On Seal Beach, California?!

An unidentified creature was discovered Wednesday by a woman taking her daily walk along the shore in Seal Beach.

Karen Summers says she animal corpse didn't look like anything she had ever witnessed.  She called officials from the Public Works Department, who arrived Friday morning and disposed of the unidentified animal. Summers says the workers couldn't identify the remains either. The discovery is reminiscent of the so-called "Montauk Monster," an unidentified creature that allegedly washed up on a beach near the business district of Montauk, New York in July 2008. - KTLA.
WATCH: Mysterious Creature Washes Up On Seal Beach.

MONUMENTAL DISCOVERY: "Holy Grail" of Exo-Planet Research - Astronomers Find New Planet, Gliese 667Cc, Capable of Supporting Life!

The planet lies in what they describe as a 'habitable zone', neither too near its sun to dry out or too far away which freezes it.  And the discovery could help answer the question of whether we are alone in the universe, which has been plagued astronomers and alien fanatics for years.

Astronomers have found a new planet they believe can sustain life. Located approximately 22 light
years away from Earth, Gliese 667Cc was found to be in the middle of a “Goldilocks zone,” an area
that is no too close to a sun or too far away where life can freeze.
Scientists found the planet, Gliese 667Cc, orbiting around a red dwarf star, 22 light years away from the earth.  Red dwarf stars are the most common stars in the neighbourhood of the sun, usually hosting planets called gas giants, which are not composed of rock matter.  Re-analysing data from the European Southern Observatory, the astronomers found Gliese 667Cc is a solid planet with roughly four and a half times the mass of Earth.  The University Göttingen and University of California scientists have calculated the planet recieves ten per cent less light from its red dwarf star than the Earth gets from the Sun.  As the light is in the infrared area, the planet still receives nearly the same amount of energy as the Earth, meaning water could be liquid and surface temperatures could be similar to ours.  Astronomers are hailing the plant as the 'Holy Grail' of discoveries, as 20 years ago scientists were still arguing about the existence of planets beyond our solar system.
New 'life in space' hope after billions of 'habitable planets' found in Milky Way.
Since the discovery of the first extrasolar planet in 1995, astronomers have confirmed the existence of more than 760 planets beyond the solar system, with only four believed to be in a habitable zone.  One of the most successful tools of planet hunters is the High Accuracy Radial Planetary Searcher (HARPS) telescope, which measures the radial velocity of a star.  Scientists using this telescope analyse the small wobbles in a stars motion caused by the gravitational response of a planet, determining the position and size of a planet indirectly.  Currently, they can detect planets which are 3-5 times the mass of the Earth but, in the future, they could detect planets which are smaller than twice the mass of Earth.  Steven Vogt, an astronomer from the University of California, said: "It´s the Holy Grail of exo-planet research to find a planet orbiting around a star at the right distance so it´s not too close where it would lose all its water and not too far where it would freeze.  "It´s right there in the habitable zone - there´s no question or discussion about it. It is not on the edge. It is right in there."  Guillem Anglada-Escudé, of University Göttingen, Germany, said: "With the advent of new generation of instruments, researchers will be able to survey many dwarf stars for similar planets and eventually look for spectroscopic signatures of life in one of these worlds." - Telegraph.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Mexico’s Popocatepetl Volcano Continue to Spread Ash Miles High on a Magnitude Not Seen in a Decade - The Eruption "Sounds Like Roaring of the Sea" Causing Health Problems!

Mexico’s Popocatepetl volcano continued to spread ash high above the area just southeast of Mexico City, creating health problems for people who inhaled the airborne particles. 

Left: Popocatepetl sending ash high over Mexico's Puebla state.
Right: Students placing masks on their face to prevent inhaling ash particles from the eruption.
Officials said the ash was also causing skin reactions for those exposed to the volcanic debris.  Rising lava from deep beneath Popocatepetl threatens to cause more violent eruptions and launch fiery lava bombs far from the mountain’s summit crater, according to vulcanologists.  Emergency officials set up emergency tents and kitchens should such a hazard develop. 

The volcano has sent out small puffs of ash and steam on nearly a daily basis since its current eruptive phase began in 1994.  Recent lava fountains, deep rumbles and plumes of ash have occurred on a magnitude not seen in a decade.  “Up on the mountain, it feels incredible,” Aaron Sanchez Ocelotl, told The Associated Press.  He was in his turf grass fields when the eruptions happened and said, "It sounds like the roaring of the sea.” - Earthweek.

EXOPLANETARY DISCLOSURE: Our Sun's Twin Has a Nine-Planet Solar System - And it's Just 127 Light Years Away!

A star already known to host five alien planets may actually be home to a whopping nine full-fledged worlds - a planetary arrangement that, if confirmed, would outnumber our own solar system and set a new record for the most populated system of extrasolar planets yet found.

