Wednesday, November 28, 2012

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Disaster Precursor - Large Sinkhole Nearly Swallows Truck in San Francisco!

November 28, 2012 - UNITED STATES - A truck got stuck in a sinkhole on Waller Street between Scott and Divisadero this afternoon, and the street is now closed to traffic.

As of 4:30pm, the rear section of the Vac-Con truck was submerged under street level, while a giant crane worked to free the truck from its predicament. It didn't appear that anyone was hurt in the incident.



No word on what caused the sinkhole, nor how long repairing the street might take, but if/when we hear from SFDPW we'll update accordingly. - Haighteration.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Deadly New Coronavirus - Mysterious Respiratory Virus Claims Another Life in the Middle East!

November 28, 2012 - SAUDI ARABIA - Another person has died and at least three more cases of a mysterious respiratory virus have been discovered in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The WHO confirms that that the new strain is part of the coronavirus family, which also includes the deadly SARS.

­
So far the World Health Organization has confirmed six cases of infection, with four in Saudi Arabia and two in Qatar.

The WHO earlier said that the virus does not appear to be very contagious, but on Friday it announced that the two latest cases discovered in a Saudi family were epidemiologically linked. Moreover, two members of the same family – one of which also died – were showing similar symptoms, but their cases have not been confirmed.

­“Preliminary investigations indicate that these two cases presented with similar symptoms of illness. One died and the other recovered,” the organization said in a statement.

The organization is now investigating the close contacts of the recently confirmed cases.
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The WHO pointed out that many cases might be going undetected, as not every case is reported to the Geneva-based UN agency, and called on countries to “continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections."

­In the new Qatari case, the patient had been sent to Germany for a special treatment at a lung hospital, and recovered.

The new strain was first detected earlier this year after a Saudi man died from the coronavirus in June while a Qatari man was hospitalized in London with the virus after a trip to Saudi Arabia.

“Until more information is available, it is prudent to consider that the virus is likely more widely distributed than just the two countries which have identified cases,” the WHO warned.

The new coronavirus shares some of the symptoms of the infamous SARS virus, and also causes rapid kidney failure, according to the WHO. A decade ago an outbreak of SARS originating in Hong Kong nearly became a pandemic, infecting 8,422 people worldwide and causing 916 deaths over the course of eight months. - RT.

TERMINATOR NOW: 2013 & the Rise of the Machines - Mind-Controlled Artificial Limbs Fusing Man and Machine Coming Next Year!

November 28, 2012 - SWEDEN - A postdoctoral student has developed a technique for implanting thought-controlled robotic arms and their electrodes directly to the bones and nerves of amputees, a move which he is calling “the future of artificial limbs”. The first volunteers will receive their new limbs early in 2013. “The benefits have no precedent,” Max Ortiz Catalan, who carries out research in biomedicine and artificial intelligence at the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, told Wired.co.uk. “They will be able to simultaneously control several joints and motions, as well as to receive direct neural feedback on their actions. These features are today not available for patients outside research labs. Our aim is to change that.”


Ordinary myoelectric prostheses work by placing electrodes over the skin to pick up nerve signals that would ordinarily be sent by the brain to the limb. An algorithm then translates these signals, and sends instructions to motors within the electronic limb. Since the electrodes are applied to the skin surface, however, they will undoubtedly encounter countless issues in maintaining the fluid transferal of information back and forth between the brain and the limb. By implanting those electrodes directly to the patient’s nerves, Catalan is hoping to get one step closer than anyone else to replicating natural movement. “Our technology helps amputees to control an artificial limb, in much the same way as their own biological hand or arm, via the person’s own nerves and remaining muscles,” he said. Using the Osseointegrated Prosthesis for the Rehabilitation of Amputees (OPRA) method developed by Rickard Brånemark at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, Catalan and his team plan to forgo traditional sockets in place of bone-anchored prostheses attached via titanium screws. It was a method inspired by Brånemark’s father, who was the first to discover that titanium can fuse with bone tissue. “The operation will consist of placing neural and muscular electrodes on the patient’s stumps, as well as placing the bidirectional interfaces into the human body.” A titanium implant acts as the bidirectional interface, transmitting signals from the electrodes, placed on nerves and muscles, to the limb. It is a truer replication of how the arm was designed to work, with information from existing nerves being transferred to the limb and to the implant, where algorithms can translate thought-controlled instructions into movement. It is, Catalan told Wired.co.uk, a “closed loop control” that moves us “one step further to providing natural control of the artificial limb”. Add to this the fact that every finger is motorised and can be individually controlled, and Catalan’s bold statement might just be accurate. The first surgeries, due to be carried out by Brånemark in January or February 2013, will all be on patients that had limbs amputated several years prior. Asked whether or not this will make success harder, Catalan said it was one question they are looking to answer. “The possibilities are higher in recent amputation. Our first patients however, have been amputated for several years. This project aims to answer several very interesting scientific questions in neurorehabilitation.”

In preparation, for both the amputees’ learning and the algorithm’s, Catalan has been training his subjects in the lab using virtual reality simulations. “It provides real-time feedback to the patients on their performance executing different motions. It is definitely very important for them to re-learn some motions, and for us to quantitatively qualify our algorithms’ performance.” The work echoes that of the Centre for Bionic Medicine in Chicago. In October Zac Vawter highlighted the centre’s work by climbing 103 flights of stairs using his bionic leg, attached following an amputation technique called targeted muscle reinnervation (TMR). This involves transferring amputated nerves to remaining muscle and skin so that they can provide additional signals the limb’s inbuilt microprocessor can process — it dramatically improves the reactivity of a robotic prosthetic. Catalan is in touch with the Centre and plans to collaborate and combine the two technologies to help create an “osseointegrated human-machine gateway”. “We definitely see the combination of these technologies as the future of artificial limbs,” he told Wired.co.uk. “They have done excellent work, a lot of very useful scientific research has come from Todd Kuiken’sgroup. We have complementing technologies, while targeted muscle TMR is useful to provide additional control signals in the muscles, it still needs surface electrodes.” Ultimately, Catalan hopes the surgical trials will prove the potential for dramatic progress in prosthetics and secure the university more funding to take that progress from a clinical setting, to a real world one on a far larger scale. “This technology can then become a reality for lots of people. We want to leave the lab and become part of the patients’ everyday life. If the first operations this winter are successful, we will be the first research group in the world to make ‘thought-controlled prostheses’ a reality for patients to use in their daily activities, and not only inside research labs.” - WIRED.

WATCH: Artificial hand mimics living care.

MIDDLE EAST CONFLICT: Sina-7 - Iran Showcases New Warships Near Strategic Waters!

