Sunday, May 5, 2013

WORLD WAR III: The Syrian War Spark - Syria Stations Missile Batteries Aimed At Israel, Says That Israeli Strike Is A Total "Declaration Of War" And "Opens Door To All Possibilities"; As Israel Deploys Iron Dome Batteries In Preparation For Possible Syrian Retaliation!

May 05, 2013 - MIDDLE EAST - Israeli jets devastated Syrian targets near Damascus on Sunday in a heavy overnight air raid that Western and Israeli officials called a new strike on Iranian missiles bound for Lebanon's Hezbollah.  As Syria's two-year-old civil war veered into the potentially atomic arena of Iran's confrontation with Israel and the West over its nuclear program, people were woken in the Syrian capital by explosions that shook the ground like an earthquake and sent pillars of flame high into the night sky.  "Night turned into day," one man told Reuters from his home at Hameh, near one of the targets, the Jamraya military base.  But for all the angry rhetoric in response from Tehran and from the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, it was unclear whether the second such raid in 48 hours would elicit any greater reaction than an Israeli attack in the same area in January, which was followed by little evident change. 




Syria Says That Israeli Strike Is "A Declaration Of War".
The Syrian government accused Israel of effectively helping al Qaeda Islamist "terrorists" and said the strikes "open the door to all possibilities"; but Israeli officials said that, as in January, they were calculating Assad would not pick a fight with a well-armed neighbor while facing defeat at home.  Denying it was weighing in on the rebel side on behalf of Washington - which opposes Assad but is hesitating to intervene - officials said Israel was pursuing its own conflict, not with Syria but with Iran, and was acting to prevent Iran's Hezbollah allies receiving missiles that might strike Tel Aviv if Israel made good on threats to attack Tehran's nuclear program.  What Israel was not doing, they stressed, was getting drawn into a debate that has raged in the United States lately of whether the alleged use of poison gas by Assad's forces should prompt the West finally to give military backing to oust him.  Israel was not taking sides in a civil war that has pitted Assad's government, a dour but mostly toothless adversary for nearly 40 years, against Sunni rebels, some of them Islamist radicals, who might one day turn Syria's armory against the Jewish state.  It is a mark of how two years of killing in which at least 70,000 Syrians have died has not only inflamed a wider, regional confrontation between Shi'ite Muslim Iran and Sunni Arabs, some of them close Western allies, but have also left Israel and Western powers scrambling to reassess where their interests lie.  Egypt, the most populous Arab state and flagship of the 2011 Arab Spring revolts where elected Islamists have replaced a Western-backed autocrat, has no love for Assad. But on Sunday it condemned Israel's air strikes as a breach of international law that "made the situation more complicated". 

WATCH: Damascus resident describes 'very huge explosion'.




WATCH:
Eye-witness Capturs Overnight Rocket Strike.




ROCKETS TARGETED 
Israel does not confirm such missions explicitly - a policy it says is intended to avoid provoking reprisals. But an Israeli official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the strikes were carried out by its forces, as was a raid early on Friday that U.S. President Barack Obama said had been justified.  A Western intelligence source told Reuters: "In last night's attack, as in the previous one, what was attacked were stores of Fateh-110 missiles that were in transit from Iran to Hezbollah."  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his aim for Israel was to "guarantee its future" - language he has used to warn of a willingness to attack Iran's nuclear sites, even in defiance of U.S. advice, as well as to deny Hezbollah heavier weapons.  He later flew to China on a scheduled trip, projecting confidence there would be no major escalation - though Israel has reinforced its anti-missile batteries in the north.  Syrian state television said bombing at a military research facility at Jamraya and two other sites caused "many civilian casualties and widespread damage", but it gave no details. The Jamraya compound was also a target for Israel on January 30.  Hezbollah's Al-Manar television showed a flattened building spread over the size of a football pitch, with smoke rising from rubble containing shell fragments. It did not identify it.  Syrian state television quoted a letter from the foreign minister to the United Nations saying: "The blatant Israeli aggression has the aim to provide direct military support to the terrorist groups after they failed to control territory."  Obama defended Israel's right to block "terrorist organizations like Hezbollah" from acquiring weapons after Friday's raid, and a White House spokesman said on Sunday: "The president many times has talked about his view that Israel, as a sovereign government, has the right to take the actions they feel are necessary to protect their people."  It was unclear that Israel had sought U.S. approval for the strikes, although the White House spokesman said: "The close coordination between the Obama administration, the United States of America, is ongoing with the Israeli government."  Obama has in recent years worked to hold back Netanyahu from making good on threats to hit facilities where he says Iran, despite its denials, is working to develop a nuclear weapon.  On Sunday, some Israeli officials highlighted Obama's reluctance to be drawn into new conflict in the Middle East to explain Israel's need for independent action.  Syria restricts access to independent journalists. Its state media said Israeli aircraft struck three places between Damascus and the nearby Lebanese border. The city also lies barely 50 km (30 miles) from Israeli positions on the occupied Golan Heights.  Tehran, which has long backed Assad, whose Alawite minority has religious ties to Shi'ite Islam, denied the attack was on armaments for Lebanon and called for nations to stand firm against Israel. A senior Iranian commander was quoted, however, as saying Syria's armed forces were able to defend themselves without their allies, though Iran could help them with training.  Hezbollah, a Shi'ite movement that says it is defending Lebanon from Israeli aggression, declined immediate comment. 

WATCH: Fawaz Gerges, political analyst, discusses the potential fall out following the Israeli airstrikes on Syria.




ISRAELI CONCERNS 
Analysts say the Fateh-110 could put the Tel Aviv metropolis in range of Hezbollah gunners, 100 km (60 miles) to the north, bolstering the arsenal of a group that fired some 4,000 shorter-range rockets into Israel during a month-long war in 2006.  "What we want is to ensure that inside the Syrian chaos we will not see Hezbollah growing stronger," Israeli lawmaker Tzachi Hanegbi, a confidant of Netanyahu, told Army Radio.  "The world is helplessly looking on at events in Syria, the Americans in particular, and this president in particular," he added of Obama. "He has left Iraq, Afghanistan and has no interest in sending ground troops to Syria ... That is why, as in the past, we are left with our own interests, protecting them with determination and without getting too involved."  Video footage uploaded onto the Internet by Syrian activists showed a series of blasts. One lit up the skyline of Damascus, while another sent up a tower of flames and secondary blasts.  Syrian state news agency SANA said Israeli aircraft struck in three places: northeast of Jamraya; the town of Maysaloun on the Lebanese border; and the nearby Dimas air base.  "The sky was red all night," one man said from Hameh, near Jamraya. "We didn't sleep a single second. The explosions started after midnight and continued through the night."  Central Damascus was quiet on the first day of the working week, and government checkpoints seemed reinforced. Some opposition activists said they were glad strikes might weaken Assad, even if few Syrians have any liking for Israel: "We don't care who did it," Rania al-Midania said in the capital. "We care that those weapons are no longer there to kill us." - Reuters.


