Sunday, June 17, 2012

WORLD WAR III: The Syrian Passage to Iran and the Countdown to Armageddon - US Enlists Britain's Help to Stop Ship "Carrying Russian Attack Helicopters" to Syria!

The US government has enlisted Britain's help in a bid to stop a ship suspected of carrying Russian attack helicopters and missiles to conflict-riven Syria, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

The helicopters Hillary Clinton was referring to are believed to be part of a 36-strong consignment ordered by the Syrian
government at the end of the Soviet era, some of which were transferred back to Russia recently for routine maintenance.
The MV Alaed, a Russian-operated cargo vessel, is currently thought to be sailing through the North Sea after allegedly picking up a consignment of munitions and MI25 helicopters - known as "flying tanks" - from the Russian Baltic port of Kaliningrad.  Washington, which last week condemned Moscow for continuing to arm the Syrian regime, has asked British officials to help stop the Alaed delivering its alleged cargo by using sanctions legislation to force its London-based insurer to withdraw its cover. 

Under the terms of the current European Union arms embargo against Syria, imposed in May last year, there is a ban on the "transfer or export" of arms and any related "brokering" services such as insurance. Withdrawal of a ship's insurance cover would make it difficult for it legally to dock elsewhere and could force it to return the cargo to port.  The request to London from US officials comes after the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, disclosed on Tuesday that Moscow was in the process of shipping a batch of attack helicopters to Syria.  Dismissing Russian government claims that its weapons sales to Syria would not be used for internal repression, Mrs Clinton warned the shipment could "quite dramatically" escalate the conflict, which has already claimed an estimated 10,000 lives. Yesterday, the United Nations monitoring mission said it had suspended its work because of "intensifying" violence on either side, which was putting its teams of unarmed observers at risk. - Telegraph.

SOLAR WATCH: Uptick in Activity on the Sun - Sunspot 1504 Unleashes Another CME! UPDATE: Double CME Hit Earth's Magnetic Field - Strong Compression of the Magnetosphere! UPDATE: Geomagnetic Storm Alert - CMEs Compressing Earth's Magnetic Field!

According to Space Weather, sunspot 1504 poses a growing threat for Earth-directed M-class solar flares.

CHANCE OF FLARES: NOAA forcasters estimate a 40% chance of M-class solar flares today as a phalanx of sunspots turns toward Earth. The most likely source of geoeffective eruptions is sunspot AR1504, which has grown into an active region almost 10 times wider than Earth. Solar flare alerts: text, voice.
As predicted, the sunspot has flared. Magnetic fields above AR1504 erupted on June 13th at 1319 UT, producing a long-duration M1-class solar flare. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the extreme UV glow of the blast. The ongoing explosion is taking hours to unfold, which means it is very powerful despite its middling M1-peak. Long duration flares often hurl coronal mass ejections (CMEs) into space, and this one is probably no exception. Stay tuned for updates about a possible Earth-directed CME. - Space Weather.
WATCH: Sunspot 1504.

UPDATE: Sunspot 1504 Unleashes Another CME - Expected to Hit Earth on June 16!
ANOTHER CME: On June 14th, for the second day in a row, sunspot AR1504 erupted and hurled a CME toward Earth. The fast-moving (1360 km/s) cloud is expected to hit our planet's magnetic field on June 16th at 14:00 UT, possibly sparking a geomagnetic storm. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras. Magnetic storm alerts: text, voice.
CME TARGETS VENUS, EARTH MARS: Active sunspot AR1504 erupted on June 13th at 1319 UT, producing a long-duration M1-flare and hurling a CME into space. According to analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, the cloud will deliver a glancing blow to three planets: Venus on June 15th, Earth on June 16th, and Mars on June 19th. This animation shows the likely progression of the cloud. - Space Weather.
WATCH: Long Duration M1.9 Event + CME.

UPDATE: Double CME Hit Earth's Magnetic Field - Strong Compression of the Magnetosphere!
CHANCE OF FLARES: Sunspot AR1504 has developed a 'beta-gamma-delta' magnetic field that harbors energy for strong solar flares--and the huge sunspot is directly facing Earth. Amateur astronomer Eric von der Heyden photographed the behemoth on June 16th from his backyard observatory in Mühltal-Traisa, Germany. Each of the dark cores in the image is about twice the size of Earth. The sheer size of the complex makes it an easy target for backyard solar telescopes. NOAA forecasters estimate a 65% chance of M-flares and a 5% chance of X-flares from AR1504 during the next 24 hours. X-flare alerts: text, voice.

