Thursday, June 20, 2013

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: More Sinkholes Keep Popping Up Across America - Giant Sinkhole Forces Road Closure In West View, Pennsylvania And Epidemic Of Sinkholes Plague Buffalo, New York!

June 20, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Heavy rain is being blamed for a sinkhole that has shut down a busy West View roadway. Repairs are being made at Perry Highway near Center Avenue after the sinkhole expanded from the size of a pothole to a giant hole measuring about 15 feet long and 20 feet deep.

Giant Sinkhole Forces Road Closure In West View, Pennsylvania.
A large sinkhole has opened in a lane of traffic on Perry Highway in West View.
Image: Andy Benesh

West Water Authority says the problem started about two weeks ago with a leaking sewer line. As crews were making the necessary repairs Tuesday afternoon, they were hit with another obstacle.

"We had that rain storm that came through around 4 o'clock yesterday afternoon," said West View Police Chief Bruce Fromlak. "The storm system subsequently filled up with water and flushed a lot of what they had done out. And it flushed out what they didn't get to yet."

Residents are now making their way around orange cones and barrels. They tell Channel 4 Action News that this short detour has not caused any major problems.

"They've been down here 24/7 working on it. They'll take care of it," said Tory Sheppard.
"The first time you do it, you don't know how far it's going to be. But it's like two seconds. It's not that bad," said Tracey Zimmerman.

The damage near the Center Avenue intersection was spotted on Tuesday.
Image: Andy Benesh

The area has been blocked by police so repair crews can assess the situation.
Image: Andy Benesh

Dunkin' Donuts, which is located near the sinkhole, says the construction has made business slow the last few days. "Today, things picked up a little bit. So, for the rest of the week, we will be running a sinkhole special. We will have a doughnut called the 'sinkhole,'" marketing manager Jordan Kay said.

Authorities say aging sewer lines are to blame. Residents are asked to be patient.

WATCH: Sinkhole forces road closure in West View, PA.

"We certainly don't want people to avoid the area. We want people to stop by our local businesses," Fromlak said. "However, this particular intersection will be closed for an undetermined amount of time."

Officials from West View Water Authority say they hope to have the hole filled by today and the road repaved and open by tomorrow, weather permitting. - WTAE.

Epidemic Of Sinkholes Plague Buffalo, New York.
Sinhoke on Duerstein Street in Buffalo.

We're hearing about more sinkholes developing on some streets in Buffalo and that could be much more of a problem for property owners. That is especially the case if the city determines it's caused by leaking or broken water pipes which undermine the street.

City Council Majority Leader Richard Fontana estimates the repairs could run up to three or four thousand dollars or more in repairs if the city makes the ruling that a property owner's pipes are leaking or broken. He says much of the problem is tied to the age of the pipes.

People on Duerstein Street off of Seneca Street in South Buffalo recently sent us pictures of a deep sinkhole which opened up this past weekend. The city feels the homeowner is responsible but in this case the city will make a repair according to City Spokesman Mike DeGeorge. It is in the middle of the street near the sewer line.

There have been others like a sinkhole that opened up two weeks ago on Willet Street off Clinton in Kaisertown.

WATCH: Epidemic of sink-holes plagues Buffalo, NY.

In this case the property owner was definitely determined to be liable and has to bring in a plumber and contractor to make this costly repair.

Councilman Fontana says city policy is that the property owner is responsible for the pipes from their home to the water main in the street. Some of those pipes may be 50 to 100 years old in some neighborhoods.

Fontana says "I think it's just another year older and it's just more traffic is some of these streets. Sometimes you get truck traffic that's too heavy. That's causing it. But the age of the pipes. Every year we get older...I know I feel my knees more now. So things like that happen as the pipes get older and they have to be maintained. Unfortunately some of these homes aren't even maintained to begin with let alone the plumbing. So that becomes a problem."

Now in some cases the city does make the repair at the homeowner's request rather than use a private contractor. But the city will then bill them on their taxes so they're still paying a lot.

But the city has a deal with its water company to actually offer insurance policies covering those pipes It runs ten dollars a month for both water and sewer which would then cover the repairs if they break.

Fontana says "Older infrastructure needs repair and it's almost impossible to maintain these pipes. You can't just our oil down and water your water shutoff vales. You just can't do these types of maintenance things that you could do inside the home. And you never really know when it's gonna break. So that's the problem. If you get a new line it will last you 50 years. But if you don't know how old your line is and it's older than ten - fifteen, 20 years, I'd get the insurance."

You can apply for that insurance by using the city's 3-1-1 line for residents at City Hall or contact a council member. - WGRZ.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Thousands Of Fish Turn Up Dead In Sarasota Lake, Florida?!