This artist's impression shows the remarkable planetary system around the sun-like star HD 10180.
The sun-like star, called HD 10180, is located approximately 127 light-years away from Earth. In a previous study that was published in August 2010, astronomers identified five confirmed alien worlds and two planetary candidates. Now a new study confirms both previous candidates in the HD 10180 system, and also suggests that two more planets could be orbiting the star. This could bring the tally up to nine planets, said lead author Mikko Tuomi, an astronomer at the University of Hertfordshire in the U.K. Our solar system, by comparison, has eight official planets (with Mercury closest to the sun and Neptune at the farthest end). Pluto and several other smaller objects are considered dwarf planets, not full-blown worlds. "The data indicates that there are not only seven but likely as many as nine planets in the system," Tuomi told in an email interview. "The two new planets appear to have orbital periods of roughly 10 and 68 days and masses of 1.9 and 5.1 times that of Earth, which enables the classification of them as hot super-Earths, i.e. planets with likely scorchingly hot rocky surfaces." Tuomi re-analyzed observations collected between November 2003 and June 2010 by the planet-hunting HARPS spectrograph instrument, which is mounted on a 3.6-meter telescope at the European Southern Observatory in La Silla, Chile.

Since the newly detected candidates are still unconfirmed, more research is needed to determine if they are bona fide planets, and not erroneous signals. "While the existence of the larger of these two is well supported by the data, the signal corresponding to the smaller one exceeds the detection threshold only barely, which gives it a very small but non-eligible probability of being a false positive," Tuomi said. Since the planets in the HD 10180 system are too distant to be directly observed, astronomers use HARPS to monitor the gravitational pulls that the planets exert on their host star. The five previously confirmed planets are relatively large and orbit the parent star at intervals that range from just six days to 600 days. The two newly confirmed planets are also super-Earths, with one that orbits tightly around HD 10180, while the other has an orbit that swings beyond the others. Observations of the masses of the new planetary candidates and their distances from the star indicate that they likely have orbital periods of approximately 10 and 68 days. They are likely both rocky planets with surfaces hotter than that of Mercury, Tuomi added. But even if they are confirmed as actual planets, neither are located in a circumstellar region known as the habitable zone, where conditions could be suitable for liquid water to exist on a planet's surface.

"They are certainly not in the habitable zone and likely have no prospects for hosting life," Tuomi said. "However, one of the Neptune-sized planets in the system with an orbital period of 600 days is actually in the middle of the habitable zone, which makes it an interesting target when the better detection methods enable us to observe moons orbiting exoplanets in the future." As instruments and observatories become more sophisticated, and as astronomers hone planet-hunting techniques, densely populated systems similar to HD 10180 and our own solar system could be discovered in greater numbers. "This certainly tells our methods are sufficient for detecting richly populated planetary systems," Tuomi said. "Just how common they are, we do not know based on only two examples. My guess would be that they are very common, though, because they are very hard to detect and we already have one when the precision of our instruments enables the detection of these systems only barely." The finding also suggests that similar planetary systems could be more common throughout the universe than was previously thought. "Scientifically this would not be of much significance because it has been suspected for a long time that such populous planetary systems exist in the universe," Tuomi said. "Philosophically, though, it shows that our very own solar system is not special in this respect either — systems with great numbers of planets are very likely common throughout the universe and it is only a matter of time when we find even richer systems." The study has been accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.
- FOX News.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Potentially Dangerous Faults in the Bellingham Basin - New Faults, and Quake Risks Found in Washington!

Tectonically speaking, there's a lot going on in the Pacific Northwest. From the Cascadia subduction zone, where the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate is slowly pushing its way underneath the North American plate, to the Seattle Fault, where Native American legends recorded a massive earthquake 1,100 years ago, the region has its fair share of seismic hazards.

This LiDAR image (acquired in 2006 by the USGS) shows five paleoseismic study sites
(red dots with block perimeters) and three Holocene faults (solid red lines) inferred from the data.
Now add to that three more potentially dangerous faults in the Bellingham Basin, a tectonically active area along the coast of Washington, near the Canadian border.  A team of researchers has discovered active tectonic faults in this region nearly 40 miles (60 kilometers) north of any previously known faults. "We've known for a long time that the whole Pacific Northwest region is contracting very slowly north-to-south, at the rate of a few millimeters per year," said Richard Blakely, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., who was part of the study. "It doesn't sound like very much, but when you concentrate that contraction on specific faults, they can become rather dangerous." The faults Blakely and his colleagues found are reverse faults - a type of tectonic fault where one side is shoved up over the other side - and the team estimates they're capable of triggering magnitude-6.0 to -6.5 earthquakes. "That's big enough to cause damage and hurt people, but it's not as severe as a magnitude-7 earthquake, such as the one that occurred on the Seattle fault 1,100 years ago," Blakely told OurAmazingPlanet.