STRONG COMPRESSION OF EARTH'S MAGNETOSPHERE: As expected, a double CME hit Earth's magnetic field on June 16th around 0900 UT. Intitially, the impact appeared to be weak, but now the effects are growing. Analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab say the impact strongly compressed Earth's magnetic field, directly exposing some geosynchronous satellites to solar wind plasma. Geomagnetic storms and auroras are possible in tthe hours ahead. Aurora alerts: text, voice. - Space Weather.
UPDATE: Geomagnetic Storm Alert - CMEs Compressing Earth's Magnetic Field!

GEOMAGNETIC STORM ALERT: A geomagnetic storm is in progress in the wake of a double CME impact on June 16th. The hit, which strongly compressed Earth's magnetic field, lit up both poles with bright auroras. Stephen Voss sends this photo from Southland, New Zealand. "We enjoyed a beautiful display of the Southern Lights from the south of New Zealand," says Voss. "A dull arc hung around for a couple of hours before suddenly exploding with a mixture of rays and curtains." Meanwhile, in the Americas, Northern Lights descended as far south as Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Washington and the Dakotas. Solar wind conditions in the wake of the CME favor continued disturbances. NOAA forecasters estimate a 55% chance of more high-latitude geomagnetic storms during the next 24 hours. Aurora alerts: text, voice. - Space Weather.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong Magnitude 6.4 Quake Strikes Near the East Coast of Honshu, Japan!

A strong magnitude 6.4 earthquake has struck the east coast of Honshu, Japan on Sunday, June 17, 2012 at 20:32:20 UTC.

The tremor was located at 38.894°N, 141.946°E and had a depth of 31.8 km (19.8 miles). The epicentre was 113 km (70 miles) southeast of Morioka, Honshu, Japan; 116 km (72 miles) northeast of Sendai, Honshu, Japan; 157 km (97 miles) northeast of Yamagata, Honshu, Japan; 405 km (251 miles) northeast of Tokyo, Japan. No tsunami warnings have been issued and there were no reports of injuries.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Japan and the surrounding islands straddle four major tectonic plates: Pacific plate; North America plate; Eurasia plate; and Philippine Sea plate. The Pacific plate is subducted into the mantle, beneath Hokkaido and northern Honshu, along the eastern margin of the Okhotsk microplate, a proposed subdivision of the North America plate. Farther south, the Pacific plate is subducted beneath volcanic islands along the eastern margin of the Philippine Sea plate. This 2,200 km-long zone of subduction of the Pacific plate is responsible for the creation of the deep offshore Ogasawara and Japan trenches as well as parallel chains of islands and volcanoes, typical of Circumpacific island arcs. Similarly, the Philippine Sea plate is itself subducting under the Eurasia plate along a zone, extending from Taiwan to southern Honshu that comprises the Ryukyu Islands and the Nansei-Shoto trench.

Subduction zones at the Japanese island arcs are geologically complex and produce numerous earthquakes from multiple sources. Deformation of the overriding plates generates shallow crustal earthquakes, whereas slip at the interface of the plates generates interplate earthquakes that extend from near the base of the trench to depths of 40 to 60 km. At greater depths, Japanese arc earthquakes occur within the subducting Pacific and Philippine Sea plates and can reach depths of nearly 700 km. Since 1900, three great earthquakes occurred off Japan and three north of Hokkaido. They are the M8.4 1933 Sanriku-oki earthquake, the M8.3 2003 Tokachi-oki earthquake, the M9.0 2011 Tohoku earthquake, the M8.4 1958 Etorofu earthquake, the M8.5 1963 Kuril earthquake, and the M8.3 1994 Shikotan earthquake.

Click HERE for additional Details, Summary, Maps and Scientific & Technical information from the USGS.

DRACHMAGEDDON: Disaster Temporarily Averted - Greece Conservatives Win the Vote; But There's Still no Government?!

If you thought for a moment that the Greek election would end in a clean outcome tonight, the joke was on you.  In the first wave of exit polls that came out at 12:00 PM ET, the pro-bailout, conservative New Democracy party held a razor thin 0.5% lead over the leftist SYRIZA party. 

Then an hour and a half later, it became clear that New Democracy would come in first, and that it (along with PASOK) would have enough seats to garner a majority in the Hellenic Parliament.  This is the outcome that markets have most wanted to see, as New Democracy and PASOK have generally signalled a willingness to go along with the current bailout path, and not buck the rest of Europe. The leftist leader Alex Tsipras, on the other hand, had threatened to tear up the bailout agreement (though he had always promised not to leave the Eurozone).  So at first it all seemed good... but then around 9:00 PM in Athens, word came that the leader of PASOK, Venizelos, was threatening to withhold support for a new government unless SYRIZA also joined as part of a broad coalition.  The politics are understandable. It's very easy for SYRIZA to gain popularity will staying in the opposition, railing against the establishment parties and the bailout without having to take any responsibility for what happens.

