Friday, June 14, 2013

INFRASTRUCTURE & SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: 1 Killed, 8 Injured In Blast At Louisiana Chemical Plant - Just One Day After A Massive Explosion At Another Louisiana Chemical Plant!

June 14, 2013 - UNITED STATES - One person died and eight others were injured in a blast Friday evening at a chemical plant in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, police said.

A large fire burns at the Williams Olefins chemical plant in Geismar, Louisiana in this picture taken June 13, 2013. REUTERS/Picture courtesy of Ryan Meador/Handout via Reuters

The incident occurred at a CF Industries facility in the Mississippi River community of about 7,500 people, located some 40 miles south of Baton Rouge. According to its website, CF Industries is "the second largest nitrogen fertilizer producer in the world and the third largest phosphate fertilizer producer among public companies."

Nitrogen was being offloaded from a tanker truck inside the Donaldsonville plant when "a small vessel ruptured," plant manager Louis Frey said.

"We don't know exactly what happened," he said.

Frey insisted "there was no explosion and no fire. It ruptured." Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeffrey Wiley explained, "It was kind of like a balloon popping."

Location of the chemical plant in Donaldsonville, Louisiana.
Google Maps.

Two of the eight people injured were airlifted from the plant, and Frey said it was his understanding none of the injuries are considered life-threatening. Louisiana State Police Lt. John Cannon had told CNN that two people were critically injured in the incident.

The parish sheriff stressed that there was never any danger to the general public from the blast or any dispersal of chemicals.

"This was an isolated incident that was ... immediately contained," Wiley said. "There was never a threat of... off-site impact."

The blast comes a day after two people died and more than 100 others were injured in an explosion at another at Louisiana chemical plant -- that one in Geismar, which is about 10 miles north of Donaldsonville and also in Ascension Parish.

The blast (A) occurred about 20 miles from the giant Louisiana sinkhole (B).
Google Maps.

Authorities didn't know immediately what caused that explosion at the Williams plant, which produces about 1.3 billion pounds of ethylene and 90 million pounds of polymer-grade propylene each year, according to the company's website.

In addition to 29-year-old Zachary Green's death, dozens were hospitalized for burns, cardiac issues and blunt trauma, Louisiana Department of Health spokeswoman Christina Stephens said.

The U.S. Chemical Board -- the independent federal agency that probes industrial chemical incidents -- announced Friday that one of its investigative teams was heading to Geismar.

Both explosions happened two months after 15 died following a fire and twin blasts at a fertilizer plant facility that decimated homes, businesses and more within 37 blocks of West, Texas, a town 20 miles north of Waco. - CNN.

WAR DRUMS: "Eager Lion" - U.S. And Multinational Troops Arrive On Syria Border In Massive Military Exercise With F-16s, Patriot Batteries And Personnel From 19 Countries As Obama Begins Arming Of Syrian Rebels!

June 14, 2013 - SYRIA - Three hundred US Marines have been deployed to northern Jordan to pave the way for the West to arm Syrian rebels.

A Patriot anti-aircraft missile system, designed to protect Jordanian territory from attack by Assad missiles, has also been moved into the area.
The deployment, seen by The Times north of Al-Mafraq, has been put in place under cover of a military training exercise being held this week, but it will remain there for months.

Western involvement in the Syrian conflict was rapidly accelerating last night after President Obama gave the green light to arm the anti-Assad rebels. - The Times.

US F-16 Fighting Falcon (AFP Photo)

Multinational military exercise 'Eager Lion' has been launched in Jordan amid condemnation from neighboring Syria and its ally Russia. The US brings Patriot missile batteries to the Syrian border, which could remain deployed afterwards.

The exercises will last for 12 days, bringing together about 8,000 personnel from 19 countries, mostly Arabic, but also including the US and Europe. The maneuvers will also involve some 3,000 Jordanian and 500 British troops.

'Eager Lion' – which is being conducted only 120km from the Jordan-Syria border – is aimed at training personnel for the possibility of the Syrian civil war spilling into neighboring countries.

Russia has raised concerns over the deployment of US Patriot missile batteries and F-16 fighter jets to Jordan: “We have more than once stated our opinion on this – foreign weapons are being pumped into an explosive region,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aleksandr Lukashevich said last week.

Patriot Missiles stand at the ready at a classified launch area in the southern Kuwaiti desert. (AFP Photo)

“This is happening very close to Syria, where for more than two years the flames of a devastating conflict are burning that Russia and its American partners are trying to stop by proposing to hold an international peace conference as soon as possible,”
Lukashevich said.

The organizers of 'Eager Lion' say that the troops involved will also train for the possibility of a chemical attack, as Syria’s neighbors fear that Damascus may lose control of its chemical weapons arsenal, which could then fall into the wrong hands.

