Monday, December 24, 2012

MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFF: Unusual Epidemic - Mysterious Coral Disease Strikes Hawaiian Island Killing Large Number Of Corals?!

 December 24, 2012 - HAWAII - An unusual epidemic of coral disease has been killing a large number of corals on the north shore of the Hawaiian island, Kunai, according to researchers at the University of Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.  Examination of the diseased areas, called lesions, suggests a mysterious cyanobacterial infection. Known for causing blooms in freshwater lakes, some species of Cyanobacteria, a type of blue-green algae, produce toxins that can sicken aquatic life, animals and even humans. However, the researchers said the current outbreak appear limited to corals. 

USGS scientist Thierry Work takes a sample from diseased coral at Tunnels Reef
on the north shore of Kauai, Hawaii. © USGS.
The coral disease outbreak is said to be the first such cynobacterial infection documented in Hawaii on such a large scale. The university researchers are collaborating with USGS scientists to identify the cause of infection and what is promoting the outbreak.  "An unusually large amount of sediment is present on two affected reefs, and this is known to adversely affect corals in other areas. However, what role sediment or other land based pollution has in driving this disease remains unclear," USGS said in a release. 

Climate Change linked to Outbreak?
Climate change has adversely affected the coral reefs of Hawaii and it's likely that like other possible causes such as land-based pollution, climate change could also be responsible for the coral disease outbreak. "Wildlife disease outbreaks are indicators that something is awry in the environment. Understanding causes of disease and what drives those causes is important because this information helps management agencies make informed decisions to prevent further spread of the disease or minimize impact of disease. Understanding the role and causes of disease in corals and their prevention may contribute to prevention of additional outbreaks and aid in their recovery."  Coral reefs around the world support over one million species of plants and animals. They are important both environmentally and economically.  "Coral reefs are important to Hawaii's underwater environments and the financial well-being of its tourism industry. Like it or not, ecosystem health is closely intertwined with human and animal health," said USGS scientist Thierry Work. - Science World Report.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Tracking the Taal Volcano in the Philippines - Earthquakes and Increased Water Temperature in the Crater Lake!

December 24, 2012 - PHILIPPINES - There are more signs that Taal volcano could wake up in a not too distant future: PHILVOLCS reported new small earthquakes (8 between 21 and 22 December) and detected a small increase in the water temperature of the crater lake during the recent field campaign.

Aerial photo of Taal Volcano.
In addition, a slight inflation and increase in carbon dioxide emissions by about 15% were measured.

This suggests that magma started to rise in the underground. However, PHILVOLCS scientists do not expect an eruption in a near future and the alert level remains at yellow (unrest, no eruption imminent). - Volcano Discovery.

Taal Volcano is a complex volcano located on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. Historical eruptions are concentrated on Volcano Island, an island near the middle of Lake Taal. The lake partially fills Taal Caldera, which was formed by powerful prehistoric eruptions between 140,000 to 5,380 BP. The volcano had several violent eruptions in the past causing loss of life in the island and the populated areas surrounding the lake, with the death toll estimated at around 5,000 to 6,000. Because of its proximity to populated areas and its eruptive history, the volcano was designated a Decade Volcano, worthy of close study to prevent future natural disasters. It is one of the active volcanoes in the Philippines and part of the Pacific Ring of Fire.  - Wikipedia.

MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFF: "Of Special Concern" - Moose Population in Minnesota in Mysterious Decline?!

December 24, 2012 - UNITED STATES - Fly over northeastern Minnesota with "Sky Dan" and you'd see a moose. One time, he spotted 15 of them during an hour flight. The pilot was so confident, he even offered those on his aerial tours a money-back guarantee. "If you didn't see a moose, you didn't pay," Dan Anderson, 49, said. No longer. Anderson stopped providing refunds to customers in 2008. He was handing back too much money.

© Times Leader.
The state's iconic moose population has been mysteriously declining for years, a drop-off that pushed the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources this month to propose labeling moose a species of "special concern." "It's a classification that means we need to pay attention to this species," said Richard J. Baker, endangered species coordinator for the department. The exact reason for the decline remains unknown, though experts have named some likely culprits, including climate change, parasites, disease, predators and nutrition. "It could be a host of things," said Lou Cornicelli, wildlife research manager for the Department of Natural Resources. Cornicelli said moose aren't trotting off to other states or Canada, either. "The ones in our state are just dying," he said.

For Minnesotans, those deaths hit home. Moose are a cultural symbol of the wilderness and carry a certain mystique. The animal graces the signs of diners, bars, lodges and more. Each fall, the city of Grand Marais holds its Moose Madness festival on a long weekend during moose mating season. "They do go a little crazy in the fall, which is a good thing if you keep your distance," said Sally Nankivell, executive director of the Cook County Visitors Bureau. For three days, the town of roughly 1,350 along Lake Superior puts on a show. There are free stuffed toy moose for the children, stenciled moose tracks on the ground and a moose-themed poetry contest - both haiku and limerick. The festival has its own mascot: Murray the Moose. Though the Minnesota moose is in trouble, experts say it's premature to label the mammal a lost cause. "It's not a worry they are going to disappear yet. It's more, 'Let's do what we can to get them back,' " said Ron Moen, a wildlife biologist with the University of Minnesota, Duluth. - Times Leader.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Extreme Weather in Europe Stuns Scientists - "Unusual Configuration" of the Jet Stream, Deadly Unseasonable Cold Wave in Russia, Widespread Flooding in Britain, Severe Heat Wave in France and Italy?!

December 24, 2012 - EUROPE - From deadly cold in Russia, floods in Britain and balmy conditions that have residents in southwest France rummaging for their bathing suits, the weather has gone haywire across Europe in the days leading up to Christmas. The mercury in Moscow has fallen to minus 25 degrees Celsius (minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit) -- unseasonably cold in a country where such chills don't normally arrive until January or February.