The meme in Athens is that SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras didn't even want to win, and always wanted to come back and run again in 4 to 8 months after the establishment parties lost standing.  So suddenly what looked like a solid result had gone sour.  But Athens insiders figured right away that Venizelos HAD to be bluffing, and that ultimately he would join the coalition.  And that now seems to be the case. According to reports, Venizelos is signaling an agreement to join the government, but it's not clear how he will. Most likely, it seems, he will join the government, but only by providing votes... not actually having any PASOK leaders take on ministerial positions.  The mood here now is fatigue. Everyone expects elections soon, and nothing at all has relaly changed.  Markets may be temporarily relieved that SYRIZA did not win, but this is far from a powerful market positive. It just averts what might have been a disaster.  In his victory speech, New Democracy ldear Antonis Samaras (pictured above) said Greeks have voted for growth and the euro. How that can be delivered on (especially the growth part) is a huge challenge. - Business Insider.

THE PRIEST CLASS OF THE MAGI: Preparing the Way For Petrus Romanus - Israel in Secret Pact With the Vatican!

A special meeting was held at the Pope's palace in Rome on Tuesday, attended by delegations from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Vatican. During the meeting, the sides discussed some of the unresolved issues between them.  At the conclusion of the meeting, which was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, the Foreign Ministry released a statement saying, "The talks took place in an open, balanced and constructive environment, during which significant progress was made towards an agreement." 

Pope Benedict XVI walks in front of the Dome of the Rock as he visits the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound,
in Jerusalem’s Old City, Tuesday, May 12, 2009. (AP Photo/ GPO, Ziv Koren, HO)
There have been disagreements between the Vatican and Israel on several economic issues and on the status of the Church and priests in Israel. Among the economic issues for which a solution has yet to be found is the question of property tax of churches and land owned by the Church, especially around the Kinneret, the tax status of churches and more.  Another controversial issue between the two sides is the Vatican's request that Israel give it sovereignty over King David's Tomb in Jerusalem. The Catholic Church has claimed ownership of a room in the compound, in which it says the "Last Supper" occurred. Ayalon has promised in the past he would defend Israel's sovereignty there.  Bahij Mansour, director of the department for religious affairs in the Foreign Ministry who has been responsible for the talks with the Vatican for the past two years, confirmed in a conversation with Arutz Sheva on Tuesday that the two sides are nearing an agreement. He added, however, that for the time being the parties have agreed not to make public any information regarding the understandings reached.  Asked by Arutz Sheva whether the issue of King David's Tomb would be included in the agreement, the Foreign Ministry said that the issue will indeed be included but would not reveal exact details. 

"The details do not matter at the moment, but the subject of the room of the Last Supper will be included in the agreements," the Foreign Ministry said. Mansour told Arutz Sheva that both sides made gestures and concessions in order to reach an agreement.  "At this time there are almost no differences. There was great openness between the parties and we are ahead of signing an agreement," he said, adding that the sides will meet again in six months.  In a speech in the Knesset a few weeks ago, Ayalon said that Israel does not intend to give up its sovereignty over King David's Tomb. His remarks came in response to a question by Shas MK Nissim Ze'ev, who said that the Foreign Ministry is holding talks over giving up its sovereignty. Ayalon, in turn, said this "never happened," but agreed to a request by Ze'ev to bring the issue up for discussion in one of the Knesset's committees.  Ze'ev told Arutz Sheva on Tuesday he knows for a fact that there are indeed negotiations over the Vatican's demands for sovereignty of King David's Tomb, despite the fact that historians and archaeologists have stated that without any doubt, there is no evidence to suggest that the compound was in place 2,000 years ago or even half that time, a fact that nullifies the Church's claims.  Ze'ev said that he believes the Church would allow the State to nationalize some of the land it owns around the Kinneret in exchange for obtaining sovereignty of the compound in question. It is not known how accurate Ze'ev's claims are since, for the time being, both parties are being careful not to disclose any information regarding the agreement being worked out. - Virtual Jerusalem.

TERMINATOR NOW: The Rise of the Machines - British Researchers Create Robot That Can Learn Simple Words by Conversing With Humans!

In an attempt to replicate the early experiences of infants, researchers in England have created a robot that can learn simple words in minutes just by having a conversation with a human. The work, published this week in the journal , offers insight into how babies transition from babbling to speaking their first words.

The iCub robot named DeeChee learning basic language with Professor Chrystopher Nehaniv and Dr Joe Saunders.
The three-foot-tall robot, named DeeChee, was built to produce any syllable in the English language. But it knew no words at the outset of the study, speaking only babble phrases like "een rain rain mahdl kross." During the experiment, a human volunteer attempted to teach the robot simple words for shapes and colors by using them repeatedly in regular speech. At first, all DeeChee could comprehend was an unsegmented stream of sounds. But DeeChee had been programmed to break up that stream into individual syllables and to store them in its memory. Once there, the words were ranked according to how often they came up in conversation; words like "red" and "green" were prized.  DeeChee also was designed to recognize words of encouragement, like "good" and "well done," from its human conversation partner. That feedback helped transform the robot's babble into coherent words, sometimes in as little as two minutes.  If repetition of sounds helps infants learn a language, then it's not surprising that our first words are often mainstays like "mama" and "dada."