June 20, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A Sarasota neighborhood is on alert after a large number of fish have been found dead in a lake. These concerns come almost two years to the day of another fish kill in the same area.

The dead fish have been discovered in the Clark Lakes neighborhood just south of Clark Road and east of Beneva Road in Sarasota County.

Wednesday, county officials confirmed they know about the situation, saying early tests indicate a mixture of issues leading to the kill. They say recent storm water runoff, high heat, algae, and even bird poop may be the reason why oxygen levels have dropped.

Some neighbors we talked to suspect fertilizer runoff from a nearby manicured community or chemical spraying near the water. Resident Justin Eastwood works for a local environmentally-friendly pest control company. "It could be a chemical that they are using to control insects. That would be more likely than fertilizer."

While mosquito management has recently ramped up spraying around the county, officials tell ABC 7 there have been no drainage operations or herbicidal spraying activities by them around the area.

WATCH: Fish kill in Sarasota lake worries residents.

On June 30th, 2011, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigated up to 100 dead fish in Mirror Lake at the same location. According to their database, the cause was low dissolved oxygen. - WWSB.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: MERS Contagion - World Health Organization Calls Emergency Meeting To Respond To The Mysterious SARS-Like Outbreak!

June 20, 2013 - SAUDI ARABIA - Amid fears of a new pandemic more deadly than Sars, 80 officials and doctors, including two from Britain, gathered in Cairo yesterday to examine ways of tackling Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, dubbed MERS.

The coronavirus is casting a shadow over the annual Muslim pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia, where four new deaths were announced on Monday.

A transmission electron micrograph of novel coronavirus particles, colorized in yellow, is shown.
(National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

The three-day meeting called by the World Health Organisation will look at developing guidelines for Ramadan. In October, more than two million people are expected to attend the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

"Everyone is very aware of the fact that Ramadan begins next month and that there will be a large, large movement of people in a small crowded spaces," said Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the WHO. "So the more we know about this virus before that starts the better."

There are also concerns that tourists could bring the virus back to their home countries. It appears to have an incubation period of up to 12 days and a fatality rate of 60 per cent.

Cases have also been found in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia and Jordan. Most were patients transferred home from the Middle East for treatment or people who had travelled to the region and became ill after they returned.

Dr Jon Bible, a clinical scientist, who treated one of the three British cases last year, said: “You don’t want to have this.”

Sufferers, he said, “are very close to death at all times. They are in respiratory distress at all times, it’s like a very serious pneumonia”.

His patient at St Thomas’s Hospital survived after several months of artificial respiration and even now has breathing difficulties.

The relief for authorities is that it has not yet mutated so as to gain the ability to jump easily from person to person.

Mr Hartl said: “We have been lucky it hasn’t started to spread in any sustainable way between humans. We still have time, but we have to use that time to act.”

An international team of doctors who investigated nearly two dozen cases in eastern Saudi Arabia found the virus has some striking similarities to SARS, which killed 800 people around the world as it spread a global health panic in 2003.

Unlike SARS, though, scientists remain baffled about the source of the new virus, which was first reported in April 2012.

A Saudi man walks towards the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, 370 kms East of the Saudi capital Riyadh.
 Photo: AFP/Getty Images

The symptoms of both are similar, with an initial fever and cough that may last for a few days before overpowering pneumonia develops.

"To me, this felt a lot like SARS did," said Trish Perl, a senior hospital epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine, who was part of the team. Their report was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr Perl said they pinpoint how it was spread in every case - through droplets from sneezing or coughing, or a more indirect route.

The team was alarmed to find MERS only spread within hospitals, even though some hospital patients were not close to the infected person.

"In the right circumstances, the spread could be explosive," said Dr Perl.

What is of particular concern is the high fatality rate of the virus. It has caused death in about 60 percent of patients so far, with 75 percent of cases in men and most in people with serious health conditions. There are currently no known treatments.

Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, previously called MERS a “threat to the entire world”.

Dr Dipti Patel, joint director of Public Health England’s National Travel Health Network and Centre, said: “Given that there have only been a relatively small number of confirmed MERS-CoV coronavirus cases worldwide, people planning to travel to the Middle East should continue with their plans but follow the general advice about staying safe and healthy when travelling, and especially the available guidance on the Hajj and Umrah." - Telegraph.

Three Additional Cases Of MERS-CoV Are Confirmed.
The Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia has announced an additional three laboratory-confirmed cases with Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

The first patient is a 42-year-old man with an underlying medical condition from the Eastern region, the second patient is a 63-year-old woman with underlying medical conditions from Riyadh region and the third patient is a two-year-old child with an underlying medical condition from Jeddah.

Additionally, four previously laboratory-confirmed cases have died.

Globally, from September 2012 to date, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been informed of a total of 64 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including 38 deaths.