Jet stream across Europe.
The cold has claimed 90 lives in Russia since mid-December and 83 in Ukraine, with eastern Eurasia in the grips of an unusually icy month that has seen temperatures drop to as low as minus 50 degrees C in eastern Siberia. Another 57 people have died from the cold in Poland this month, and officials say the icy front is probably "the most severe of the last 70 years," according to Regis Crepet, a forecaster with Meteo-Consult. While the former Eastern bloc shivers and Britain fights severe flooding after heavy rains, holiday-makers and residents in the south of France and in Italy have dug out their shorts and swimwear to welcome an unexpected blast of beach weather. Temperatures on Sunday climbed to 24.3 degrees C in Biarritz on the Atlantic coast, nearly 12 degrees hotter than the seasonal average, and nudging the 1983 record of 24.4 degrees C.

"These are remarkable temperatures that we do not see every year," French weather forecaster Patrick Galois said. In Catania on Italy's Sicily coast, beach temperatures on Christmas day are forecast to climb as high as 22 degrees C in some places, while in Austria, the small village of Brand at an altitude of more than 1,000 metres (3,200 feet), noted a December 24 record of 17.7 degrees C. Tim Palmer, professor of climate physics at Oxford University, told AFP the weather extremes are explained by the northern hemisphere "jet stream", a ribbon of air that speeds around the planet high up in the atmosphere. The stream is akin to a length of rope "that you wiggle a bit", said Palmer -- its undulations differing from year to year. This winter the jet stream is particularly wavy, pulling cold air in over Russia from the far north, and bringing hotter air up from the south over France and its neighbours. "The question: Is the waviness and the unusual configuration of the jet stream the result of climate change? We don't know. The models are probably not quite good enough to tell us," said Palmer, though there was "some evidence" this may be the case. "It is quite possible that carbon dioxide (being pumped into the atmosphere by human activity) is having the effect of making this jet stream waviness more intense," said the weather expert, but cautioned against apportioning premature blame for what may simply be localised weather glitches. - Terra Daily.

FUK-U-SHIMA: Japan Nuclear Dead Zone Spreads Far And Wide - Freaky Mutant Bugs Found In Chiba Prefecture?!

December 24, 2012 - JAPAN - Teachers from a school in Chiba found some strange mutant beetles. Someone had brought them in to a store that deals with bugs and the teachers from Chiba happened to be there when they were brought in. The bugs were collected from someone in Ibaraki.

The stag beetles have a clear male and female species. The example male is on the left in the photo and the female is on the right. The hermaphrodite beetle in is the middle. The beetle is about 5cm long and has female legs and body shape but a male head and claws. The teachers didn’t come out and blame the radiation levels from Fukushima but there have been mounting cases of insect mutations found in the radiation zones in the region. - Simple Info.

 Mutated stag beetle was found in Ushiku city Ibaraki prefecture this June. It has male head and female body.  The expert of local animal, Mr. Shimizu comments,
Because of chromosomal abnormality, you often see the stag beetle of right/left half body as different sex, but I never expected such a one of male head with female body exists, I was rather shocked. You can’t see it more than once in a life... Probably this is the first discovery of the stag beetle that has separated sex such clearly... Multiple experts talks, biologically, it’s close to female, has the function to bear eggs...
- Fukushima Diary.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Liquid Oil Is Coming From Bubbles In The Center Of The Giant Louisiana Sinkhole!

December 24, 2012 - LOUISIANA, UNITED STATES - Here are excerpts from the recent Texas Brine Company, LLC UPDATES on the giant sinkhole in Assumption Parish, Louisiana:

December 21, 2012 LEAN flyover of giant sinkhole in Assumption Parish, Louisiana. Source: Joint flight for
Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, Louisiana Environmental Action Network and Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper;
Flight courtesy of SouthWings.
December 18, 2012
A wireline measuring device found a narrow opening near the center that descended to 410 feet [and] is the most probable source of the bubbling that continues in the center of the sinkhole surface
December 19, 2012
The light bubbling that continues in the center of the sinkhole is delivering an emulsified liquid hydrocarbon material to the surface
December 20, 2012
Light bubbling continues to be observed in the center of the sinkhole. The emulsified hydrocarbon that is rising to the surface with the bubbling has been contained
December 21, 2012
The light bubbling that has been observed in the center of the sinkhole has diminished significantly
December 22, 2012
Very light bubbling was still observed in the center of the sinkhole. [...] After today, no further clean-up activity is scheduled until Wednesday, December 26

See photos of the ‘light bubbling’ HERE.

View photos of pollution escaping the sinkhole area HERE.

UFO SIGHTINGS: Increased UFO Activity in Southeast Asia - UFOs Appear Many Times In Vietnam?!

December 24, 2012 - VIETNAM - More and more people in Vietnam have stated that they could see UFOs with their eyes, or could take picture of UFOs which they believed come from other planets. Most recently, an UFO appeared on the sky in the central province of Thanh Hoa. A picture showing a strange flying object was made public. The author of the picture was Le Khac Dat, 19, who lives in Hoang Ha Commune of Hoang Hoa district. Dat said the picture was taken at about 5 pm of December 9, 2012. Dat did not discover any strange thing when he took picture. However, later, when he reviewed the picture, he discovered an unfamiliar subject on the picture. The original picture of Dat has stirred up the public. Local people thought that this was really an UFO from another planet, who came to learn more about human beings. Meanwhile, others believed that Dat used his Photoshop skills to fabricate the story about UFO. However, the people, who saw the original picture, said they could not find any signs showing that the boy made some changes to the picture. People still have doubts about the phenomenon. The problem is that the UFO can be seen only on Dat’s picture, while no other person saw any flying object on the sky at that moment.

Strange light stain in HCM City.
On July 26, 2011, a 26 second video clip showing a light stain that moved slowly and then faded out suddenly in HCM City was posted on YouTube. A lot of people believed that this was an UFO. The author of the clip said he recorded the images at about 0 am of July 25, and the place was an apartment block in district 3 in HCM City. The video clip then raised people’s curiosity, who tried to analyze it to find out if these were “artificial images.” However, the author of the clip said he himself was not sure if this was an UFO.

