Monday, February 11, 2013

GLOBAL SEISMIC ALERT: "Artificial" Earthquake Detected At Site Of 2009 North Korean Nuclear Test - Scientist Indicates That Test May Cause Volcano Eruption Of Mount Baekdu Near The Chinese Border?! UPDATE: U.N. Condemns North Korean Nuclear Test - Security Council To Meet!

 February 11, 2013 - KOREAN PENINSULA - Seismic activity has been detected in North Korea, several nations say, in what could be a sign of a widely anticipated nuclear test.  The US Geological Survey said it had detected a tremor with a 4.9 magnitude.  South Korean media also reported a "man-made earthquake" in its northern neighbour. 

Location of the Mount Baekdu and the Punggye-ri test site.
North Korea said last month it was planning to carry out its third nuclear test - despite a threat from the UN Security Council of "consequences".  The USGS said the quake occurred at a depth of 1km. It put the epicentre close to North Korea's known nuclear test site in the northeast of the country.  China's Earthquake Administration described it as a "suspected explosion", AFP reported. Japan's Meteorological Agency said the tremor was "different from a normal earthquake". 

USGS earthquake map location. Click HERE for the complete summary and maps.
"We believe that there is a possibility that North Korea carried out a nuclear test, looking at past cases," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.  Yonhap news agency says South Korea has raised its military alert in response to the quake. Japan says it will hold a meeting of its national security council, public broadcaster NHK reported.  North Korea is not prone to seismic activity. It conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, each time after rocket launches condemned by the UN as disguised tests of long-range missile technology.  It announced in January that it planned to conduct a "high-level" nuclear test, in response to expanded UN sanctions imposed after its latest rocket launch on 12 December 2012.  There has been no word yet from North Korea on what has taken place. - BBC.

Mount Baekdu (Photo from Flickr/zaruka).

The anticipated North Korean third nuclear test may trigger an eruption of Mt. Baekdu, a dormant volcano, which is located not far from the North Korean Punggye-ri nuclear site, claims a South Korean geologist. "A nuclear test will probably exert a direct or indirect impact on volcanic activity at the mountain, and this is worrisome,” said Yoon Sung-ho as cited by Yonhap News agency. Yoon is a geological scientist at Pusan National University, who is considered to be the South Korean leading expert on Mt. Baekdu. In the past he’s commented on the increased emission of sulphur dioxide from the volcano. This is interpreted as a sign of magma expanding, as volcanic gases undergo a tremendous increase in volume when magma rises to the Earth's surface and erupts. Backing the scenario of the growing eruption threat is the changing height of Mt. Baekdu. It has risen nearly 10 centimeters since 2002 due to the expanding magma pool. Also in 2006 a satellite detected an increase of the surfaces temperature just days after North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test in its northern territory, which may have been a catalyst reactivating magma flows, says the South Korea-based newspaper The Korea Times.

Mt. Baekdu is an active volcano located on the North Korean-Chinese border with its last activity recorded in 1925. The volcano lies about 110 kilometers from the Punggye-ri nuclear site.  Another test will certainly affect the volcanic activity at Mt. Baekdu and may even lead to a massive eruption, said Shin Young-soo, a member of South Korean Parliament's Construction and Transportation Committee. He added that in 2010 underground magma was detected near Punggye-ri test site according to the information by China's earthquake monitoring office.  The first nuclear test conducted in Punggye-ri in 2006, with an explosive yield of about 1 kiloton, resulted in a magnitude 3.6 tremor.The second test was carried out in 2009 and the yield was estimated at 2-6 kilotons, which led to a tremor with a magnitude of 4.4 on Richter magnitude scale, according to The Korea Meteorological Administration.  North Korea watchers speculated that the third test may lead to the detonation of a boosted fission weapon with the yield around 20 kilotons, Yonhap News agency reports. If true, this can be compared to the Nagasaki bomb estimated yield of 21 kilotons dropped by the United States on Japan in 1945 during World War II.

North Korea - led by Kim Jong-un - announced
plans for a nuclear test last month.

Meanwhile, Japanese scientists connected previous eruptions of Mt. Baekdu with major subterranean stresses in the region. According to Hiromitsu Taniguchi a volcano expert from Tohoku University,Mt. Baekdu erupted at least six times between the 14th and 20th centuries,and every time it followed an earthquake in Japan.  North Korean volcanologists observed abnormal activity at a lake atop the mountain after the March 2011 9.0-magnitude earthquake in Japan, The Korea Times reports.The lake’s water was shaking and splashing, causing a 60 centimeters rise. An eruption is likely to cause severe flooding of the neighboring area within a 30-kilometer radius, causing devastating damage of infrastructure and endangering people’s lives. The volcanic ash spreading 10 kilometers into the atmosphere will affect air traffic in the Koreas, China, Russia and Japan disrupting business activities, Yonhap News agency says.  On January 24 North Korea announced that it is planning to conduct a third nuclear test. It comes in the wake of sanctions enforced by the UN Security Council, following the December 12th long-range rocket launch. The launch was in violation of UN resolutions, banning the country from developing missile or nuclear technology after nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. In the beginning of February intelligence reports from South Korea detected activity at two tunnels at the North's Punggye-ri nuclear test site, causing speculation that Pyongyang is going to carry out two simultaneous tests. On February 5th North Korea threatened to take stronger measures and go beyond its promised third nuclear test, KCNA state news agency reported. - RT.


UPDATE: U.N. Condemns North Korean Nuclear Test - Security Council To Meet!
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned as "deplorable" North Korea's nuclear test on Tuesday, and U.N. diplomats said the Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting to discuss the possibility of imposing new sanctions on Pyongyang.  "The Secretary-General condemns the underground nuclear weapon test conducted by (North Korea) today," Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said in a statement. "It is a clear and grave violation of the relevant Security Council resolutions."  "It is deplorable that Pyongyang defied the strong and unequivocal call from the international community to refrain from any further provocative measures," he said.  "The Secretary-General is gravely concerned about the negative impact of this deeply destabilizing act on regional stability as well as the global efforts for nuclear non-proliferation," the U.N. statement added.  South Korea's U.N. mission said it called an emergency meeting of the 15-nation Security Council at 9 a.m. EST (1400 GMT) on Tuesday to discuss the nuclear test. It added that South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan would address the media in New York after the meeting. 
Japan Meteorological Agency's earthquake and tsunami observations
division director Akira Nagai speaks in front of a monitor showing graphs of
ground motion waveform data observed in the morning in Japan during a
news conference in Tokyo February 12, 2013.  Credit: REUTERS/Toru Hanai

South Korea is the president of the council this month, which gives it the possibility to convene meetings and ensure North Korea remains a priority issue for the United Nations' most powerful body for the rest of February.  One Western diplomat said he hoped the council would approve an initial statement condemning the nuclear test on Tuesday and begin work on a more comprehensive council reaction.  Diplomats had said previously that the United States, South Korea and European members would want the Security Council to adopt a resolution imposing new sanctions on Pyongyang in the event of a third nuclear test in defiance of earlier council resolutions.  North Korea carried out nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, which prompted the Security Council to impose sanctions - including a ban on the import of nuclear and missile technology and an arms embargo - on the impoverished authoritarian state.  Getting approval on a council resolution could take weeks. While China had made clear its opposition to a new North Korean nuclear test, council diplomats say Pyongyang's ally Beijing could be expected to put up some resistance to tough new sanctions to avoid angering North Korea.  But eventually, the diplomats said, China would likely approve some form of sanctions against North Korea in the coming weeks.  Last month the Security Council adopted a resolution that tightened existing sanctions against Pyongyang in response to its December rocket launch. That resolution took a month to agree due to China's initial resistance, diplomats said. - Reuters.