November 28, 2012 - TEHRAN, IRAN - Iran’s state TV is showcasing additions to its Navy including a missile-launching warship around the size of a frigate.

An Iranian warship. (photo credit: Alex Hicks, Wikimedia Commons).
Navy officials watched as the domestically-produced Sina-7, equipped with anti-ship missiles, was launched Wednesday at Bandar Abbas, near the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Two new Iranian-built Ghadir submarines and two repaired hovercrafts were also delivered to the Navy.

The TV quoted Navy chief Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari as saying that Iran must possess the “newest technology and top-grade facilities to protect its borders.”

Ghadir class submarines can fire missiles and torpedoes at the same time, and can operate in the Persian Gulf’s shallow waters.

Iran has sought to upgrade its air defense and naval capabilities, saying any possible future attacks on it would come from the air and sea. - Times of Israel.

THE MONUMENTAL SOLAR SYSTEM CHANGES: The Great Springtime Storm - Stare Into the Eye of This Insane Storm on Planet Saturn!

November 28, 2012 - SPACE - This mind-boggling storm at Saturn’s North Pole, captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on Nov. 27, looks like it’s going to swallow you right up. An incredible amount of detail can been seen of the magnificent storm system, with wispy clouds curling back on themselves as they swirl around the storm’s eye. Cassini captured the image in infrared wavelengths, which can peer deep into Saturn’s cloud layers. You can click on the image above to see a higher-resolution version or visit Cassini’s raw image page to gape at a few more shots of the storm.

Image: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.
The ringed gas giant planet is no stranger to such enormous maelstroms. During 2010 and 2011, Cassini captured the “Great Springtime Storm” on Saturn. This powerful system encircled the entire planet and was the largest storm Saturn had seen in more than 21 years, covering 2 billion square miles, or eight times the surface area of the Earth. Even after that storm calmed down, it produced the largest and hottest vortex ever seen in the solar system. On the surface, Saturn seems calm. But the appearance of the largest and hottest vortex ever seen in the solar system has astronomers thinking that Saturn’s atmosphere has more going on than meets the eye. The oval-shaped maelstrom was created when two warm spots in Saturn’s roiling cloud deck merged. The subsequent storm was invisible to human eyes but shone brightly in infrared wavelengths. It was accompanied by an unprecedented temperature spike that released tons of energy, equivalent to an enormous planetary belch. All this action is linked to the “Great Springtime Storm” that raged through Saturn’s northern latitudes over late 2010 and much of 2011. This global storm was the largest recorded tempest since 1903 and grew so large that the storm head traveled all the way around the planet and encountered its own tail. After the most visible effects subsided, scientists considered the storm over.

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But since May 2011, researchers have been watching two warm spots in Saturn’s clouds using NASA’s Cassini spacecraft and several Earth-based telescopes. Such spots appear periodically and were expected to cool down after a month. Instead, the hotspots merged and produced a colossal cyclone, briefly exceeding even Jupiter’s famous Great Red Spot in size and brightness. Temperatures in the storm skyrocketed to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, and a huge amount of ethylene – a colorless and odorless gas not typically seen on Saturn — suddenly appeared. The merging hotspots produced 100 times more ethylene than scientists thought possible on Saturn and no one knows where it came from. An odd soupy mixture of gases was also spotted encircling the vortex. The bright beacon is now expected to slowly fade away and be gone by 2013, though astronomers wonder if there are further surprises to be had on Saturn. Two papers describing the vortex will appear next month, one in the Astrophysical Journal and another in the journal Icarus. - WIRED Science.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Louisiana Sinkhole Continues to Grow - Official Says That Earth Moved Under the Giant Sinkhole For Four Minutes Straight, Before Crude Oil Disgorged "Water Level Dropped by About 6 Inches"!

November 28, 2012 - UNITED STATES - An 8-acre swampland sinkhole between the Grand Bayou and Bayou Corne communities in Assumption Parish burped up vegetation and hydrocarbons from its watery depths Tuesday, parish officials said.  Happening about 11:30 a.m., the “burp” coincided with what is called a long-period earth tremor and caused a few trees along the slurry hole’s southwest corner to fall into the sinkhole, Assumption Parish officials said.  Texas Brine Co. LLC cleanup contractors temporarily were removed from the site following Tuesday’s episode and the Houston company checked the integrity of oil-retardant boom deployed around the sinkhole, parish officials said. 


Company spokesman Sonny Cranch said that after the sinkhole quieted, workers resumed cleanup work Tuesday afternoon and were expected to return Wednesday if no other changes occur.  John Boudreaux, director of the parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said experts suggest that Tuesday’s burp happened as a result of some movement of the earth under the sinkhole’s surface.  Cranch said the mix of debris, dirt and emulsified oil that surfaced and broke apart Tuesday appeared to have originated from the sinkhole’s bottom.  “The point being, it’s not a belch of just crude oil,” Cranch said.  Boudreaux said before the sinkhole disgorged the material, the water level dropped by about 6 inches and then returned to its original level. The size of the water level change was based on measurements of hydrocarbon rings left on trees.  In a pattern state Department of Natural Resources scientists and Texas Brine officials have predicted, the sinkhole gradually has increased its surface size and continued to swallow forested swampland between Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou south of La. 70 South since the hole was found Aug. 3. 

Cranch said the belch Tuesday was part of that process.  “It’s just the natural course of events as this sinkhole follows its natural life,” he said.  Sealed off from the sinkhole’s edges by interior oil-retardant booms designed to guide surface crude oil to cleanup workers, the debris instead appears to be rising up from the center of the sinkhole, Boudreaux said.  The coinciding long-period tremor, which Boudreaux said lasted about four minutes on Tuesday, is of a variety in the Bayou Corne area that researchers at the University of Memphis Center for Earthquake Research and Information previously have attributed to the movement of underground gas or liquids.  Cranch and Boudreaux said that the upwellings of material, such as those seen Tuesday, have happened before, though Boudreaux said the latest instance produced more material than in the past.  Texas Brine reported on its website Nov. 21 that debris had risen from the bottom the sinkhole and was accompanied by “a brief period of water movement.”  Private industry and Louisiana Department of Natural Resources scientists think the failure of a Texas Brine salt cavern in the Napoleonville Dome caused the sinkhole to form in a process also related to methane releases underground and in area waterways.  The failure, which resulted from a caved-in cavern wall deep underground, also is suspected of causing the release of crude oil and natural gas into the Texas Brine cavern and in the sinkhole.  Officials ordered more than 150 residences in the area evacuated Aug. 3 because of concerns for occupants’ safety. The order remains in force. - The Advocate.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Volcano Discovery Report For November 27-28 - Tolbachik, Lokon-Empung, Paluweh, Fuego, and Santa Maria!