"We all have chemical training from any activity, so we continue to build those objectives into any exercise that we do,”
said US Major General Robert Catalanotti, the Director of Exercises and Training.
Last week the US military revealed it may indefinitely leave behind the Patriot batteries and F-16s deployed in Jordan due to the threat of the violence in Syria crossing into Jordanian territory.

Jordanian Army Major General Awni el-Edwan, Operation Chief of Staff, told reporters on Sunday that no US troops, Patriot missile complexes or F-16s would remain in Jordan after the exercises conclude: "The drills have nothing to do with any objective related to what is happening in Syria."

“No forces will stay after the exercise unless there is a request by the Jordanian government to keep the Patriots and F-16 jets, this is a political decision,"
General el-Edwan said, adding that Amman has no intention to “attack anybody.”

Jordanian special forces (Reuters/Ali Jarekji)

US Major General Robert Catalanotti echoed el-Edwan's remarks, saying that “If the government of Jordan decides to make that request that would have go back through Washington, DC, for decision, and they would have to plan the numbers to support that.”

“But as of right now, in the exercise, I am not working that issue at all, I'm simply using those instruments here for our objectives in the exercise,”
Catalanotti said.

General el-Edwan also stressed that the Syrian opposition will not participate in the exercise: “We are dealing with countries, we are a neutral country.”

The Syrian army is continuing its push to retake control of rebel-held regions in the country. Forces loyal to President Bashar Assad recently forced rebel militants to withdraw from the strategic western Syrian town of Qusair. - RT.

 WATCH: Syria and Russia slam US over weapons charge.

WATCH: US to give military support to rebels as 'red line' crossed.

EXTREME WEATHER: Strong Storms Erupt Over U.S. Plains - Severe Threat Of Thunderstorms, Hail, Isolated Tornadoes And Damaging Winds For The Dakotas, Minnesota, Texas, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas And Eastern Colorado!

June 14, 2013 - UNITED STATES - The threat for severe weather will shift back out to the Plains for the end of the week.

As storm in southern Canada continues to strengthen, a cold front will move through the Plains on Friday assisting in the formation of some strong-to-severe storms.

The front is expected to bring showers and thunderstorms from the Dakotas and Minnesota to Texas.

However, the area at greatest risk for violent storms will be across western Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and eastern Colorado.

The main threat with these storms will be damaging wind gusts that may be in excess of 65 mph. However, there is also a threat for isolated incidents of large hail in this region.

Through the weekend, strong to locally severe storms will continue to fire over the Plains.

The storm could also play a role in the fires being battled in Colorado.

Only a small number of the storms will bring rain to a small area. Of greater concern is shifting, gusty winds produced by the storms and the risk of lightning strikes setting off new fires. - AccuWeather.

AGE OF OBAMA: Big Brother Now, The Rise Of The Global Police State - Spy Agencies "Swap Data" With THOUSANDS OF FIRMS!

June 14, 2013 - UNITED STATES - These programs, whose participants are known as trusted partners, extend far beyond what was revealed by Edward Snowden, a computer technician who did work for the National Security Agency. The role of private companies has come under intense scrutiny since his disclosure this month that the NSA is collecting millions of U.S. residents’ telephone records and the computer communications of foreigners from Google Inc (GOOG). and other Internet companies under court order.

Many of these same Internet and telecommunications companies voluntarily provide U.S. intelligence organizations with additional data, such as equipment specifications, that don’t involve private communications of their customers, the four people said.

Makers of hardware and software, banks, Internet security providers, satellite telecommunications companies and many other companies also participate in the government programs. In some cases, the information gathered may be used not just to defend the nation but to help infiltrate computers of its adversaries.

Along with the NSA, the Central Intelligence Agency (0112917D), the Federal Bureau of Investigation and branches of the U.S. military have agreements with such companies to gather data that might seem innocuous but could be highly useful in the hands of U.S. intelligence or cyber warfare units, according to the people, who have either worked for the government or are in companies that have these accords.

Microsoft Bugs

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), the world’s largest software company, provides intelligence agencies with information about bugs in its popular software before it publicly releases a fix, according to two people familiar with the process. That information can be used to protect government computers and to access the computers of terrorists or military foes.

Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft (MSFT) and other software or Internet security companies have been aware that this type of early alert allowed the U.S. to exploit vulnerabilities in software sold to foreign governments, according to two U.S. officials. Microsoft doesn’t ask and can’t be told how the government uses such tip-offs, said the officials, who asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential.

Frank Shaw, a spokesman for Microsoft, said those releases occur in cooperation with multiple agencies and are designed to give government “an early start” on risk assessment and mitigation.

In an e-mailed statement, Shaw said there are “several programs” through which such information is passed to the government, and named two which are public, run by Microsoft and for defensive purposes.

Willing Cooperation

Some U.S. telecommunications companies willingly provide intelligence agencies with access to facilities and data offshore that would require a judge’s order if it were done in the U.S., one of the four people said. In these cases, no oversight is necessary under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and companies are providing the information voluntarily.