Syria Says Israel Strike "Opens Door To All Possibilities".
Syria’s government condemned Israel’s attacks on Damascus early Sunday saying that the "Israeli aggression opens the door to all possibilities," without elaborating on any potential retaliation.  Syrian Information Minister, Omran al-Zoubi, said in a press conference that the Israeli aggression has made the region "more dangerous."  The statement comes after Israeli strikes earlier on Sunday hit a military target outside Damascus. The attack was considered to be the Jewish state's second reported raid on Syria this week, with residents saying it felt like an earthquake and turned the sky red, reported AFP.  Israel’s Arkia Airlines has meanwhile cancelled flights between Haifa and Eilat until May 9, Al Arabiya’s Jerusalem correspondent said.  The halt came after the Israel decided to close its airspace in the North to civilian air traffic following tensions with Syria.

WATCH: Syrian Government Statement - The Israeli Aggression Opens the Door Wide for All Possibilities.




The Arab league demanded on Sunday that the U.N. Security Council "act immediately to end Israeli attacks on Syria," which it described as a "dangerous violation of an Arab state's sovereignty," AFP said.  The Egyptian presidency has also condemned the aggression saying the air strikes "violated international law and principles that will further complicate the situation."  The sites targeted were -- a military facility, a nearby weapons depot and an anti-aircraft unit in Sabura -- a diplomatic source in Beirut told AFP.  The official SANA news agency said Israel targeted the military research center at Jamraya, northwest of Damascus, without giving details on casualties or damage.  "This new Israeli aggression is a clear attempt to alleviate the pressure on the armed terrorist groups after our army beat them back in several regions and after the army's victories on the road to recovering security and stability in Syria," SANA said.  The Syrian government made a statement Sunday morning saying the Israeli strikes managed to kill and wound several people as well as causing an evident amount of damage.  British Foreign Secretary William Hague also reacted to the strikes on Sunday. Hague said this showed that peace across the whole region was under threat, and reinforced the need to lift an arms embargo on Syrian rebels.  “We don’t have any official confirmation but of course there have been some sources in Israel saying that this has been an Israeli airstrike -- I will wait before commenting in detail on that for official confirmation,” Hague told Sky News.  “But what I can say is that these events, and many other events of recent days, do show increasing danger to the peace of that entire region from the Syria crisis just getting worse and worse.”  Hague added: “Lebanon is constantly threatened by being destabilised, huge numbers of refugees are crossing the border, Jordan is under incredible strain.  “And Israel has made very clear that it will act if it believes that important weapons systems are being transferred to Hezbollah.”  Hague said that “Israel will act to protect its national security, we do have to respect that.” - Al Arabiya.


Syria Stations Missile Batteries Aimed At Israel.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Photo: REUTERS/Sana

Syria has stationed missile batteries aimed at Israel in the aftermath of alleged Israeli air strikes in the country, the website of Lebanon's Al Mayadeen TV, considered close to the regime of President Bashar Assad, quoted a top Syrian official as saying on Sunday.  The report came as Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoabi said on Sunday that alleged Israeli air strikes against three targets on the outskirts of Damascus "open the door to all possibilities." The minister's comments at a press conference came after an emergency cabinet meeting organized to respond to what a Western source said was a new strike on Iranian missiles bound for Lebanon's Hezbollah.  Although Zoabi did not hint at a concrete course of action, he said it was Damascus's duty to protect the state from any "domestic or foreign attack through all available means."  Sunday's attack is the third reported Israeli assault this year on Syrian soil. Previous strikes on Syria allegedly carried out by Israel have not elicited a military response from Syria or its allies Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah.

Israel declined to confirm the strike so as not to pressure Assad into serious retaliation, according to a confidant of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.  Earlier on Sunday, Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al Mekdad told CNN that Israel's air strikes in the country were interpreted as an Israeli "declaration of war" on the Assad regime.  In an interview with CNN, Faisal said that Syria would respond in a manner of its own time and choosing.  Syria's state television said the strikes were a response to recent military gains by Assad's forces against rebels.  "The new Israeli attack is an attempt to raise the morale of the terrorist groups which have been reeling from strikes by our noble army," it said.  Meanwhile, the IDF has deployed two Iron Dome batteries to northern cities due to regional tensions following air strikes in Damascus which Western sources have attributed to the Israel Air Force. - JPOST.


Israel Deploys Iron Dome Batteries In Preparation For Possible Syrian Retaliation.
Iron Dome near Safed
(Photo: Avihu Shapira)

Two Iron Dome batteries were deployed in Safed and Haifa, as a result of tensions in the north.  Following an IDF evaluation of developments in the region, culminating in Israeli strikes on Syria – as confirmed by officials – Israel is bolstering protective measures in preparation for possible retaliatory rocket fire. Meanwhile, Lebanese official news agency reported Sunday that Lebanon army and UNIFIL forces have increased patrols in the area.   Lebanon is set to file a complaint against Israel with the UN Security Council citing "repeated violations perpetrated by Israel, whose planes penetrate the country's aerial spaces."   Lebanese Daily Star website quoted FM Adnan Mansour as saying "such aggression ... represents a blatant violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty and international resolution including UNSCR 1701."

WATCH: Charlie McGrath - The Syrian Spark.




Though an Israeli official confirmed to AFP that Israel was behind the attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made no mention of strike in Syria at a public appearance on Sunday.  The prime minister nonetheless spoke pointedly about a commitment to keeping Israel secure.  "(My father) taught me that the greatest responsibility we have is to ensure Israel's security and guarantee its future," he said, dedicating a highway interchange named after his late father, Benzion Netanyahu, a historian who died a year ago. The ceremony marked the first time Netanyahu has spoken in public since an Israeli official said on Saturday that Israel had carried out an air strike on Friday against missiles in Syria intended for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah . A Western intelligence source said Israel launched a second air strike on Sunday that also hit missiles in transit from Iran to Hezbollah. - YNET News.



MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Most Stunning And Mysterious Fish Kill - OVER 25 TONNES Of Dead Fish Found In A Dam In Thuringia, Germany?!

May 05, 2013 - GERMANY - A mysterious mass death of fish in the dam Heyda in Thuringia are the authorities mystery. On the banks of the dam, it stinks pushy. 25 tons of dead fish have so far been recovered from the water.

The idyll of the popular tourist destination is disrupted for weeks. In masses of dead fish float belly-up in the Heyda Dam near Ilmenau (Thuringia). Volunteers of the District Fishing Association since mid-April, there are thousands of dead silver carp fish with dip nets from the water. On Saturday, the rescue went on, with no end in sight.


That dead silver carp: Why the animals suddenly dying in masses, is still unclear.

In an emergency meeting of the surrounding communities have secured the only active anglers on Saturday to help. The volunteers do not come with the Fishing out afterwards, there is a lack of boats.

Landrätin Petra Enders ordered now, every day from Monday to take water samples to detect possible changes in the dam. Experts saw on Saturday at first but no threat to the ecosystem.

25 tons of dead fish have been taken from the dam volunteers. Appreciate the volunteers that once again so many dead fish will be added. Alone on Saturday until noon, they filled a 18,000 liter container halfway with the rotting carcasses.


Salvage of dead fish: It is still expected with nearly 8000 other up to ten kilogram carcasses.

Why the silver carp suddenly dying in masses, is still unclear. Initial studies could not detect any bacteria or virus attack, said Eckhard Bauer Schmidt, District Office spokesman Ilmkreises. Is mysterious, that it gutgehe all other fish in the dam.

In the eighties, thousands of silver carp were exposed in the dam for medical purposes. From them one serum was obtained. In the now dead carp it should be mainly to older animals.