November 28, 2012 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing report from the Volcano Discovery Group.


The Tokyo VAAC reported that an eruption of Tolbachik, Kamchatka began at around 10:45 (GMT). An initial ash plume rose to a height of 10 KM; ash was seen in satellite images. On 28th November, the KVERT raised the Alert Level to ORANGE. The KVERT reported that lava flows and ash explosions have broken out from the northern part of the 1975 eruptive fissure. Heavy ash falls (4 cm thick) have been reported in Krasny Yar, 35 KM away from Klyuchi village to the west. One Russian report stated “volcano’s top caldera is being filled with fresh and gushing lava” suggesting explosive eruptions and fire fountains from the summit.

One newspaper reported an eruption from Lokon-Empung volcano on November 28th. The eruption occurred at 10:05 (local time) sending an ash plume to a height of 3.5 KM a.s.l. Several ash plumes were also reported by the Darwin VAAC.

Paluweh volcano, Indonesia produced 2 ash plumes on 28 November. The plume travelled 30 KM to the west.

5 explosions were detected from Fuego volcano, Guatemala producing weak, grey plumes to a height of 4.1 KM a.s.l. that drifted 5 KM southwest.

Santa Maria, Guatemala, is still effusing 4 lava flows from its Santiaguito lava dome complex. Avalanches produced ash plumes that rose to heights of 3 KM and drifted 10 KM SSW. Incandescence was seen at night. - Volcano Discovery.

Mount Lokon volcano spews a giant column of volcanic ash during an eruption
seen from Tomohon town on Sulawesi Island, Indonesia.
Mount Lokon volcano in North Sulawesi erupted on Wednesday, spewing ash up to 3.5 kilometers to the sky, without report of fatality and evacuation, officials said.  Head of National Volcanology Surono said that the eruption took place at 10:05 local time (0205 GMT).  He said that the agency had asked people living near the crater to be alert.  "We issued warning to the people living 2.5 kilometers from the crater," Surono told Xinhua by phone.  Spokesman of National Disaster Management and Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Sutopo Purwo Nugroho confirmed that there was no evacuation after the eruption.  "There is still no need for evacuation," he told Xinhua by phone.  Indonesia, an archipelago country, is home to 129 active volcanoes. - Xinhua.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Rare Fall Tornado in Taranto, Italy - Twister Wrecks Steel Factory, Injuring 20 Workers!

November 28, 2012 - ITALY - A massive tornado hit a steel factory in Taranto, Italy, on Wednesday, injuring 20 workers.

Description of the video by YouTube poster Daniele Carbotti roughly translated from Italian:
"A tornado was seen, pointed at the industrial port of Taranto, that lifted considerable material from the ground...

Men stand by an overturned car after a tornado struck a steel plant in Taranto, southern Italy, Wednesday,
Nov. 28, 2012. A freak tornado has struck a steel plant in southern Italy that has been the center of a major
dilemma for Premier Mario Monti's government. (AP Photo/Lapresse).
In fact, you see a flash caused by damage to electrical equipment... Now you hear a lot of ambulances, certainly within the industrial center to administer first aid... THE KIND OF THING I HAVEN'T EVER SEEN. I just hope no one was hurt."

The whole of Italy and the western Mediterranean is under the sway of a powerful fall storm. Weather observations from nearby Grottaglie show stormy weather starting at 0700 UTC (through at least 1200 UTC) Wednesday, including strong southeasterly winds, thunderstorms and downpours.

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The climate of southern Italy is somewhat like that of California. The weather is wet and, at times, stormy in the cool months and much drier and quieter in the warm months. Rare tornadoes are consistent with such a climate in late fall/early winter.

"There have been a number of tornadoes in unusual parts of the world in the last couple of months," AccuWeather Enterprise Solution Senior Vice President Mike Smith said.

"That is partly because there are no tornadoes occurring here [in the United States]. Because we have unusual high pressure over the U.S., there is low pressure in unusual areas on other parts of the hemisphere." - Huffington Post.

WATCH: Huge Tornado Hits Taranto.

TERMINATOR NOW: The Rise of the Machines - DARPA Robotics Challenge Promises to Bring "SkyNet" Online With Advances in Robot Autonomy!

November 28, 2012 - UNITED STATES - In December 2014, robots will be tested in a disaster scenario to see if they can accomplish complicated tasks such as driving utility vehicles, removing debris blocking entryways, climbing ladders and traversing industrial walkways, and using power tools.

The Robosimian.
All of this will be part of the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DPC). The challenge aims to develop ground robots that can perform complex tasks and use available human tools, such as vehicles. The goal is to advance the robotic technologies of supervised autonomy, dismounted mobility, dexterity, and platform endurance. By using supervised autonomy, the robots developed will be able to be controlled by non-expert operators and enable effective operation despite low fidelity communications. The program also hopes to reduce cost by expanding the supplier base for these systems and their software.

What makes this program special is what these robots can do, they are meant as human stand-ins for situations where humans can't perform certain tasks. Because of this, the robots tend to look an awful lot like people, though there are some that are bizarre looking, such as the Robosimian, a design which has been proposed by the NASA-Jet Propulsion Lab. It looks like a four legged spider with robotic hands on each foot.

These machines are meant to use human tools, which has several obvious defense applications. They can operate weapons, navigate obstacles (for a preview, look at the Atlas Robot video below), and do just about anything a human can do physically. These are meant for much more than warfighting, however, and will be used for disaster relief and other dangerous non-combat situations. It will be exciting to see what sort of advanced technology comes out of this competition. Whether the robot that wins is humanoid or something completely different, this competition stands to change the face of robotics. - Military Aerospace.

WATCH:  DARPA's Pet-Proto Robot Navigates Obstacles.

 

AGE OF OBAMA & KILLER DRONES: Escalating Towards World War III - American Drones Ignite New Arms Race From Gaza To Iran To China!

November 28, 2012 - UNITED STATES - The drone wars are here. While President Obama ponders new legal and moral guidelines to govern America's growing use of armed robot aircraft, the world outside the White House is engaged in a revolutionary frenzy of building, arming and flying killer drones. Small, inexpensive and lethal, drones enable everyone from terrorists to the Chinese People's Liberation Army to engage in what the Pentagon acknowledges is a new arms race with "alarming" consequences. More than 50 countries operate surveillance drones and, increasingly, are fitting them with weapons. The U.S. covertly uses armed drones to assassinate alleged terrorists or insurgents in Pakistan, Sudan and Somalia. In Pakistan alone, some 2,341 people identified as Taliban and al Qaeda leaders have been killed, according to one authoritative account. Armed drones are increasingly active in Afghanistan as well, where they've completed 1,160 strike missions since 2009, according to the latest Air Force data. American spy drones operate globally, from the Western Pacific to Iran, where a secret U.S. spy drone was shot down last December. But American drones are not alone in the sky. Spy drones routinely shadow U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups and other military exercises. Drones crisscross the Persian Gulf. Israeli drones have circled over Gaza during the recent fighting there. Experts say it's a rare conflict that doesn't attract spy drones; even the United Nations has considered using drones to monitor the fighting in Congo.