The extensive cooperation between commercial companies and intelligence agencies is legal and reaches deeply into many aspects of everyday life, though little of it is scrutinized by more than a small number of lawyers, company leaders and spies. Company executives are motivated by a desire to help the national defense as well as to help their own companies, said the people, who are familiar with the agreements.

Most of the arrangements are so sensitive that only a handful of people in a company know of them, and they are sometimes brokered directly between chief executive officers and the heads of the U.S.’s major spy agencies, the people familiar with those programs said.

‘Thank Them’

Michael Hayden, who formerly directed the National Security Agency and the CIA, described the attention paid to important company partners: “If I were the director and had a relationship with a company who was doing things that were not just directed by law but were also valuable to the defense of the Republic, I would go out of my way to thank them and give them a sense as to why this is necessary and useful.”

WATCH: Beyond Prism - Gov't, Companies Share Sensitive Info.

U.S. intelligence agencies have grown far more dependent on such arrangements as the flow of much of the world’s information has grown exponentially through switches, cables and other network equipment maintained by U.S. companies.

Equipment Specs

In addition to private communications, information about equipment specifications and data needed for the Internet to work -- much of which isn’t subject to oversight because it doesn’t involve private communications -- is valuable to intelligence, U.S. law-enforcement officials and the military.

Typically, a key executive at a company and a small number of technical people cooperate with different agencies and sometimes multiple units within an agency, according to the four people who described the arrangements.

Committing Officer

If necessary, a company executive, known as a “committing officer,” is given documents that guarantee immunity from civil actions resulting from the transfer of data. The companies are provided with regular updates, which may include the broad parameters of how that information is used.

Intel Corp. (INTC)’s McAfee unit, which makes Internet security software, regularly cooperates with the NSA, FBI and the CIA, for example, and is a valuable partner because of its broad view of malicious Internet traffic, including espionage operations by foreign powers, according to one of the four people, who is familiar with the arrangement.

Such a relationship would start with an approach to McAfee’s chief executive, who would then clear specific individuals to work with investigators or provide the requested data, the person said. The public would be surprised at how much help the government seeks, the person said.

McAfee firewalls collect information on hackers who use legitimate servers to do their work, and the company data can be used to pinpoint where attacks begin. The company also has knowledge of the architecture of information networks worldwide, which may be useful to spy agencies who tap into them, the person said.

McAfee’s Data

McAfee (MFE)’s data and analysis doesn’t include information on individuals, said Michael Fey, the company’s worldwide chief technology officer.

“We do not share any type of personal information with our government agency partners,” Fey said in an e-mailed statement. “McAfee’s function is to provide security technology, education, and threat intelligence to governments. This threat intelligence includes trending data on emerging new threats, cyber-attack patterns and vector activity, as well as analysis on the integrity of software, system vulnerabilities, and hacker group activity.”

In exchange, leaders of companies are showered with attention and information by the agencies to help maintain the relationship, the person said.

In other cases, companies are given quick warnings about threats that could affect their bottom line, including serious Internet attacks and who is behind them.

China’s Military

Following an attack on his company by Chinese hackers in 2010, Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder, was provided with highly sensitive government intelligence linking the attack to a specific unit of the People’s Liberation Army, China’s military, according to one of the people, who is familiar with the government’s investigation. Brin was given a temporary classified clearance to sit in on the briefing, the person said.

According to information provided by Snowden, Google, owner of the world’s most popular search engine, had at that point been a Prism participant for more than a year. Google CEO Larry Page said in a blog posting June 7 that he hadn’t heard of a program called Prism until after Snowden’s disclosures and that the Mountain View, California-based company didn’t allow the U.S. government direct access to its servers or some back-door to its data centers. He said Google provides user data to governments “only in accordance with the law.”

Leslie Miller, a spokeswoman for Google, didn’t provide an immediate response yesterday. The information provided by Snowden also exposed a secret NSA program known as Blarney. As the program was described in the Washington Post (WPO), the agency gathers metadata on computers and devices that are used to send e-mails or browse the Internet through principal data routes, known as a backbone.


That metadata includes which version of the operating system, browser and Java software are being used on millions of devices around the world, information that U.S. spy agencies could use to infiltrate those computers or phones and spy on their users.

“It’s highly offensive information,” said Glenn Chisholm, the former chief information officer for Telstra Corp (TLS)., one of Australia’s largest telecommunications companies, contrasting it to defensive information used to protect computers rather than infiltrate them.

According to Snowden’s information, Blarney’s purpose is “to gain access and exploit foreign intelligence,” the Post said.

It’s unclear whether U.S. Internet service providers gave information to the NSA as part of Blarney, and if so, whether the transfer of that data required a judge’s order.