WHO has received reports of laboratory-confirmed cases originating in the following countries in the Middle East to date: Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia and the United Kingdom also reported laboratory-confirmed cases; they were either transferred there for care of the disease or returned from the Middle East and subsequently became ill. In France, Italy, Tunisia and the United Kingdom, there has been limited local transmission among patients who had not been to the Middle East but had been in close contact with the laboratory-confirmed or probable cases.

Based on the current situation and available information, WHO encourages all Member States to continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and to carefully review any unusual patterns.

Healthcare providers are advised to maintain vigilance. Recent travelers returning from the Middle East who develop SARI should be tested for MERS-CoV as advised in the current surveillance recommendations. Specimens from patients’ lower respiratory tracts should be obtained for diagnosis where possible. Clinicians are reminded that MERS-CoV infection should be considered even with atypical signs and symptoms, such as diarrhea, in patients who are immunocompromised.

Healthcare facilities are reminded of the importance of systematic implementation of infection prevention and control (IPC). Healthcare facilities that provide care for patients suspected or confirmed with MERS-CoV infection should take appropriate measures to decrease the risk of transmission of the virus to other patients, healthcare workers and visitors. - ICT.

Person-To-Person Transmission Of Lethal SARS-Like Virus Identified.
Person-to-person transmission of the novel Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has been described in a cluster of health care-associated infections in Saudi Arabia, according to research published online June 19 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Abdullah Assiri, MD, from the Al-Faisal University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and colleagues reviewed medical records and interviewed case patients and contacts in a cluster of 23 cases of health care-acquired MERS-CoV infection reported in an eastern province of Saudi Arabia between April 1 and May 23, 2013.

The researchers found that symptoms included fever, cough, shortness of breath, and gastrointestinal symptoms, and 20 of the patients presented with abnormal chest radiographs. Fifteen of the patients had died, six had recovered, and two were still hospitalized as of June 12. There was a 5.2-day median intervention period and the serial interval was 7.6 days.

Twenty-one cases were acquired by person-to-person transmission in three different health care facilities, in hemodialysis, intensive care, and in-patient units. A single monophyletic clade was identified in four isolates. MERS-CoV infection developed in five family members (three laboratory-confirmed cases) and two health care workers (both laboratory confirmed).

"Person-to-person transmission of MERS-CoV can occur in health care settings and may be associated with considerable morbidity," the authors write. "Surveillance and infection-control measures are critical to a global public health response." - MPR.

MERS SARS-CoV-like KSA Surveillance Concerns.
MERS SARS-CoV-like Outbreaks In Al Hasa Hospitals
Image: Recombinomics

Between April 1 and May 23, 2013, a total of 23 confirmed cases of human infection with MERS-CoV were identified in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia (Fig. S1 in the Supplementary Appendix). All confirmed cases and 11 probable cases were part of a single outbreak involving four health care facilities (Figure 1)
The above comments are from a New England Journal of Medicine paper which details a nocosomial MERS-CoV outbreak involving at least four hospitals in Al Hasa in eastern Kingdom of Saudi Arabi (KSA) – see map. The detail in the paper contains many elements that are strikingly similar to nocosomial outbreaks linked to the SARS coronavirus in 2003 including infections of patients and health care workers (HCWs) by super spreaders which lead to extended transmission chains in multiple hospitals.

In the Al Hasa outbreak the index case (Patient A, 56M) is the likely source of infection of the super spreader (Patient C, 55M), who was hospitalized in an adjacent room, as well as one of his sons (patient O, 33M) and a nurse (patient R, 42F).

The super spread is the likely source for the infection of 7 patients in the dialysis unit (patient D, 59M; patient E, 24M; patient F, 87M; patient G, 77M; patient H, 62F; patient I, 58M) or ICU (patient J; 94M). Five of these seven cases were the source of onward transmission involving 13 additional confirmed cases in four different hospitals (as depicted in Figure 2).

Although the confirmed cases described above define the spread of MERS-CoV between patients and HCWs in four hospitals, there were at least 9 additional cases which were classified as probable and not lab confirmed (as indicated above). Although these cases are represented in Figure 1, which includes disease onset date and hospital, the relationship of these 9 cases with each other and the confirmed cases is far from clear, so the hospital transmission chains may be longer than represented in Figure 2 (which had three H2H2H2H2H chains).

Patients A and B are listed as cases which were infected in the community (see Figure 2 and supplement). However, both cases had been hospitalized for 4 or 6 days, respectively, prior to disease onset, suggesting that they were infected in the hospital by unknown patients or HCWs, which would have extended the hospital transmission chain.