A U.S. Predator armed with Hellfire missiles prowls the sky over
Afghansitan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt).
Using unmanned aircraft with cameras is nothing new, of course. But armed drone technology is different: the rapidly spreading technology gives attackers a new edge, whether they are clandestine terrorist gangs or global superpowers. Small and highly maneuverable, drones can befuddle air defense systems built to intercept big, lumbering aircraft. In the dismaying history of war machinery, armed drones are a "game-changing technology, akin to gunpowder, the steam engine, the atomic bomb -- opening up possibilities that were fiction a generation earlier but also opening up perils that were unknown a generation ago," said Peter W. Singer, an expert on drone technology and its ramifications for the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank. A new Pentagon study frets that enemy drones could be a "very serious threat" to U.S. aircraft carriers in the Pacific and elsewhere, as well as to "supply convoys and other combat support assets which have not had to deal with an airborne threat in generations." On the battlefield, an enemy could create chaos and confusion simply by flooding the airspace with drones, and any U.S. bases within drone range would have to be closed, the report said. "For UAVs [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles], the U.S. currently has limited dedicated defensive capabilities other than fighters or surface-to-air missiles, giving the enemy a significant asymmetric cost advantage," the Pentagon's Defense Science Board report concluded in its July 2012 study.
In essence, the study suggested, armed drones are the equivalent of the Improvised Explosive Device (IED), a simple, cheap and effective weapon which has forced the U.S. to spend billions of dollars in defense while experiencing growing casualties: 1,330 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan by IEDs, including 125 so far this year.

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An incident early last month dispelled any doubts about the spread of drone technology. On Oct. 6, a small unmanned aircraft flew high over Israel's Mediterranean coast, headed for its nuclear reactor at Dimona. Soaring for 35 miles through heavily guarded Israeli airspace, the intruder was eventually shot down by an Israeli F-16. Against such small and maneuverable threats, Israel's missile defenses -- including its Arrow and Iron Dome missile defense systems, so effective against rockets fired from Gaza this month -- are less effective. Israeli officials speculated the drone in October was on a reconnaissance mission or possibly a practice run for a later suicide attack on the nuclear site. Hezbollah, the radical Islamic militia and political party based in Lebanon, later claimed that it had assembled and launched the drone. Experts said the aircraft was in all likelihood provided by Iran, which already has operational drones and claims its newest drone, the Shahed-129, has a range of 1,250 miles. The distance from Tehran to Tel Aviv: 988 miles. A day after Israel shot down the Hezbollah drone, an armed Israeli drone fired a missile that wounded two activists and eight passers-by in Gaza. On Nov. 1, two Iranian jet fighters fired multiple rounds at an American Predator drone over the Persian Gulf; the spy drone was conducting "routine surveillance," Pentagon spokesman George Little explained. The drone got away unharmed.

Obama administration officials have said they are weighing various options to codify the use of armed U.S. drones, because the increased use of drones has been driven more by perceived necessity than by deliberative policy. But that effort is complicated by the wildfire spread of drone technology: how could the U.S. restrict its use of armed drones if others do not? Already, the Pentagon is worried that China not only is engaged in an "alarming" effort to develop and field high-tech drones, but it intends to sell drone technology abroad, according to the Pentagon report. Indeed, the momentum of the drone wars seems irresistible. "The increasing worldwide focus on unmanned systems highlights how U.S. military success has changed global strategic thinking and spurred a race for unmanned aircraft," the Pentagon study reported. Modern drones were first perfected by Israel, but the U.S. Air Force took the first steps in 2001 to mount sophisticated drones with precision weapons. Today the U.S. fields some 8,000 drones and plans to invest $36.9 billion to boost its fleet by 35 percent over the next eight years. Current research on next-generation drones seems certain to exacerbate the drone arms race. The U.S. and other countries are developing "nano" drones, tiny weapons designed to attack in swarms. Both the U.S. and China are working to incorporate "stealth" technology into micro drones. The Pentagon is fielding a new weapon called the Switchblade, a 5.5-pound precision-attack drone that can be carried and fired by one person -- a capability sure to be envied by terrorists. "This is a robotics revolution, but it's not just an American revolution -- everyone's involved, from Hezbollah to paparazzi," Singer, the Brookings Institution expert, told The Huffington Post. "This is a revolution in which billions and trillions of dollars will be made. To stop it you'd have to first stop science, and then business, and then war." - Huffington Post.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong Earthquake Shakes Eastern Indonesia - No Immediate Damage Reported!

November 28, 2012 - JAKARTA, INDONESIA - A strong earthquake struck the eastern part of Indonesia on Wednesday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. There were no immediate reports of damage. The magnitude-5.5 quake was centered 56 kilometers (35 miles) under the sea, the U.S. agency reported. Indonesian seismologist Fauzi, who uses one name, said there was no risk of a tsunami. Amelia Tagor, a resident of Tual, the town closest to the epicenter, said a brief tremor was felt, but no one panicked. "We felt it for a few seconds ... but it did not disturb our activities," she said. - Star Tribune.

USGS map.
Seismotectonics of the New Guinea Region and Vicinity.
The Australia-Pacific plate boundary is over 4000 km long on the northern margin, from the Sunda (Java) trench in the west to the Solomon Islands in the east. The eastern section is over 2300 km long, extending west from northeast of the Australian continent and the Coral Sea until it intersects the east coast of Papua New Guinea. The boundary is dominated by the general northward subduction of the Australia plate. The western end of the Australia-Pacific plate boundary is perhaps the most complex portion of this boundary, extending 2000 km from Indonesia and the Banda Sea to eastern New Guinea. The boundary is dominantly convergent along an arc-continent collision segment spanning the width of New Guinea, but the regions near the edges of the impinging Australia continental margin also include relatively short segments of extensional, strike-slip and convergent deformation. The dominant convergence is accommodated by shortening and uplift across a 250-350 km-wide band of northern New Guinea, as well as by slow southward-verging subduction of the Pacific plate north of New Guinea at the New Guinea trench. Here, the Australia-Pacific plate relative velocity is approximately 110 mm/yr towards the northeast, leading to the 2-8 mm/yr uplift of the New Guinea Highlands.