The team found the new faults through a bit of collaborative luck, Blakely said. He had been examining maps of magnetic anomalies in the region and noticed clues pointing to several unidentified faults in the area. When his colleagues in Washington showed him LiDAR images - data collected by an airborne laser tool that showed scarps (steep banks formed when a fault ruptures) in exactly the same areas - and paleoseismic records that indicated past earthquakes had shoved the ground upward several feet, they knew they had found something. The three faults the team identified are located near Birch Bay, Sandy Point and Drayton Harbor, all along the Pacific coast of northern Washington, about 20 miles (32 km) north of the city of Bellingham. They're about 40 miles (60 km) north of where geologists previously thought active faulting ended in the Bellingham Basin, opening a new swath of the Washington coast to seismic hazards. What's more, the team traced the faults from onshore to offshore, meaning that when they do rupture, they could trigger an underwater earthquake. "This is a big 'if'=,' but if they ruptured again along their entire length, some of that rupture would be out in the water, and there might be a tsunami hazard related to that," Blakely said. But Washington residents and their Canadian neighbors don't necessarily need to worry about that happening anytime soon. The researchers didn't find enough paleoseismic evidence to say how often major quakes occur along these faults. The last time an earthquake occurred along the Birch Bay and Sandy Ridge faults was at least 1,000 years ago, Blakely said, and moving at a rate of only a few millimeters per year, it could take some time to build up enough tension to produce another quake. The team's findings were published March 30 in the
Journal of Geophysical Research. - Our Amazing Planet.
WATCH: Recent seismic swarm in Washington.

TERMINATOR NOW: The Rise of the Machines - The Robot Revolution is Just Beginning; Heartland Robotics Plans Great Technological Leap With Next-Generation Robots!

When industrial robots were first introduced in the early 1960s — initially on automobile assembly lines — computers were still in their infancy, so the robots were designed to perform only the most rigidly predetermined set of repetitive movements. Despite a half-century of exponential growth in computational power, that’s pretty much still the state of industrial robotics. But according to Rodney Brooks, who last year left a tenured position as MIT’s Panasonic Professor of Robotics to focus on his latest company, that may not be true for much longer.  Brooks’s “lips are sealed,” as The Economist put it last week, about what exactly he and Heartland Robotics are up to in a converted warehouse in South Boston’s Innovation District.

But venture capitalists have already gambled $32 million on the premise that whatever it is they produce, it’s going to set a whole new direction in the field.  Brooks, now the chairman and chief technology officer of Heartland Robotics, spoke at MIT on April 20, addressing a recently formed student entrepreneurship group called  In robotics, “today’s technology is going to look so incredibly primitive in a couple of decades,” Brooks told a crowd of about 400, mostly students, gathered at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium. And, he added, “you’re the ones who are going to invent” the new robotic technologies that will transform the field.  Robots down under  The former director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) described growing up in in Adelaide, Australia. While he had never heard of MIT, he was an inveterate tinkerer who became intrigued early on by robotics.  In the early 1960s, Brooks recalled, he built a very primitive computer, using vacuum tubes, that had a total random access memory capacity of 64 bits (or 8 bytes) and took a year and a half to build. He then went on to build a very simple robot that remained in his mother’s garden shed for the next 30 years, he said.  After seeing the 1968 movie “2001: A Space Odyssey,” he became intrigued by HAL, the movie’s intelligent, responsive computer. “He was a murdering psychopath,” Brooks quipped — but nonetheless an impressive portrayal of machine intelligence.  Brooks’ first exposure to the Institute came when he read that an MIT professor named Marvin Minsky had been a consultant to filmmaker Stanley Kubrick; he immediately decided he wanted to attend MIT.  That dream took a while to realize: Brooks was turned down for graduate school at MIT, and turned down again — twice — for faculty positions after earning his doctorate at Stanford University. “Rejection is not the end,” he advised the students, saying that it’s important to persevere in pursuit of one’s dreams: “Persistence pays off.”  In 1994, on his third try, Brooks finally did get an MIT faculty appointment, and quickly set about upending the world of robotics research.  Out of control  Brooks’ first major contribution to the field came from an insight based on nature: the idea of building swarms of tiny, inexpensive robots with autonomous control systems.

Initially intended as an alternative to NASA proposals for huge planetary rovers, the concept was described in a research paper called “Fast, Cheap and Out of Control.” Soon thereafter, Brooks became a central character in a documentary film of the same name by Oscar-winning filmmaker Errol Morris.  The concept of smaller, simpler robots did ultimately have an impact on NASA, and led to Brooks’ work on the first mobile robotic device ever to land on another planet: a Mars rover called Sojourner.  Working with MIT students and postdocs, Brooks developed a variety of robots that could watch people’s facial expressions and gestures and make inferences about their meaning and emotional state — for example, sensing when people were frustrated or bored. The goal, then as now, was to create robots that could more easily interact with human beings.  Over the years, Brooks set up several companies; his first big success was one that became known as iRobot, which introduced the vacuum-cleaning robot called Roomba. The company also produces military robots that are widely used by U.S. forces to disarm explosives and explore dangerous areas.  Brooks’ latest concept for next-generation robots could, he thinks, revolutionize manufacturing. Instead of huge machines that need to be kept inside protective cages so they won’t injure nearby workers, he envisions smaller, nimbler, more responsive robots that could work alongside people, helping them with tasks. The new robots, he says, will compare to today’s lumbering industrial robots in much the way that an iPhone compares to an earlier, room-sized mainframe computer.  Brooks isn’t revealing anything yet about what his new robots will look like, or what they’ll be capable of doing. But based on his comments at MIT, don’t expect them to look much like people. “If you make them too humanlike, people’s expectations go up, and they’re easily disappointed,” he said. “You don’t want to make it look like Einstein!” - MIT.

GREAT DELUGE: Most of Colombia's 32 Regions Are Suffering From Widespread Flooding - 3.6 Million People Affected, 8% of the Population!