Dam Heyda: Members of the district association discharged dead silver carp fishing from a boat. 25 tons of dead animals have been recovered from the waters.

In recent decades, an alga with the Latin name Prymnesium parvum had repeatedly killed masses of fish worldwide. In Israel, they raged in carp ponds in England 1969-1975, especially in the Thurne and its tributaries. 1989, met Norwegian aquaculture, where suddenly salmon and rainbow trout died abound. 2005 proposed the Killeralge to the U.S. - Spiegel. [Translated]




ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: The "17 Year Locusts" Pilgrims - Billions Of Cicadas, Flying Bugs, Prepare To Invade The United States!

May 05, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Cicadas have black bodies, blood-red eyes and legs, delicately veined gossamer wings and oddly ridged faces that resemble the Klingons from “Star Trek.” Entomologist Cole Gilbert finds them “amazing.” And after listening to him discourse about the species over lunch late last month, I think I understand why. Cicadas (Magicicada septendecim) — like many of the species Gilbert studies — are just plain weird.


(Credit: Wikimedia)

The Pilgrims called cicadas “17 year locusts,” because some of them survive for that long underground, sucking the sap from roots, between periodic emergences in epic swarms. Locusts are in the grasshopper family, however, and cicadas are garish relatives of spittle bugs and crickets. Beyond that we know precious little about cicadas’ mysterious lives under the earth. And we don’t understand why they wait 17 years between appearances (for some subgroups it’s 13 years, and there are also annuals.) Why 17? Why 13? We also don’t have a clue how these brainless arthropods manage to keep track of the passing years. And how exactly do cicada nymphs know when to all come wiggling out of the soil on cue, emerging within hours of one another after spending over a decade interred?

Most of all, we don’t know why cicadas are diminishing in numbers, their ranges shrinking in many parts of the eastern U.S., or why some historical groups have already become extinct. One thing that scientists are going to do in the weeks ahead, as the huge group, known as Brood 2, emerges from its subterranean haunts from North Carolina to western Massachusetts, is chart the precise location of populations, especially along the fringes of their range. “We need such fine scale mapping,” Cole Gilbert said, “to more directly understand the causes of shrinking distribution.”

How many cicadas are going to come out? Nobody knows for sure. “Billions, maybe more,” Gilbert says. Entomologists have counted as many as a million cicadas per acre during the peak of previous swarms. Emerging in such astronomical numbers may protect individual cicadas from predators — there is just so much that a bird can eat.

Unlike the plague insects of the Bible, however, these chattering hordes won’t be blackening any skies. “They are lousy fliers,” Gilbert says, and if you are anywhere near them they will likely crash into you on their short and awkward flights. They won’t be chomping on Pharaoh’s wheat crop either. They are not emerging to eat, but to mate, then lay their eggs — and finally to die at the ripe old age of 17. This makes cicadas one of the longest lived of all bugs, insect Methuselahs, if you will.


The affable and ponytailed Gilbert, a great bear of a scientist who teaches at Cornell University in upstate New York, looks more like a benign pirate without the eye patch than a university professor. And he clearly loves bugs. “Most people don’t notice most insects,” he said, “because humans tend not to notice or be attracted by the small things … All animals have the same basic needs: eat, grow, reproduce. Yet insects do it in so many different wonderful ways. Many of them are more bizarre than any science fiction film.”

Gilbert is one of the world’s leading experts on certain species of arthropods that you and I have never even heard of, and would likely find creepy and intimidating even if we had. He will be out with his colleagues scouring the edges of woodlots later this spring, which is where most of the cicadas will swarm — although they are also expected to plaster power lines, trees and brick walls in towns and suburbs, hanging to anything they can latch onto. They will stay in place to shed their shell-like nymphal cuticles, and insert up to 200 opalescent eggs in cracks in the surface.

The word cicada means “tree cricket” in classical Greek. The Greek word — tetitix – is onomatopoetic, those percussive t’s and final buzzing x create a simulacrum of the high-pitched pulsing noise that the insects produce in swarm. But however loud you say tetitix, you won’t be able to compete with the not quite ear-splitting (but certainly crazy-making) 80 to 90 decibels that these insect choruses will pump out from sunup to sundown for weeks at a stretch.

Why are they making such a racket? It is the male love song. “The guys talk and the girl’s walk” is how Gilbert puts it somewhat less than scientifically. The din may also discourage predators; researchers aren’t sure. They do know how the sound is created, by the buckling of a series of ridged, spring-like structures on the male torso (an organ called the tymbal). By contracting and expanding the tymbal an astounding thousand times a second, cicadas produce, with the help of their hollow abdomens, which act as resonators, a virtually continuous pulse of sound.

Other than being extremely loud during the daytime, the insects won’t pose much of a threat. They don’t bite humans. It is rather the other way around. “Many people eat them and they taste OK … for a bug,” Gilbert allows. He speaks from experience, having sampled the crunchy insects once, no doubt in the name of science. Cicadas, unlike entomologists, are strict vegetarians. But they can do a certain amount of harm. Their behavior of laying eggs in the slits of branches (called “flagging”) can weaken the twigs of small trees if their numbers are great enough. This damage can be prevented by netting the young trees or pruning the vulnerable twigs.

Mostly, cicadas are a boon to other hungry species. Red-winged blackbirds and Eastern bluebirds, foxes, shrews and raccoons gorge on the helpless creatures, and their brood numbers often spike during the years of the cicada swarm. Once it subsides, the dead bodies of untold millions of moldering insects blanket the ground like leaves in the fall and provide a nitrogen boost for vegetation, which swells noticeably during the summer after the swarm.

But cicada numbers are thinning out, and nobody knows why. There are even years when no periodical cicadas emerge anywhere in the U.S. This is puzzling, because the insects are vanishing from some areas where tree cover is actually increasing and urbanization and human development is not a clear factor in their decline. Pesticides and agro-chemicals also probably don’t account for the species’ troubles, since they generally live in forest areas far from fields that get sprayed.

Gilbert wonders if the changing climate is to blame. He cited a study conducted in Connecticut that suggests that cicada numbers have been impacted by local variations in the weather. “Their models indicated that temperature, rainfall and seasonality were stronger predictors of where cicadas could be found than was fragmentation [of their forest habitats.]” In other words, like so many other of earth’s creatures, cicadas may be ill-equipped to endure the seismic shifts in the climate system that have already begun to happen. But until more information is gathered, this is only a guess.

In the meantime, Cole Gilbert will be out there in the coming weeks with a tape recorder, a tape measure and an assortment of polyethylene collection tubs. He’ll be throwing cicadas in the air to see what direction they fly off in. If you enjoyed playing with bugs when you were a kid, I suspect you’ll know where he’s coming from. - Salon.




SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: Celestial Convergence - See A Cosmic Circus Below Planet Saturn This Week!

May 05, 2013 - SPACE - Lately, Saturn has been rising in the east before midnight, putting it in just the position to serve as a guide to the astronomical treasures hidden below it.

Saturn is currently on the border between the constellations Virgo and Libra. Virgo features the bright first-magnitude star Spica (on astronomers' magnitude scale, the lower the number, the brighter the star), slightly less luminous than Saturn just to its left, called the east by astronomers because it is closer to the eastern horizon.