Whereas the northern band of deformation is relatively diffuse east of the Indonesia-Papua New Guinea border, in western New Guinea there are at least two small blocks of relatively undeformed lithosphere. The westernmost of these is the Birds Head Peninsula microplate in Indonesia's West Papua province, bounded on the south by the Seram trench. The Seram trench was originally interpreted as an extreme bend in the Sunda subduction zone, but is now thought to represent a southward-verging subduction zone between Birds Head and the Banda Sea. There have been 22 M7.5+ earthquakes recorded in the New Guinea region since 1900. The dominant earthquake mechanisms are thrust and strike slip, associated with the arc-continent collision and the relative motions between numerous local microplates. The largest earthquake in the region was a M8.2 shallow thrust fault event in the northern Papua province of Indonesia that killed 166 people in 1996... Large earthquakes in eastern Indonesia occur frequently but interplate megathrust events related to subduction are rare; this is likely due to the disconnection of the descending oceanic slab from the continental margin. There have been 9 M7.5+ earthquakes recorded from the Kai Islands to Sumba since 1900. The largest was the great Banda Sea earthquake of 1938 (M8.5) an intermediate depth thrust faulting event that did not cause significant loss of life. - USGS.

EXTREME WEATHER: "Biblical Scenes" in the United Kingdom - Freezing Weather Due After Floods, 4 Dead, 140 New Flood Warnings, and Mass Evacuations!

November 28, 2012 - BRITAIN - Temperatures are predicted to fall below freezing in many parts of England and Wales tonight, bringing more misery to residents in flood-ravaged areas. A severe weather warning was issued stating that the cold and wet conditions will lead to a high risk of ice on the roads and pavements. The alert also affects southeast Scotland. Temperatures could drop to minus 4C overnight and looking ahead to later in the week. Around 140 flood warnings - over a third in the Midlands - and a similar number of less serious alerts are still in place despite the rain easing.


Homeowners have continued to battle high water levels as a week of torrential rainfall works its way through river systems. Hundreds of homes were evacuated on Tuesday due to severe flooding in the Welsh town of St Asaph after the River Elwy reached a record high of 4.35 metres and burst through flood defences. This was more than 1 metre deeper than its previous record of 3.47 metres in November 2009. Those affected by the floods in the small Welsh city have been allowed back into their homes to begin task of clearing up and emergency services are still on hand to help. In Somerset, the county council is stepping in to help co-ordinate assistance to a stranded community of 120 people in Muchelney. All roads in and out of the village have been closed due to flooding for several days. But the council has contacted Burnham Area Rescue service which has sent its boat to help get food, drinks and support to residents.

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Sky's weather producer Joanna Robinson said: 'There's still a risk of flooding, as recent rain works its way through the river systems, but ice and freezing fog will become additional hazards over the next few days. 'It's much drier now and the rest of the week looks mainly dry, apart from showers around coastal counties, which will turn increasingly wintry. Ireland will see patchy rain moving in at times. 'The days will be cold and the nights will be frosty, with icy stretches possible after the recent wet weather. The chance of overnight fog will increase as well.' Four people have died since the latest bout of wet weather struck last week and around 900 people in England and Wales have fled their waterlogged homes after heavy rain left many properties uninhabitable. David Cameron has expressed sympathy for flood victims - describing the damage in St Asaph as 'biblical scenes'. At Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Cameron praised the emergency services and 'good neighbours' who had helped tackle the flooding. The PM also defended Government spending plans on flood defences, saying: 'The Government is planning to spend over 2bn over the next four years. 'That is 6 per cent less than over the previous four years, but we believe by spending the money better and by leveraging from private and other sectors we can increase that level of flood defence spending. 'The spending that is already under way will protect an additional 145,000 homes between now and 2015, but if we can go further, of course we should.' - SKY News.

PLANETARY TREMORS: 4.2 Magnitude Quake Rattles Quebec's Gaspe Region - Latest in Series of Small Quakes Felt in the Province!

November 28, 2012 - CANADA - A small earthquake likely shook awake a few people in the eastern Quebec town of Matane early this morning, but no damage was reported.

Natural Resources Canada says the 4.2-magnitude quake hit just before 3 a.m. ET just east of Matane on the Gaspé Peninsula.

Tuesday's earthquake was centred about eight kilometres from Matane in
Quebec's eastern Gaspé region. (Radio-Canada).
Provincial police received several 911 calls following the quake, but no damage was reported. The rumbling was reportedly felt as far away as Ste-Anne-des-Monts, about 90 kilometres east.

Quebec has experienced several small earthquakes in the past few months, several of which were powerful enough to cause some rattling.

On Oct. 10, thousands of people called 911 in and around Montreal after a 4.5-magnitude quake struck near Saint-Hyacinthe.

A month later, a 4.2-magnitude earthquake shook the Gatineau region.

Every year, about 200 small earthquakes occur in the Western Quebec Seismic Zone, roughly located in the area between Montreal and Ottawa.

Most of those quakes are small enough that they go unnoticed. - CBC.

SOLAR WATCH: Sunspot Region AR1620 Doubles in Size - Behemoth is Almost 10 Times as Wide as Earth, Chance For M-Class Eruptions!

November 28, 2012 - SUN - Fast growing sunspot AR1620 has a beta-gamma magnetic field that harbors energy for M-class solar flares.


BIG SUNSPOT KEEPS GROWING: Sunspot AR1620 doubled in size again yesterday. It is now a behemoth almost 10 times as wide as Earth. A movie from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the sunspot materializing over the past 48 hours. So far the sunspot has been relatively quiet, producing no strong flares. However, the sunspot's magnetic field is rapidly changing as the sunspot grows, and rapidly-changing magnetic fields have a tendency to reconnect and erupt. NOAA forecasters estimate a 35% chance of M-class eruptions in the next 24 hours.


LAST GASP: Decaying sunspot AR1618 (not to be confused with growing sunspot AR1620) erupted on November 27th (1557 UT), producing a last-gasp solar flare ranking M1.6 on the Richter Scale of Flares. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the extreme ultraviolet flash.

video

The movie shows a twisted plume of plasma flying away from the blast site, but only temporarily. The sun's gravity pulled the plume back to the stellar surface before it could escape. Extreme UV radiation from this explosion created some ripples of ionization in Earth's atmosphere above North America and Europe. Otherwise, the blast was not geoeffective. - Spaceweather.

UFO SIGHTINGS: Mysterious Lights in the Skies Over Rotorua, New Zealand Spark UFO Claims!