With most of Colombia's 32 regions suffering from flooding, there is plenty to do.  The country has seen widespread flooding in recent years, with some 3.6 million people, about 8% of the population, affected.

The grey skies over Bogota herald rain and this, for Colonel Henry Dussan of the
Colombian Military Engineers, means work.
2012 seems set to continue this pattern.  The army engineers have been busy evacuating people and livestock from disaster zones, working on roads, combating landslides, building emergency bridges and delivering aid.  They were recently summoned to try to block off a burst river bank in one municipality of the capital Bogota. Weaving through the traffic to reach the flood plains around the Chicu River, it was easy to spot the engineering problems.  Col Dussan pointed out huge potholes in the streets, complaining that infrastructure was placed on delicate and unstable wetland.  This is Bogota's main problem. The capital lies at an altitude of 2,600m (8,530ft), and is criss-crossed by countless rivers that are constantly at risk of overflowing.  Indeed Colombia as a whole, with its varied topography ranging from huge flood plains and savannahs to volcanic regions and the Andes, is more at risk than most from natural disasters.  It was clear that we were nearing the disaster zone as cattle grazing on the city's edges were searching for dry pasture on the berms of the highway.

The bustle along the banks of the Chicu River was one of controlled urgency as the waters continued to rise and the skies darkened.  The unspoken agreement among the engineers was that the rains would come again and slow their progress. Continuing our journey by boat through the flood plains, the owner of a nearby stud farm pointed out that our dinghy was in fact several metres above an actual road.  "This is the Ruta al Infierno," said Edgar Gonzalez. The road to hell.  People dependent on farming this land are among those who are suffering most.  Pedro Pasochoa, a farm labourer, has had to move his family three times in as many years.  "And now we had to leave once again," he said.  "It's a painful sight to lose all of your belongings and have to move year after year for the same reason," said Argelia Correa, also a farm worker.  Weather permitting, the army engineers, with a full team of 160 men working 24 hours a day, were aiming to have the riverbank plugged again in a week.  For many years, the Colombian army's primary focus has been the fight against guerrillas, but with the rebels weakened, the military is turning some of its attention to other challenges.  "Some day the conflict in Colombia has to end, yes or no?" said Col Dussan on the drive back to the army engineers' headquarters in Puente Aranda in Bogota.  "We have seen the need to commit ourselves to works that have a more important impact  "Our depth of knowledge stemming from the conflict is immense and... we can export and share our skills in international disaster zones." - BBC.

WORLD WAR III: Countdown to Armageddon - Iran Readying Hacker Attacks on U.S. Infrastructure and Cyberwar With the West, Specialists Say?!

Iran is recruiting a hacker army to target the U.S. power grid, water systems and other vital infrastructure for cyberattack in a future confrontation with the United States, security specialists will warn Congress Thursday.  “Elements of the IRGC [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps] have openly sought to pull hackers into the fold” of a religiously motivated cyberarmy, according to Frank J. Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University.

Lawmakers from two House Homeland Security subcommittees will hold a joint hearing Thursday about the cyberthreat posed by Iran, as tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program continue at a high level, and a possible Israeli strike looms.  The Washington Times obtained advance copes of witnesses’ prepared testimony.  In his remarks, Mr. Cilluffo says that, in addition to the recruiting by the IGRC, another extremist militia, the Basij, “are paid to do cyber work on behalf of the regime, [and] provide much of the manpower for Iran’s cyber-operations.”  Both militias are believed to be under the control of Iran’s clerical leadership, headed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei. Two Revolutionary Guard leaders have been indicted by U.S.prosecutors for their part in an alleged conspiracy to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States by bombing a prominent Washington restaurant.  “Over the past three years, the Iranian regime has invested heavily in both defensive and offensive capabilities in cyberspace,” states testimony from Ilan Berman, vice president of the hawkish American Foreign Policy Council, in his remarks for Thursday’s hearing.  Estimates of the skill level of Iran’s hacker army vary, but Mr. Cilluffo points out that there is a veritable “arms bazaar of cyberweapons” currently accessible through the Internet hacker underworld.

“Adversaries do not need capabilities, just intent and cash,” he states.  Mr. Cilluffo was recruited by former President George W. Bush on Sept 12, 2001, the day after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He helped set up the first Office of Homeland Security in the White House. He left for George Washington University in 2003.  In 2009, Iran’s nuclear program was attacked by a cyberweapon called Stuxnet. Although there is no definitive evidence of Stuxnet’s origins, Iran has blamed the United States and Israel and has been girding for a conflict in cyberspace ever since.  “For the Iranian regime … the conclusion [drawn from Stuxnet] is clear: War with the West, at least on the cyberfront, has [already] been joined, and the Iranian regime is mobilizing,” states Mr. Berman.  The tensions between Iran and the West have taken other unconventional forms besides cyberwarfare.  Iran claimed this month that it has been able to copy sensitive technology from a U.S. drone that crashed over its territory. It has also accused the United States and Israel of killing several of its nuclear scientists.  The congressional testimony comes as the world waits for the next round of talks about Iran’s nuclear program — which Tehran insists is for peaceful purposes — next month in Iraq.  The United States and other member of the U.N. Security Council are pushing Iran to end its program of uranium enrichment. In exchange, trusted third countries would provide fuel for its civilian nuclear program. Enriched uranium can be used as fuel, but it can also quickly be further enriched and used in a nuclear weapon. - The Washington Times.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: H5N1 Flu Virus Could be "Engineered" to Put Hundreds of Millions at Risk - Scientist Tells Homeland Security Committee!