But why don't we start using common and simple words like "and" or "the" at the same time?  The answer, said study leader Catherine Lyon, a computer scientist at the University of Hertfordshire, is that the words that form the connective tissue of our language - words like "at," "with" and "of" - are spoken in hundreds of different ways, making them difficult for newbies to recognize. On the other hand, more concrete words like "house" or "blue" tend to be spoken in the same way nearly every time.  Because the study relied on the human volunteers speaking naturally, Lyon said it was crucial that the robot resemble a person. DeeChee was programmed to smile when it was ready to pay attention to its teacher and to stop smiling and blink when it needed a break. (Though DeeChee was designed to have a gender-neutral appearance, humans tended to treat it as a boy, according to the study.)  "When we asked people to talk to the robot as a small child, it seemed to come quite naturally to them," she said. "When they talk to a bit of disembodied software, you don't get the same response."  Paul Goldstein, a psychologist at Cornell University who has also used robots to study infant learning but wasn't involved in this study, said the work was highly innovative - and that if the researchers' theory about language acquisition is correct, they can use robots to prove it.  "If we really think we understand how infants learn," he said, "then we should be able to build a robot that can do it." - PHYSORG.
 WATCH: iCub Robot 'learns' From Its experiences.

HIGH STRANGENESS: Giant Mushroom Cloud Seen Over Beijing, China?!

A mushroom-like cloud was spotted over Beijing earlier this week, closely resembling the explosion of an atomic bomb, reports China Daily.

Now, footage of the mysterious cloud has been released on YouTube. One shows raw video of the haze taken from what appears to be a high-rise building, while another video is an edited version documenting the haze on June 14.The yellow and green haze led Chinese authorities to advise residents to stay inside Monday, according to Agence France-Presse. While rumors swarmed online about the cause of the unusual cloud, Chinese police arrested two internet users who said the pollution had been triggered by a chlorine leak at a chemical plant or an explosion at a steel refinery, notes The Economic Observer.

Meanwhile, government authorities told the Xinhua news agency straw burning was the cause and denied there had been any industrial accidents. Air pollution is increasingly becoming a major problem in China, and the government is often accused of downplaying the severity of the problem in metropolitan areas. Earlier this month, China demanded the U.S. Embassy in Beijing to stop publishing air pollution readings, saying it was against diplomatic conventions and the law.
- Huffington Post.
WATCH: Giant mushroom cloud In Beijing.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Massive "Rotational Slides" in Fargo - Over 100 Feet of Road Had Shifted by 13 and a Half Feet to the West; Bottom of the Main Channel Pushed up Nearly 10 Feet?!

Officials say Fargo’s largest landslide in recent memory will cost at least $100,000 to repair after it dislocated a section of road by a car length, broke a water main and plugged a drainage ditch.  “It was something very strange for our neck of the woods,” said Ben Dow, Fargo Public Works director. “It’s about the largest one we’ve seen. But our soils are always doing funky things up here in clay country.”  City employees became aware of the problem on the morning of May 31 when the water pressure dropped in a north-side tower because of the water main break, Dow said.  Engineers found that a section of 32nd Street North measuring more than 100 feet long had shifted 13 1/2 feet to the west, causing cracks in the gravel road and large ruts at each end. The road and an adjacent drain field had slid toward Legal Drain 10, pushing up the bottom of the drainage ditch and blocking the main channel. 

Chad Engels, an engineer for the Southeast Cass Water Resource District, which owns the drain, said it appeared that the ground shifted under the weight of a stockpile of aggregate sitting along 32nd Street on the site of Border States Paving Inc.’s asphalt production plant.  Such landslides are technically referred to as rotational slides and commonly known as slumping. They happen when one layer of soil rotates under pressure while the layer below it stays in place, causing what’s known as a slip plane, Engels said.  Slumping often occurs along drainage ditches when they are being excavated and the spoil is piled next to the channel, but Engels said this is the largest slide he has seen.  “Because here we have a case where the bottom of the channel has actually been pushed up something around 8 to 10 feet, the channel was actually raised in elevation,” he said. “So it’s pretty impressive what forces can do.”  Engineers immediately surveyed the drain to make sure water could still pass over the plugged section without flooding surrounding land, said Engels, a senior project manager with Moore Engineering of West Fargo.  The water district has hired a contractor to clear the drain after Border States finishes moving the aggregate away from the road to prevent more slumping, Engels said. He expects the drain to be open by this weekend.  Braun Intertec, a geotechnical engineering firm in West Fargo, has been hired by the district to determine what caused the landslide and develop recommendations for repairing it.  Engels said he expects the area to be repaired in four to six weeks, but it’s unclear who will foot the bill. 