Gathered beneath Saturn and Spica are an interesting collection of constellations. These include the lengthy sea-snake Hydra, the cup Crater, the crow Corvus, and the top of the centaur Centaurus.

Immediately below Saturn and Spica is the little known constellation Hydra, the Sea Snake. Except for its brightest star, second-magnitude Alphard, the stars of Hydra are faint and hard to see except from dark country locations. Despite being inconspicuous, Hydra is the largest constellation in the sky, both in area and in length. It's a real treat to see it in a dark sky and trace its graceful undulations across the southern horizon. 

Riding on Hydra's back are two oddities, a cup and a crow. The myth has it that a crow was asked by Apollo for a cup of water. In an effort to fool Apollo, the crow put a water snake in the cup instead. The god was so angry that he flung all three into the sky: crow, cup, and snake.

Corvus the Crow doesn't look much like a crow; its slightly skewed rectangle of stars resembles a lateen sail, so mariners used to call it "Spica's Spanker," a spanker being the aft-most sail on an old sailing ship. Its brightest star Algorab is a pretty double star, its 3rd- and 9th-magnitude components distinguishable by even a small telescope because of their wide separation: 24 arc-seconds. A chain of stars just above Algorab leads the way to a tiny arrow, which points at the heart of the Sombrero Galaxy, one of the brightest galaxies in the sky.

Directly above the Sombrero is the double star Porrima, Gamma Virginis. In recent years the identical twin stars of this binary star were too close to split, but recently they have moved apart so that they can be seen to be double in at least a 3-inch telescope.

The two stars on the left (eastward) side of Corvus point southward to Messier 68 in Hydra, one of the finest globular star clusters in the sky.


Saturn's Hurricane Is a Super Storm on Steroids, Even for the Solar System.

Follow the two stars at the bottom of the Corvus sail to the left to reach Gamma and Pi Hydrae. Below these hangs a fine bright galaxy, Messier 83, sometimes called the Southern Pinwheel. This is often a difficult target for northern observers because of its closeness to the horizon, but viewed from the Southern Hemisphere it reveals itself to be one of the finest galaxies in the sky.

Go any further south from Messier 83, and you'll find yourself in the constellation Centaurus. Observers in the southern part of the United States will be able to see the Hamburger Galaxy, NGC5128, and Omega Centauri, the finest globular cluster in the sky, also known as NGC5139.

Just to the left (east) of Saturn is another double star with the wonderful name Zubenelgenubi, which translates from Arabic as "the Southern Claw," referring back to a time when Libra was considered part of Scorpius. This double is wide enough to be split with a 10x50 pair of binoculars.

So, be sure to augment your observations of Saturn by checking out some of these delightful objects just to its south. - Yahoo.




FIRE IN THE SKY: Meteor Shower Of Halley's Comet Pieces Peaks Sunday - Watch It Live!

May 05, 2013 - SPACE - A meteor shower made from the dusty leftovers of the famed Halley's Comet will be at its best on Sunday (May 5) and NASA doesn't want you to miss it. The annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower will peak Sunday night and NASA scientists will provide live views of the celestial fireworks display in a webcast from the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The webcast and chat will run from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. EDT (0300 to 0700 May 6 GMT), NASA officials said.


An image of Halley's Comet taken in 1986.
CREDIT: NASA.

"This year the peak will occur on the night of May 5 about 9 p.m. EDT with meteor rates of about 30-40 meteors per hour near peak. Eta rates will also be good on the evening of May 4," NASA officials said in a statement. "The Etas contain quite a few fireballs. Ideal viewing conditions are clear skies away from city lights, especially just before dawn."

Astronomer Bill Cooke, a veteran meteor expert and head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at Marshall Space Flight Center, will answer questions in the online chat during the Eta Aquarid meteor shower webcast. Live camera views of the display will be provided by a light-activated camera mounted outside the center that automatically turns out as evening falls each night.


An Eta Aquarid meteor streaks over northern Georgia on April 29, 2012.
CREDIT: NASA/MSFC/B. Cooke


The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is one of two "shooting stars" displays created by dusty debris from Halley's Comet, which orbits the sun once every 76 years. The comet was last visible from Earth in 1986, but it has left trails of dust across the solar system that, as the Earth passes through them, create the Eta Aquarid meteor shower in early May and the Orionid meteor shower in mid-October.

The Eta Aquarid display is named after the constellation Aquarius because it appears to radiate out from nearby that star pattern. It is known for creating bright fireballs that can dazzle observers. But stargazers should not stare directly at Aquarius while trying to see the meteor shower.

WATCH: Haylley's Comet's Yearly Attack on Earth.


The best way to maximize your chances of seeing a meteor is to find an observing spot far from city lights and look straight up at the night sky, NASA officials said. A blanket, lawn chair or sleeping bag can make things extra comfortable, they added.

Also be sure to allow about 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness.

While the Eta Aquarid and Orionid meteor shower give stargazers a chance to see bits Halley's Comet each year, observers will have to wait a while before seeing the actual comet in the night sky. The next time Halley's Comet will swing near Earth will be in 2061. - SPACE.





MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Mysterious Fish Kill In Laurinburg, North Carolina, America?!

May 05, 2013 - UNITED STATES - The mass of fish found dead this week in Leith Creek between Laurinburg and East Laurinburg has been cleared away, though the cause of the kill may remain unknown for several weeks, according to officials.




The fish were found near Fourth and McKay streets on Monday, and inspectors from the N.C. Division of Water Quality tested the creek and other bodies of water near it on Wednesday and Thursday.

“We sampled some other areas around 401 and other creeks around Laurinburg in the general area where the fish were found, but we do not have any conclusive information at this time,” said Belinda Henson, regional supervisor for the Division of Water Quality.

Daniel Sprouse, environmental program coordinator for the Scotland County Health Department said that the remains of at least 100 fish were cleared away on Friday morning, along with the carcasses of a beaver and a turtle. He added that water tests may prove inconclusive, though the goal is to determine what killed the fish and where it originated.

“They’re doing tests on the water - checking it for phospates and other chemicals,” Sprouse said. “It had to have been something pretty strong to kill catfish - catfish and beavers are pretty tough to kill. It could have been one shock of it and then it was gone. Even the water tests may not show anything.”

For now, no other fish or animals appear to be dying, and lab results will not be available for at least a week due to testing in other areas.




“Samples have been sent to our lab to be analyzed and we’ll have results in the near future and hopefully we’ll be able to move forward with trying to determine what happened,” Henson said. - Laurinburg Exchange.

DELUGE: Wild Weather Lashes Gulf - Over Two Dozen Death In Saudi Arabia And Oman!

May 05, 2013 - SAUDI ARABIA - The death toll increased to 25 on Sunday in Saudi Arabia's floods when rescuers found one of the 3 missing persons trapped in a dam near Riyadh, according to Saudi Press Agency.




He was found inside a dam in an area near Riyadh, while the search will continue for the remaining missing people, Civil Defense Spokesperson, Lt- Col Juman Al Ghamdi, said in a statement of the agency.

He called upon people to be cautious and try to avoid valleys and locations near high waters. Saudi Arabia has been witnessing medium and heavy rains in different districts since last week of April. Similar weather conditions occurred in 1981, 1982 and 1983 when the largest valleys in the country flooded with water. - Xinhuanet.