If H5N1 bird flu, which has a 60-percent fatality rate, were engineered to spread like seasonal flu, hundreds of millions of lives would be at risk, a scientist told the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Thursday.

“What happens if a mammalian transmissible H5N1 flu starts to spread?" Thomas Inglesby, CEO and director of the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, asked rhetorically in his testimony.  "Seasonal flu affects 10 to 20 percent of the world every year--as much as a billion people or more," said Inglesby. "The case fatality rate of wild H5N1 in the WHO database is nearly 60 percent, as you indicated. So if a strain of H5N1 with that fatality rate were engineered to spread like seasonal flu, hundreds of millions of people’s lives would be at risk. Even a strain a hundred times less fatal would place at risk millions of people’s lives." The National Institute of Health released its policy last month on dual-use research, which is designed to implement recommendations made in a 2003 National Academy of Sciences report titled, “Biotechnology Research in an Age of Terrorism.”

Concern has grown recently over advances in the field of biotechnology, in which scientists have created synthetic viruses in laboratories.  Inglesby said mistakes can be made in laboratories, like the one in 1977 when “H1N1 caused a mini-pandemic, probably from a lab escape.”  “Nine years ago during SARS, there were at least three incidents in which researchers working in BL-3 or BL-4 labs in Singapore, Taiwan and China accidentally infected themselves with SARS,” Inglesby said. “We have to factor the possibility of human error, surprise and accidents into our calculations of the risk of this research,” he said.  During the hearing on biological security and dual-use research, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Americans have the right to expect that their money, which funds scientific research intended for the “common good,” will not be used to facilitate terrorism.  She said research done by the National Institutes of Health and conducted in Wisconsin and the Netherlands, which resulted in genetic changes to a strain of avian flu that allowed its airborne transmissibility, is expected to be published in two academic journals. - CNS News.

EXTREME WEATHER: Severe Cycone and Heavy Hailstrom Wrecks Havoc in India - Ravaging 40 Tinsukia Villages, Killing 3!

A severe cyclone accompanied by heavy hailstorm that reaped through the Tinsukia district in the late afternoon yesterday claimed three lives, besides causing heavy damage to property.  More than 40 villages under Kakopathar, Pengeree and Dhola police stations have faced the fury of the cyclone.

At Majbari village of Kakopathar, a big tree fell over a nine-year-old girl, Rashmi Moran, who went to witness Gochtol Bihu, killing her instantly.  In another incident, one Phuleswer Dohotia (25) of Dirak Mithong under Kakopathar PS received serious head injuries in the hailstorm. He later succumbed to his injuries at Assam Medical College Hospital, Dibrugarh.  On the other hand, one Bindesweri Kurmi, a 55-year-old woman of Sonari Gaon, Dhola, is reported to have died when a big tree fell on her. There are reports of injuries to several other people in the areas affected by the cyclone. The cyclone played havoc in the entire areas destroying hundreds of residential houses, animal sheds, granaries, schools and other government buildings.  There are reports of heavy losses of livestock and wild animals in the cyclone. The National Highways 37 and 52 have been blocked by uprooted trees for several hours. The power supply and telecommunication system have also been disrupted in the cyclone-affected areas of the district, which are yet to be fully repaired. The exact amount of losses in the cyclone is yet to be assessed.  Our Dibrugarh Staff Correspondent adds: One minor girl was killed and her mother sustained injuries as thunderstorm lashed several villages and tea gardens last night in Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts.  The three-year-old girl Jayshree Minj, daughter of Niren and Juri Minj of Laina tea estate, was injured when a tree branch fell on her. The mother of the child sustained injury while protecting her daughter. The minor girl later succumbed to her injuries at Assam Medical College and Hospital (AMCH). 

The storm destroyed hundreds of houses, demolished a hospital and a church, besides uprooting trees and disrupting power supply in the two districts. The storm accompanied by rains lasted for about 30 minutes, leaving a trail of destruction in most parts of the two districts with Doomdooma circle in Tinsukia being among the worst hit.  A few names of affected villages and tea estates as gathered from several NGO workers are Talap, Dangri, Tezipathar, Katorbasti, Borali, Maithong, Laina, Khobang, Dhola, Haikhati, Ghutung Gaon, Kherbari, Samguri, Kakopathar, Dirak in Tinsukia district. In Laina tea estate alone, some 91 houses were demolished, its hospital roof blown away and a church pulled down. Road communication was severely disrupted in several areas with uprooted trees and electric poles blocking highways and other roads.  Government officials failed to give estimate of the total number of displaced people, affected villages and tea estates since the assessment was being carried out till the time of filing this report and none of the officials could be reached over phone.  However, according to Seva Kendra, a Dibrugarh-based NGO whose workers visited the strom-ravaged areas in Tinsukia along with a worker of Carita India, said that around 3,000 people have been rendered homeless. Fr Elias Lugun, Director of Seva Kendra, told The Assam Tribune that most of the displaced people were being sheltered by neighbouring families whose houses were not affected. In some tea estates and villages, affected people constructed tents while a few have taken shelter in schools and churches.  In Dibrugarh too, few houses were damaged in JP Nagar area in the city here and about 18 houses were destroyed in Basmatia tea estate, some 22 km from here. According to Rupankar Goswami, Manager of Basmatia TE, the tin roof of the fertilizer godown was completely damaged and the storm also uprooted several shade trees in the tea estate area. A huge tree was also uprooted near the residence of the Superintendent of Police here, causing blockade of the road for hours. Most parts of the district plunged into darkness since midnight yesterday and the powert supply has not been restored till the time of filing this report. - Assam Tribune.