Moreover, neither case A or C were lab confirmed, even though both infections were fatal and case A was in the ICU for 7 days after disease onset (including intubation for the final 5 days) and case C was hospitalized for 8 days after disease onset, including 5 days in the ICU where he was intubated. Thus, if these two key cases were not linked to additional pneumonia cases, it is likely that they would have never been reported, even though they were fatally infected with MERS-CoV.

In addition to the detail in the paper, more information on the index case and his older son (who was lab confirmed) were available from many media reports and videos (see CNN/Reuters clip in first 26 seconds), including an English language report covered by ProMED. The confirmed son (Hesham Mohamed Al Bin Sheik) indicated is father (the index case, Mohamed Al Sheik) was infected in the hospital and the son developed symptoms 3 days after his father’s death. A second son (Abdullah Mohamed Al Bin Sheik) also developed symptoms and was also hospitalized. Media reports included pictures of both sons in their hospital beds, as well as news conferences when each was discharged. Media reports indicated a daughter was also symptomatic, but she tested negative and recovered without hospitalization. Thus, the transmission chain was longer than the linkage between the index cases and his confirmed son, and the number of recovered cases was higher than the one confirmed case.

The older son is one of only seven confirmed MERS-CoV KSA cases who has been discharged. KSA has reported 32 deaths, which includes the vast majority of confirmed cases from the Al Hasa outbreak, which produces a case fatality rate of 82% for confirmed cases with outcomes (10 of the confirmed cases are hospitalized, but most are in critical condition and on life support). The two milder unconfirmed cases in the family of the index case would lower this rate if they were confirmed, which is also likely for additional suspect cases cited in the paper.

However, in addition to the cases in the paper, they are likely many more infected cases among the hundreds or thousands of cases which have tested negative because the collection times of the samples were sub-optimal, or collections were limited to the upper respiratory tract, where viral RNA levels may be below detection limits.

The paper clearly shows that MERS-CoV is readily transmitted to patients and HCWs and the number of infected contacts is markedly higher than the small number of confirmed cases. Many of these additional cases would be identified through antibody testing, as was seen in the Jordan ICU outbreak, which would also significantly lower the CFR, which is much higher in KSA than the Jordan ICU cluster or onward transmission cases outside of the Middle East.

The paper provides dramatic evidence for similarities between the spread of MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV in 2003, and raises serious concerns about potential infections and spread linked to Umrah associated with Ramadan beginning July 9, as well as the Hajj in KSA in October. - Recombinomics.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Dow Jones Dives Deep As Stocks Tumble With Bonds As Gold Slides In Global Rout - Stocks Nosedive 2%; Dow Down 350 On Fed Taper Talk; Vix Tops 20 For First Time In 2013!

June 20, 2013 - UNITED STATESStocks took a sharp nosedive across the board Thursday, with the Dow posting its worst day of 2013, after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke hinted the central bank may scale back its asset purchases later this year.

Image: Yahoo Finance.

With the declines from the last two sessions, the Dow and S&P 500 wiped out all of their gains from May and June.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted nearly 350 points, with all 30 components in the red. The last time the blue-chip index closed down more than 300 points was last November. The Dow is down more than 5 percent since its May closing high.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq also closed near their lows, with the S&P crashing through a key 1,598 level that traders had been watching. All three major averages were back in negative territory for the week, and on track for their fourth-weekly decline in the last five weeks.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, spiked near 20, hitting a new high for the year.

Image: CNBC.

All key S&P sectors finished sharply in the red. Defensive names have been getting hit the hardest over the last two days, the last two days, with utilities and telecoms down more than 4 percent each.

"We shouldn't be surprised by what the Fed said yesterday—Bernanke had already mentioned this in his speech back in May and we saw an immediate reaction in the bond market," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial. "We haven't had a meaningful correction in the market and if this selloff continues…it doesn't mean the market is going to collapse; it is essentially recalibrating—the road to normal is going to be filled with detours."

Fed policymakers said in a statement Wednesday that the central bank would keep buying $85 billion in bonds a month. But in a press conference, Bernanke said if the economy continues to improve, the central bank could could start winding down its asset-purchasing program towards the end of 2013 and wrap up in 2014.

WATCH: Art Cashin - Like Someone Walking After a Heart Attack.

"The FOMC [Federal Open Market Committee] was more hawkish than we had expected," wrote Goldman Sachs economists Jan Hatzius and Sven Jari Stehn. "Our takeaway is that the risk to our forecast of quantitative easing tapering starting in December has increased."

Bernanke's comments sparked an initial selloff Wednesday, with the Dow closing down more than 200 points. The benchmark 10-year yield continued to rise even further Thursday to 2.469 percent, hitting its highest level since August 2011. Gold prices tumbled more than 6 percent, falling below $1,300 an ounce for the first time since Sept. 2010.