Less Scrutiny

Stewart Baker, former general counsel for the NSA, said if metadata involved communications between two foreign computers that just happened to be crossing a U.S. fiber optic cable “then the likelihood is it would demand less legal scrutiny than when communications are being extracted one by one.” Lawmakers who oversee U.S. intelligence agencies may not understand the significance of some of the metadata being collected, said Jacob Olcott, a former cybersecurity assistant for Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.

“That’s what makes this issue of oversight so challenging,” said Olcott, now a principal at Good Harbor Security Risk Management in Washington. “You have a situation where the technology and technical policy is far outpacing the background and expertise of most elected members of Congress or their staffs.” While companies are offered powerful inducements to cooperate with U.S. intelligence, many executives are motivated by patriotism or a sense they are defending national security, the people familiar with the trusted partner programs said.

Einstein 3

U.S telecommunications, Internet, power companies and others provide U.S. intelligence agencies with details of their systems’ architecture or equipment schematics so the agencies can analyze potential vulnerabilities. “It’s natural behavior for governments to want to know about the country’s critical infrastructure,” said Chisholm, chief security officer at Irvine, California-based Cylance Inc.

Even strictly defensive systems can have unintended consequences for privacy. Einstein 3, a costly program originally developed by the NSA, is meant to protect government systems from hackers. The program, which has been made public and is being installed, will closely analyze the billions of e-mails sent to government computers every year to see if they contain spy tools or malicious software.

Einstein 3 could also expose the private content of the e-mails under certain circumstances, according to a person familiar with the system, who asked not to be named because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter.

AT&T, Verizon

Before they agreed to install the system on their networks, some of the five major Internet companies -- AT&T Inc. (T), Verizon Communications Inc (VZ)., Sprint Nextel Corp. (S), Level 3 Communications Inc (LVLT). and CenturyLink Inc (CTL). -- asked for guarantees that they wouldn’t be held liable under U.S. wiretap laws. Those companies that asked received a letter signed by the U.S. attorney general indicating such exposure didn’t meet the legal definition of a wiretap and granting them immunity from civil lawsuits, the person said.

Mark Siegel, a spokesman for Dallas-based AT&T, the nation’s biggest phone carrier, declined to comment. Edward McFadden, a spokesman for New York-based Verizon, the second-largest phone company, declined to comment.

Scott Sloat, a spokesman for Overland Park, Kansas-based Sprint, and Monica Martinez, a spokeswoman for Broomfield, Colorado-based Level 3, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Linda Johnson, a spokeswoman for Centurylink, formerly Qwest Corp., said her Monroe, Louisiana-based company participates in the Enhanced Cybersecurity Services program and the Intrusion Prevention Security Services program, which includes Einstein 3. Both programs are managed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Beyond that, she said, “CenturyLink does not comment on matters pertaining to national security.” - Bloomberg.

MONUMENTAL WEATHER ANOMALIES: Strange & Glowing Night Clouds Continue To Spread - Unexpected Electric-Blue Noctilucent Clouds At Edge Of Space Surprises Researchers; Hints At A Change In The "Teleconnections" Of Earth's Atmosphere!

June 14, 2013 - NORTH POLE - Just after summer sunsets in northern latitudes, shimmering, wispy clouds appear in the twilight sky. This year, these noctilucent clouds have appeared earlier and farther south than ever before.

Noctilucent clouds over Kuresoo bog, Soomaa National Park, Estonia.
Image: Martin Koitmäe/Wikimedia

Noctilucent clouds exist higher in Earth’s atmosphere than any other cloud type. First observed in 1885 following the eruption of Krakatoa, they were a sight reserved for Earth’s northernmost residents. In recent years, however, their intensity and frequency have increased, often at latitudes previously thought to be too far south for noctilucent clouds to form.

In 2009, scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research pointed to the southern creep of noctilucent clouds as an early warning signal for climate change high in the atmosphere. Now, new data from  NASA’s cloud-observing AIM satellite supports this possibility.

James Russell, principal investigator for AIM, says increasing methane emissions could be amping up the cloud show. “When methane makes its way into the upper atmosphere, it is oxidized by a complex series of reactions to form water vapor,” Russell said. “This extra water vapor is then available to grow ice crystals for [noctilucent clouds].”

Noctilucent clouds over the North Pole, June 10, 2013
(LASP/Univ. of Colorado)

As polar regions warm in the summer months, water vapor is driven to higher levels of Earth’s atmosphere. There, small dust particles left over from burning meteors, volcanic eruptions, or even rocket launches act as seeds for ice formation. Transparent in broad daylight, these crystalline clouds become visible in twilight hours, reflecting the sun’s rays from below the horizon. They float so high in the atmosphere that they can even glow in the dead of night. Normally such nocturnal cloud sightings peak when the sun is at its 11-year minimum. This year marks exactly the opposite, a predicted solar maximum.