November 28, 2012 - NEW ZEALAND - Rotorua and the Bay of Plenty have been a hotbed of unusual aerial activity, with multiple sightings of strange phenomena in the region's skies. On Monday or Tuesday night on October 29 or 30, at least four people at the Challenge petrol station on Malfroy Rd witnessed five glowing orbs move slowly across the road toward Sunset Rd for about 30 seconds before they disappeared behind trees. A Challenge petrol station employee, who only wanted to be known as Michelle, said she and at least three others watched the orbs, which appeared about 8pm just before dark. "A customer came in and asked 'can you see that?', we were all wondering what was going on. "They were all perfectly round with a larger orange-coloured orb leading about four smaller orbs all in a line about the same distance apart. They were moving on an angle before they disappeared behind some trees." Michelle said the glowing orbs were in the sky about 200m to 300m away from the service station forecourt and they watched them for about 30 seconds.


"There's no way they were lights from a plane, they were too big and were not flashing. Our first thought was it was something military but there was no noise and they were just floating there. "We were all a bit freaked out but we weren't imagining things. I'm not one to sensationalise things ... I was reading the paper every day to see if anyone else had seen them." Michelle said they all knew they had seen something strange but she had not talked about it since. "People might think I'm a bit mad, but I was in the air force and I know what an aeroplane looks like," she said. In another recent sighting, a Lake Tarawera resident who wished to remain anonymous, said he photographed a bright orange orb as it slowly moved across the lake about two months ago. The man, who lives on Spenser Rd, said he and his wife watched a colourful floating orb for about five minutes before it floated off to the right of Rainbow Mountain heading toward Tauranga. "We saw it heading from roughly a southern position heading north low in the sky. It appeared to be a rotating ball with varying colours. It was not along any flights paths that I see airplanes on either. "It continued going north at a steady, relatively slow speed, so I had time to get out the camera but unfortunately the picture isn't that great."

The man said he was left with a strange feeling he had seen something out of the ordinary. During a number of separate sightings this month a rural Rotorua resident filmed what he described as a "blinking ufo object and big bright sphere object" as well as a "bright light ufo, strange skies ufo and fireballs". The man uploaded his films to the video sharing website YouTube identifying himself as horsefarmer1000. In one of the videos there is also an obvious meteor shower at the end and satellites in the sky. But, there are some floating, flashing lights in the videos which do not look like an aeroplane or helicopter. One of the videos has had more than 3280 views with the filming taking place on November 4 and November 8. Horsefarmer1000 declined to be interviewed by The Daily Post but links to his films were sent to New Zealand UFO investigation organisation Ufocus NZ. Ufocus director Suzanne Hansen said she had watched the videos but said without speaking to the person it was difficult to say what was going on. "I did not see anything that could not be explained in conventional terms. "If people believe they have captured a UFO on film, we are able to send it to the United States for photographic data analysis with either a physicist and optical data analyst, or a retired Nasa scientist, who assist Ufocus NZ in our work. "We think this is a more credible way of ascertaining its veracity than posting it on YouTube." However, Ms Hansen said the organisation had received some very detailed sighting reports in the Rotorua/Tauranga/Kaimai area in the past year.

"In December 2011 we received a report from a small group of witnesses who observed an object, which was not an aircraft, which came to within 15m of their position and "followed" them for a couple of kilometres. "In March of this year, we received a report from a scientist who had a similar experience at a Northland beach and who provided an identical description to that given by the December 2011 witnesses. She said in June, a person onboard an aircraft approaching Tauranga from Rotorua saw a silver/white disc-shaped object at a low altitude above the treetops and in July a retired commercial pilot saw a large silver spherical object accompanied by two white/silver V shaped objects over Tauranga Harbour. Ms Hansen said there had been numerous reports in the Bay of Plenty and throughout the country, of very large orange balls of light. "It is interesting to note that when the December 2011 witnesses first sighted an anomalous light, it was a large orange orb. As it came closer they were able to see the object within this orange glow. "At close proximity the object had "switched off" the glow and the witnesses were able to see considerable detail." Ms Hansen said the organisation had received more UFO sighting reports this year than in any other year. If you have had an encounter or sighting of a UFO you can contact Ms Hansen here. - NZ Herald.

WATCH: UFOs over Rotorua.

RED DAWN: Escalating Towards World War III - China Unveils New Killer Drones, Aims Them Directly At Russia!

November 28, 2012 - CHINA - Watch out, Vladimir Putin: China’s drone fleet is getting real. And judging from how Beijing is promoting its robots to the outside world, they’re aimed straight at Russia. That’s all from a glimpse of the biennial China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, held earlier his month in Zhuhai, which has become the main event for the latest in all things Chinese aircraft. It’s China’s largest aircraft expo, while also presenting an opportunity for Beijing to show off its growing robotic muscle — and potential buyers in the developing world. But until recently, the drones on display were usually mock-ups or drawings, not the real thing. This year, Beijing’s most prominent new drone is the dinosaur-named Wing Loong, or Pterodactyl, according to a round-up at Defense News. The drone is reportedly operational — China has previously shown only models of the drone — and closely resembles the U.S. MQ-9 Reaper, which the Pentagon uses to bomb insurgent hideouts in Pakistan. Few foreign journalists were reportedly allowed to see it, but photos and videos that appeared online prompted ace aviation journalist David Cenciotti to remark that the Wing Loong appeared “largely copied from the U.S. version.”

China’s Wing Loong drone, closely modeled on the U.S. MQ-9 Reaper, on display at the China International
Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai. Photo: Courtesy David Cenciotti.
But a lot cheaper. The Wing Loong reportedly comes at a rather incredible bargain price of $1 million, compared to the Reaper’s varying price tags in the $30 million range. Now, a word of caution to potential buyers: What you’re getting for that price might not be very capable. But aside from price, the Wing Loong can also reportedly fly for about 20 hours, up to a range of 2,500 miles. It also packs four “hard points” for mounting a variety of laser- and precision-guided bombs. Also pictured on Chinese television was the Wing Loong’s ground control room, similar to the ones used by U.S. drones, but with only three-screen-equipped workstations compared to the Reaper’s five. Another drone spotted with a clear resemblance to the Reaper is the CH-4. This drone was only a scale model, but reportedly has largely similar features to the Wing Loong. Its reported maximum range is shorter: a little over 2,000 miles, but has 10 hours more endurance time. Chinese companies also showed off a number of small mini-drones, and concept photos of a number of futuristic concepts, including a robotic shark, missile-spewing drone helicopters and unmanned bombers. The tech also included plenty of non-robotic items. There was a new anti-missile missile called the FD-2000. There was a Chinese copy of the U.S. military’s line of bomb-resistant MRAP trucks, a wearable computer system for ground troops, aircraft radars and a whole mess of various machine guns, anti-aircraft cannons and bombs. There was also a curious shift in how China was promoting its drones at Zhuhai. In recent years, a selling point for convention goers involved drones presented as U.S. warship killers. Exaggerated, yes, but a glimpse inside Chinese military thinking. In 2010, Chinese defense industries not-so-subtly advertised “bizarre renderings” that illustrated drones “swarming over aircraft carrier battle groups like angry bees,” Defense News reported. China Aerospace and Science Corporation (CASC) also displayed a mural of its WJ-600 drone firing a missile at a U.S. Arleigh Burke class destroyer.