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Disaster Precursors - Salp, a Jellyfish-Like Organisms Shut Down California Power Plant!

The workers of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant received a very slimy surprise this week when they discovered hoards of jellyfish-like creatures clinging to the structure, leading to the shutdown of the plant.  The organisms, called salp, are small sea creatures with a consistency  similar to jellyfish.

The influx of salp was discovered as part of the plant’s routine monitoring system, according to Tom Cuddy, the senior manager of external and nuclear communications for the plant’s operator, Pacific Gas and Electric.  “We then made the conservative decision to ramp down the affected unit to 20 percent and continued to monitor the situation,” Cuddy said. “When the problem continued, we made another conservative decision that it would be safest to curtail the power of the unit.”  The salp were clogging the traveling screens in the intake structure, which are meant to keep marine life out and to keep the unit cool. 

“Safety is the highest priority,” Cuddy said. “We will not restart the unit until the salp moves on and conditions improve. No priority is more important than the safe operation of our facility.”  The plant consists of two units. Unit 1 was shut down previously because of refueling and maintenance work and will not be functional for several weeks. Now that Unit 2 has been shut down because of the influx of salp, the plant has ceased all production.  Even with the Diablo Canyon plant out of commission, PG and E has pledged to continue production using other sources of power so that customers are unaffected by the closure.  “We’ve had salp cling to the intake structure before, but nothing to this extent,” Cuddy said.  The plant’s strategy? Simply wait until the salp move on and resume production once the filters are clear. - ABC News.

MASS BIRD DIE-OFF: "Hundreds, Possibly Thousands" of Open-Billed Stork Found Mysteriously Dead - Sparks Bird Flu Fears in Ang Thong!

 Hundreds and possibly thousands of open-billed storks have died mysteriously in Ang Thong, triggering fear of a new outbreak of bird flu.

The birds were found dead in open ground behind a deserted factory by the side of the Chamlong-Nong Jik road in tambon Chamlong in Sawangha district after residents noticed that the animals looked drowsy and lay around on the ground, causing a bad stench in the air, the kamnan of Chamlong, Suebsak Waewkaew, said.  Residents alerted authorities who inspect the site twice and then went away, Mr Suebsak said. 

He demanded the authorities collect samples of the birds' remains and move quickly to identify the cause of the mass deaths as residents living nearby were worried that bird flu might be involved.  Suthee Srisuwan, head of the provincial natural resources and environment office, said he had instructed experts to launch an investigation into the incident. An initial inspection had found huge numbers of dead birds in two locations. He would not elaborate further other than to say an investigation is underway. - Bangkok Post.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Warm Ocean Currents Cause Majority of Ice Loss from Antarctica!

Warm ocean currents attacking the underside of ice shelves are the dominant cause of recent ice loss from Antarctica, a new study using measurements from NASA's Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) revealed. An international team of scientists used a combination of satellite measurements and models to differentiate between the two known causes of melting ice shelves: warm ocean currents thawing the underbelly of the floating extensions of ice sheets and warm air melting them from above. The finding, published today in the journal Nature, brings scientists a step closer to providing reliable projections of future sea level rise.