Over two dozen people have died in flooding in Saudi Arabia and Oman this week, as heavy rains soaked roads and cities.

Saudi authorities warned of the extreme weather on April 24 but the heaviest precipitation started on Monday, while the flooding in Oman began at around the same time.




Saudi Arabia's civil defence said at least 13 had died there and four were missing across the cities of Riyadh, Baha, Hail, and Quwaiyiah. Hundreds more had been displaced, trapped or injured. Civil defence personnel rescued 937 civilians and moved 695 families to emergency shelters, the agency said in a statement late on Wednesday. More than 4,200 road accidents were reported between Monday evening and mid-day on Wednesday.

Also late on Wednesday, Saudi King Abdullah issued a directive through the Interior Minister, Mohammed bin Nayef, for the Civil defence forces to use "all their potential" to help those affected, including by offering "financial and in-kind aid".

In Oman, local media reported that six citizens had died, including two pairs of brothers. A 17-year-old and his older brother, 19, died while trapped in a wadi in the Dhahirah region, while two brothers aged 3 drowned in a pool at a farm in the coastal region of Batinah. The Royal Omani Police said they had received roughly 200 calls for help and had evacuated at least 70 people from affected areas.

Residents and authorities said the flooding had been some of the most severe in recent years.





"It's unusual weather, but it's something that can happen," said Dr Andy Yaw Kwarteng, head of the Remote Sensing and GIS Centre at Oman's Sultan Qaboos University. "There is still a little more coming for Yemen, the UAE and Qatar," he said of the rains.

As waters have risen, harrowing stories have flooded social media. In Oman, a school bus filled with 30 students was reportedly trapped on a flooded road. After pulling the children to safety, the vehicle was removed from the waters with a crane

Local media in Saudi Arabia captured images of cars being washed away by flood waters and passengers clinging to trees. In one city, Al Kharj, 400 Civil defence personnel were deployed with air support to search for missing persons. The authorities did not say approximately how many were unaccounted for.

Security forces in both countries urged residents to avoid valleys and other dangerous areas at risk of runoff from rains. In a statement on Wednesday, Juma'an Daes Ghamadi, a media spokesman for Saudi Arabia's Civil defence told residents in floodplains to "get out of their homes".

For many Saudi residents, the floods were unwelcome reminders of 2009, when some of the worst flooding in the kingdom's history left more than 120 dead and displaced about 22,000. After the disaster, several officials who approved environmentally flawed construction projects were taken to court, but huge infrastructure challenges remain across the kingdom.




"The main issue is land use," said Dr Mohamed AbdelAziz AbdelHamid, a former professor of urban planning at King Saud University, arguing that building is often undertaken without considering environmental risks.

Building codes are also inconsistent, both on the books and in practice, he said. Federal, district, and city authorities all have their own specifications and they often conflict.

"The problem also comes from the education system," he argued. They don't teach environmental planning in university curriculum."

But Dr Kwarteng in Oman argued that preparation is often impossible for extreme weather patterns such as the Gulf is witnessing.

"Sometimes you have to take what you get," he said from Muscat. "It won't always be easy to find a solution." - The National.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Officials Baffled By Mysterious Death Of Several Hundred Fish In Lake, David City Park, Nebraska, America?!

May 05, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Visitors to the David City Park would be wise to avoid contact with the lake water while local and state officials try to determine what killed several hundred fish starting last week.


File Photo.


Park Supervisor Scott Bales said he called in officials from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality after finding fish at the east end of the middle lake.

Bales said most of the fish were bluegill, the most populous fish in the lakes, but "some of them are bass that I never catch."

On Wednesday, Bales found a 34-inch grass carp that weighed 40 pounds.

DEQ Program Specialist David Bubb said people should avoid contact with the lakes and keep their children or dogs from touching the water for the next few days.

Bubb said the lakes were tested and appear to have plenty of oxygen. The cause of the fish kill is not yet known.

One possibility is ammonia, but Bubb said he couldn't pinpoint the source.

"It almost looks like something dropped off a bridge," Bubb said. "It's kind of perplexing right now."

Bubb also didn't advise eating any fish caught in the lake over the next few days, but he did say the problem causing fish to die would clear up.

As of Monday, he said, fish in the western lake were being affected. Bales said he first noticed dead fish April 24 and they are being removed from the water.

Bubb said the stream feeding the lakes was examined and showed a healthy population of frogs, which indicates the problem is not up stream from the lakes.

The lakes are part of the state's Urban Fisheries Program and stocked periodically with trout.

Bubb said rising temperatures in recent days were starting to cause some stress for the trout in the lake. - Columbus Telegram.


PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Outbreak Of Foot And Mouth Disease - Over 500 Cattle Heads Have Been Culled In Lhasa, Tibet!

May 05, 2013 - TIBET - Over 500 cattle heads have been culled in the latest outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the Tibetan capital region of Lhasa in central Tibet.


A vet treats a young dairy cattle at Chongqing Gonda Group's dreamworks company in Chongqing, China.
Credit: China Photos/Getty Images

China’s state news agency Xinhua in a report today said the National Foot-and-mouth Disease Reference Laboratory confirmed the spread of the cattle epidemic in a village in Lhasa region as type A foot-and-mouth disease.

China's Ministry of Agriculture on April 25 had said that 145 heads of cattle in the region were showing suspected signs of the disease.

“Local authorities sealed off and sterilised the infected area, where 527 heads of cattle have been culled and safely disposed of, so as to prevent spreading the disease,” the report cited the ministry as saying.

The latest confirmation of the outbreak comes days after an earlier report of the epidemic’s spread in Shigatse city, south of Lhasa. According to the World Organization for Animal Health, there were 32 cases of foot and mouth disease in Shigatse, and in total, 156 cattle, sheep and goats were culled to prevent the disease from spreading.


A worker looks after dairy cattle at Chongqing Gonda Group's dreamworks company in Chongqing, China.
Credit: China Photos/Getty Images

Last year in September, the highly infectious disease was traced in livestock in the Nyingtri region of central Tibet where a total of 612 head of cattle and pigs were culled.

FMD is an acute contagious febrile disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals, including domestic and wild bovids. The disease can potentially cost huge economic loss to farming and nomadic families who make their living from livestock. - Phayul.


PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Three People Die After Catching New Strain Of Clostridium Difficile (C.diff) Bug And 10,000 Fish Killed Due To Outbreak Of Virus In Scotland!

May 05, 2013 - SCOTLAND - Three patients in Scotland have died after catching a new strain of the Clostridium difficile (C.diff) bug.

All three were in the same health board area and two of the patients were in the same hospital.

Three People Die After Catching New Strain Of Clostridium Difficile (C.diff) Bug.
New strains of C. diff do emerge but this is the first published report of ribotype 332.

Health Protection Scotland (HPS) said it had identified a novel C.diff strain, designated ribotype 332.

HPS said the deaths were the first reported cases in the UK and worldwide and that health officials had been put on alert.

The first two cases emerged in December 2012 and January 2013 and the third was identified in another hospital last month.

An HPS spokesman said: "All three cases were severely ill due to other underlying conditions and died following their episode of CDI (C. difficile infection).

"Other than the shared ribotype, no link has been identified between the cases from the separate hospitals."