This year, that was out. Illustrations of U.S. warships were likewise replaced by generic, stateless ships. And Russian ships. In one video seen this month, a sleek computer-animated combat drone called the Blue Shark flexed its muscles in an attack on a digitized Russian Admiral Kuznetsov class aircraft carrier. Perhaps images of bombing the U.S. Navy was a little too politically sensitive, in a kind of reverse backtrack like what plagued the atrocious Red Dawn remake. But the boosterism about blasting American ships to the bottom has also receded as Beijing has grown more confident in showing off its working drones. In recent years, the drones on display at Zhuhai largely — and once exclusively — came in the form of models or concept art. While interesting, the mock-ups presented an optimistic picture about China’s future drone fleet like the aforementioned illustrations of drones swooping down on American warships. And as sensational as that might look, it’s a long way from a battle-ready drone fleet. But neither are operational drones sitting on the tarmac, for that matter. But they may not necessarily need to be, if they’re for export. “We’ve been contacting many countries, especially from Africa and Asia,” Guo Qian, a director for CASC, told GlobalPost. “They are quite interested in the intermediate and short-range UAVs because they are portable and low-cost.” Which makes sense. If you’re the leader of a small or mid-sized Latin American, African or Asian country, a relatively cheap Chinese drone (that packs a punch) might not be a bad deal — think bargain shopping for flying death robots — compared to the more pricey American or Israeli drones, which happen to lead the world market. That means even if China’s drones won’t match the U.S. anytime soon, it may still spread them far and wide. And then what happens when the drones do match the Pentagon’s ‘bots, or come close? Who knows. Though we’ll probably see it first at Zhuhai. - WIRED.

WATCH: The Wing Loong Drone.

BIG BROTHER NOW: Texas Schools Install Tracking System - Despite Protests, Chips Pinpoint Exact Location of Students!

November 28, 2012 - TEXAS, UNITED STATES - To 15-year-old Andrea Hernandez, the tracking microchip embedded in her student ID card is a “mark of the beast,” sacrilege to her Christian faith — not to mention how it pinpoints her location, even in the school bathroom. But to her budget-reeling San Antonio school district, those chips carry a potential $1.7 million in classroom funds. Starting this fall, the fourth-largest school district in Texas is experimenting with “locator” chips in student ID badges on two of its campuses, allowing administrators to track the whereabouts of 4,200 students with GPS-like precision.

Kayla Saucedo, an eighth-grader at Anson Jones Middle School, uses her new ID card to check out a book in the
library in San Antonio. The fourth-largest school district in Texas is experimenting with “locator” chips in
student ID badges, allowing administrators to track the whereabouts of 4,200 students. (Associated Press).
Andrea’s refusal to participate isn’t a twist on teenage rebellion, but has launched a debate over privacy and religion that has forged rare like-mindedness between typically opposing groups. When Andrea and her parents balked at the so-called SmartID, the school agreed to remove the chip but still required her to wear the badge. The family refused on religious grounds, stating in a lawsuit that even wearing the badge was tantamount to “submission of a false god” because the card still indicated her participation. On Wednesday, a state district judge is expected to decide whether Northside Independent School District can transfer Andrea to a different campus. “How often do you see an issue where the ACLU and Christian fundamentalists come together? It’s unusual,” said Chris Steinbach, chief of staff for a Republican state lawmaker who has filed a bill to outlaw the technology in Texas schools. The concept isn’t new, but hasn’t exactly caught on nationwide. In 2005, the American Civil Liberties Union raised concerns about a similar initiative at a California school.

That same year, a suburban Houston school district began putting the chips in its student IDs, and served as the blueprint for Northside’s pilot program that began this fall. Ronald Stephens, executive director of the nonprofit National School Safety Center, said he didn’t think the technology to be widespread but predicted “it’ll be the next wave” in schools. The chips use radio-frequency identification (RFID) transmitters and only work on campus. The Northside school district spent roughly $261,000 to equip students at one high school and one middle school with SmartIDs, a decision made with safety and efficiency in mind, said district spokesman Pascual Gonzalez. Imagine quickly accounting for students in the event of a lockdown, he said, or cafeteria lines moving faster as scanners instantly identify who’s picking up that lunch tray. Yet the biggest motivation was financial. In Texas, school funding is based on daily attendance. The more students seated in homeroom when the first bell rings, the more state dollars the school receives. If a student is lingering in the hallway or the library when roll is called, the marked absence hurts the school’s bottom line. But with the locator chips — the district doesn’t like to call them “tracking” — a clerk in the main office can find out if a student is elsewhere on campus, and if so, include them in the attendance count. Every student found amounts to another $30 in funding, based on the school’s calculations. In that way, those moving red dots that represent students on the clerk’s computer screen are like finding change in the couch cushions. Mr. Gonzalez said the district has estimated another $1.7 million in funding if the program delivers on expectations, somewhat lessening the sting of losing $61.5 million after state lawmakers cut public school funding in Texas by nearly $5 billion last year. - Washington Times.

TERMINATOR NOW: Rise Of The Machines - Pentagon Declares That "A Human Will Always Decide When A Robot Kills You"; Frightening "Reassurance" Over Fears Of An Imminent Machine Apocalypse!

November 28, 2012 - UNITED STATES - The U.S. military has made clear that any future robot weapons systems will always need manual authorisation before opening fire on human targets.  The Department of Defense issued a new policy directive saying that any semi-autonomous weapons systems will be designed so they need human authorisation to open fire.  The promise comes after a Human Rights Watch report called for an international ban on 'killer robots', which the group warned could be deployed within 20 years.  Soon after that report was published, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter signed a series of instructions 'to minimise failures that could lead to unintended engagements or to loss of control' of armed robots. 