The researchers concluded 20 of the 54 ice shelves studied are being melted by warm ocean currents. Most of these are in West Antarctica, where inland glaciers flowing down to the coast and feeding into these thinning ice shelves have accelerated, draining more ice into the sea and contributing to sea-level rise. This ocean-driven thinning is responsible for the most widespread and rapid ice losses in West Antarctica and the majority of Antarctic ice sheet loss during the period studied. "We can lose an awful lot of ice to the sea without ever having summers warm enough to make the snow on top of the glaciers melt," said the study's lead author Hamish Pritchard of the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, United Kingdom. "The oceans can do all the work from below." To map the changing thickness of almost all the floating ice shelves around Antarctica, the team used a time series of 4.5 million surface height measurements taken by a laser instrument mounted on ICESat from October 2003 to October 2008. They measured how the ice shelf height changed over time and ran computer models to discard changes in ice thickness because of natural snow accumulation and compaction. The researchers also used a tide model that eliminated height changes caused by tides raising and lowering the ice shelves. "This study demonstrates the power of space-based, laser altimetry for understanding Earth processes," said Tom Wagner, cryosphere program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Coupled with NASA's portfolio of other ice sheet research using data from our GRACE mission, satellite radars and aircraft, we get a comprehensive view of ice sheet change that improves estimates of sea level rise." Previous studies used satellite radar data to measure the evolution of ice shelves and glaciers, but laser measurements are more precise in detecting changes in ice shelf thickness through time. This is especially true in coastal areas. Steeper slopes at the grounding line, where floating ice shelves connect with the landmass, cause problems for lower-resolution radar altimeters.
ICESat was the first satellite specifically designed to use laser altimetry to study the Earth's polar regions. It operated from 2003 to 2009. Its successor, ICESat-2, is scheduled for launch in 2016. "This study demonstrates the urgent need for ICESat-2 to get into space," said Jay Zwally, ICESat project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "We have limited information on the changes in polar regions caused by climate change. Nothing can look at these changes like satellite measurements do." The new research also links the observed increase in melting that occurs on the underside of a glacier or ice shelf, called basal melt, and glacier acceleration with changes in wind patterns. "Studies have shown Antarctic winds have changed because of changes in climate," Pritchard said. "This has affected the strength and direction of ocean currents. As a result warm water is funnelled beneath the floating ice. These studies and our new results suggest Antarctica's glaciers are responding rapidly to a changing climate." A different picture is seen on the Antarctic Peninsula, the long stretch of land pointing towards South America. The study found thinning of the largest ice shelf on the peninsula can be explained by warm summer winds directly melting the snow on the ice shelf surfaces. The patterns of widespread ocean-driven melting and summer melting on the Antarctic Peninsula can be attributed to changing wind patterns. The study was carried out by an international team from the British Antarctic Survey, Utrecht University in Utrecht, Netherlands, the University of California in San Diego and the non-profit research institute Earth and Space Research in Corvallis, Ore. For more information, a visualization and related imagery, visit: For more information about ICESat and ICESat-2, visit: - The Sacramento Bee.
WATCH: Warm Ocean Currents Cause Majority of Ice Loss from Antarctica.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Man Swallowed by Jersey Shore Sinkhole - Beach Dotted With Dozens of Sinkholes of Varying Sizes!

A dozen or so sinkholes have formed along a New Jersey beach, terrifying one resident who fell in and alarming officials who visited the swath of coastline Thursday.

The Monmouth Beach resident who fell into a waist-deep hole while walking along the beach Tuesday said he feared for his life when he was swallowed up.  "All of the sand just came right down and sucked me in," he said. "I couldn't move, I was like in concrete."  The resident, who did not want his name used, had fallen into one of the sinkholes of varying sizes that developed along a sea wall after last weekend's rain.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers visited the site Thursday morning, and engineer Paul Jalowski explained that deep cavities among the rocks in the sea wall had not been filled in this past winter when a new beach was created ashore. 

As the heavy rain came down, it eroded some of the sand into the rocks at the base of the sea wall, as well as around two new concrete drainage outfalls nearby, creating the sinkholes.  Mark Sendowski, a friend of the man who fell in, said he feared that a child could have been killed by the sinkhole that trapped his buddy up to his waist.  "He was screaming, 'I can't get out, I can't get out,'" Sendowski said. He said he reached down from the rocks to try to pull up his friend, but could not get him free.  After about 15 minutes, the man dug himself out.  As of Thursday, fencing was going up around the sinkholes, and the Army Corps said it hoped to have a contractor out within a week or so to fill them in. - NBC New York.
WATCH: Man Swallowed by Jersey Shore Sinkhole.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Shiveluch Volcano in Russia Spews Ash Into the Atmosphere - Ash Cloud Reaches Altitude of Almost 7 Miles!

A volcano on Russia's Far Eastern Kamchatka Peninsula erupted Thursday, sending an ash cloud to an altitude of almost 7 miles, officials said. 

The eruption of the Shiveluch volcano present no immediate threat to people in the region and no emissions of volcanic dust were monitored at ground level in neighboring villages, ITAR-Tass reported.  Two earthquakes were registered at the volcano over the past 24 hours, which was given a Red Aviation Code under the U.S. Geological Survey Volcano Hazards Program. 

A Red Aviation Code is given when an eruption is under way with significant emission of volcanic ash into the atmosphere.  The 10,770-foot Shiveluch, Kamchatka's northernmost active volcano, has been active for more than four weeks. - UPI.

HIGH STRANGENESS: Odd Natural Phenomenon or Cover-Up - Green Clouds Over Moscow Spark Apocalyptic Fears!

Mysterious green clouds have been spotted over the Russian capital, sparking fears of a chemical disaster and even some doomsday theories.  ­

Eye-witnesses capture green skies over Moscow.
But the Emergencies Ministry is advising the public to calm down. It says the clouds are actually composed of birch pollen, not of chemicals from an allegedly burning factory in the Moscow region, as some reported.  Some people, however, got so scared that even the official comments could not convince them. Russian Twitter users have been posting alarming messages like “Moscow schools are closed because of the blast! Children are sent home,” “Sky has turned completely green in Moscow’s south!” and “The factory in Kaluga is destroyed!” A flood of 911 calls was also registered. 