WATCH: Strange light stain in HCM City in 2011.

The photogenic UFO in capital city.
At 5 pm of October 28, 2010, Nguyen Xuan Vu in Hanoi recorded the images of a flying object which created stain of light on the sky. It looked like a burning object flying from the outer space through the earth’s atmosphere. However, Nguyen Duc Phuong from the Vietnam Astronomical Universe Society said on local newspapers that this was a civil airplane.

The UFO in Dong Nai in 1991.
A blogger has affirmed that an UFO once appeared in 1991 in a small village in Thong Nhat district of Dong Nai province. The blogger affirmed that on a day of the 1991’s summer, he saw a column of red fire rising above a tree tens of years old just for several seconds before it disappeared. Scientists have not given any explanation about the UFO in Dong Nai province. There has been no proof to say that this is an “artificial” UFO. The flying object appeared in a quiet and remote area, where material facilities are very poor, and it is nearly impossible to find fuel to create such a big column of fire, like the one created from a spaceship that is leaving the launching pad. - Vietnam Net Bridge.

CRYPTOZOOLOGY: A New Realm Of UFOlogy - "Flying Rods" Discovered in Sabah, Malaysia; Mysterious Super-Flying Life Forms Filmed?!

December 24, 2012 - MALAYSIA - A mysterious insect-like creature that has been captured on film in several parts of the world but never physically and also not scientifically explained because of the tremendous speed at which it travels has also been found in Sabah.  Called, among others, "flying rods", "skyfish" and "solar entities", these creatures are invisible to the naked eye and can only be noticed on slow motion camera and resemble a flying centipede. 

First made known to the world in 1994 in Roswell, New Mexico, by an Unidentified Flying Object enthusiast who was attempting to film an UFO - at the site of what is believed to be an UFO landing in 1947 - people in several parts of the world have since also claimed to have captured images of the creature and put them on the Internet.  They were, initially, dismissed as some super-flying insect specie unknown to man until technology made it possible to capture them using today's sophisticated cameras.  There are sceptics who still dismiss them as tricks of light or camera but other sceptics who have studied newer images of these so-called creatures have begun to acknowledge their existence although unable to pin them down as insects, a paranormal creation or even a possible alien life form.  "We are very excited with our discovery and what this means to Sabah in terms of research in the new realm of cryptozoology or even UFOlogy given that their existence has stirred so much controversy and debate worldwide," said Matthew Lazenby @ Jigger, an enterpreneur and avid traveller.  The Sabah discovery was made two weeks ago by this British national who has a particular interest in cave systems and was indulging in his favourite pastime while on holiday here.  He and a renowned local tour guide, John Nair, decided to get deep into an inaccessible cave using a helmet-mounted camera.  "We chose a cave that no one has been for a long time to find out if there would be anything of interest," said Nair, who specialises in adventure trails and whose expertise is often sought by documentary film makers such as the BBC.  "We were surprised at what we found when reviewing the video," said Matthew, who was aware of the existence of "flying rods" in the Internet and having seen documentaries done on the subject in TV's "Monster Quest" series.  "We did not know they were there until we reviewed the video footage.  For obvious reasons we will not disclose the cave's location until we have devised a sure-fire method of successfully trapping them on the next visit to this cave."  He explained:

"The first thing we noticed were, of course, bats.  But as we slowed down the speed we noticed what seemed to be like little specks that got bigger and bigger.  "As we were going further and further into the cave, we noticed (upon slowing the film) more and more of these theoretical insects, since there is no official name given to them.  "We don't even know if they were an insect specie or creature of some sort that holds an element of intelligence that interacts with other entities or animal species," Matthew said.  They are bent on trapping these on their next visit.  "If we managed to trap these specimens, we want to make sure that Sabah gets the credit as it will be a world first.  "Already the news that we have discovered them in Sabah should make the State a magnet for scientists researching unexplained matter," Matthew said. A previous attempt to capture "flying rods" in China only yielded only moths and other insects.  What separates the Sabah footages from those taken elsewhere are the sheer abundance. "We even have footages of bats trying to avoid colliding with these creatures. Bats are never frightened of insects.  "I have one footage of a group of them together and you can see them turning at extreme speed. They even chased a bat away.  No one has got footage of this. It's never been seen before.  This bat was minding its own business until these rods appeared like it was terrified of them.  "Also, previous footages also using high speed cameras captured them in sparse environments.  But our Sabah recordings show for the first time that these creatures have very powerful sensors that prevent them from smashing into the walls of the caves like making U-turns at the last moment.  Insects can't do this," he said.  "The way they move is nothing like we know in the animal or insect kingdom or even aircraft in terms of speed. It's the fastest thing you have ever seen and can turn on a dine.  "Upon examining a blown up frame of their body, one can notice it has seven segments and look like they have wings, which is why they are called rods."  Matthew hopes that when they managed to successfully capture these mysterious life forms, scientists would be able to also find out how they manage to travel at such great speeds, what they feed on and perhaps where they come from. - Daily Express.

MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFF: Hypothermic Sea Turtles Continue To Wash Up In Record Numbers On Cape Cod!

December 24, 2012 - UNITED STATES - Hypothermic sea turtles continue to wash up in record numbers on Cape Cod but in an unusual twist, two large loggerhead sea turtles have stranded on South Shore beaches since Monday. On Tuesday, Hull animal control officer Casey Fredette retrieved a live loggerhead from Nantasket Beach while on Monday another 40-pounder was rescued in the Humarock section of Scituate.  Cold-stunned sea turtles strand annually on Cape Cod but almost always on the southern and eastern beaches of Cape Cod Bay from Sandwich to Truro. Typically, the northwest and northeast winds of late autumn create enough wave activity to drive the floating, nearly immobile marine reptiles ashore on those windward towns. Strandings on the South Shore are very rare events, and normally are confined to the discovery of long dead, smaller turtles early in the winter. 