HPS said it had alerted clinicians and laboratory staff throughout Scotland.

The spokesman said that the identification of a novel ribotype did not require immediate changes to surveillance or antibiotics use and that the same infection prevention and control measures applied.

HPS added that new ribotypes have emerged frequently during the past 10 years. - BBC.


10,000 Fish Killed Due To Outbreak Of Virus In Shetland.
Almost 10,000 Sea wrasse were culled at a Shetland hatchery to help contain an outbreak of a common virus in the species.

The sea wrasse had been brought into the islands by fish farming giant Scottish Sea Farms from the west coast of Scotland, reports Shetland Times.

The 9,393 fish were in holding tanks at Scalloway’s NAFC Marine Centre when the outbreak of marine Viral Haemorrhagic Septicaemia (VHS) virus was found. - PBW.


WAR DRUMS: The Red Line - Israeli Warplanes Strike Syria, Pounding Damascus With New Massive Attacks, Targeting Iranian Missiles In Escalation And Deploys Rocket Defense System!

May 05, 2013 - SYRIA - Israeli warplanes struck areas in and around the Syrian capital Sunday, setting off a series of explosions as they targeted a shipment of highly accurate, Iranian-made guided missiles believed to be on their way to Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group, officials and activists said. The attack, the second in three days, signaled a sharp escalation of Israel's involvement in Syria's bloody civil war. Syrian state media reported that Israeli missiles struck a military and scientific research center near Damascus and caused casualties.

Israeli Warplanes Strike Syria In Escalation.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quoted eyewitnesses in the area as saying they saw jets in the sky at the time of the explosions. AP
An intelligence official in the Middle East, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to disclose information about a secret military operation to the media, confirmed that Israel launched an airstrike in the Syrian capital early Sunday but did not give more precise details about the location. The target was Fateh-110 missiles, which have precision guidance systems with better aim than anything Hezbollah is known to have in its arsenal, the official told The Associated Press. The airstrikes come as Washington considers how to respond to indications that the Syrian regime may have used chemical weapons in its civil war. President Barack Obama has described the use of such weapons as a "red line," and the administration is weighing its options — including possible military action.

 Iran, a close ally of the Assad regime, condemned the airstrikes but gave no other hints of a possible stronger response from Tehran.  Israel has said it wants to stay out of the Syrian war, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stated the Jewish state would be prepared to take military action to prevent sophisticated weapons from flowing from Syria to Hezbollah or other extremist groups.  Israel and Hezbollah fought a monthlong war in mid-2006 that ended in a stalemate.  Syria's state news agency SANA reported that explosions went off at the Jamraya military and scientific research center near Damascus and said "initial reports point to these explosions being a result of Israeli missiles." SANA said there were casualties but did not give a number.  Damascus-based activist Maath al-Shami said the strikes occurred around 3 a.m.

"Damascus shook. The explosion was very, very strong," said al-Shami adding that one of the attacks occurred near the capital's Qasioun mountain that overlooks Damascus.  He said the raid near Qasioun targeted a military position for the elite Republican Guards that is in charge of protecting Damascus, President Bashar Assad's seat of power.  Mohammed Saeed, another activist who lives in the Damascus suburb of Douma, said "the explosions were so strong that earth shook under us." He said the smell of the fire caused by the air raid near Qasioun could be felt miles away.  There has been no official statement from the Syrian military.  The strikes put the Assad regime in a tricky position. If it fails to respond, it looks weak and leaves itself open to such airstrikes becoming a common occurrence. But if it retaliates militarily against Israel, it risks dragging the Jewish state and its powerful military into a broader conflict.  After the airstrikes overnight, Israel's military on Saturday deployed two batteries of its Iron Dome rocket defense system to the country's north. It described the move as part of "ongoing situational assessments." - ABC News.

WATCH: Dramatic video - Israeli missile strike hits Damascus.





Israel Deploys Rocket Defense System After Striking Syria.
Smoke and fire fill the the skyline over Damascus, Syria, early Sunday after an Israeli airstrike.
(Photo: Ugarit News via AP)
Israel's military has deployed a rocket defense system to the north of the country following Israeli airstrikes in neighboring Syria targeting weapons believed to be destined for Lebanon's Hezbollah militants.  The military said it moved two Iron Dome batteries Sunday as part of "ongoing situational assessments."  The move came hours after Israel carried out what an intelligence official said was an airstrike in Damascus that attacked a shipment of Iranian-made missiles bound for Hezbollah.  The attack, the second in three days, signaled a sharp escalation of Israel's involvement in Syria's bloody civil war. Syrian state media reported that Israeli missiles struck a military and scientific research center near Damascus and caused casualties.  An intelligence official in the Middle East, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to disclose information about a secret military operation to the media, confirmed that Israel launched an airstrike in the Syrian capital early Sunday but did not give more precise details about the location. The target was Fateh-110 missiles, which have precision guidance systems with better aim than anything Hezbollah is known to have in its arsenal, the official told The Associated Press.  The airstrikes come as Washington considers how to respond to indications that the Syrian regime may have used chemical weapons in its civil war. President Obama has described the use of such weapons as a "red line," and the administration is weighing its options — including possible military action. 

Iran, a close ally of the Assad regime, condemned the airstrikes but gave no other hints of a possible stronger response from Tehran.  Israel has said it wants to stay out of the Syrian war, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stated the Jewish state would be prepared to take military action to prevent sophisticated weapons from flowing from Syria to Hezbollah or other extremist groups.  Israel and Hezbollah fought a monthlong war in mid-2006 that ended in a stalemate.  Syria's state news agency SANA reported that explosions went off at the Jamraya military and scientific research center near Damascus and said "initial reports point to these explosions being a result of Israeli missiles." SANA said there were casualties but did not give a number.  Damascus-based activist Maath al-Shami said the strikes occurred around 3 a.m. "Damascus shook. The explosion was very, very strong," said al-Shami adding that one of the attacks occurred near the capital's Qasioun mountain that overlooks Damascus.  He said the raid near Qasioun targeted a military position for the elite Republican Guards that is in charge of protecting Damascus, President Bashar Assad's seat of power.  Mohammed Saeed, another activist who lives in the Damascus suburb of Douma, said "the explosions were so strong that earth shook under us." He said the smell of the fire caused by the air raid near Qasioun could be felt miles away.  There has been no official statement from the Syrian military.  The strikes put the Assad regime in a tricky position. If it fails to respond, it looks weak and leaves itself open to such airstrikes becoming a common occurrence. But if it retaliates militarily against Israel, it risks dragging the Jewish state and its powerful military into a broader conflict. 

WATCH: New massive Israeli attack rocks Damascus army research site.





Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israel's military intelligence, said the strike is a signal to Syria's ally, Tehran, that Israel is serious about the red lines it has set.  "Syria is a very important part in the front that Iran has built. Iran is testing Israel and the U.S. determination in the facing of red lines and what it sees is in clarifies to it that at least some of the players, when they define red lines and they are crossed, take it seriously," he told Army Radio.  In Tehran, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast condemned an Israeli airstrike against Syria and urged countries in the region to remain united against Israel, according to the semiofficial Fars news agency. The brief statement gave no details.  The Fateh-110, or Conqueror, is a short-range ballistic missile developed by Iran and first put into service in 2002. The Islamic Republic unveiled an upgraded version in 2012 that improved the weapon's accuracy and increased its range to 300 kilometers (185 miles).  Iranian Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi said at the time that the solid-fueled missile could strike with pin-point precision, making it the most accurate weapon of its kind in Iran's arsenal.  An airstrike in January also targeted weapons apparently bound for Hezbollah, Israeli and U.S. officials have said. The White House had no immediate comment on Sunday's reported missile strikes.  The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group, also reported large explosions in the area of Jamraya, a military and scientific research facility northwest of Damascus, about 15 kilometers (10 miles) from the Lebanese border. 