These changing clouds serve as a reminder of the interconnected nature of Earth’s atmosphere, what the scientists refer to as “atmospheric teleconnections.” Cooling in the stratosphere, a consequence of elevated greenhouse gas levels, can alter air circulation patterns across the globe, although exactly how remains a mystery.

WATCH: NASA's ScienceCasts - An Early Start for Noctilucent Clouds.

“Models will be catching up with AIM for a long time,” said space physicist Thomas Immel of Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory, chief scientist for NASA’s next mission to study fluctuations in the upper atmosphere, the ICON satellite, expected to launch in 2017. - WIRED.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: More Sinkholes Keep Popping Up Across America - Line Of Sinkholes In Florida County Could Be Sign Of More To Come!

June 14, 2013 - UNITED STATESHomes in the sinkhole-plagued community of Seffner could be sitting on a fracture line linking them to about 20 other sinkholes, including the 20-foot-deep pit that opened under a home in February and killed Jeffrey Bush.

And as Hillsborough County enters what one geologist labels "sinkhole weather," the potential for sinkholes to form will only increase.

A sinkhole that killed a man in Seffner in March is one in a line of sinkholes in Hillsborough County.
© DIRK SHADD | Times

Since Bush's death brought national attention to sinkholes here, they seem to be sprouting all over Hillsborough, including several in the past week.

"You'll get areas that just seem to get active," said Sandy Nettles, a private geologist in Palm Harbor. "It could be any number of things that actually stimulated it, but usually once they start rolling into an area, you get more action."

In Plant City, Tom Manus was told to leave his home on North Country Hills Court after a sinkhole was discovered under his porch Saturday.

On Sunday, a Bob Evans restaurant in Seffner was closed after employees found cracks on the ceiling, floor and walls. Geological tests are ongoing, but that type of damage is associated with sinkholes.

Later that day, a Tampa family on Jean Street was asked to evacuate after a sinkhole developed in the front yard. The home is east of Hesperides Street and a half mile north of Hillsborough Avenue.

On Wednesday, a 30-foot-deep possible sinkhole opened under 138th Avenue at Bruce B Downs Boulevard below a 2010 Nissan Versa. The car drove safely off the road, but its tires were damaged.

Though sinkholes are as much a part of Florida as hurricanes and pythons, their frequency and media coverage in recent months have many wondering whether this string is unusual and where they're coming from.

Experts say the recent bout of heavy rains, including from Tropical Storm Andrea, could lead to a summer of sinkholes.

Susanna Martinez Tarokh, a spokeswoman for the Southwest Florida Water Management District, said there were 150 confirmed sinkholes last year in Hernando County during and immediately after Tropical Storm Debby.

"This is sinkhole weather," said Anthony Randazzo, a retired geology professor at the University of Florida and president of Geohazards Inc. "It's very much to be expected that there would be numerous sinkholes opening up following a tropical storm, especially after a period of drought. This type of weather pattern is very conducive to the triggering of sinkholes."

Sinkhole formation starts with water. Rocks such as the limestone that dominates the area begin to dissolve when they're exposed to acidic water, such as rain. For eons, acidic water has flowed through the rocks in Florida, dissolving limestone and creating underground voids. When the ground above those voids collapses, a sinkhole is formed.

All sorts of events can create similar collapses: low water levels, broken sewers and septic tanks, poorly compacted soil after construction, even buried trash and other debris. Many of these cases are not labeled sinkholes, but the effects are similar.

Though it's hard to say, the sequence of occurrences in east Hillsborough could be linked to one fracture system, Nettles said.

"We've mapped the sinkholes we work on in Seffner and plotted the locations of the two that opened up previously, and they're all on a straight line," said Nettles, who counts about 20 sinkholes on his map. "Sometimes, something in one of those fracture systems breaks lose, and it creates a whole series of movements."

Fracture lines have high potential for sinkholes, Nettles said. Intersecting and parallel fracture lines are at an even higher risk.

"When you get a system that moves, it moves until it starts to stabilize," Nettles said. "You probably had one collapse, and it just reverberates down the line and gets everything else loose."

Randazzo and Clint Kromhout, a professional geologist with Florida Geological Survey, don't agree with the idea that a few collapsed sinkholes increase the likelihood of others along the same fracture. But areas sitting on a fracture in the limestone are more likely to be exposed to the groundwater that dissolves it, Randazzo said.

"(A fracture line) can be a very common place where you would form a whole series of sinkholes," Randazzo said. "The fact that they would line up is particularly indicative of that kind of phenomena."

There's no way to determine what an average number of sinkholes for the state or a particular region would look like, Kromhout said. Many go unreported or unnoticed. And while one region of the state might be more at risk than another based on geology and rainfall, it's nearly impossible to tell whether a series of occurrences is abnormal.