European shares closed deeply in the red across the board with the FTSEurofirst 300 index falling nearly 3 percent. Markets in Asia were slammed, with the Japanese Nikkei closing down nearly 2 percent. South Korea's Kospi and the Shanghai Composite traded near 2013 lows.

Adding to woes in Asia, China's HSBC Flash Purchasing Manager's Index, a preliminary reading of manufacturing activity, fell to a nine-month low in June.

WATCH: Why Fed Tapering Won't Kill Equities.

On the economic front, existing home sale jumped in May to its highest level in 3-1/2 years, according to the National Association of Realtors. But shares of homebuilders plunged amid worries that mortgage rates might rise after Bernanke said the central bank could reduce the amount of money it pumps into the economy later this year. Pulte, DR Horton and Lennar rounded out the top three worst performers on the S&P 500 index.

Factory activity in the mid-Atlantic region rose to 12.5 in June, according to the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank, trumping expectations for a reading of minus 2. Any reading above zero indicates expansion in the region's manufacturing. And a gauge of future economic activity touched its highest level in nearly five years in May, according to the Conference Board.

But traders shrugged off the positive reports.

Meanwhile, jobless claims jumped 18,000 to a seasonally adjusted 354,000 last week, according to the Labor Department.

At its press event, Facebook introduced video features on its photo-sharing app, Instagram, where users will be able to record 15 second clips and choose from 13 video filters. The new product comes just six months after the release of Vine, Twitter's six-second mobile video capture application.

Also among techs, Microsoft declined after reports that the tech giant had planned to acquire Finland's Nokia, but talks had broken down.

Separately, Microsoft announced a major change to its Xbox One videogame console, saying it will no longer require an Internet connection to play offline games. It also dropped all restrictions on trading games, and did away with region-locking restrictions. Gamestop bucked the negative market trend, soaring nearly 7 percent to lead the S&P 500 gainers.

Among earnings, Kroger posted earnings that topped expectations and lifted its full-year profit forecast.

Oracle is slated to post earnings results after the closing bell. - CNBC.

Stocks Tumble With Bonds As Gold Slides In Global Rout.
Stocks tumbled, with the benchmark index of global equities sinking the most in 21 months, and bonds fell around the world after the Federal Reserve said it may phase out stimulus and China’s cash crunch worsened. Gold led commodities lower as the dollar rallied for a second day.

The MSCI All-Country World Index (MXWO) lost 3.6 percent, the most since September 2011, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index sank 2.7 percent at 3:49 p.m. in New York for its biggest drop in 19 months. Ten-year Treasury note yields rose four basis points to 2.39 percent and touched 2.47 percent, the highest since August 2011, as rates surged from New Zealand to Germany. Emerging-market assets fell with Brazil’s Ibovespa reaching a four-year low. The S&P GSCI gauge of raw materials slid 3.1 percent, the most in a year and a half, as gold sank below $1,300 an ounce for the first time since 2010.

WATCH: Bill Gross - Ben Bernanke's Message Was Pro-Growth.

Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said the Fed may start reducing bond purchases that have fueled gains in markets globally, and end the program in 2014 should risks to the U.S. economy continue to abate. The Fed will cut its $85 billion in monthly purchases by $20 billion at its September meeting, according to economists in a Bloomberg poll. Data from China indicated manufacturing shrank at a faster pace and the benchmark money-market rate climbed to a record.

“It’s a knee-jerk downward reaction because everyone is afraid that if you’re taking the punch bowl away that must be bad for markets,” Philip Orlando, the New York-based chief equity strategist at Federated Investors, which has about $380 billion in assets under management, said by telephone. “The market is choosing to ignore the good news embedded in the Fed’s comments. All it’s looking at is the reduction of the accommodation.”

Slump Extended

The S&P 500 (SPX) extended yesterday’s 1.4 percent drop as all 10 of its main industry groups retreated at least 2 percent, with only 21 stocks advancing. The benchmark index extended its decline from its last record on May 21 to 4.8 percent, trimming its 2013 advance to less than 12 percent and its rally from its bear-market low in 2009 to 135 percent.

Walt Disney Co., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Microsoft Corp. lost at least 3.2 percent to lead declines in all 30 stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, sending the gauge down as much as 364 points for its worst decline since November.

Ebix Inc. tumbled 44 percent as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. terminated an agreement to acquire the insurance-software maker after federal prosecutors opened an investigation into allegations of intentional misconduct.

An S&P index of homebuilders tumbled 8 percent even after sales of previously owned U.S. homes climbed more than forecast in May to the highest level since November 2009. Purchases of existing houses increased 4.2 percent to an annualized rate of 5.18 million from 4.97 million in April, National Association of Realtors figures showed. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for a 5 million rate of sales.