WATCH:
North Korea carries out 'successful' 3rd nuclear test.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Volcano Discovery Report For February 11, 2013 - Updates On Sakurajima, Stromboli, White Island, Machin, Nevado del Ruiz, Bagana, Langila, Batu Tara, And Paluweh!

February 11, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing report from the Volcano Discovery Group.


Sakurajima (Kyushu, Japan): The volcano has been in a phase of elevated activity during the past days.
Several moderate to large explosions occurred with ash plumes rising up to 12,000 ft (3.7 km) altitude. At least 6 explosions were counted yesterday alone and VAAC Tokyo reports phases of continuous ash emission.

WATCH: Sakurajima's latest explosions.


Stromboli (Eolian Islands, Italy): The lava overflows from the NE crater increased since yesterday and are now occupying a large portion of the upper outer slope of the cone.

White Island (New Zealand): Tremor at the volcano has been rising again a bit, but is still at low levels compared to a week ago when it suddenly dropped.
Seismogram last night from Cerro Machin
(CIMA station, INGEOMINAS)

Machin (Colombia): A swarm of volcano-tectonic earthquakes occurred from 16:36 h (local time) until 19:25 h last night. The quakes were localized mainly to the southeast of the dome, at depths ranging between 2 and 4.5 km. The largest earthquake was recorded at 17:40 h with a magnitude of 2.9 ML and one at 17:21 of magnitude 2.6 ML. Both were felt by residents near the volcano. Other parameters monitored by INGEOMINAS have not shown significant changes. Such swarms have occurred frequently under the volcano since instrumental monitoring of the volcano began. INGEOMINAS maintains alert level "yellow".

Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia): A relatively large SO2 plume drifted from Ruiz yesterday, suggesting that the volcano is in a phase of strong degassing. Internal seismic activity doesn't show significant changes.

Bagana (Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea): Ash emissions to 7,000 ft (2.1 km) altitude and a strong SO2 plume have been observed the past few days, suggesting the volcano is in a phase of increased activity.

SO2 plume from Bagana and Langila (NOAA).
Langila (New Britain, Papua New Guinea): Increased SO2 emissions are visible on satellite images today.

Batu Tara (Sunda Islands, Indonesia): Ash emissions to 7,000 ft (2.1 km) altitude have been reported by Darwin VAAC.

Paluweh (off Flores Island, Indonesia): New ash emissions caused by partial dome collapse and/or explosions at the lava dome were observed by VAAC Darwin. The reported ash plume altitudes were 7,000 ft (2.1 km).

- Volcano Discovery.

THE PRIEST OF THE MAGI: Monumental Convergence At The Vatican - Pope Benedict XVI To Resign On February 28; First Pontiff To Quit Since The Middle Ages; United States Will Have Unprecedented Voice In Electing New Pope; Obama Plans To Visit Israel On March 20, During Or After Papal Conclave; Next Pope Will Have Official Seat In Upper Room Over The Tomb Of King David And Control Over Mount Zion; Will The Next Pope Signal The Rise Of The Moors Or The Fulfillment Of The Ancient Malachy Prophecy Of Petrus Romanus, The Final Pope That Will Lead The World Into The Great Tribulation?!

 February 11, 2013 - VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he will step down on Feb. 28 due to failing health, stunning the world's 1 billion Catholics by becoming the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign from the office. The German pontiff, 85, made his surprise statement to cardinals during a Vatican concistory on Monday, saying “my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,” a reference to his duties as leader of the church.


Speaking at a ceremony held to canonize three new saints, Benedict said he would step down at 8 p.m. on Feb. 28. Father Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said a conclave of cardinals would be held in March to elect a new pope in time for Easter. Italian cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, said Benedict's announcement was a "bolt out of the blue."  Describing his decision as being “of great importance for the life of the church,” Benedict told cardinals that “in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary.”  His strength, he added, “has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.” 

A photo provided by the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano
shows Pope Benedict XVI, right, greeting an unidentified cardinal
at a Vatican concistory during which Benedict announced his
resignation, effective Feb. 28.
(Osservatore Romano / EPA / February 11, 2013).

Vatican insiders have noted that Benedict has become more frail in recent months; he requires a moving platform to transport him down the aisle at St Peter’s Basilica during services and has slowed during his walks in the Vatican gardens. His private life was recently exposed to public scrutiny after his butler was convicted by a Vatican court for leaking papal correspondence. Lombardi said Benedict had not been persuaded to step down by a particular illness, but said "he had become more tired and fatigued than in the past."  Benedict’s decision, which he described as being "of great importance for the life of the church," marks the first papal resignation since Pope Gregory XII reluctantly stepped down in 1415 to end a dispute with a rival claimant to the papacy. The last pope to resign willingly was Celestine V in 1294 after reigning for only five months.  Benedict told cardinals he wished to “devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.” Lombardi said the pope would transfer from his papal apartment to live in a building in the Vatican’s gardens formerly occupied by nuns. The pope, who has recently finished a series of three books about the life of Jesus, could continue to write books, Lombardi said. Beyond giving details of the coming conclave, Lombardi said the Vatican was entering unchartered waters with a pope set to replace a living, former pope. “We are heading into an unknown situation,” he said at a hastily called Vatican news conference.

The coat of arms of Pope Benedict XVI
featuring the Moor's  head with red crown.
Read more on the symbolism of this shield and the
synchronicity with President Obama HERE.