"Every day in this state, there's likely a sinkhole that occurs that, A, no one sees or, B, no one thinks to say anything about," Kromhout said. - Tampa Bay Times.

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Disaster Precursors - Residents Helpless As Endangered Condors Invade California Town?!

June 14, 2013 - UNITED STATESResidents of a small California town wish a certain endangered species would make itself scarce.

Flocks of California condors have descended upon Bear Valley Springs. Residents, who are allowed to do little to chase them away, say the huge birds peck off roof shingles, damage air conditioners and leave porches coated in droppings. And although the majestic birds, with a wingspan of nine feet, are widely admired, the gated community of about 5,200 about 80 miles north of Los Angeles has seen enough of them.

"A lot of people used to think seeing a condor was amazing," local realtor Beth Hall told "After seeing the damage they have done, they have become less popular with people, myself included."

Unfortunately for the residents, the birds are protected by both federal and state law, leaving them almost powerless to take action. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 66 of the remaining 417 condors live in Southern California.

The condors caused significant damage on the outside of a rental property of Hall's, leaving her with big repair bills. The worst of it took place on her deck after one of the birds opened and spilled a can of white paint. Other condors tracked the paint all around on the deck, Hall said.

Hall also reported that the birds have covered the house in feces, nibbled at the wiring of the air conditioner and ripped off the screens of two sliding doors.

"They basically tore the screen to shreds," Hall said. "They even damaged the frames."

John McCamman of the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, told the birds are indeed destructive.

"They are just ripping stuff up," McCamman said. "There was even an allegation that one of them was ripping up somebody's shingles."

The condors have been under federal and state protection for over 40 years, and killing one can result in a fine, prison time, or both. McCamman's teams have been trying to gently coax the birds away.

"When the birds are causing damage to people's property, we try to harass them without harming them," McCamman said. "We are trying to get them to move along."

McCamman says about half of the Southern California population is visiting Bear Valley Springs for the summer.

"We are having a community meeting to brainstorm potential solutions for the problem," McCamman said. "We are trying to get them to avoid doing things that attract the birds, like not leave puddles of water behind, or leaving food out that they like."

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the species has become endangered in large part to human activities over the past two centuries. Poison bait, environmental pollutants, and contamination from lead fragments have been major causes of death. Their eggs have also been threatened by growing numbers of ravens that follow the condor's nesting range.

"We are concerned about the negative impact this has on the people," McCamman said. "Our goal is for coexistence." - FOX News.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: More Sinkholes Keep Popping Up Across America - Five Years On, Two Large Sinkholes Are Still Swallowing Streets In Cape Girardeau, Missouri!

June 14, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Five years ago, we reported on sinkholes becoming a problem on South Sprigg Street.

The problem has gotten much worse over time, and could close part of the street for good.

Sinkholes have been in the news a lot over the past few months.

There was the man who died in Florida after his home was swallowed by a sinkhole.

A golfer in St. Louis fell into one on the course. In the Heartland, Cairo, Illinois has been dealing with sinkholes, and now so is Cape Girardeau.

Part of South Sprigg is still closed at La Cruz Street, and it probably will be for quite a while.

Two very large sinkholes are swallowing up part of South Sprigg.

Moreover, these sinkholes are big. One is about 15 feet deep and the other is about eight feet deep.

One of the sinkholes just collapsed last week, and crews are working to stop a whirlpool just under a nearby bridge.

WATCH: Sinkholes causing major problems on two Cape Girardeau streets.

The manager of the quarry here says the water started flowing into the quarry recently and thinks the problems could be connected.

Sinkholes are a problem we see a lot more frequently when there is flooding in the region, so the high levels on the Mississippi River aren't helping the problem at all.

The South Sprigg Road closure could become permanent if the city can't find a good fix. - KFVS.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: New Eruption At Alaska’s Veniaminof Caldera - Alaska Volcano Observatory Raises Aviation Alert Status To Orange!

June 14, 2013 - ALASKA - The Alaska Volcano Observatory has raised the aviation alert status at Veniaminof to Orange after indications that a new eruption may have started inside the caldera.

Veniaminof Volcano, Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

There are currently no direct observations of the eruption due to clouds at low levels near the volcano, but a thermal anomaly was noticed earlier today via satellite and seismicity suggests that lava flows and small explosions may be occurring. Thanks to those clouds, no plume has been spotted so far.

This is would be a fairly standard eruption for Veniaminof, which last erupted in 2008. Many of the eruptions at Veniaminof between 2003-08 were small eruptions that ranked VEI 1-2. However, as AVO notes, eruptions in 1993-94 and 1983-84 produced large plumes that topped out at over 5.5 km (18,000 feet).

Neither AVO nor the FAA have a working webcam pointed at Veniaminof at the moment, but that could change with this new activity. I’ll add more information on this eruption as it arrives. - WIRED.