This distressed loggerhead sea turtle was found on Nantasket Beach in Hull.
Another turtle was found earlier in the week in Humarock.
Hardy beach walkers on Cape Cod are familiar with the drill of what to do when they encounter stranded sea turtles as they call the Mass Audubon Sanctuary at Wellfleet Bay, which is the sea turtle first responder organization for the Cape. However, for South Shore residents, this is an unusual event.  Earlier in the week, well-meaning but misdirected beach walkers tried to return a hypothermic sea turtle to the frigid waters that it was trying to escape. Instead, those finding a sea turtle whether alive or appearing dead, should call the Aquarium's Marine Animal Hotline at 617-973-5427 or contact their local animal control officer. Washed - up sea turtles with body temperatures in the 40s and with heartbeats as low as one per minute may appear dead but can still be re-warmed and revived at the Aquarium's off-site animal care center in the Quincy Shipyard.  Aquarium officials are puzzled by the unusual stranding locations but are asking for the public's help in watching for more turtles on South Shore beaches. These two loggerheads were easy to see given their fairly large size and beautiful, chestnut brown shells,. However, most of the turtles that wash up are much smaller at 2 to 12 pounds and black in color, which blends in with other flotsam at the high tide line on a beach. These turtles are Kemp's Ridleys, which are the most endangered sea turtle in the world.  This most strange sea turtle stranding season for many reasons marches on.

This past Saturday, 13 hypothermic sea turtles were brought to Quincy from Cape Cod. That is an unusually large number for a single day this late in December. Double digit admission dates are not common and normally happen in November. Among the 13 were nine loggerhead sea turtles. In a typical year, the Aquarium might treat 4-6 large loggerheads in its two-month long season. The two additional South Shore loggerheads over the past 24 hours brings the total number of stranded loggerheads total to 45! The 40 to 100 pound loggerheads create a strain on available tank space at the Aquarium's new sea turtle hospital that has a capacity of about 100 sea turtles.  A total of 74 re-warmed and stabilized sea turtles have been transported to other marine animal rescue facilities up and down the East Coast, including 35 sea turtles that were flown from Cape Cod to Florida aboard a Coast Guard plane earlier this month. To help with the overwhelming clinical demand of caring for so many sea turtles, biologists from the Virginia Aquarium, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, the Riverhead Foundation on Long Island and IFAW on Cape Cod have been brought in to assist.  The Aquarium welcomes financial donations to help offset the cost of such an unexpected record event. Over the past 20 years, the Aquarium in partnership with Mass Audubon has rescued, rehabbed and released over 1,000 endangered sea turtles. - Wicked Local.

EXTREME WEATHER ALERT: Major Outbreak of Severe Weather Across the United States - Major Winter Storm Dumps Rain and Snow on California Now Heads East, Damaging Tornadoes Threatens Southeast Texas to Florida!

December 24, 2012 - UNITED STATES - An outbreak of severe weather, including tornadoes, threatens to ruin Christmas Day for families and communities across the Gulf Coast states.  The area at greatest risk for damaging thunderstorms and tornadoes on Christmas Day stretches from southeastern Texas to the Florida Panhandle and southwestern Georgia.  That zone is home to College Station and Houston, Texas, Lafayette, Baton Rouge and New Orleans, La., Jackson and Gulfport, Miss., Montgomery and Mobile, Ala., Pensacola, Fla., and Albany, Ga. meteorologists are especially concerned for the potential for loss of life with this outbreak since it will actually commence during the predawn hours of Christmas across southeastern Texas.  Tornadoes touching down during the nighttime hours is always a dangerous situation as people may sleep through vital warnings or have difficulty seeing an approaching twister. The severe weather danger will then expand eastward on Christmas Day, encompassing central and southern Louisiana, the southern half of Mississippi and Alabama and southwestern Georgia and the Florida Panhandle.  In addition to tornadoes causing destruction, severe thunderstorms capable of unleashing damaging winds and flooding rain are a serious concern.  The violent thunderstorms should organize into a solid line by Tuesday night and march across Alabama, northern Florida and Georgia with damaging winds.  The severe weather danger should reach the Southeast coast, from eastern North Carolina to northeastern Florida, on Wednesday.  Wilmington, N.C., Charleston, S.C., Savannah, Ga., and Jacksonville, Fla., are among the communities at risk this day. The same storm set to trigger the impending severe weather outbreak will also spread a swath of significant snow from the southern Plains to the eastern Great Lakes and Northeast from Christmas Day to Thursday.  Ahead of this storm, another system is triggering showers and thunderstorms across the South today. Thunderstorms causing damage this Christmas Eve would be extremely isolated occurrences, but the danger of lightning striking anyone spending the day outdoors still exists. - AccuWeather.

U.S. Weather Hazards for the Next 7 Days. 
A major winter storm that on Sunday was dumping steady rain and snow on Northern California could strengthen as it makes its way east, promising a White Christmas – and travel headaches – for a wide swath of the country.  The storm will deposit snow from California’s Sierra mountains to New England through Friday morning, forecasters said. “Unfortunately, this occurs not only during the Christmas holiday, but also in the peak travel period after Christmas Day in the South, Midwest and East,” said.  Forecasters warned that roads would become treacherous Christmas Day and Christmas night from the High Plains of western Kansas and the Texas Panhandle eastward into Oklahoma, extreme north Texas, Arkansas and into the mid-Mississippi Valley. There was also the potential for severe thunderstorms with damaging winds, hail and tornadoes in parts of the South on Christmas Day, said Greg Forbes, The Weather Channel’s severe weather expert.  The storm was expected to reach the Northeast Wednesday, bringing gusty winds and widespread precipitation. Whether that precipitation will be snow or rain remains to be seen. - NBC News.

WATCH: New storm could pose holiday travel headaches across America.

TERMINATOR NOW: The Rise of the Machines - Swiss Aim to Birth Advanced Humanoid in 9 Months!