Describing the moment the pope made his announcement, Lombardi said “the pope sat down, took the microphone and read his statement shortly after 11:30,” adding “he said it in Latin so not everyone understood immediately.”  Lombardi said he had no fear that Vatican officials -- unaccustomed to sharing the Holy See with a former pope -- might continue to defer to Benedict. “This is recognized by canon law, there is no risk of confusion,” he said. Lombardi said the German pontiff, who was elected in 2005 at age 78, had shown “courage, a humble spirit, responsibility and a desire that the church be governed in the best way,” adding that he had met the pope recently and found him “serene.” The pontiff’s decision, he said, “did not completely surprise me.”  Benedict has previously suggested that a pope could break with tradition and step down if he no longer felt able to carry out his duties. In a book-length interview, "Light of the World," with the German journalist Peter Seewald, Benedict responded to a question about whether a pope could resign: “Yes. If a Pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign.”  The pope’s decision will trigger weeks of speculation about who will take his place as the Vatican recovers from the scandal of pedophile priests and seeks to retain believers as the church challenges rights to abortion and gay marriage. Asked if Benedict had set an example for future popes to resign instead of dying in office, often after debilitating illness, Lombardi said: “This is not intended to influence successors,” but he added, “Next time [it happens], it won’t be the first time in centuries, it could be an approach to the problem.”  One Vatican expert said Benedict had probably been mulling his decision to resign since his election eight years ago. “When he took over the church had been through the suffering from illness of his predecessor John Paul II,” said John Thavis. “It will have put in his mind questions about the governance of the church if the pope becomes incapable,” he said. - LA Times.

Wisconsin native James Harvey, right, was amongh six new cardinals installed during a ceremony on
Nov. 24. Franco Origlia / Getty Images, file.
United States Will Have Unprecedented Voice In Electing New Pope.
When the next Papal Conclave meets to replace the retiring Pope Benedict XVI, the United States will have an unprecedented voice in the process.  Eleven cardinal electors, almost 10 percent of the Conclave, will be Americans -- the largest share the country has ever had, even though it has historically had a large Catholic population.  The retiring pope gets credit for the greater influence of the U.S.  Last year, he named three new American cardinals, increasing the U.S. total to 19. Only 11 will be electors because in order to vote in the papal election, the cardinals must be under 80 when the pope being replaced dies or leaves his seat. With 11 votes, the U.S. is now the second-largest bloc, behind only Italy, which has 28 electors, according to the Holy See press office at the Vatican. Germany is third, with six.  The shift in power toward the U.S. “reflects the vitality of the Catholic Church in the United States,”  John Paul II biographer George Weigel said in November... The U.S. has as many as 78 million Catholics, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. For comparison’s sake, Italy, despite having the largest share of electors and being primarily Catholic, has a total population of fewer than 61 million residents, according to World Bank estimates from 2011.  "It remains to be seen whether this numerical weight will actually translate into influence at the conclave," Speciale said in November. "Though national links are powerful, many other factors ... play into the secret voting at the Sistine Chapel." - NBC News.

Obama Plans To Israel On March 20, During Or After Papal Conclave.
President Obama plans to travel to Israel this spring for the first time since taking office, as he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu try to move past the friction of the last four years now that both have won re-election.   By making Israel a stop on the first overseas trip of his second term, Mr. Obama hopes to demonstrate support for the Jewish state despite doubts among some of its backers. But the trip also seems designed to signal a new start in a fraught relationship rather than an ambitious effort to revive a stalled peace process.  “The start of the president’s second term and the formation of a new Israeli government offer the opportunity to reaffirm the deep and enduring bonds between the United States and Israel,” Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said Tuesday, “and to discuss the way forward on a broad range of issues of mutual concern, including, of course, Iran and Syria.”  Mr. Carney said Mr. Obama would also travel to Jordan and the West Bank.
Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in
New York, in 2009.
The Israeli news media reported that Mr. Obama would arrive on March 20, but the White House would not discuss any dates for the trip.  Mr. Netanyahu’s office said a visit by the president would be “an important opportunity to underscore the friendship and strong partnership between Israel and the United States.”  The relationship between the two leaders has been edgy for years over issues like Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and ways to stop Iran’s nuclear program.  While Mr. Obama won a clear victory in November, Mr. Netanyahu emerged from elections last month in a weakened state. His party won enough seats for him to retain office, but he will be forced to recruit centrist lawmakers for a coalition that might temper his policies. He has until March 16 to present his new government.  Mr. Obama is not expected to unveil concrete proposals for bringing Israelis and Palestinians together during his visit or initiate a specific new peace process. But advisers hope that just by showing up and talking about these issues, Mr. Obama will show that he is not walking away from them.  Dennis Ross, a former Middle East adviser to Mr. Obama, attributed the trip to “a desire to connect with the Israeli public at a time when he can go and not have high expectations about having to produce something.” 

The president “can create a new beginning with the same prime minister but with a new Israeli government,” Mr. Ross said.  Some peace advocates welcomed the trip but said it should go beyond atmospherics. “The key is, they’ve got to use this as a real substantive jumping off point for a serious diplomatic initiative,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, a Washington advocacy group. “This has to be more than a photo op to show that he cares.”  A former Israeli defense official said the trip’s announcement might have been timed to send a message to Israelis and even influence the composition of the next government amid talk of restarting the peace effort. The former official said a more centrist government would allow the sides more room to maneuver.  Also on the agenda this trip will be Iran and the continuing strife in Syria that threatens to descend into a wider regional conflict. Israel last week struck a convoy of antiaircraft weapons inside Syria that it feared was being moved to Hezbollah forces.  “The United States can put an end to the Iranian threat,” President Shimon Peres of Israel said in an address to Parliament on Tuesday, “and I believe that the president of the United States is determined to do it.” - NY Times.


Next Pope Will Have Official Seat In Upper Room Over The Tomb Of King David And Control Over Mount Zion.
Outgoing Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon is leaving his mark on Jerusalem. After years of negotiations with the Vatican over property and tax issues, it seems that an historic breakthrough is near.  Headlines in the Jerusalem Post announced, "Jerusalem is on verge of signing agreement to formalize diplomatic relations with the Holy See". However, there are conflicting and disturbing reports regarding the status of the "Last Supper Room" (also referred to as the "Upper Room", "Cenacle Shrine" or "Coenaculum"), which sits above the traditional Tomb of King David and is a central part of  the Diaspora Yeshiva grounds on Mt. Zion. For many years the Catholic church has been vying for ownership of the room which is considered by many Christians to be the traditional site of the location of the last supper. The room itself is a 12th century Crusader structure, built on top of the traditional Tomb of King David. Whereas The Jerusalem Post claims that the two sides have "essentially decided to agree to disagree on the matter", Israel Hayom is reporting that the agreement will grant the Pope "an official seat" in the Upper Room, as well as giving the Vatican "a special modicum of control over the site"Algemeiner reports that Israel "did not give up sovereignty", but "will allow the Vatican control over the site". - Jewish Israel.