March 4, 2008 ASTER image of the Veniaminof Caldera. The new eruption at the volcano is likely sourced from
one of the two small scoria cones within the caldera. Image: Rick Wessels – NASA/AVO

The Alaska Volcano Observatory raised the volcano alert level from Yellow to Orange. Elevated surface temperatures observed in satellite images this morning at 13:25 UTC (05:25 AKDT) indicate that an eruption at the intracaldera cone is likely underway.

Seismic tremor continues and is indicative of low-level effusive activity and small explosions. No ash plumes have been observed this morning although clouds have obscured web camera views of the summit. (AVO). - Volcano Discovery.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Major Solar System Disturbance - Norwegian Geologist Believed To Have Found Large Meteorite; The Largest In Norway In The Last 100 Years!

June 14, 2013 - NORWAY - Terje Fjeldheim, a geologist who acknowledges that he "knows a bit about rocks," was out fishing in the mountains of Setesdal, southern Norway, when he stumbled upon what's believed to be a meteorite weighing four-and-a-half kilos. That would make it the largest meteorite found in Norway in the last 100 years.

"It was so different that it immediately started ringing some bells," Fjeldheim told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Friday.

Fjeldheim's discovery has sparked excitement among astrophysicists and Knut Jørgen Røed Ødegaard, Norway's celebrity astronomer and meteorite expert, was "ecstatic," according to Fjeldheim. Rune Selbekk of the Museum of Natural History in Oslo has only seen Fjeldheim's photos so far, but said his "gut feeling" is good.

"I get around 2,000 to 3,000 samples every year," Selbekk told NRK. "When something authentic comes in, it offsets all the disappointments."

The last time a bigger meteorite was found in Norway was in the far northern city of Alta in 1902. Before that, Tysnes in 1884, reported NRK. Only a bit more than a dozen meteorites have been found in Norway, with one of the most recent ones crashing through the roof of a holiday cabin in Oslo just last year.

Fjeldheim was due to bring the meteorite in to the museum Friday afternoon and have it evaluated. It may be worth as much as NOK 225,000, should he decide to sell it. - News in English.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Tracking Developments At The Giant Louisiana Sinkhole - Texas Brine Says That Gas Has Been Found Under Homes Near Sinkhole, 100% Of Lower Explosive Limit, Hydrogen Sulfide Also Detected!

June 14, 2013 - UNITED STATES - The following constitutes the latest update from the Assumption Parish Police Jury on the giant Louisiana sinkhole:

Presence of Gas Found During Under-slab Monitoring
Texas Brine has reported to us that two additional homes (that had not previously been monitored) have undergone under-slab monitoring and the presence of gas has been found – 100% LEL and traces of H2S.

Texas Brine will advise what additional steps will be taken to mitigate the presence of gas from the underneath of these slabs. No changes have been made to the evacuation order and we will update as information becomes available.

MASS BEES DIE-OFF: The Global Food Crisis - 34-50% Of ALL HONEYBEE Colonies Died-Off During Past Winter In England, Scotland, United Kingdom; The Worst Losses Since Survey Began?!

June 14, 2013 - UNITED KINGDOM - More than a third of all honeybee colonies in England died over the winter, according to figures from the British Beekeepers Association, the worst losses since its winter survival survey began.

The level of honeybee colony losses across England is more than double what it was last year, up to 33.8% from 16.2% in 2012, the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) said. Photograph: Lewis Whyld/PA

On average, 33.8 colonies in every 100 perished over the long winter of 2012-13 compared with 16.2% the previous winter. In the south-west of England, more than half of all colonies were wiped out and in the northern part of the country 46.4% didn't survive.

In Scotland and Wales, honeybees fared no better. The Scottish beekeepers association, which has yet to complete its annual survey, predicts losses of up to 50%. And bee farmers in Wales have reported 38% losses.

The BBKA attributed the alarming high bee mortality to the poor weather during 2012 continuing into 2013 and exacerbated by the late arrival of spring.

"The wet summer prevented honey bees from foraging for food, resulting in poorly developed colonies going into winter. When they could get out there was a scarcity of pollen and nectar. Honeybee colonies which are in a poor nutritional state become more vulnerable to disease and other stress factors," said a BBKA spokeswoman.

Many beekeepers also reported incidence of "isolation starvation", when the cluster of bees in the hive becomes too cold to move close enough to eat their food stores in another part of the hive, and so starve.

But there are fears that the death toll for bees in England could be even higher, since the BBKA survey of 846 members closed at the end of March before the arrival of spring.

"April this year was very cold, and the start of May, so bees were confined to the hive for much longer and we still had bees dying from starvation in May. So losses could be much more serious," said Glyn Davies, a beekeeper from Devon and former president of the BBKA.

He said the south-west was particularly badly hit because of the relentless rain. "It was the wet, wet, wet, wet summer followed by an enormously long winter. I've never seen anything like it in the 35 years I've been keeping bees," said the 74-year-old beekeeper.