Others believe that the authorities are hiding information from the public: “Pollen is just an excuse. It might as well be the beginning of the Apocalypse!” one popular Russian blogger posted to his readers.   The odd natural phenomenon mystically coincided with the 26th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, which caused further speculation about the authorities withholding information.  Biologists say birch trees started blooming yesterday, which would also explain why Muscovites have started sneezing. Birch pollen is a strong allergen, so people suffering from hay fever are strongly advised to take the necessary steps.  “This pollen can stay in the air for quite a long time – around four weeks,” biologist Vladimir Murashov told Ria-Novosti. “The wind can carry it ten kilometers from the tree.” - RT.
WATCH: Green skies over Moscow.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Scientific Study - Signs of Three Major Japan Quakes Before the March 2011 Mega-Quake!

Three major earthquakes seem to have occurred in northern Japan before it was hit in March 2011 by a massive quake and tsunami, researchers said Wednesday based on new evidence.  The findings by Swiss, German and Japanese scientists, which could have a significant impact on future risk assessments, were presented at the annual conference of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna.

"We were able to get a record of at least three major sedimentary remobilisation events that potentially suggest the occurrence of previous large potentially 2011 Tohoku-type earthquakes," Michael Strasser, a geologist from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, told journalists.  "In theory, it might not be an earthquake because you can trigger large scale resedimentation also by other processes, but at this stage, it's the most likely explanation."  The researchers launched an underwater mission in the subduction zone off the northeastern coast of Japan in March, using a special vehicle equipped with cameras and going to depths of up to 7,700 metres (25,260 feet).  They were now further analysing the samples to date these mooted earthquakes. 

"Once we get the age of these events, that will be an important contribution to hazard assessments because if you want to calculate the probability of the occurrence of earthquakes, you should know your occurence pattern," said Strasser.  Historic sources already mention a major tremor in the same region some 1,300 years ago.  The research mission also mapped out the seabed around the epicentre of the 9.0-magnitude quake that hit Japan on March 11, 2011, triggering a massive tsunami and a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant, killing some 19,000 people.  Comparisons with measures taken before the quake confirmed with more precision data obtained by other means in March 2011, which showed that parts of the seabed moved up to 50 metres sideways near the fault zone following the tremor, while an area of 15,000 square kilometres (5,790 square miles) rose by five metres. - Terra Daily.
 WATCH: Japan Earthquakes 2011 Timeline.

EARTH CHANGES: Experts Say Hurricane Season Will Be Near Average - 12 Named Tropical Storms, of Which, 6 Will be Hurricanes!

The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins in about six weeks, and the forecasts are coming out fast and furious.  Two of the biggest private weather forecasting companies, AccuWeather and the Weather Channel, are both predicting a near or slightly below-average season.

Hurricane Irene, the worst storm of the 2011 hurricane season, roars up the East Coast in August.
All forecasts released so far say that 2012 will not see as many hurricanes as in 2011.
AccuWeather's forecast, released today, predicts that 12 named tropical storms will form, of which 5 will be hurricanes; the Weather Channel says there will be 11 tropical storms, of which 6 are hurricanes.  A typical season, based on the years 1981-2010, has 12 tropical storms, of which six are hurricanes.  "Home-grown" storms in the western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, near the U.S. coast, are a possibility this year, AccuWeather reports: "Fronts coming down during June and July could cause energy to break off and develop tropically," Paul Pastelok, lead long-range forecaster, said.  "Another big storm is possible for the East Coast with heavy, flooding rain," Pastelok added. 

The Weather Channel agrees that the season will be quieter than last year, when 19 tropical storms formed:  "After very active tropical seasons in 2010 and 2011, we expect fewer storms to develop this hurricane season," said meteorologist Todd Crawford of Weather Services International, a Weather Channel company, which released its forecast on Wednesday.  "The combination of much cooler North Atlantic ocean temperatures and a trend towards El Nino conditions suggest a notable reduction in activity," Crawford added.  Last month, the meteorologists at Colorado State University, who began seasonal hurricane forecasting in the 1980s, also said that the season would be quieter than normal. They said that 10 tropical storms would form, of which four would be hurricanes.  The federal government's 2012 hurricane forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will be released May 24.  Hurricane season begins June 1 and lasts until Nov. 30. - USA Today.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Activities of Indonesia's Mount Lokon Increase - 1 to 3 Earthquakes Every Five Minutes!

Activities of Mount Lokon in Indonesia's North Sulawesi Province have been increasing after erupting on Tuesday, an official said in Jakarta on Thursday. 

"Based on a report by Head of Center of Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation of Geological Agency Surono, the volcano could re-erupt if such activities increase," Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, head of Data Center, Information and Public Relations at the National Agency of Disaster Management (BNPB) said in a statement.  Previously, he said it was reported that Mount Lokon has returned to normal phase after erupting on April 25 at 11:20 local time (0320 GMT) and its energy kept declining.

But since afternoon, its activities have been rising," said Nugroho.  He added that volcanic tremors have been recorded, followed by shallow and deep volcanic earthquakes.  "There are about 1-3 earthquakes every five minutes since 12:00- 17:00 local time (0500-1000 GMT). If these keeps occurring, this could be followed by eruption," said Nugroho.  The current danger status remains at level III and people were urged to stay away 2.5 kilometers from the crater. -