December 24, 2012 - ZURICH, SWITZERLAND -  Here's a robotics challenge for you: create an advanced humanoid robot in only nine months.  That's what engineers at the University of Zurich's Artificial Intelligence Lab are trying to do with Roboy, a kid-style bot that's designed to help people in everyday environments.  Researchers around the world are trying to create useful humanoids. One interesting aspect of Roboy is its tendon-driven locomotion system.  Like Japan's Kenshiro humanoid, Roboy relies on artificial muscles to move; in the future, it will be covered with a soft skin.

(Credit: Roboy).
Roboy could become a prototype for service robots that will help elderly people remain independent for as long as possible.  It's based on an earlier, one-eyed machine called Ecce, which looks something like a cyclops version of Skeletor. It was designed to be "the first truly anthropomimetic robot." Except the eye, of course.  Already well along in its development (check out the video below), Roby is expected to be born in March 2013, when it will be unveiled at the Robots on Tour event in Zurich. The lab is seeking donations to fund the work, including branding opportunities.  If you have 50,000 Swiss francs ($55,000) lying around, you can get your logo on Roboy, and strike terror into the hearts of your enemies. - CNET.

WATCH: Roboy - A new generation of humanoid robot.

SHADOW WARS: The Encircling of Iran - NATO Picks Three Turkish Sites For Patriot Missiles, UK Moves Troops In The Gulf, Ahmadinejad Says That Iran In A 'Smart War' With The West, Israel "Taking Steps" To Counter Syrian Chemical Weapons Threat, Russian Military Presence In Syria Poses Challenge To US-Led Intervention, 'Hamas Preparing For West Bank Takeover'!

December 24, 2012 - MIDDLE EAST - NATO says it has picked three sites in southern Turkey to base batteries of Patriot surface-to-air missiles intended to boost the nation’s air defenses against possible spillover from Syria. Germany, the Netherlands and the United States will provide two batteries each of an advanced version of the Patriot optimized to shoot down incoming missiles. More than 1,000 troops from the three nations will service the batteries.

An illustrative photo of a Patriot missile system (photo credit: CC-BY-SA Darkone/Wikimedia Commons).
NATO Picks Three Turkish Sites For Patriot Missiles.
Spokeswoman Oana Lungescu reiterated in a statement Saturday that the deployment will be purely defensive and will not support a no-fly zone inside Syria. The Germans will be based unit at Kahramanmaras, located about 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of the Syrian border; the Dutch at Adana, about 100 kilometers (66 miles) west; and the Americans at Gaziantep, about 50 kilometers north. Earlier Saturday, Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi warned that NATO Patriot missile batteries deployed along the Turkey-Syria border will harm Turkish security. Vahidi was quoted by the semi-official Iranian Students’ News Agency saying, “The installation of Patriot missiles in Turkey plays no role in establishing Turkey’s security and this harms the country of Turkey.” Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi earlier this week also condemned what it called Turkey’s provocative deployment of Patriot batteries. “It is believed here that stationing these missiles in Turkey is an act of provocation, not deterrence,” Salehi reportedly said. - Times of Israel.

UK Troops In Gulf Part Of Move To "Encircle Iran".
As British PM Cameron eyes up defense co-operation with the UAE, wider British and US plans to increase their armed forces in the Gulf may be part of a geopolitical move to encircle Iran and expand NATO. David Cameron, the Prime Minister, announced the possible deployment on Friday ahead of a visit to Oman where he is expected to conclude a 2.5 billion dollar deal with the Omani government for 12 Typhoon fighter jets. These are the latest sales of a plane the Prime Minster has said he is “very keen” to promote. Saudi Arabia already has 72 of the aircraft and Cameron wants to set up a defense partnership with the United Arab Emirates which could involve an order for up to 60 more. “What you are seeing specifically with the United Arab Emirates is not just a plan to sell Typhoon aircraft, but a big, significant defense co-operation, which could lead to more British troops stationed in the country,” Cameron told journalists at camp Bastion in Afghanistan on Friday. “This is an exciting possibility for both countries to have a proper strategic defense relationship, a defense partnership, and I think that’s the way the world is going. People don’t just want to just buy equipment now, they want to have a proper industrial and defense partnership,” he continued. However Patrick Henningsen, a geo-political analyst, told RT that one of the reasons for beefing up the British and American presence in the region could be to launch air attacks on Syria and ultimately Iran. “They [the west] are blaming Iran for a possible nuclear arms race in the region, that’s a quote from David Cameron only a few days ago. The encirclement of Iran is certainly on a geopolitical scale, number one priority.The question is, is this going to be a real military standoff or are we looking at a cold war situation, where we’re just posturing,” he said. - RT.

WATCH: 'Iran in crosshairs' - UK may deploy more troops to Gulf.

Ahmadinejad. AFP photo.
Ahmadinejad: Iran In A 'Smart War' With The West.
Iran is engaged in a "smart economic war" with Western powers whose sanctions against its nuclear program are hurting some Iranians, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Saturday. "Targeted sanctions, which the enemies say are supposed to be crippling, have led to a drop in our oil" sales, AFP quoted Ahmadinejad as having said in a live interview on state television, referring to an oil embargo imposed by the European Union. "They do not even let us transfer the oil money," he said. "They thought Iran's economy would break down, but it did not." "Iran is engaged in a smart economic war with the enemy," he said. The EU measure, which came into effect in July, ended European purchases of Iranian crude, and has since decreased Tehran's oil exports to its Asian customers from between 10 to 30 percent. According to the International Energy Agency, Iranian exports in November were estimated at 1.3 million barrels per day, down from nearly 2.3 million last year. Ahmadinejad said his government had "so far managed to control" the effects of sanctions on the economy but admitted that "heavy pressure had been exerted on some Iranians because of sanctions," reported AFP. He did not elaborate on how Iran was fighting off sanctions for fear the methods would be found by Western powers trying to goad Iran back to the negotiating table over its nuclear ambitions. "I cannot say what heavy pressure the enemy has imposed, and how we are dealing with them," said Ahmadinejad. "We have so far managed to control this blow, and it hasn't turned out the way they predicted," he said. - Israel National News.