The Ancient Malachy Prophecy Of The Popes: The Rise Of The Moors Or Petrus Romanus - Who Will Be The Next Pope?
With Pope Benedict XVI's resignation, speculation about who might succeed him when the conclave meets in March has begun. Any baptised Roman Catholic male is eligible for election as pope, but only cardinals have been selected since 1378. Among those who have been mentioned as potential successors are the following:

Cardinal Peter Turkson 
A TV star, "people's person" and a "wonderful" priest – the Ghanaian cardinal emerging as a strong favourite for the papacy is described by colleagues in glowing terms.  Peter Turkson, who is the president of the Vatican's pontifical council for justice and peace, was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2003 after serving for almost 30 years as an ordained priest.  Turkson, 64, was born on 11 October 1948 in Nsuta-Wassaw, a mining hub in Ghana's western region, to a Methodist mother and a Catholic father. He studied and taught in New York and Rome, before being ordained to the priesthood in 1975 and appointed archbishop of Cape Coast – the former colonial capital of Ghana and a key diocese – in 1992.  As archbishop, Turkson was known for his human touch, colleagues said.  "We love him," said Gabriel Charles Palmer-Buckle, the metropolitan archbishop of Accra, who was made archbishop in Ghana at the same time as Turkson and has known him since school. "For Ghanaians he was our first cardinal, and to be made cardinal in his 50s, was a big feather in our cap.  "Since then he has shown himself to be a church leader and a young cardinal breaking new ground."  "Cardinal Turkson is a wonderful person, very down to earth and humble," said the Rev Stephen Domelevo, from the Ghana Catholic Communication Office. "He lived in a simple way, and he was someone people felt very comfortable with. He is excellent at communicating scripture in a way that people really understand. He speaks many local languages – as well as European languages – and uses jokes and humour to really portray messages to people. He has that human touch." 
Cardinal Peter Turkson gets his red hat from Pope John Paul II.
The Ghanaian is one of the cardinals tipped to succeed Pope
Benedict XVI who is stepping down.
Photograph: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images.

Turkson speaks his native Ghanaian language, Fante, and English, as well as other Ghanaian languages and French, Italian, German, and Hebrew, as well as understanding Latin and Greek.  "Cardinal Turkson likes to be able to joke with people in their own languages," said Domelevo. "It would not surprise us in Ghana if he were to be the next pope. He has what it takes. It would really be a gift to the church."  Turkson's popularity in west Africa has been boosted by his regular television appearances, particularly a weekly broadcast on the state channel Ghana TV from 2006 called Catholic Digest, which airs every Saturday morning. He has maintained strong ties with his native country while carrying out his duties in the Vatican.  "Cardinal Turkson has kept up his links with Ghana," said Palmer-Buckle. "He comes home as and when his duties allow. He has served as chairman of the national peace council, he has been on the board of our university – he is a very Ghanaian cardinal."  However, Turkson has not been without controversy. He sparked outcry last year when he screened a YouTube film at an international meeting of bishops featuring alarmist predictions at the rise of Islam in Europe.  The clip, titled Muslim Demographics, included claims such as: "In just 39 years France will be an Islamic republic."  Pope Benedict XVI also attracted the ire of Muslims after a 2006 lecture in Regensburg, his former university, in which he used a quotation to suggest that contributions made by the prophet Muhammad were "only evil and inhuman".  Ghana, whose population is roughly 63% Christian – including around 11% of which is Catholic – and 16% Muslim, is known for its relative tolerance and peaceful co-existence between Muslims and Christians.  Colleagues in Ghana voiced approval for Turkson's stance on social matters, but said he would be unlikely to take the church in a radical direction on contentious issues such as abortion and contraception.  In the past Turkson has not ruled out the use of condoms but advocated abstinence and fidelity, and treatment for HIV-infected people above spending and promoting the use of contraception.  "In matters of scripture and morality, no leader of the church comes to change anything," said Palmer-Buckle. "But in pastoral matters, that is where the church has been much improved.  "When dealing with homosexual activity, it is morally wrong. The truth must be spoken but it must be spoken with compassion."

Cardinal Francis Arinze 
Francis Arinze, who was born in Eziowelle, Nigeria, on 1 November 1932, has long been touted as a possible pope. Although his parents worshipped Ibo deities, Arinze – one of seven children – was sent to an Irish missionary school and soon set his heart on becoming a priest.  He was ordained in 1958 and went on to teach liturgy, logic and basic philosophy at Bigard Memorial Seminary at Enugu in south-eastern Nigeria and study at the Institute of Pedagogy in London. He was 32 when he was consecrated bishop on August 1965, and became archbishop two years later. Arinze witnessed the horrors of conflict first-hand during the civil war between Nigeria and Biafran secessionists, and was later asked by John Paul II to lead what is now the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, which is responsible for managing the Vatican's relationships with other faiths.  His ability to get on with those outside the Vatican has been widely praised, with one colleague remarking of his charm: "The beautiful thing about the cardinal is that he can say the hardest thing with a smile on his face and not offend people."  However, even the great communicator is sometimes unable to read his audience. During an appearance at Georgetown University in Washington almost a decade ago, he was booed for equating homosexuality with adultery and divorce, and claiming such sins mocked the family. John Paul II made him cardinal in May 1985, cementing his rapid rise through the Roman Catholic ranks.  He was hotly tipped to be the first African in 1,500 years to sit on the throne of St Peter in 2005, but was beaten to the post by Cardinal Ratzinger. Read the rest of the list HERE.

WATCH: Religious Literalism - Tom Horn's Trailer for Petrus Romanus.


WATCH: Prophecy of the Popes.


Read more on the Prophecy of the Popes HERE.

EXTREME WEATHER: Monstrous Devastating Tornado Rips Through Several Counties In Southern Mississippi And Alabama - Damaging Hundreds Of Homes, Trees And Vehicles; Dozens Injured!

February 11, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A tornado tore through Hattiesburg on Sunday as part of a wave of severe storms that downed trees, damaged buildings and injured more than a dozen people. The twister traveled down 1 of Hattiesburg's main streets and mangled homes, commercial buildings and structures on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi. Emergency officials said at least 10 people were injured in surrounding Forrest County and three were hurt to the west in Marion County, but they weren't aware of any deaths.

Storm damage in Mississippi. (Source: WDAM).
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Greg Flynn said it appears that a single tornado caused the damage in those two counties and Lamar County. Hundreds of homes are damaged in Forrest County, along with a couple dozen in the other two.  Flynn said the sheer scope of the damage was slowing the assessment of damage.  "The problem is, it was so strong that there's so much debris that there's a lot of areas they haven't been able to get to yet," he said.  On the campus of the university, trees were snapped in half around the heavily damaged Alumni House where part of the roof was ripped away. Windows in a nearby building were blown out, and heavy equipment worked to clear streets nearby in a heavy rain after the worst of the weather had passed.  The university released a statement saying no one was hurt but that it was under a state of emergency, anyone away from campus should stay away until further notice.  East of campus, 47-year-old Cindy Bullock was at home with her husband and dog, a terrier mix named Vinnie, when she heard the tornado coming. They ran to a hallway and covered their heads. It wasn't long before the windows in the kitchen and bedroom exploded.

Storm damage in Mississippi. (Source: WDAM).
The storm stripped all the shingles off the roof and left holes in it, while knocking over a large pine tree in the yard.  After dark, the Bullocks were trying to arrange their stuff inside so it wouldn't get wet from the dripping water.  "I just looked out the window and I heard the rumbling. It sounded like a train. We ran to the hall, and the kitchen windows and the windows in the bedroom exploded. It happened pretty fast," she said. 