Hezbollah's al-Manar TV said the research center in Jamraya was not hit. It added that an army supply center was targeted by the strike. It quoted unnamed Syrian security officials as saying that three sites including military barracks, arms depots and air defense center were targeted by the strike.  The station aired footage of what it said was a facility in Jamraya that was hit in the airstrike. It showed a heavily damaged building as well as what appeared to be a chicken farm with some chickens pecking around in debris scattered with dead birds.  The raid appeared to have taken place next to a major road that was filled with debris, and shell casings were strewn on the ground. A blue street sign on the side of the road referred to the direction of the Lebanon border and the Syrian town of Zabadani near the frontier.  Lebanon's Al-Mayadeen TV, that has several reporters around Syria, said one of the strikes targeted a military position in the village of Saboura, west of Damascus and about 10 kilometers (six miles) from the Lebanon border.  An amateur video said to be shot early Sunday in the Damascus area showed fire lighting up the night sky. The video appeared genuine and corresponded to other AP reporting. 

Uzi Rubin, a missile expert and former Defense Ministry official, told the AP that if the target were Fateh-110 missiles as reported then it is a game changer as they put almost all Israel in range and can accurately hit targets.  Rubin emphasized that he was speaking as a rocket expert and had no details on reported strikes.  "If fired from southern Lebanon they can reach Tel Aviv and even (the southern city of) Beersheba." He said the rockets are much five times more accurate than the scud missiles that Hezbollah has fired in the past. "It is a game changer because they are a threat to Israel's infrastructure and military installations," he said.  Israel's first airstrike in Syria, in January, also struck Jamraya.  At the time, a U.S. official said Israel targeted trucks next to the research center that carried SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles. The strikes hit both the trucks and the research facility, the official said. The Syrian military didn't confirm a hit on a weapons shipment at the time, saying only that Israeli warplanes bombed the research center.  Israeli lawmaker Shaul Mofaz, a former defense minister and a former chief of staff, declined to confirm the airstrike but said Israel is concerned about weapons falling into the hands of the Islamic militant group amid the chaos of Syria's civil war.  "We must remember that the Syrian system is falling apart and Iran and Hezbollah are involved up to their necks in Syria helping Bashar Assad," he told Israel Radio. "There are dangers of weapons trickling to the Hezbollah and chemical weapons trickling to irresponsible groups like al-Qaeda." - USA Today.


Israel Targeted Iranian Missiles In Syria Attack.


The missile shipment struck by Israel was reported to include Iranian-made Fateh-110’s, a type of mobile, accurate, solid-fueled missile, like this one in a military parade in Tehran in 2010.
Atta Kenare/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A series of powerful explosions rocked the outskirts of Damascus early Sunday morning, which Syrian state television said was the result of Israeli missile attacks on a Syrian military installation.   If true, it would be the second Israeli airstrike in Syria in two days and the third this year.  The airstrike that Israeli warplanes carried out in Syria overnight on Thursday was directed at a shipment of advanced surface-to-surface missiles from Iran that Israel believed was intended for Hezbollah, American officials said Saturday. That strike was aimed at disrupting the arms pipeline that runs from Syria to Hezbollah, the militant Lebanese organization, and it highlighted the mounting stakes for Hezbollah and Israel as Syria becomes more chaotic.  Iran and Hezbollah have both backed President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war, now in its third year. But as fighting in Syria escalates, they also have a powerful interest in expediting the delivery of advanced weapons to Hezbollah in case Mr. Assad loses his grip on power and Syria ceases to be an effective channel for funneling weapons from Iran. 

The missiles that were the target of the Israeli raid had been shipped from Iran and were being stored in a warehouse at Damascus International Airport when they were struck, according to an American official.  Iran has sought to use the threat of a Hezbollah missile attack against Israeli territory as a means of building up its ally and deterring Israel from conducting airstrikes on Iranian nuclear installations that Israeli and American officials believe are part of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.  In Lebanon, some analysts said they believed that a strong Hezbollah could also emerge as a powerful ally for Mr. Assad if he is forced to abandon Damascus, the Syrian capital, and take refuge in a rump Iranian-backed state on the Syrian coast, a region that abuts the Hezbollah-controlled northern Bekaa Valley.  “The relationship between Hezbollah and the Assad regime is stronger now,” said Talal Atrissi, a professor at Lebanese University in Beirut who has good relations with Hezbollah. If Mr. Assad falls, Hezbollah knows the axis of Syria, Hezbollah and Iran will be greatly weakened, he said.  Israel, for its part, has repeatedly cautioned that it will not allow Hezbollah to receive “game changing” weapons that could threaten the Israeli heartland even if a new Syrian government takes power.  As the Obama administration considers how to dissuade Mr. Assad from ordering a chemical weapons attack — the use of such weapons, the White House has said, would cross a “red line” — Israel, by striking the warehouse, is clearly showing that it is prepared to stand behind the red lines it has set.  “The Israelis are saying, ‘O.K., whichever way the civil war is going, we are going to keep our red lines, which are different from Obama’s,’ ” said Ehud Yaari, an Israel-based fellow of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

On Friday, SANA, the official Syrian news agency, reported an attack on the Damascus airport by Syrian rebels firing rockets at an aircraft and fuel dump — an account that American officials say may have been intended to obscure the fact that the target was a warehouse full of missiles.  An American official, who asked not to be identified because he was discussing intelligence reports, said the targeted shipment consisted of Iranian-made Fateh-110s — a mobile, accurate, solid-fueled missile that has the range to strike Tel Aviv and much of Israel from southern Lebanon, and that represents a considerable improvement over the liquid-fueled Scud missile. Two prominent Israeli defense analysts said the shipment included Scud Ds, a missile that Syrians have developed from Russian weapons with a range of up to 422 miles — long enough to reach Eilat, in southernmost Israel, from Lebanon.  Syrian forces loyal to Mr. Assad have used Fateh-110 missiles against the Syrian opposition. Some American officials are unsure whether the new shipment was intended for use by Hezbollah or by the Assad government, which is believed to be running low on missiles in its bloody civil war. But one American official said the warehouse that was struck in the Israeli attack overnight Thursday was believed to be under the control of operatives from Hezbollah and Iran’s paramilitary Quds Force.  Hezbollah is now believed to have more missiles and fighters than it had before its 2006 battle with Israel, when Hezbollah missiles forced a third of Israel’s population into shelters and hit as far south as Haifa. A Pentagon official said in 2010 that Hezbollah’s arsenal was believed to include a small number of Fateh-110s, and additional shipments would add to Hezbollah’s striking power.  In carrying out the raid overnight Thursday, Israeli warplanes fired air-to-ground weapons, apparently staying clear of Syrian airspace and operating in the skies over neighboring Lebanon. - NY Times.