Israel "Taking Steps" To Counter Syrian Chemical Weapons Threat.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
during a weekly cabinet meeting
(photo credit: Alex Kolomoisky/Flash90).
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said Israel was carefully watching developments in Syria, and especially the regime’s sizable stockpile of chemical weapons, which Israeli officials are afraid could be turned against the Jewish state. “We’re taking steps in order to prepare for the far-reaching changes that are commencing there,” Netanyahu said at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting, alluding to recent assessments that President Bashar Assad’s days in power were numbered. “There are dramatic developments in Syria on an almost daily basis,” he said. “We’re working in cooperation with the United States, and, together with the international community, we’re taking the necessary steps to prepare ourselves for the possibility of changes with a bearing on the sensitive weapons systems in Assad’s hands.” Amos Gilad, a senior official in Israel’s Foreign Ministry, on Sunday said that, “for the time being,” Syria’s chemical weapons were “under control,” despite the fact that Assad’s been losing ground to the rebels. - Times of Israel.

Syria crisis – an Assad regime military
vehicle destroyed by rebels during clashes
in Bayada neighborhood, Homs province.
Photograph: Associated Press.
Russian Military Presence In Syria Poses Challenge To US-Led Intervention.
Russian military advisers are manning some of Syria's more sophisticated air defences – something that would complicate any future US-led intervention, the Guardian has learned. The advisers have been deployed with new surface-to-air systems and upgrades of old systems, which Moscow has supplied to the Assad regime since the Syrian revolution broke out 21 months ago. The depth and complexity of Syria's anti-aircraft defences mean that any direct western campaign, in support of a no-fly zone or in the form of punitive air strikes against the leadership, would be costly, protracted and risky. The possibility of Russian military casualties in such a campaign could have unpredictable geopolitical consequences. Meanwhile, near-daily atrocities have kept western governments under pressure to act. A Syrian government air strike on a town near the central city of Hama on Sunday killed dozens of civilians queueing for bread, according to human rights activists. Amateur footage from Halfaya showed mangled human remains strewn along a street where people had been blown off scooters and out of cars. One video showed a boy with his feet blown off. Piles of corpses could be seen beneath rubble outside a two-storey building the cameraman described as a bakery. It was unclear how many bodies were in the smoking ruins. - Guardian.

'Hamas Preparing For West Bank Takeover'.
Photo: Mohammed Salem / Reuters.
'The Sunday Times' claims Hamas instructed its sleeper cells in West Bank to prepare for armed struggle to overtake the territory. Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal instructed the terror group's sleeper cells in the West Bank to prepare themselves for armed struggle to take control of the Palestinian territory, The Sunday Times reported. According to the report, citing the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the Aman military intelligence service, Hamas, at the behest of Iran, was preparing to seize power in the West Bank as it did in Gaza in a 2007 civil war. The Sunday Times claimed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been warned by Israeli intelligence services of Hamas's possible usurpation of power, and quoted what it described as a close Netanyahu associate as saying: “Bibi [Netanyahu] understands the geopolitical changes in the Middle East. No way would [he] give up an inch of the West Bank - he is convinced that the intelligence assessment about a Muslim Brotherhood [Hamas] takeover is solid.” The Sunday Times also alleged that relations between Hamas and Iran were on the upswing after a brief cooling off period. - The Jerusalem Post.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Lima Overdue For A Major Earthquake - However, Peru Is Unprepared For Potential Devastation!

December 24, 2012 - LIMA, PERU - The earthquake all but flattened colonial Lima, the shaking so violent that people tossed to the ground couldn’t get back up. Minutes later, a 15-meter wall of Pacific Ocean crashed into the adjacent port of Callao, killing all but 200 of its 5,000 inhabitants. Bodies washed ashore for weeks.  Plenty of earthquakes have shaken Peru’s capital in the 266 years since that fateful night of Oct. 28, 1746, though none with anything near the violence.  The relatively long “seismic silence” means that Lima, set astride one of the most volatile ruptures in the Earth’s crust, is increasingly at risk of being hammered by a one-two, quake-tsunami punch as calamitous as what devastated Japan last year and traumatized Santiago, Chile, and its nearby coast a year earlier, seismologists say.  Yet this city of 9 million people is sorely unprepared. From densely clustered, unstable housing to a dearth of first-responders, its acute vulnerability is unmatched regionally. Peru’s National Civil Defense Institute forecasts up to 50,000 dead, 686,000 injured and 200,000 homes destroyed if Lima is hit by a magnitude-8.0 quake.

Residents stay close to the rubble in a severely damaged neighborhood, next to a destroyed lorry in Ica, more than 350 km south from Lima, 16 Aug. 2007, after a massive 7.9-magnitude earthquake rocked Peru in the evening.
“In South America, it is the most at risk,” said architect Jose Sato, director of the Center for Disaster Study and Prevention, or PREDES, a non-governmental group financed by the charity Oxfam that is working on reducing Lima’s quake vulnerability.  Lima is home to a third of Peru’s population, 70 percent of its industry, 85 percent of its financial sector, its entire central government and the bulk of international commerce.  “A quake similar to what happened in Santiago would break the country economically,” said Gabriel Prado, Lima’s top official for quake preparedness. That quake had a magnitude of 8.8.  Quakes are frequent in Peru, with about 170 felt by people annually, said Hernando Tavera, director of seismology at the country’s Geophysical Institute. A big one is due, and the chances of it striking increase daily, he said. The same collision of tectonic plates responsible for the most powerful quake ever recorded, a magnitude-9.5 quake that hit Chile in 1960, occurs just off Lima’s coast, where about 3 inches of oceanic crust slides annually beneath the continent.  A 7.5-magnitude quake in 1974 a day’s drive from Lima in the Cordillera Blanca range killed about 70,000 people as landslides buried villages. Seventy-eight people died in the capital. In 2007, a 7.9-magnitude quake struck even closer, killing 596 people in the south-central coastal city of Pisco. A shallow, direct hit is the big danger.  More than two in five Lima residents live either in rickety structures built on unstable, sandy soil and wetlands, which amplify a quake’s destructive power, or in hillside settlements that sprang up over a generation as people fled conflict and poverty in Peru’s interior. Thousands are built of colonial-era adobe.  Most quake-prone countries have rigorous building codes to resist seismic events. In Chile, if engineers and builders don’t adhere to them they can face prison. Not so in Peru.  “People are building with adobe just as they did in the 17th century,” said Carlos Zavala, director of Lima’s Japanese-Peruvian Center for Seismic Investigation and Disaster Mitigation.  Environmental and human-made perils compound the danger.  Situated in a coastal desert, Lima gets its water from a single river, the Rimac, which a landslide could easily block. That risk is compounded by a containment pond full of toxic heavy metals from an old mine that could rupture and contaminate the Rimac, said Agustin Gonzalez, a PREDES official advising Lima’s government.  Most of Lima’s food supply arrives via a two-lane highway that parallels the river, another potential chokepoint.