“There’s an ongoing discussion between the water district and Border States,” he said.  Dan Thompson, part-owner of Border States, said the asphalt plant has operated in its current location since 1994 or 1995, and the aggregate pile comes and goes with the seasons. Nothing was done differently this year that would have triggered the landslide, he said.  Engels speculated that, in addition to the stockpile, fluctuations in soil wetness may have played a role in the landslide.  “They’re very unpredictable,” he said.  Dow said it’s similar to what happened with Mount Fargo, a ski hill created in the 1980s from earth excavated for the Bluemont Lakes development. The hill eventually began sinking into the soft, wet clay below and pushed up the ground around it. It was trimmed down in the early 1990s, and the clay was used to build dikes.  Thompson said no one was on the aggregate pile at the time of the landslide, which buckled a section of Border States’ fence.  “When we came out here, you could actually hear the fence popping,” said Dean Riemer of Cass County Electric Co-op, which had an electrical line broken by the landslide.  Officials said the affected water main had been capped off for future development and wasn’t serving anyone. Crews recapped it at the point of breakage and will likely have to replace the entire section that shifted, they said.  The damaged road has been barricaded, temporarily cutting off access to one building at the end of it.  Thompson said Border States plans to park equipment on the area where the aggregate was stockpiled.  “The soils around here … they aren’t real supportive,” he said. - INFORUM.
WATCH: Landslides in North Fargo.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Indonesia's Mount Merapi Spews Volcanic Ash up to 500 Meters - Alert Remains at the Second Highest Level!

Mount Merapi in West Sumatra province spewed volcanic ash up to 500 meters into the sky on Sunday morning.  "The volcano spewed volcanic ash for about 10 minutes starting at around 08.30 a.m.," Mubarak, who lived on the slope of the volcano said on Sunday. 

"The volcanic ash fell on around the volcano`s slope," he said.  Before spewing volcanic ash, the 2,891-meter high volcano released white thick smoke as high as 50 meters from its crater, he said.  Since its alert status was raised on August 3, 2011, the volcano had spewed white smoke and volcanic ash almost everyday, he said.  The Bukittinggi Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation (PVMBG) still maintains the volcano`s alert status at the second highest alert level.  "PVMBG still recommends keeping the volcano at the second highest alert status and declaring it off-limits to anyone climbing within 3 km of its peak," PVMBG officer Warseno said. 

The volcano has spewed thick smoke and volcanic ash almost every day since it began showing signs of increased activity on August 3, 2011.  Mt Merapi is one of the active volcanoes in West Sumatra. It sent out sulfuric volcanic ash 1,000 meters into the sky on August 3 last year. The ash fell onto a number of areas, such as Agam, Tanahdatar, Padangpariaman, and Padangpanjang.  The volcano last erupted in 2005.  When inactive, the mountains adjacent to Mt Singgalang and Mt Tandikek have always been a destination for climbers from within and outside West Sumatra. Also, every New Years, it is always crowded with mountain climbers. - Antara News.

DRACHMAGEDDON: The Global Economic Meltdown Begins - The Rise of Middle Class Poverty, Federal Gangs and Neo-Nazis as Athens Waits For Volcano to Explode?!

Antonis Perris was a devoted son. When his elderly mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years ago, there was no question of putting her in a state facility.  He would care for her at home in Athens and they would face the future together.  But then things started getting very much worse.  ‘The problem is that I was not prepared when the economic crisis hit and I do not have enough money in my account,’ wrote the 60-year-old unemployed musician.  ‘My credit card is overdrawn, we do not have enough food to feed ourselves. I live a drama with no end. Does anyone have a solution for me? World leaders, you who brought this financial crisis, you all need hanging!’  

Perris wrote of his despair in an internet chatroom three weeks ago. Then, one morning, he led his mother on to the roof of their five-storey apartment block. Hand-in-hand, they jumped off.  Not long ago, this episode would have been a national scandal. Today, it is just another tragic footnote to the story of a society on the brink of collapse.  On Monday morning, this modern European nation could be waking up to a nightmare scenario, which runs as follows. The cash machines start drying up. Supermarket shelves are cleared by families fearful that food supplies will run out.  There are queues round the block for the last dribbles from the petrol pumps, and deliveries come to a halt. Within a day or two, protests have turned to looting and random acts of violence against strangers. Overwhelmed, the police retreat to their bases. The most vulnerable citizens lock the doors and pray.  And gradually, the country that gave the world ‘democracy’ descends into another word it also created — ‘anarchy’. 