There were large trees blocking the road all through her neighborhood, and several of the houses were hit by falling trees. Her friend was staying with them after the friend's apartment took a direct hit from a falling tree.  Forrest County Sheriff Billy McGee says 10 or 15 people were injured by the tornado that slammed Hattiesburg and other parts of the county - but none of the injuries was serious.  He says, "Most of our injuries have been walking wounded."  To the west, Marion County emergency director Aaron Greer says three injuries have been reported in the community of Pickwick, about seven miles south of Columbia. He says two people were taken to hospitals, but the third didn't have the injury examined.  Greer says one mobile home was destroyed, three other structures have major damage and several have minor damage.

Storm damage in Mississippi. (Source: WDAM).
Gov. Phil Bryant plans to go to Hattiesburg on Monday to check out damage in the city and at USM, his alma mater, spokesman Mick Bullock said.  On Sunday night, John and Katherine Adams were cleaning up around their one-story white house where the storm punched holes in the roof, busted windows and completely destroyed the back porch. The couple was at home with their 7- and 3-year-old daughters when the tornado passed next to their house.  All through the neighborhood, houses and vehicles were damaged by falling trees.  "We're safe, and that's all that matters," said Katherine Adams, 46.  John Adams, who's in the building supply business, said he was surprised to see broken boards that appeared to be from new construction in his yard because there are no homes being built nearby.  "We've got stuff around here; I don't even know where it came from," he said.  McConnaughey reported from New Orleans. - WDAM7.

WATCH: Monster tornado in Hattiesburg.

SOLAR WATCH: Sun Unleashes Solar Eruption At Earth During Long Flare - Solar Winds To Brush Earth's Magnetic Field On February 12!

February 11, 2013 - THE SUN - A long-lasting solar flare erupted from the sun early Saturday, triggering an intense sun eruption aimed squarely at Earth. The solar storm, however, should not endanger satellites or astronauts in space, but could amplify auroras on Earth, NASA says. The solar eruption —called a coronal mass ejection —occurred at 2:30 a.m. EST (0730 GMT) on Saturday during a minor, but long-duration, flare. It hurled a wave of charged particles at Earth at speeds of about 1.8 million miles per hour.

One of the views of the coronal mass ejection released by the sun on Feb. 9, 2013 as seen by the Solar and
Heliospheric Observatory. ESA&NASA/SOHO.
The sun eruption was captured in photos by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), a joint mission by NASA and the European Space Agency. Coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, are eruptions of charged solar material that fling solar particles out into space. When aimed at Earth, they can reach the planet between one and three days later, and cause geomagnetic storms when they interact with the planet's magnetic field. They can also amplify the northern and southern lights displays over the Earth's poles.

""In the past, CMEs at this strength have had little effect," NASA officials said in a statement. "They may cause auroras near the poles but are unlikely to disrupt electrical systems on Earth or interfere with GPS or satellite-based communications systems." Saturday's solar flare and sun eruption apparently also caught the attention astronauts living on the International Space Station, even though the solar weather event will have little impact on their daily routine.

Three views over time of the coronal mass ejection released by the sun on Feb. 9, 2013 as seen by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. ESA&NASA/SOHO.
"We live right next to a star," wrote Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who currently lives on the International Space Station, in a Twitter post. "Today it ejected a huge blob at 500 mi/sec. But not to worry — should be good aurorae." The sun is currently in an active period of its 11-year solar weather cycle, and is expected to reach its peak this year. The sun's current weather cycle is known as Solar Cycle 24. The SOHO spacecraft and several other sun-watching observatories, such as NASA's twin Stereo spacecraft and the Solar Dynamics Observatory, constantly monitor the star for changes in solar weather. - NBC News.

EARTH-DIRECTED ERUPTION: On Saturday, February 9th, around 0640 UT, a magnetic filament in the sun's northern hemisphere erupted, hurling a coronal mass ejection (CME) toward Earth. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the UV flash from the underlying C2-class solar flare:


The CME, which was captured in flight by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, billowed away from the sun at 800 km/s. The bulk of the cloud looks like it will sail north of Earth. Nevertheless, a glancing blow is possible as shown in this 3D model of the CME prepared by analysts at the Goddard Space Flight Center. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras on Feb. 12th when the CME passes by.

SIX GOING ON SEVEN: Last night, for the sixth night in a row, auroras danced across the midnight skies of Scandinavia. "At the risk of sounding boring and repetitive, I have to say this: It was another great night in the Arctic!" reports Rayann Elzein of Utsjoki, Finland. The Northern Lights he witnessed stretched from horizon to zenith:


"This is for me so far 6 nights out of 6 with beautiful auroras in the sky," says Elzein.

Tonight could be number seven. A solar wind stream is expected to brush past Earth's magnetic field on Feb. 11-12, stirring up more auroras. Debris from the filament eruption of Feb. 9th (see "Earth-Directed Eruption," below) might also arrive, further boosting the odds of polar geomagnetic activity on Feb. 12th. - Space Weather.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: The Giant Louisiana Sinkhole - State Expert Express Concern Over The Stability Of 7 Salt Caverns, "We Used To Be Mainly Worried About Just One, Lot Of Things Going On"?!

February 11, 2013 - UNITED STATES - In the following video, Gary Hecox, a geologist working on the issue of the giant sinkhole for the State of Louisiana expresses concern about the stability of the caverns.


"The last thing I’m going to talk about here is the cavern stability, that’s part of what we’ve got to look at.
We started off back in September everybody was mainly worried about the Oxy 3 cavern.

Because of a lot of things going on, we’ve expanded the scope; we’re now looking at all the caverns shown here.

We’re looking at Oxy 3 obviously, Oxy 1, 2, 9, 10; Crosstex 2 and 1. They’re all included in the analysis."
WATCH: Hecox presentation on the sinkhole.

ICE AGE NOW: Pyrenees Ski Resorts Top World Snow Charts - Over 23 Feet Of Snowfall In Just One Month?!

 February 11, 2013 - PYRENESS - Road and lift closures. Evacuations and residents confined to their homes. The storms that have brought over 7 meters of snow to the Pyrenees since the New Year don't seem to be putting a smile on ski resort director's faces. Quite the opposite in fact. Some are asking if they were not better off with last season's snow drought. Yesterday at Mourtis, a resort where skiers are more familiar with grass and mud, the piste bashers were running non-stop and the upper lifts have barely opened all week. The diesel bill is eye-watering.

Cauterets in Hautes-Pyrenees, where ski lifts are almost buried under snow.
Noël Lacaze, director at Peyragudes, says that avalanche control work has been non-stop. "We've already used 900 kg of explosives, we've never done that before, that's between 15,000 to 20,000 euros alone". Add to that overtime plus the work clearing roofs and roads as well as additional heating costs and Lacuze thinks snowmaking might be cheaper than dealing with the effects of too much snow. Last season at Barèges there were less than 10 PIDAs organized (general avalanche control days), this season they are already approaching 20. Bernard Malus, director of le Grand Tormalet (Barèges-la Mongie-pic du Midi) says that in recent season they've invested heavily in snow making not avalanche control infrastructure. "This winter has taught us we've got to put money into remote avalanche control systems, a more performant Gazex network, it will cost around 3 million euros". Lacaze says that the investment in advanced ski lifts over recent years in the Pyrenees has had an effect "chair lifts are not more fragile but the depart and arrival areas are more complex to clear and secure, with drag lifts things were easier".