Lima’s airport and seaport, the key entry points for international aid, are also vulnerable. Both are in Callao, which seismologists expect to be scoured by a 6-meter tsunami if a big quake is centered offshore, the most likely scenario.  Mayor Susana Villaran’s administration is Lima’s first to organize a quake-response and disaster-mitigation plan. A February 2011 law obliged Peru’s municipalities to do so. Yet Lima’s remains incipient.  “How are the injured going to be attended to? What is the ability of hospitals to respond? Of basic services? Water, energy, food reserves? I don’t think this is being addressed with enough responsibility,” said Tavera of the Geophysical Institute.  By necessity, most injured will be treated where they fall, but Peru’s police have no comprehensive first-aid training. Only Lima’s 4,000 firefighters, all volunteers, have such training, as does a 1,000-officer police emergency squadron.  But because the firefighters are volunteers, a quake’s timing could influence rescue efforts. “If you go to a fire station at 10 in the morning there’s hardly anyone there,” said Gonzalez, who advocates a full-time professional force.  In the next two months, Lima will spend nearly $2-million on the three fire companies that cover downtown Lima, its first direct investment in firefighters in 25 years, Prado said. The national government is spending $18-million citywide for 50 new fire trucks and ambulances.  But where would the ambulances go?  A 1997 study by the Pan American Health Organization found that three of Lima’s principal public hospitals would likely collapse in a major quake, but nothing has been done to reinforce them.  And there are no free beds. One public hospital, Maria Auxiliadora, serves more than 1.2 million people in Lima’s south but has just 400 beds, and they are always full.  Contingency plans call for setting up mobile hospitals in tents in city parks. But Gonzalez said only about 10,000 injured could be treated. Water is also a worry. The fire threat to Lima is severe – from refineries to densely-backed neighborhoods honeycombed with colonial-era wood and adobe. Lima’s firefighters often can’t get enough water pressure to douse a blaze.  “We should have places where we can store water not just to put out fires but also to distribute water to the population,” said Sato, former head of the disaster mitigation department at Peru’s National Engineering University.  The city’s lone water-and-sewer utility can barely provide water to one-tenth of Lima in the best of times.  Another big concern: Lima has no emergency operations center and the radio networks of the police, firefighters and the Health Ministry, which runs city hospitals, use different frequencies, hindering effective communication.  Nearly half of the city’s schools require a detailed evaluation to determine how to reinforce them against collapse, Sato said.  A recent media blitz, along with three nationwide quake-tsunami drills this year, helped raise consciousness. The city has spent more than $77-million for retention walls and concrete stairs to aid evacuation in hillside neighborhoods, Prado said, but much more is needed. - National Post.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Massive 30-Foot Sinkhole Swallows Up Pieces Of Big-Rig Truck In Mendocino County, California!

December 24, 2012 - UNITED STATES - A big-rig truck broke into pieces on Highway 162 in Mendocino County Friday morning after a 30-foot sinkhole opened up in the roadway.

A sinkhole on Highway 162 near Covelo (Mendocino County Sheriff).
Around 7 a.m. the trucker was hauling supplies near Covelo when the sinkhole opened and separated his cab and the trailer, while tearing off an axel in the process. The driver’s cab was stranded on the washed-out portion of the road. He was not injured, according to the Mendocino County Sheriff Department.

People traveling into Covelo – a town of about 3,000 – are being forced to use an alternate dirt road for the time being. Caltrans said the road could reopen Saturday. - CBS San Francisco.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Magma Moving Underground - Small Quakes Shake Hawaii As Kilauea Volcano's Lava Spills Into The Sea!

December 24, 2012 - HAWAII - More than 30 small earthquakes, most too small to feel, shook the island of Hawaii in the past two weeks. The tremors are signs of magma moving underground, feeding two ongoing eruptions at Kilauea volcano.

Lava from Kilauea volcano in Hawaii drops into the ocean. Steam plumes rise where the molten
rock meets the sea. U.S. Geological Survey.
A sticky, slow-moving stream of lava called pahoehoe is crossing the coastal plain east of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, dripping into the ocean and creating a delta. The lava flow is 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) wide, according to a statement from the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaii Volcano Observatory. The delta has grown 165 feet (50 meters) in width since Nov. 24, the USGS reports. Lava has repeatedly streamed into the ocean from Kilauea's east rift zone since the volcano began its current eruption on Jan. 3, 1983. The lava oozes forth from rift vents fed by its Pu'uO'o crater.

This large-scale map shows the mapped flow expansion on the coastal plain between Nov. 30 and Dec. 14 (in bright red). Light red represents the extent of the Peace Day flow from Sept. 21, 2011, to Nov. 30. Older flows are labeled with the years in which they were active.  U.S. Geological Survey.
The crater itself holds a small lava lake, and several small lava flows erupted onto the crater floor in the past week, the USGS said. To the northwest, a lava lake at Halema'uma'u crater, at the top of Kilauea, continues to rise and fall. The lava lake "breathes" as magma levels change within the volcano, and it hit a high on Oct. 29 before receding. The summit lava lake is deep within a cylindrical vent with nearly vertical sides. The lake level surged to within 100 feet (31 meters) of the top of the vent at that high point. Deep inside the volcano, the vent supplying Halema'uma'u crater is connected to the actively erupting Pu'uO'o crater, according to a USGS statement. - MSNBC.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Louisiana Sinkhole Continues To Grow - New Flyover Pictures Show Dramatic Changes Since August!