Economic Watch

Another report showed the index of U.S. leading indicators rose less than projected in May, a sign the world’s largest economy may take time to accelerate. The Conference Board’s gauge of the outlook for the next three to six months increased 0.1 percent after a revised 0.8 percent gain in April that was higher than initially reported. The median forecast of economists called for a rise of 0.2 percent.

More Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, with claims climbing by 18,000 to 354,000 in the week ended June 15 from a revised 336,000 the prior period, the Labor Department reported. The median forecast of 46 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 340,000.

‘Nobody Believes’

“Employment is the most important thing at the end of the day,” Uri Landesman, president of New York-based hedge fund Platinum Partners, which manages about $1.2 billion, said by telephone. “The unemployment numbers today underscored the fact that despite the fact that balance sheets are fairly strong, no one is hiring because nobody believes that this is really going to be a long, sustained recovery.”

Bernanke’s remarks yesterday prompted economists to predict a faster reduction in bond purchases. The first cut will come at the Sept. 17-18 policy meeting, according to 44 percent of economists in a Bloomberg survey. In a June 4-5 survey, only 27 percent of economists forecast tapering would start in September.

Volatility Gauges

Speculation that the Fed will begin withdrawing its stimulus measures has boosted trading in an exchange-traded note tracking U.S. volatility. The iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN was the third most-active ETF in the U.S. yesterday, with 86.7 million shares changing hands, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. While the Nikkei 225 Stock Average Volatility Index (VNKY) fell 3.6 percent today, a similar measure for Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index jumped 7.7 percent.

The stock selloff pushed the MSCI all-country gauge down more than 7 percent from the five-year high reached on May 21, the day before Bernanke raised the possibility of reducing stimulus should economic indicators improve. About $2.4 trillion was erased from global equity values over that stretch, with indexes in Hong Kong and Japan sliding more than 20 percent into bear markets.

WATCH: Bernanke Says FOMC May Lower Unemployment Threshold.

Germany’s 10-year bund yield climbed 11 basis points to 1.67 percent, a four-month high. Spanish bonds stayed lower, erasing six days of gains, as the nation sold 4.02 billion euros ($5.3 billion) of debt maturing in 2018, 2021, and 2023, compared with a maximum target of 4 billion euros.

Australia’s 10-year yield rose as much as 23 basis points to 3.65 percent, a level unseen since March 15, and New Zealand’s 10-year rate surged 30 basis points to 4.09 percent.

‘Humpty Dumpty’

U.S. 30-year bond yields jumped seven basis points to 3.48 percent, the highest since September 2011, and two-year rates increased one basis points to 0.32 percent.

Volatility in Treasuries as measured by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch MOVE Index (MOVE) was at 86.89 yesterday, the highest since June 2012.

The Fed may be unable to calm volatility it triggered in global financial markets after it signaled an eventual cut in its monetary stimulus, according to Bill Gross, manager of the world’s biggest bond fund.

“I doubt they can put Humpty Dumpty back together again,” Pacific Investment Management Co.’s founder Gross said in a radio interview on “Bloomberg Surveillance” with Tom Keene and Mike McKee. Vice Chairman “Janet Yellen’s task was to damp volatility, to lower that term premium, to calm markets, and they did that. But now there is significant unrest.”

Investor confidence in U.S. corporate credit plunged.

Default Swaps

The Markit CDX North American Investment Grade Index, a credit-default swaps benchmark that investors use to hedge against losses or to speculate on creditworthiness, increased 5.7 basis points to a mid-price of 91.4 basis points at 11:02 a.m. in New York, after yesterday climbing 3.9 basis points, according to prices compiled by Bloomberg. That’s the biggest two-day jump on a closing basis since the measure rose 8.8 in the period ended May 14, 2012, excluding rolls into new series of the benchmark.

The dollar strengthened against all 16 major peers except the franc and pound, surging 0.9 percent to 97.36 yen and appreciating 0.6 percent to $1.3217 per euro. Norway’s krone tumbled 3.7 percent versus the dollar, the most since 2008.

The Australian dollar dropped for a fifth day, sliding 1.1 percent to 91.90 U.S. cents and reaching 91.64, the weakest since September 2010.

The JPMorgan Global FX Volatility Index increased to as high as 11.51 percent, the highest in a year. The average in the past 12 months is 8.66 percent.

European Shares

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index (SXXP) slid 3 percent, the most since November 2011, and closed at its lowest level of the year as all 19 industry groups retreated. Germany’s DAX Index tumbled 3.3 percent for its biggest decline in more than a year.

Randgold Resources Ltd., a producer of the precious metal in Africa, led materials stocks lower, sinking 7.5 percent. BHP Billiton Ltd. and Rio Tinto Group, the world’s biggest mining companies, lost at least 4.5 percent.