It's not going to happen... promise! The Pentagon has issued a new policy to head of fears that autonomous
robots will be designed to kill humans. Death from above: A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone takes off from
Kandahar, Afghanistan. Automatic firing: Raytheon's Phalanx gun system, which searches for enemy
missiles and automatically destroys incoming projectiles.
Policy directive 3000.09 says: 'Semi-autonomous weapon systems that are onboard or integrated with unmanned platforms must be designed such that, in the event of degraded or lost communications, the system does not autonomously select and engage individual targets or specific target groups that have not been previously selected by an authorised human operator.' In order to make sure this is the case, the Pentagon asks that the hardware and software controlling robot weapons comes equipped with 'safeties, anti-tamper mechanisms, and information assurance'. They must also be designed to have proper 'human-machine interfaces and controls'. Above all, they must 'allow commanders and operators to exercise appropriate levels of human judgement over the use of force'. The Pentagon's promise comes after a joint Human Rights Watch and Harvard Law School report raised the alarm over the ethics of allowing robots to take decisions as to when to open fire on humans. Although no U.S. drone is yet able to pull the trigger without a human operator's direction, the report warned that militaries worldwide are 'very excited' about machines that could one day be deployed alone in battle. There are already precedents for such machines. Raytheon's Phalanx gun system, already deployed on U.S. Navy ships, can search for enemy fire and destroy incoming projectiles by itself.  The Northrop Grumman X47B is a plane-sized drone able to take off and land on aircraft carriers, carry out air combat without a pilot and even refuel in the air.  And in South Korea, Samsung have developed an automated machine gun sentry robot that is able to spot unusual activity, challenge intruders and, when authorised by a human, aim at targets and open fire.  Faced with such worrying developments, the Losing Humanity report called for 'an international treaty that would absolutely prohibit the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons.'   

Steve Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch, added: 'A number of governments, including the United States, are very excited about moving in this direction, very excited about taking the soldier off the battlefield and putting machines on the battlefield and thereby lowering casualties.'  While Mr Goose admitted such 'killer robots' do not exist as yet, he warned of precursors and added that the best way to forestall an ethical nightmare is a 'preemptive, comprehensive prohibition on the development or production of these systems.'  The Pentagon's latest promise could offer some relief for those worried about the possibility of automating warfare, with the new policy mandating a team of senior officials to certify that any weapon meets stringent conditions before agreeing to its development or purchase.  However, the directive does leave the way completely open for increased autonomy in a range of military robots that aren't intended as killing machines.  It '[d]oes not apply to autonomous or semi-autonomous cyberspace systems for cyberspace operations; unarmed, unmanned platforms; unguided munitions; munitions manually guided by the operator (e.g., laser- or wire-guided munitions); mines; or unexploded explosive ordnance,' the policy says.  That means the Pentagon does not need to apply similar safeguards when developing computer viruses, bugs or surveillance drones.  As Wired puts it: 'While everyone’s worried about preventing the Rise of the Machines, the machines are getting a pass to spy on you, under their own power.' - Daily Mail.

MIDDLE EAST CONFLICT: Escalating Towards World War III - Iranian Scientists Running Simulations of Large Nuclear Weapon - Diagram Suggests Tehran's Planned Bomb Would be Three Times Stronger Than Hiroshima Blast!

November 28, 2012 - IRAN - Iranian scientists have run computer simulations for a nuclear weapon that would produce more than triple the explosive force of the World War II bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, according to a diagram obtained by The Associated Press.

The diagram was leaked by officials from a country critical of Iran’s atomic program to bolster their arguments that Iran’s nuclear program must be halted before it produces a weapon. The officials provided the diagram only on condition that they and their country not be named. The International Atomic Energy Agency — the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog — reported last year that it had obtained diagrams indicating that Iran was calculating the “nuclear explosive yield” of potential weapons. A senior diplomat who is considered neutral on the issue confirmed that the graph obtained by the AP was indeed one of those cited by the IAEA in that report. He spoke only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue.

The undated diagram that was given to the AP by officials of a country critical of Iran’s atomic program allegedly calculating the explosive force of a nuclear weapon. The curve peaks at just above 50 kilotons at around 2 microseconds, reflecting the full force of the weapon being modeled. The Farsi writing at the bottom translates “changes in output and in energy released as a function of time through power pulse” (photo credit: AP).
The IAEA report mentioning the diagrams last year did not give details of what they showed. But the diagram seen by the AP shows a bell curve — with variables of time in micro-seconds, and power and energy both in kilotons — the traditional measurement of the energy output, and hence the destructive power of nuclear weapons. The curve peaks at just above 50 kilotons at around 2 microseconds, reflecting the full force of the weapon being modeled. The bomb that the United States dropped on Hiroshima in Japan during World War II, in comparison, had a force of about 15 kilotons. Modern nuclear weapons have yields hundreds of times higher than that. The diagram has a caption in Farsi: “Changes in output and in energy released as a function of time through power pulse.” The number “5” is part of the title, suggesting it is part of a series. David Albright, whose Institute for Science and International Security is used by the U.S. government as a go-to source on Iran’s nuclear program, said the diagram looks genuine but seems to be designed more “to understand the process” than as part of a blueprint for an actual weapon in the making. “The yield is too big,” Albright said, noting that North Korea’s first tests of a nuclear weapon were only a few kilotons. Because the graph appears to be only one in a series, others might show lower yields, closer to what a test explosion might produce, he said. The senior diplomat said the diagram was part of a series of Iranian computer-generated models provided to the IAEA by the intelligences services of member nations for use in its investigations of suspicions that Iran is trying to produce a nuclear weapon. Iran denies any interest in such a weapon and has accused the United States and Israel of fabricating evidence that suggests it is trying to build a bomb. - Times of Israel.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Credit Rating Agency Fitch Downgrades Argentina by Five Notches and Predicts Default!

November 28, 2012 - ARGENTINA - Fitch cut its long-term rating for Argentina to "CC" from "B," a downgrade of five notches, and cut its short-term rating to "C" from "B".  A rating of "C" is one step above default, AP reported.  US judge Thomas Griesa of Manhattan federal court last week ordered Argentina to set aside $1.3bn for certain investors in its bonds by December 15, even as Argentina pursues appeals. 

Fitch also said that Argentina's economy has slowed sharply this year. Photo: AFP.
Those investors don't want to go along with a debt restructuring that followed an Argentine default in 2002. If Argentina is forced to pay in full, other holders of debt totaling more than $11bn are expected to demand immediate payment as well.  Argentine politicians, even those opposed to President Cristina Fernandez, have nearly unanimously criticized the judge's ruling as threatening the success of the debt relief that enabled Argentina to grow again.  Ratings by agencies like Fitch are used by investors to evaluate the safety of a country's debt. Lower ratings can make it more expensive for countries to borrow money on the bond market, exacerbating their financial problems.

Argentina is in a deepening recession and is grappling with social unrest. Besides the court case, Fitch cited a "tense and polarized political climate" and public dissatisfaction with high inflation, weak infrastructure and currency.  Fitch also said that Argentina's economy has slowed sharply this year.  Of the two other major rating agencies, Standard & Poor's has a rating of "B-" for Argentina, five steps above default, and Moody's rates it "B3 negative", also five steps above default. - Telegraph.