December 24, 2012 - LOUISIANA, UNITED STATES - Photographs from a flyover today, December 21, 2012, show the Bayou Corne Sinkhole is continuing to expand. The sinkhole is currently estimated to be approximately 8.5 acres in size. Three days after it formed on Aug. 3, 2012, the sinkhole was a smaller slurry area approximately 372 feet wide.

Bayou Corne Sinkhole Aug. 6, 2012.
Two months after it first formed, the sinkhole had expanded to several acres in size and had become a potential source of oil and brine contamination for the surrounding environment.

Bayou Corne Sinkhole Oct. 11, 2012.
December 21, 2012, Almost 5 months after it first formed. The sinkhole has expanded some more and a sheen of crude oil can still be seen on it's surface. A large area of natural gas bubbles can also be seen at it's center.

Bayou Corne Sinkhole Dec. 21, 2012.
- Leanweb.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: West Antarctica Ice Sheet Warming Twice As Fast As Previously Believed - Could Raise World Sea Levels by at Least 3.3 Metres!

December 24, 2012 - ANTARCTICA - West Antarctica is warming almost twice as fast as previously believed, adding to worries of a thaw that would add to sea level rise from San Francisco to Shanghai, a study showed on Sunday. Annual average temperatures at the Byrd research station in West Antarctica had risen 2.4 degrees Celsius (4.3F) since the 1950s, one of the fastest gains on the planet and three times the global average in a changing climate, it said.

Researchers at Ohio State University and their colleagues have discovered that the central region of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is experiencing twice as much warming as previously thought.
The unexpectedly big increase adds to fears the ice sheet is vulnerable to thawing. West Antarctica holds enough ice to raise world sea levels by at least 3.3 metres (11 feet) if it ever all melted, a process that would take centuries. "The western part of the ice sheet is experiencing nearly twice as much warming as previously thought," Ohio State University said in a statement of the study led by its geography professor David Bromwich. The warming "raises further concerns about the future contribution of Antarctica to sea level rise," it said. Higher summer temperatures raised risks of a surface melt of ice and snow even though most of Antarctica is in a year-round deep freeze. Low-lying nations from Bangladesh to Tuvalu are especially vulnerable to sea level rise, as are coastal cities from London to Buenos Aires. Sea levels have risen by about 20 cms (8 inches) in the past century. The United Nations panel of climate experts projects that sea levels will rise by between 18 and 59 cms (7-24 inches) this century, and by more if a thaw of Greenland and Antarctica accelerates... The rise in temperatures in the remote region was comparable to that on the Antarctic Peninsula to the north, which snakes up towards South America, according to the U.S.-based experts writing in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Parts of the northern hemisphere have also warmed at similarly fast rates. Several ice shelves - thick ice floating on the ocean and linked to land - have collapsed around the Antarctic Peninsula in recent years. Once ice shelves break up, glaciers pent up behind them can slide faster into the sea, raising water levels. "The stakes would be much higher if a similar event occurred to an ice shelf restraining one of the enormous West Antarctic ice sheet glaciers," said Andrew Monaghan, a co-author at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research. The Pine Island glacier off West Antarctica, for instance, brings as much water to the ocean as the Rhine river in Europe. The scientists said there had been one instance of a widespread surface melt of West Antarctica, in 2005. "A continued rise in summer temperatures could lead to more frequent and extensive episodes of surface melting," they wrote. West Antarctica now contributes about 0.3 mm a year to sea level rise, less than Greenland's 0.7 mm, Ohio State University said. The bigger East Antarctic ice sheet is less vulnerable to a thaw. Helped by computer simulations, the scientists reconstructed a record of temperatures stretching back to 1958 at Byrd, where about a third of the measurements were missing, sometimes because of power failures in the long Antarctic winters. - Huffington Post.

MASS BIRD DIE-OFF: 1,500 Hens and Geese Killed Due to Avian Flu in Germany!

December 24, 2012 - GERMANY - On an organic farm in Tangstedt in Hamburg, a form of avian influenza which is harmless to humans has been detected.

As a precautionary measure, the authorities have destroyed 1500 animals. The affected animals are 1200 laying hens and 300 geese. The action was completed on Thursday [20 Dec 2012] evening. A restricted area around the farm had been established with a radius of 1 km [0.62 mi]. Within this area, adjacent to Hamburg, there are a few private poultry farms, said the spokesman for the Consumer Agency Hamburg, Rico Schmidt. These would have their animals now kept indoors. So far no further cases had been identified. For poultry farmers outside the restricted area there are no restrictions.

The type of virus H5N3 is harmless to humans, stressed SDP [Social Democratic Party] district administration Klaus Ploeger. “Everything you have in the freezers, you can safely eat,” he said, addressing the citizens. Other animal species, including pets, are not at risk. The killing of the affected poultry flocks was applied due to legal regulations, to prevent a slight possibility of the virus becoming pathogenic in future. Such is not the case if the H5N1 bird flu virus is encountered.

According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, this is the 1st time that low pathogenic avian influenza has been detected in a poultry farm in Schleswig-Holstein.

The virus has now been demonstrated in the course of regular surveillance, said the Ministry of Agriculture. The Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute, the National Reference Laboratory on Riems Island, confirmed the findings on Thursday [20 Dec 2012]. The animals did not show any signs of disease, but were found infected by the low-pathogenic virus. The risk analysis of the institute indicated it was likely that the virus originated from wild geese, said district veterinarian Karlheinz Reisewitz. According to the Kiel Department of Agriculture, this virus type had already been detected in mallard ducks in the Czech Republic and in wild birds in Georgia. Schleswig-Holstein is also pursuing a so-called wild bird monitoring to uncover possible cases. - Geostrategic Forecasting.