It is not as if the resorts have seen an influx of visitors brought by the excellent snow depths. Those resorts which have opened have seen guest numbers at half normal levels. Fewer lift pass sales, fewer skis rented and less people in restaurants. Malux regrets that "turnover is not proportional to snowfall, we need less snow and more sun, but still.... Since mid January we've been closed three days and have only been able to sell lift passes at full rate on 8". The misery is not over for Barèges, 600 tourists were evacuated on Sunday due to the avalanche risk, 24 hours after arriving in the resort. Other resorts have also had to adapt to disgruntled tourists and offer cheaper lift passes or give rebates to guests who already purchased week tickets.

The authorities have also been quick to close mountain roads, sometimes for a number of days. Locals also think guests have lost the "mountain culture" and no longer want to bother with putting chains to drive the final km to resort. This Sunday there were further avalanches. A snowboarder triggered a slide in the Port de Castet without causing any victims and there was an avalanche early in the day at Pierre Saint-Martin which blocked the access road. Resort's comfort themselves that the bad weather has, so far, been outside the main holiday period with resorts relatively empty. Bookings during the holiday period are up, if only the sun would come out. - Pistehors.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Hundreds Of Thousands Of Chickens And Birds Killed Due To Avian Flu In Nepal And Bangladesh!

February 11, 2013 - ASIA - The Bangladeshi veterinary authorities have reported another outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) at a commercial poultry farm in Dhaka.



The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) received follow-up report no. 4 on 5 February.

Out of 153,477 susceptible birds, 8509 cases were reported. The remaining 144,968 birds were destroyed.

The source or origin of the outbreaks remains inconclusive.

Several control measures have been applied to control the spread of the disease in the country. - TPS.


Thousands Of Chickens Killed Due To Avian Flu In Kathmandu, Nepal.
The rapid response team deployed by the District Veterinary Clinic, Kathmandu on Saturday culled all the remaining 2,610 chickens following confirmation of H5N1 virus in the poultry farm owned by Kishor Tandukar of Jitpurfedi- 1 Kathmandu.

The team that comprises vets and technicians also destroyed 1,000 kg of chicken feeds stored in the farm.

The outbreak is the fourth in the last one-and-a-half months in the district, said the Directorate of the Animal Health (DoAH).

“Of the 4,000 chickens in the farm, the rapid response team has culled 2, 610,” said Dr Narayan Prasad Ghimire, senior veterinarian at DoAH, adding, “The remaining chickens died of infection.”

The Central veterinary Laboratory under DoAH confirmed on Friday that the chickens had contracted the virus. Following the confirmation, the district co-ordination committee led by Chief District Officer (CDO) Chudamani Sharma had taken the decision to cull the infected chickens. “We have responded on time,” he added.


A surveillance team had brought the samples on Friday morning for the analysis. Tandukar had informed the veterinary officials after scores of chickens started to die in his farm.

Dr Ghimire said that the risk of H5N1 virus spread is high during winter and hence the need for extra precaution. The directorate has urged all poultry farmers to take good care of the fowls. Fowls avoiding feed, standing still with head down and excreting saliva could be symptoms of H5N1 virus infection, said Ghimire.

DoAH said that the team has also completed first phase of disinfection at the farm. It has also urged poultry farmers to immediately inform vet officials if chickens started to die. DoAH, Kathmandu said it has intensified surveillance.

Earlier in December last year, the disease was confirmed in a poultry farm at Ramkot and Sitapaila VDCs of the district. The virus was detected in poultry farms in Dhading and Nuwakot, the adjoining districts of Kathmandu.

Meanwhile, DoAH has said that people can consume chicken and eggs without any hesitation, as all the infected chickens have been culled. The office has also appealed people to cook the chicken properly before eating. - Republica.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Powerful And Monstrous American Northeast Blizzard Sets Record Snowfall - Up to 40 Inches Of Snow In New York, At Least 15 Dead, Hundreds Of Thousands Still Without Power, A Major Risk Of Geological Upheaval As Rain And Warmer Weather Could Collapse Roads And Infrastructure!

February 11, 2013 - UNITED STATES - As electricity returns and highways reopen, Northeast residents are getting back to their weekday routines following the massive snowstorm that had millions digging out from New York to Maine.  But the routine for some New Englanders will be disrupted by school and workplace closings, while residents of New York's Long Island anticipate the reopening of a major roadway. For some, there's also a new worry: the danger of roof collapses as rain and warmer weather melt snow.  The storm that slammed into the region with up to three feet of snow was blamed for at least 15 deaths in the Northeast and Canada, and brought some of the highest accumulations ever recorded.  Still, coastal areas were largely spared catastrophic damage despite being lashed by strong waves and hurricane-force wind gusts at the height of the storm.

Snow begins to melt on cars parked at a dealership after a winter storm in Hartford, Conn., Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013. A howling storm across the Northeast left much of the New York-to-Boston corridor covered with more than three feet of snow on Friday into Saturday morning. CREDIT: AP Photo/Jessica Hill.
Hundreds of people, their homes without heat or electricity, were forced to take refuge in emergency shelters set up in schools or other places. Utility crews, some brought in from as far away as Georgia, Oklahoma and Quebec, raced to restore power. By early Monday, region-wide outages had dropped from some 650,000 in eight states at their highest to 149,970 -- more than 126,000 of them in Massachusetts, where officials said some of the outages might linger until Tuesday.  "For all the complaining everyone does, people really came through," said Rich Dinsmore, 65, of Newport, R.I., who was staying at a Red Cross shelter set up in a middle school in Middletown after the power went out in his home on Friday.  Dinsmore, who has emphysema, was first brought by ambulance to a hospital after the medical equipment he relies on failed when the power went out and he had difficulty breathing.

WATCH: Time lapse video of the 2013 Snowpocalypse in the Northeast.


"The police, the fire department, the state, the Red Cross, the volunteers, it really worked well," said the retired radio broadcaster and Army veteran.  President Obama declared a state of emergency for Connecticut, allowing federal aid to be used in recovery.  CBS News correspondent Miguel Bojorquez reports that Hamden, Conn., about 80 miles from New York City, got the deepest snow: 40 inches. The blizzard dumped five inches of snow per hour there for some time.  Driving bans were lifted and flights resumed at major airports in the region that had closed during the storm, though many flights were still canceled Sunday. Public transit schedules were being restored.  The Boston-area public transportation system, which shut down on Friday afternoon, was expected to resume full service on Monday, albeit with delays.