ICE AGE NOW: A Year Without Spring - Declining Spring Snow Cover Brings First Ever May Snow To Arkansas; Record Snowfall And Low Temperatures For May?!

May 05, 2013 - UNITED STATES - For the first time since written weather history began in Arkansas (1819), snow has fallen in the month of May. This snow has set records for the latest snowfall and latest measurable snowfall in the state.

The previous latest snowfall ever recorded was on April 30, 1903 at Harrison, Gravette and Fayetteville. This was not measurable.


First May snow on record in Arkansas. iWitness Weather contributor MaryB


The previous latest measurable snowfall was 0.2 inches at Corning on April 24, 1910.

Below is a list of snowfall measurements from National Weather Service cooperative observer stations through specified times on Friday morning.

Fayetteville experiment station, 1.5 inches, 7 a.m.

Compton, 1 inch, 10 a.m.

Hindsville, 1 inch, 6:40 a.m.

Winslow, 1 inch, 7 a.m.

Kingston, 0.2 inch, 7 a.m.

Traces of snow were also recorded in Harrison, Jasper, Omaha, Parthenon and Ratcliff.

Record cold high temperatures have been seen at a number of stations. At the locations listed below, the calendar day high temperature for May 3 was the coldest ever recorded for the month of May.

Locations, Friday’s temperature and previous record lows for May 3 include the following.

Harrison, 38/45.

Flippin, 39/51.

Batesville airport, 45/45.

Jacksonville, 48/51.

North Little Rock, 48/50.

Little Rock, 52/52.

Pine Bluff, 52/56.

Russellville, 52/53.

Stuttgart airport, 52/52.

Record daily low temperatures were seen at a number of locations as well. Some of these temperatures also ended up being the coldest temperatures ever recorded in the month of May.

Stations, new record lows and the previous record include:

Jacksonville, 38/41.

Little Rock, 38/41.

Hot Springs, 39/41.

Monticello, 40.41.

Pine Bluff, 40/41.

- Magnolia Reporter.


PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Meningitis Outbreak Kills At Least 40 In Guinea - Doctors Fear That Far More Are Dying In Remote Villages!

May 05, 2013 - GUINEA - Health officials say a meningitis outbreak has killed at least 40 people in the West African nation of Guinea.

Conde Lansine, a doctor in the eastern city of Siguiri, said Tuesday it is feared that far more people are dying in remote villages and are not included in that toll.




Siguiri, near the country's border with Mali, has been the hardest-hit community, and Lansine said it was believed that hundreds may have died since January.

Eastern Guinea is hit annually with meningitis cases, though doctors say this year has been much deadlier.


Guinea (Google maps).

Meningitis is an infection of the lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.

Even when the disease is caught early and treatment is started, up to 10 percent of patients die within two days. - Yahoo.


DELUGE: Flooding Spreads In Saskatchewan - Emergencies Declared In Three More Communities; Significant Impact To Local Infrastructure!

May 05, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Two First Nations and a rural municipality have been added to the list of Saskatchewan communities under flood emergencies.

The James Smith First Nation, the Cowessess First Nation and the regional municipality of Fish Creek bring the total number of communities that have declared emergencies to 13.


City crews install sandbags along Rotary Park in Regina. By Saturday 13 communities in the province had declared emergencies because of rising floodwaters. (Roy Antal/Canadian Press)

"We're still seeing in the rural areas significant impact to infrastructure such as roads either overtopping or having to be cut, so most of the rural municipalities are still facing some challenges," Duane McKay, Saskatchewan's commissioner of emergency management, said Saturday.

Highway 3, just west of Spiritwood, was closed Saturday because of flooding.
Meanwhile, the Water Security Agency said sandbagging and other efforts to keep the water out of the town of Radisson, northwest of Saskatoon, were holding.

The agency said the good news is that water levels appear to be going down a little around Radisson.

"With the snow cover there being decreased and it seems it's calming a little bit and we're hoping that we've seen the worst of that situation," said agency spokesman Patrick Boyle.

"The town has done a lot of mitigation work to facilitate the flow of water away from the community in Radisson."

Almost all of the 73 people who had to leave their houses on the Poundmaker First Nation have been allowed to go home. However, a boil water order remained in place Saturday for the reserve, northwest of North Battleford.

About 200 people on the Onion Lake Cree Nation, north of Lloydminster, remain on alert to leave if water there rises.

Further south, the Water Security Agency is keeping an eye on the Qu'Appelle River watershed, including Wascana Creek, which runs through Regina.

"This is sort of the developing situation and we're kind of waiting for the water to show up, as is everyone else," said Boyle.

"There's still pretty significant snow cover in that area and we're expecting more flows to increase here over the weekend, with the peak coming next week some time. So, we're still waiting for that to happen."

Wascana Lake, in the centre of the city, is expected to reach 571.8 metres. That's higher than the flood level in 2011, but lower than the record flood of 572.2 metres reached in 1974.

The city of Regina has put thousands of sandbags and other water barriers along sections of the creek to protect homes.

Flooding has already led to the evacuation of a youth detention centre in Regina because of concerns about a bridge over Wascana Creek leading to the facility. Another bridge on the western edge of Regina was closed Friday due to rising water levels on the creek.

Regina city officials have sent letters to 340 homes advising residents to be ready for an evacuation by packing a kit with medication and cash and by moving valuables to higher floors.

But the city also said the potential for Wascana Creek to flood homes is extremely small.

There was more snow than normal in many areas of Saskatchewan this winter and colder-than-normal temperatures this spring delayed the melt.

The Water Security Agency has warned that the entire southern half of the province will see run-off levels above or well-above normal. It said run-off is expected to be very high and flooding is likely to occur from Moose Jaw to Indian Head, including Regina, and south past Weyburn to near the United States border. Saskatoon, Prince Albert and North Battleford are also in the red zone. - CBC.



GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Low-Level Eruptions Continues As Explosions Shake Cleveland Volcano In Alaska - Aviation Alert Level Raised From Yellow To Orange; Ash Clouds Could Exceed 20,000 Feet Above Sea Level!

May 05, 2013 - ALASKA - Alaska's Cleveland Volcano is undergoing a continuous low-level eruption following an explosion early Saturday morning, scientists from the Alaska Volcano Observatory and the U.S. Geological Survey said.




Satellites and cameras suggest low-level emissions of gas, steam and ash, scientists said, and satellites detected highly elevated surface temperatures at the summit. A faint plume of ash extended eastward below 15,000 feet, but the Federal Aviation Administration said there were no flight restrictions as a result.

"Sudden explosions of blocks and ash are possible with little or no warning," scientists said. "Ash clouds, if produced, could exceed 20,000 feet above sea level."

The aviation alert level was raised from "yellow" to "orange." A major ash emission could threaten international flights.

The activity began with an explosion at 5 a.m. Saturday, followed by two others at 9:17 and 11:44 a.m. A nearby seismic network detected long-duration airwave signals that indicate a sustained eruption.



The volcano is in an isolated region of the Aleutian Islands, 940 miles southwest of Anchorage. Its most recent significant eruption began in February 2001 and featured three explosive events that sent ash clouds as high 39,000 feet above sea level. It also produced a rubbly lava flow and hot avalanche that reached the sea.

The most recent minor ash emissions were observed in November 2012. - FOX News.