The number of shares changing hands in Stoxx 600 companies today was 32 percent greater than the 30-day average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The VStoxx Index (V2X), which measures the cost of options hedging against moves in the Euro Stoxx 50 Index, climbed 16 percent.

Emerging Markets

The MSCI Emerging Markets Index (MXEF) slid 4.3 percent, the most since 2011. Indonesia’s Jakarta Composite Index tumbled 3.7 percent while India’s Sensex and Russia’s Micex index lost at least 2 percent and Brazil’s Ibovespa extended its two-day plunge to 4.6 percent, reaching the lowest level since April 2009.

Investors are pulling money from emerging markets at the fastest pace in two years as slowing growth, prospects for lower stimulus and anti-government protests from Brazil to Turkey rattled investors. More than $19 billion left funds investing in developing-nation assets in the three weeks to June 12, the most since 2011, according to EPFR Global.

“We expect another round of correction in the period ahead, across the board, be it in emerging market currencies or emerging market fixed income,” a team led by Benoit Anne, head of strategy at Societe Generale SA in London, wrote in a report today. “We are positioned quite defensively.”

The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland companies listed in Hong Kong slid 3.3 percent to the lowest since September. The preliminary reading of 48.3 for a Chinese purchasing managers’ index released today by HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics compares with the 49.1 median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of 15 economists.

China Rates

China’s seven-day repurchase rate, a gauge of interbank funding availability, rose to the highest since at least 2006. The central bank has refrained from using reverse-repos to inject funds into the interbank market since Feb. 7.

All 24 commodities tracked by the S&P GSCI Index retreated.

Gold for immediate delivery lost 5.3 percent to $1,278.86 an ounce, the lowest price since September 2010. Gold futures declined 7 percent in New York. Holdings (GDTRGOLD) in the SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest exchange-traded product backed by bullion, fell below 1,000 metric tons for the first time in four years. Silver plunged 8 percent to $19.6987 an ounce, the lowest since September 2010, and palladium declined 4.4 percent, retreating for a sixth day in its longest slump in almost a year.

Copper for delivery in three months retreated 2.7 percent to $6,770 a metric ton on the London Metal Exchange. Nickel dropped 3.5 percent to $13,700 a ton, the lowest price since May 2009.

West Texas Intermediate crude fell for a second day, declining 2.9 percent to $95.40 a barrel for its biggest decline in seven months. The volume of all futures traded was 46 percent above the 100-day average. - Bloomberg.

INFRASTRUCTURE & SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: Very Massive Explosion At Quebec Fireworks Factory - Two People Dead!

June 20, 2013 - CANADA - A massive explosion at a fireworks warehouse killed two people Thursday, police said, leaving a huge plume of smoke blanketing an area west of Montreal.

The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes. AP Photo.

A series of explosions subsequently leapt from the charred building after the initial blast at B.E.M. Fireworks Thursday morning near Valleyfield, Quebec. Images from the scene showed a building near a major highway completely destroyed.

Provincial police said two bodies were found in the wreckage but they did not identify them.

Nearly two hours after the blast, fireworks could still be heard exploding at the scene of the fire that continued to burn out of control hours after the explosion, according to witnesses.

The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes. AP Photo

The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes. AP Photo

"All of a sudden I heard, 'boom, boom, bang,'" Mario Cramerstetter said from his office, which is just over a mile (1.6 kilometers) away from the site.

"Initially I thought it was a bulldozer or a tractor but then we saw a big puff smoke. We kept on hearing popping, fireworks going off all the time."

Cramerstetter said it looked like a small building caught fire first and then spread to a larger storage unit.

"We got really, really, really scared," said Ginette Liboiron, who runs a convenience store across a highway overpass.

"I thought my store was falling to the ground. It shook like you can't imagine... We all went outside to see and saw the big, incredible smoke," she said. "It went high up in the air, then it became black, black, black."

The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes. AP Photo

Police ordered the surrounding community of Coteau-du-Lac evacuated. A nearby highway was also closed in both directions.

Police also said low traces of metal materials were found in the surrounding area.

WATCH: Massive Explosion At Quebec Fireworks Factory.

Video captured by a news helicopter showed fireworks igniting inside the remnants of the smoldering building.

According to its website, B.E.M. has been designing and manufacturing pyrotechnics and fireworks for 25 years. - Star-Telegram.

EXTREME WEATHER: Severe Thunderstorms Takes Aim At U.S. Upper Midwest And Northern Plains - Will Bring Frequent Lightning Strikes, Damaging Wind Gusts, Large Hail, Flash Flooding And Tornadoes!

June 20, 2013 - UNITED STATESSevere thunderstorms with the risk of a few tornadoes will advance eastward across the northern Plains and Upper Midwest into Friday.