WATCH: Northeast sees record snow fall.


Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) General Manager Beverly Scott, speaking at a Sunday afternoon press conference, noted that snow accumulation, downed tree limbs and other damage from high winds and the overall age of the transit system made restoration challenging, reports CBS Boston station WBZ. The Metro-North Railroad expected to resume much of its train service on its New York and Connecticut routes while the Long Island Rail Road said commuters could expect a nearly normal schedule.  "A lot of progress has been made," said Salvatore Arena, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates Metro-North.  Some public schools canceled classes on Monday, including in Boston, Providence and on Long Island, while local governments in some areas told non-essential workers to take the day off.  On eastern Long Island, the harrowing images from New York's slice of the massive snowstorm -- people stranded overnight, cars abandoned on long stretches of drift-covered highways -- were slowly erased Sunday as hundreds of snowplows and heavy equipment descended to try to help clear the way for Monday's commute.  Long Island was slammed with as much as 30 inches of snow, which shut down roads, including the Long Island Expressway. A 27-mile stretch of the road was closed Sunday and early Monday for snow-removal work.  Gov. Andrew Cuomo said more than a third of all the state's snow-removal equipment was sent to the area, including more than 400 plow trucks and more than 100 snow blowers, loaders and backhoes.  "The massive amount of snow left behind effectively shut down the entire region," Cuomo said.  On Sunrise Highway, which runs parallel to the Long Island Expressway, Dennis Lawrence, of Bellport, N.Y., had already spent 90 minutes digging out the car he had abandoned and had at least another 30-60 minutes to go on Sunday. He left it there Friday after getting stuck on his way home from his job in New York City.

Tow truck operator Shawn Juhre sets up road safety reflectors before towing a car out of a ditch during a winter snow storm in Buffalo, N.Y., Friday, Feb. 8, 2013. Snow began falling across the Northeast on Friday, ushering in what was predicted to be a huge, possibly historic blizzard and sending residents scurrying to stock up on food and gas up their cars. The storm dumped as much as two feet or more of snow in the Northeastern States.
CREDIT: AP Photo/David Duprey.
"The car was all over the place, it just slid over and wouldn't move," the 54-year-old elevator mechanic said. "I finally decided today to come and get it."  Boston recorded 24.9 inches of snow, making it the fifth-largest storm in the city since records were kept. The city was appealing to the state and private contractors for more front-end loaders and other heavy equipment to clear snow piles that were clogging residential streets.  The National Weather Service was forecasting rain and warmer temperatures in the region on Monday, which could begin melting some snow but also add considerable weight to snow already piled on roofs, posing the danger of collapse. Of greatest concern were flat or gently-sloped roofs and officials said people should try to clear them -- but only if they could do so safely.  "We don't recommend that people, unless they're young and experienced, go up on roofs," said Peter Judge, spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.  In Middlefield, Conn., two cows were killed when the roof of a barn gave way under the weight of heavy snow, one of two such incidents in the state that prompted agriculture officials to issue an advisory to farmers.

WATCH: Boston roads still treacherous after blizzard.


Officials also continued to warn of carbon monoxide dangers in the wake of the storm.  In Boston, two people died Saturday after being overcome by carbon monoxide while sitting in running cars, including a teenager who went into the family car to stay warm while his father shoveled snow. The boy's name was not made public. In a third incident, two children were hospitalized but expected to recover. In Webster, a 60-year-old off-duty member of the Worcester Fire Department died Saturday after suffering a heart attack while clearing snow at his home.  A fire department spokesman said in each case, the tailpipes of the cars were clogged by snow.  In Maine, the Penobscot County Sheriff's office said it recovered the body of a 75-year-old man who died after the pickup he was driving struck a tree and plunged into the Penobscot River during the storm. Investigators said Gerald Crommett apparently became disoriented while driving in the blinding snow.  Christopher Mahood, 23, of Germantown, N.Y., died after his tractor went off his driveway while he was plowing snow Friday night and rolled down a 15-foot embankment.  In Massachusetts, eight teams were formed to assess damage from flooding along the state's coastline, with the hardest hit-areas including historic Plymouth and portions of Cape Cod. "Considering the severity of the storm, the amount of snow and the wind, we've come through this pretty well," Gov. Deval Patrick told the CBS News broadcast "Face The Nation" Sunday after meeting with local officials in Plymouth. The U.S. Postal Service said that mail delivery that was suspended in the six New England states, as well as parts of New York and New Jersey, because of the snowstorm would resume Monday, where it is safe to do so. - CBS News.

EXTREME WEATHER: The Global Food Crisis - Moderate To Exceptional Drought Covers 56.8% Of Contiguous United States As Food Prices At Risk Of Spiking In 2013!

February 11, 2013 - UNITED STATES - According to the February 5, 2013 U.S. Drought Monitor, moderate to exceptional drought covers 56.8% of the contiguous United States, a decrease from last week’s 57.7%.


The worst drought categories (extreme to exceptional drought) also decreased slightly from 19.4% to 19.1%. The improvement is due to beneficial rains from a strong frontal system, which contracted drought from the Southern Plains into the Midwest and from the Deep South through upstate New York, and two weeks of decent rain that improved drought conditions in Hawaii.
The full U.S. Drought Monitor weekly update and a current summary of conditions are available at www.drought.gov

In addition to Drought.gov, you can find further information on the current drought at The National Drought Mitigation Center.

The most recent U.S. Drought Outlook is available from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s World Agriculture Outlook Board provides information about the drought’s influence on crops and livestock. - NOAA.


Food Prices At Risk Of Spiking In 2013, U.S. Drought May Play A Part.
Global food prices ended their three month slide after they stabilized in January, but the United Nations warned prices could spike in 2013 if poor weather curtails production of wheat, corn, rice and other cereals.

 © Press-Citizen file photo.
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization said the food price index, which measures monthly price changes in cereals, dairy, meat, sugar and oilseeds, was 210 in January, unchanged from the prior month. Food prices have leveled off and even declined in recent months after climbing during much of 2012 following concern that drought plaguing the United States and other parts of the world could spark a food crisis.

"Given the tight supply situation, weather remains an important determinant of prices," said FAO Senior Grains Economist Abdolreza Abbassian. "For several cereals, production needs to increase significantly this year in order to avoid unexpected price surges."

Early prospects for 2013 cereal production point to increased world wheat output. Contributing largely to this jump is an estimated 4 to 5 percent increase in wheat acreage in the European Union where weather conditions have been strong. But the UN said the outlook for wheat in the United States is "less favorable."

The agency said despite a 1 percent increase in winter wheat plantings and an expected surge in plantings for spring wheat , severe drought continues to plague the southern Plains where much of the crop is considered very poor. Locally, 99.98 percent of Iowa is classified by the U.S. government as having moderate to exceptional drought, up from 30 percent at this time last year.

Food prices in the United States are forecast to rise between 3.5 and 4 percent this year, an increase from 2.6 percent in 2012, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.