Understandably, no one on the tense, graffiti-splattered streets of Athens wants to discuss this possibility ahead of today’s Greek election in case it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. For many, though, it is hard to envisage how much further they can fall.  Helen Papoutsi, 49, is a proud woman. A professor’s daughter, she has worked as a nurse for 27 years and has a daughter at university.  Yet she is one of many middle-class Greeks whom I find alongside homeless migrants and the mentally disabled in the early evening queue for a central Athens soup kitchen.  A plastic bowl of pasta will be Helen’s only square meal of the day.  ‘They’ve cut my pay, I have to work longer hours and I can’t pay the bills any more,’ she says quietly, before dissolving into tears.  ‘How can I be a good mother when I can’t even afford to support myself?’ She still has a faded carrier bag from a fancy Athens boutique and is clinging to what is left of her dignity.   But like her unemployed friend and dinner companion, Georgia Goudi, she says she has no hope.  ‘They want us to vote? For who? The rich will get richer and the poor poorer. It can only get worse.’ 

We are unlikely to see this nation implode in the immediate aftermath of today’s vote.  The most probable outcome is more procrastination and horse-trading — just like the dithering that followed the last, entirely inconclusive election in May, since when Greece has been without  a government.  But deep down, everyone knows that the status quo cannot go on much longer.  Greece is on borrowed time. Ultimately, Greeks face a choice between swallowing the austerity package imposed by the EU’s German paymasters — punitive taxation and a purge of the public sector — or they can be relegated from the euro and return to a much-devalued drachma.  The second option would see the country’s existing wealth cut by half.  And while it might enable Greece to rebuild itself over time, the first months of that journey would be perilous as a bankrupt nation found itself unable to buy essentials such as medicines, not to mention food.  It is a nightmare scenario that some have called ‘Drachmageddon’. And it is one we in Britain will feel acutely as billions are wiped off the value of our shareholdings and pension funds as the markets tumble amid fears that Spain and Italy might be next. - Daily Mail.
WATCH: Greeks go to polls on euro's day of destiny.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Rapid Series of Shallow Quakes Rock Taiwan!

Seven shallow earthquakes hit eastern Taiwan in rapid succession on Sunday afternoon, sparking panic, causing damage to buildings and shaking the capital Taipei. 

A man points to the earthquake intensity contour at the Central Weather Bureau in Taipei - AFP
The quakes were recorded between 3:33pm and 5:09pm (0733 GMT-0909 GMT) and had their epicentres at no deeper than eight kilometres (five miles), seismologists said.  Among them was one, which struck at 5:01pm, only five kilometres under Fengpin, a coastal township in the eastern Hualien county.  The United States Geological Survey (USGS) said it had a magnitude of 5.0, compared with 4.7 recorded by Taiwan's Seismology Centre. 

Kuo Kai-wen, director of the Seismology Centre, called on the public not to panic over the series of earthquakes, which he said were aftershocks from a 5.4-magnitude quake that rocked Hualien county on Friday.  A fireman at Fengpin said that their office building had developed minor cracks, but the National Fire Agency said there were no reports of major damage or casualties. Taiwan lies near the junction of two tectonic plates and is regularly hit by earthquakes.  In September 1999, a 7.6-magnitude tremor killed around 2,400 people in the deadliest natural disaster in Taiwan's recent history. - Deccan Chronicle.
Click HERE for additional Details, Summary, Maps and Scientific & Technical information from the USGS.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Mysterious "Black Water" Floods in River Cuts Off 13 Villages in India - Roads and Retaining Walls Have Suddenly Collapsed and Disappeared?!

Besides the eight Israeli nationals who are stranded in Pin valley of Lahaul-Spiti district of Himachal since June 5, the rising level of water in Kiri river has also put 2,500 residents of thirteen villages in trouble.  Stranded in their own treacherous valley, villagers had been seeking help for over a week as their ration and other commodities have almost depleted. Power supply and telephone connectivity to the valley has snapped and some confused and helpless villagers have already made failed attempts to cross the flooded stream, putting their lives in danger. 

Photo: WN / Imran Nissar.
About 2 km stretch of the connecting road has disappeared and all retaining walls across the stream have completely collapsed. Residents of Mud, Guling, Sagnam, Khar and other affected villages are requesting government to drop ration, LPG, kerosene and other facilities by air.  "We have ration stock for some more days, but most of people have finished their available LPG and kerosene oil," said Tenzin Gyatso, a resident of Mud village, over phone. Residents are surprised to see non-stop flow of water and debris which they claim had never been witnessed for decades. "It is surprising how black water mixed with black debris had been oozing out of mountains without rain for last 11 days. It is impossible for glaciers to melt so fast," he added.  150 people who were working close to the stream, which was already in spate, had a narrow escape on Thursday when water level increased suddenly and washed away huge chunks of land. The flooded stream witnessed a sudden rise in level again on Friday. As the government failed to airlift tourists, a team of local administration, police and rescue volunteers who visited the spot could not find the exact source of flood water.