The winter bee losses come just weeks after EU member states voted for a suspension of three pesticides alleged to cause serious harm to bees.

Francis Ratnieks, professor of apiculture at University of Sussex, said pesticides weren't the cause of the high bee mortality: "It was the worst summer ever. I had my own bees starving to death in the summer. It is nothing to do with pesticides; bad weather is enough of an explanation. It's not healthy for bees to be trapped in their hives during the summer. Some queen bees couldn't get out to mate and confined bees are more likely to get nosema [a gut parasite] and viruses from the varroa mite."

When the BBKA survey began in 2007-08, winter bee mortality was 30.5%. Since then losses had been steadily falling.

The government's National Bee Unit says its initial 2012-13 findings of around 30% winter bee losses are the highest recorded loss since its bee inspectors began to formally gather their own figures five years ago.

Mike Brown, head of the NBU, commented, "These figures are not surprising given the harsh winter and long cold spring which followed on from an extremely poor summer last year. The National Bee Unit has continued to offer colony husbandry advice to beekeepers through these prolonged periods of inclement weather."

The Scottish government has announced £200,000 in funding to help bee farmers restock their colonies, but a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokeswoman said: "We do not provide government money for restocking bees. We are working with beekeepers to provide support and training to help them ensure the health of their bees." - Guardian.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Major Solar System Disturbance - Bright Meteor Lights Up Eastern Coast Of Australia!

June 14, 2013 - AUSTRALIA - There have been multiple reports of a bright burning light in the sky over Toowoomba and the Darling Downs last night.

A meteorite may have been spotted crashing to earth this evening. © NASA

Witnesses reported seeing a bright white ball falling to earth about 6pm. It is understood the object may have been a meteor or space junk.

Several people contacted The Chronicle this morning to report the sighting.

On Facebook, witnesses spoke of a "spectacular" light display that at first appeared to be a shooting star.
  • Shallon Garton: "I saw what I thought was a shooting star but way bigger driving back to Highfields from Esk."
  • Stuart Shields: "Yes, saw it on my way home from Highfields last night was pretty spectacular."
  • Christine Walker: "We saw it here in the Lockyer Valley just after dark. No time to grab the camera though"
There have also been reports of a bright light or flashes over the Sunshine Coast and the mid north NSW coast. - Toowoomba Chronicle.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: WHO Says MERS Virus Death Toll Hits 33 - After 2 Fatalities In Saudi Arabia!

June 14, 2013 - SAUDI ARABIA - The global death toll from the SARS-like virus MERS has risen to 33, after two new fatalities in Saudi Arabia, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

Spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said the Saudi health ministry had informed the UN agency of three new laboratory-confirmed cases, one of them fatal, and the death of a patient already diagnosed with the disease.

Until last month, the disease was known simply as novel coronavirus, before being renamed Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus. (File photo: Reuters)

“Globally, from September 2012 to date, WHO has been informed of a total of 58 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including 33 deaths,” Chaib told reporters.

Until last month, the disease was known simply as novel coronavirus, before being renamed Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, or MERS-CoV, as cases initiated in that region.

There have now been 44 confirmed cases in Saudi Arabia, 28 of them fatal, according to WHO figures.

WHO logs cases by country of infection, rather than of death, and its Saudi toll includes one individual who died in Britain.

One person has died in France after being infected in Dubai, and a patient died in Munich, Germany who was transferred there after first being treated in Abu Dhabi.

There have also been two cases in Jordan, both of them fatal. Qatar has seen two, with those patients treated in Britain and Germany.

Two patients caught the disease in Britain from a person who had been to the Middle East, one of whom died.

Tunisia has seen two non-fatal cases and Italy two -- one of whom caught the virus in Jordan and gave it to a contact in Italy.

France has recorded one infection, a man who is thought to have caught the disease while sharing a hospital room with the deceased patient who had got it in Dubai.

The virus is a member of the coronavirus family, which includes the pathogen that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

SARS sparked global panic in 2003 after it jumped to humans from animals in Asia and killed 800 people.

Like SARS, MERS appears to cause a lung infection, with patients suffering from a temperature, cough and breathing trouble. But it differs in that it also causes rapid kidney failure.

Health officials have expressed concern about the high proportion of deaths relative to cases, warning that MERS could spark a new global crisis if it mutates into a form that spreads more easily. - Al Arabiya.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Masses Of Dead Saltwater Fish Mysteriously Wash Ashore In Ca Mau, Vietnam?!

June 14, 2013 - VIETNAM - Masses of dead saltwater fish have drifted ashore in Bo De seaport, in southernmost Ca Mau Province, since early last week.

According to the provincial Aquatic Resources Exploitation and Protection Department Director, Do Chi Si, experts are investigating the cause of the deaths. - Vietnam News.