In its monthly report, the UN estimated world cereal production at 2.302 billion, up 20 million tonnes from the December estimate but still down 2 percent from 2011's record crop. The increase was the result of favorable wheat and corn crops. World cereal stocks at the close of crop seasons ending in 2013 are estimated at around 495 million tonnes, unchanged from the previous report in December but down 3 percent, or about 16.2 million tonnes from their opening level.

The USDA is scheduled to release its monthly crop report detailing U.S. and global production and stock levels at noon eastern time on Friday. - Des Moines Register.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Moderate 4.9 To 5.0 Earthquake Rattles Caribbean Region - Felt In Jamaica, Trinidad And Grenada!

February 11, 2013 - CARIBBEAN - Reports are that an earth tremor shook sections of western Jamaica early Sunday morning.

USGS earthquake map and location.
The tremor was felt in Westmoreland at 6:10am and lasted for approximately three seconds. There were also reports of it being felt in other sections of the island. There were no reports of damage related to the tremor. Meanwhile, an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.9 and depth of 110 km was confirmed in Trinidad early Sunday morning. The Trinidad-based Seismic Research Centre at the University of the West Indies (UWI) said the quake occurred at 1:27 (local time). The quake occurred north of the Paria Peninsula in Trinidad. It’s reported that the tremor was also felt in Grenada. - Jamaica Observer.

The location of Sunday’s earthquake. UWI graphic.
On Sunday at 1:27am local time an earthquake occurred north of the Paria Peninsula, Trinidad, with an epicentre 89 kilometres (51 miles) northwest of Port of Spain.  According to preliminary reports from the Seismic Research Centre at the University of the West Indies in St Augustine, Trinidad, the magnitude of the quake was 4.9 and the depth 110km.  Corresponding data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) indicated a magnitude of 5.0 and a depth of 94 kilometres.  There were reports of minor shaking in St George’s, St David’s and St Andrew in Grenada, and Glencoe, Trinidad.  No damage or injuries were reported. - CNN.

USGS Historic Seismicity of the Jamaica Region.
A magnitude-5 earthquake has rattled Trinidad & Tobago during its popular Carnival celebrations, but no damage or injuries have been reported.  The quake struck shortly after midnight some 55 miles (89 kilometres) from the twin-island nation's capital of Port-of-Spain. It also shook Grenada and parts of Venezuela's Caribbean coast.  The U.S. Geological Survey says the offshore quake's epicenter was 94 kilometres (58 miles) beneath the earth's surface.  In Port-of-Spain, some jittery people lingered outdoors after the ground rattled buildings and hotels. Police say they received numerous calls from residents about the quake.  The quake rattled the Caribbean country as tourists and local revelers have filled the capital for Trinidad's hip-shaking Carnival, the biggest and most lavish of all Caribbean celebrations. - Vancouver Sun.


Massive Earthquake Coming to Jamaica - on the Same Scale as the One That Sank a Section of Port Royal More Than 300 Years Ago!
Jamaica is due to experience an earthquake on the same scale as one that sank a section of Port Royal more than 300 years ago, according to the Earthquake Unit at the University of the West Indies. "The past is a key to the future, so what has happened before will happen again," Dr Lyndon Brown, research fellow and head of the Earthquake Unit, told The Gleaner yesterday. Brown said that although he was certain the island would be hit by another major earthquake, he could not give an accurate time frame for his prediction. "There have been some calculations about 144 years after the 1904, some about 84 (years), but it's really not accurate," he told The Gleaner. "We believe these are cycles but we don't know the recurrent intervals. Some calculations have been done based on the history of earthquakes, we don't know what has happened before, we have not done enough research to understand the history of earthquakes prior to this. So any calculations that have been done or any recurrent interval that is calculated is just based on a short history, so it's really not accurate."

Meanwhile, Senior Deputy Superintendent in charge of operations of the Kingston and St Andrew Fire Department, Maxwell Hinds, says his division is not prepared to manage anything of the magnitude that hit the island in 1692, claiming the lives of more than 3,000 people. "The Kingston and St Andrew division of the Jamaica Fire Brigade is, I would say, equipped to respond to fires and some search and rescues, but in a major disaster, we would have problems," Hinds said. Speaking with The Gleaner at the National Simulation and Training Exercise Programme (NSTEP), Hinds said: "If it becomes a mass situation, we might have to seek multi-agency assistance but if it's just confined to a section, we might be able to manage and we would get resources from neighbouring parishes, so it all depends on the extent of the situation." NSTEP was established by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management and yesterday held its National Simulation Exercise, on the challenges that would affect the education sector in the aftermath of a major earthquake, at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston. - Jamaica Gleaner.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Volcano Discovery Report For February 10, 2013 - Updates On Stromboli, El Hierro, Kliuchevskoi, Kizimen, Karymsky, Shiveluch, Tolbachik, Ambrym, Colima, And Popocatépetl!

February 11, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing report from the Volcano Discovery Group.


Stromboli (Eolian Islands, Italy): Activity remains elevated. Explosion signals are strong and there are small lava overflows from the NE crater.

Small lava overflow from the NE crater of Stromboli (thermal webcam, INGV Catania).
El Hierro (Canary Islands, Spain): The number of earthquakes continues to be a bit above background with 1-6 small daily events.

Kliuchevskoi (Kamchatka): KVERT reports weak seismic activity. No hot spot is visible on MODIS satellite data. If any, strombolian activity from the summit crater is currently low.

Kizimen (Kamchatka): New lava flows continue to extruding from the summit on the eastern and southern flanks of the volcano. Seismicity is moderate (KVERT).

Karymsky (Kamchatka): KVERT reports weak seismic activity at the volcano.

Shiveluch (Kamchatka): A viscous lava flow continues to effuse on the eastern flank of the lava dome, strong and moderate fumarolic activity and incandescence of the dome summit and hot avalanches accompanies this process. Satellite data showed a thermal anomaly over the lava dome. (KVERT)
Seismic activity has increased to moderate levels.

Tolbachik (Kamchatka): Lava effusion from the southern fissure continues with little changes, tremor has remained at stable moderate levels.

Ambrym (Vanuatu): A strong SO2 plume from the volcano is visible today again, confirming lots of fresh magma continuous to arrive in the craters.

Colima (Western Mexico): Rockfalls and occasional small volcanic quakes are visible on the seismic signals, probably accompanied by small steam explosions.

Glow from Popocatepetl.
Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): The rate of gas/steam emissions remains low at about 1 event per hour and glow is visible at night. A M3.3 earthquake at shallow 10 km depth occurred yesterday beneath the NE flank of the volcano.

Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for, Monday, 11 Feb 2013

Photo of the Day: sunset at stromboli - view from brarbara's terrace with stromboli's eruption cloud

Photo of the Week: An astonished cameraman observes five fountains rising from the fissure (Etna New SE crater paroxysm 12 Aug 2011).

- Volcano Discovery.