Now the administration has planned to drop ration and medicines to villages on Saturday.  "The stream is again in flood and it looks impossible to cross it until the water level reduces and debris becomes hard enough to walk upon. We have planned to drop ration at affected areas on Saturday," said Kaza sub-divisional magistrate Hemis Negi.  Lahaul-Spiti MLA Ram Lal Markandeya said he has asked general administration department to arrange for a helicopter to airlift the stranded tourists. "We need to carry out a recce of the place and I've demanded a team of geological experts to check what is the reason behind unstoppable flow of water from the mountain top," he said.  While other stranded tourists managed to walk over the jammed debris few days ago, 8 tourists who are staying at a guest house in Guling village are still waiting for relief from the other side. After flood washed away the temporary rescue ropeway erected over the stream, administration and police have been helplessly gazing at the other side of the stream.  Meanwhile, after Himachal government failed to airlift the stranded tourists, agencies in Israel have been contacting people in Spiti seeking help to obtain permit to land their own helicopter. "A health insurance company from Israel is planning to fly to Spiti with their helicopters. They are seeking my help in this regard and I have conveyed their message to the administration," said Tenzin Gyatso, a resident of Mud village. - Times of India.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Sudden Overflow of the Sea and Tidal Surge Deluge Teknaf, Myanmar - At Least 400 Houses, 15 Shrimp Farms, 200 Acres of Crop Land and Salt Beds Have Gone Under 2 to 3 Feet of Water!

A fisherman was killed while seven others were missing in boat capsizes on Friday in Naaf River.  The deceased was identified as Mamtaz Mia (25), son of Ali Hosain of Bainna Para village under Teknaf Upazila. 

File Photo - Taken on Oct. 9, 2010, Myanmar Red Cross members lead local people
wading through a flooded road, in Mandalay,
Teknaf Police said locals recovered the body from the bank of the river Friday noon. At least 25 fishing boats capsized in the river on Friday.  Some 12 villages of the costal upazila of Teknaf were inundated by two days of continual rain.  Seawater entered the locality through the broken embankment and marooned at least 15,000 villagers of the upazila.  According to sources, seawater rose about two meters above the normal level in the Teknaf area flooding a vast area of the upazila.  
The tidal surge affected villages are Jalia para, Side para, Khankar Dail, Sudar para, Dakkin Jalia para, Nazir para, Moulavi para, Mondal para, Panchhari para, Majer para, Dakkin para and Paschim para.  At least 400 houses, 15 shrimp farms and 200 acres of crop land and salt beds have gone under 2 to 3 feet tidal water.  Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) ANM Nazim Uddin said the sudden overflow of seawater hit the locality before completion of the repair to the broken embankment.  Teknaf Upazila council chairman Shafiq Mia told daily sun that at least 15,000 people were marooned by tidal surge. - Daily Sun.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Large Seismic Tension Buildup - Scientific Research Indicates Azerbaijan's Capital Baku is at Risk of a Devastating Earthquake, That Could Level the Region!

Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, is at risk of a devastating earthquake similar to one that leveled the country's previous capital in 1859, researchers say. 

Earthquake map of a 6-point earthquake that occurred 15 kilometers south of Zagatala on May 18th. 
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences say their research suggests the region may be ripe for a quake of a magnitude similar to the 1859 quake that damaged the former capital, Shamakha, so severely the government was relocated to Baku on the coast of the Caspian Sea.  Ten years' worth of Global Positioning System data from Baku and surrounding regions show a large buildup of tension in the area, an MIT release reported Thursday.  An earthquake could threaten Baku's population, petroleum reserves and the health of the Caspian Sea, researchers said. 

"It doesn't take a gigantic earthquake," said Robert Reilinger of MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. "It just takes bad luck.  "And this is an area where they can't afford it. It's an extremely vulnerable area in terms of the density of the people, the density of oil infrastructure, and the potential environmental impact regionally, not just in Azerbaijan."  Azerbaijan has an active geologic history, as a result of the Caucasus Mountains rising up from the collision of two tectonic plates -- the southern Arabian plate and the northern Eurasian plate.  As the plates push against the other tension builds, researchers said, occasionally releasing in the form of earthquakes along the boundary of the plates. - UPI.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Italy Quakes Threaten Summer Tourism as Recession Bites - Strongest Tremor in Three Years; More Than 1,800 Aftershocks!; 4 Billion Euros in Damage!

Italy’s strongest earthquakes in three years and more than 1,800 aftershocks are deterring tourists in the peak summer season, compounding a slowdown in the industry as Europe’s economy stagnates.  With 110 kilometers (68 miles) of coastline and pulsing resort towns like Rimini and Riccione, the quake-stricken region of Emilia-Romagna is one of the country’s top summer destinations, attracting almost 9 million tourists a year. Many of them, especially foreigners, have canceled trips following last month’s temblors, which killed at least 25 people, Alessandro Giorgetti, head of the Emilia-Romagna chapter of the Federalberghi hotel lobby, said in a phone interview. 

People stand in front of a collapsed building in Cavezzo, northern Italy, May 30, 2012.
“In light of the crisis and following the two quakes, I expect hotel revenue in the region to drop as much as 15 percent this month compared to last year,” said Giorgetti, who owns two of Emilia-Romagna’s 3,000 hotels. “I fear an even deeper slump,” he said.  With more than 76 million tourists a year, Italy is one of the most visited countries in the European Union. Tourism accounts for almost 10 percent of Italy’s gross domestic product and employs about 2.5 million people, according to research group Eurispes. Spending by foreign tourists rose 5.6 percent last year even amid the debt crisis, Bank of Italy data show.  Emilia-Romagna, which in addition to sandy beaches and throbbing nightlife is home to historical cities like Ravenna and the Ferrari auto museum in Maranello, generated tourism revenue of 11.3 billion euros ($14 billion) in 2011. The Adriatic coastline accounts for more than 80 percent of that figure, according to the region’s press office. The Emilia-Romagna quakes -- a 5.9-magnitude temblor on May 20 and a 5.8-magnitude one on May 29 -- were the strongest in the country since the April 6, 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila that killed more than 300 people. There have been 1,852 aftershocks since the May 20 temblor, including a 4.3 magnitude quake on June 12, according to the Italian Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology.  Neither of the May quakes struck near the coast, with the epicenters some 100 kilometers away near Modena. Still, many sun-seeking foreign travelers were scared off, Giorgetti said.  “Some people think the Po valley has been split in two,” he said. “One German man called from Dortmund to ask if the Bologna airport had been destroyed.” The airport is operating normally and no flights have been canceled since the quakes hit, according to its press office.

Italy’s Ministry of Tourism, Sports and Regional Affairs and the national tourism agency Enit have launched a media campaign focused on foreign markets, especially Germany and Russia, to reassure travelers that the region is safe.  The quakes, which employers’ lobby Confindustria estimates caused more than 4 billion euros in damage to the economy, came at a time when Italy’s consumer confidence fell to its lowest in more than 15 years and austerity measures have helped push the country into its fourth recession since 2001. Prime Minister Mario Monti’s government approved a 20 billion-euro austerity plan in December that included tax increases, crimping domestic demand. To help fund aid to the stricken region, Monti’s Cabinet approved an additional tax hike of 2 cents per liter of gasoline. That could further hurt tourism in the region, said Gianmario Ferrari, owner of three hotels in Rimini. With gas prices soaring, “can you imagine how much it costs for someone who lives up north to come down here,” he said.  Italy suffers about 2,000 earthquakes a year, with more than 3 million people living in seismic areas, according to the National Council of Geologists. Almost half of Italy’s territory is at risk of a quake, with more than 6 million buildings in seismic areas, the group said.  Many historical buildings and churches in Emilia-Romagna, including a 14th century castle in Ferrara, were damaged by the quakes, marking the greatest loss to Italy’s heritage since a 1997 temblor ravaged the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi.  Damage to Emilia-Romagna’s cultural heritage “is the real worry,” said Matteo Caroli, a professor at the Luiss Guido Carli University in Rome. Historical towns that used to attract travelers “may need new marketing.” - Business Week.

EXTREME WEATHER: Firefighters Battle Blazes Near Greek Capital Athens!

Authorities in Greece have been battling wildfires in several locations near the capital Athens.  More than 150 firefighters were called to tackle the fires which broke out on Saturday and spread in high winds. Three of them were reported injured.

Local volunteers have been helping emergency services in trying to put out the fires.
The biggest fire was reported to be near the town of Keratea, 50 km (30 miles) south of Athens.  It is believed the fire was started by sparks from welding work at a construction site.  Four people have been arrested for accidentally causing the fire.  An old people's home in the area was evacuated as a precaution, authorities said.  "We are asking for more help, for more fire engines," local MP Evy Christofilopoulou told the Associated Press.
High temperatures and strong winds have been hampering the effort to extinguish the fires.
"We are trying to coordinate and people are frustrated and very anxious as you can realise."  Another fire in the Athens suburb of Pallini damaged a factory, with at least two other fires reported near the capital.  Greece has asked Italy, France and Croatia for help in the form of more firefighting planes.  The fires come as Greece goes to the polls on Sunday for a general election.  Authorities said the opening of ballots in the Keratea and Lavrio areas would be delayed but that voting will be held as planned, the AFP news agency reports.  In 2007 Greece declared a state of emergency when more than 60 people died in a wave of forest fires. - BBC.