Cities that could experience damaging and dangerous storms include Minot, Bismarck and Fargo, N.D.; Pierre, Huron and Sioux Falls, S.D.; Omaha, Neb.; and St. Cloud, Mankato and Minneapolis, Minn.

People whether at home, at work or on the road in this area should keep an eye out for rapidly changing weather conditions.

The storms bring the full spectrum of severe weather ranging from damaging wind gusts, frequent lightning strikes, large hail and flash flooding. A few of the strongest storms can produce a tornado.

The greatest threat of severe weather will shift to the eastern part of the Dakotas, eastern Nebraska and much of Minnesota Thursday.

During Friday, the risk for severe thunderstorms will expand eastward and southwestward.

The potential for severe weather into the weekend will continue over portions of the northern Plains and will expand eastward across more of the Great Lakes.

The severe weather will be firing as a couple of storm systems move along the Canada/U.S. border, while a zone of heat builds farther south over the Rockies and Plains.

Similar setups in the past have produced one or more large, strong thunderstorm complexes, and it is likely this event will have a similar outcome, especially Thursday night into Friday. However, forecasting the exact path such complexes will take can be challenging prior to their actual formation.

Regardless of whether or not a thunderstorm complex forms, individual thunderstorms can bring isolated severe weather and lines of thunderstorms can bring damage on a more regional basis.

While many seasoned residents in the northern Plains and the Upper Midwest have experience in severe weather situations, all residents and visitors should stay on top of the weather situation over the next few days. - AccuWeather.

THE APOCALYPTIC GREAT DELUGE: Flood Death Toll In India Hilly States Climbs - Over 1,000 People Killed; 62,000 Stranded; Hundreds Missing; Over 400 Roads Destroyed; Worst Flooding In 90 YEARS!

June 20, 2013 - INDIA Helicopters and close to 10,000 soldiers have been deployed to rescue tourists and pilgrims stranded after floods caused by torrential monsoon rains hit the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand at the weekend.  More than 22,400 people have so far been rescued, as the military takes advantage of clearer weather, but another 62,000 are still stranded, the Home Ministry said in a statement.

A submerged statue of the Hindu Lord Shiva stands amid the flooded waters of river Ganges at Rishikesh in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand June 17, 2013. Source: Reuters

"Our priority is to take out the children and women first by helicopter," said Ajay Chadha, chief of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police.  "We hope to rescue all the living and then start the scavenging task," Chadha said in New Delhi, referring to the task of finding the dead.  Houses, buildings and vehicles have collapsed or been swept away by overflowing rivers and landslides, while bridges and narrow roads leading to pilgrimage towns have also been destroyed, officials said.

 Torrential rains four and a half times as heavy as usual have hit Uttarakhand, known as the "Land of the Gods", where Hindu shrines and temples built high in the mountains attract many pilgrims.  "There are some 3,000 of us stuck in Gangotri (a pilgrimage site) for the past few days and there is no food, no drinking water or assurances from the government," a pilgrim, Parwinder Singh, told CNN-IBN by telephone.  "It is very difficult to move from here," he added.  At least 138 people have been killed across Uttarakhand and two neighbouring states also hit by floods and landslides, officials said, but shrine authorities warned the toll was more than 1,000.

People look at a collapsed road and flooded river in the northern state of Uttarakhand on June 17, 2013.
Source: AFP/Getty Images

Buildings stand along the banks of the Alaknanda river in the town of Govindghat in Uttrakhand.
Source: AFP/Getty Images

People walk along a damaged road after heavy rains in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand June 17, 2013.
Source: Reuters

Vehicles are submerged in the rising waters of river Yamuna in New Delhi June 19, 2013.
Source: Reuters
"We estimate more than 1,000 people have died as unattended bodies are scattered all around," said Ganesh Godiyal, chairman of a trust in charge of several shrines in the pilgrimage towns of Kedarnath and Badrinath.  Over the border in Nepal, floods and landslides also triggered by the monsoon have left at least 39 people dead mostly in remote parts of the country, officials said. 

The military operation was concentrating on reaching the worst-hit Kedarnath temple area, as families of the missing faced an anxious wait in Uttarakhand capital's Dehradun.  Some of those rescued told of scrambling to higher ground to escape raging waters, only to watch helplessly as below them buildings, cars and even dead bodies were swept away.

A boy sits on a ladder next to his flooded house with the rising water level of river Yamuna after heavy monsoon rains in New Delhi June 19, 2013. Source: Reuters

A man unlocks the door of his flooded house as other residents watch after a rise in the water level of river Yamuna in New Delhi June 19, 2013. Source: Reuters

Indian security personnel supervise residents and travelers as they stand on the remains of a flood damaged road in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand on June 18, 2013.

 "There is nothing left in Kedarnath now except the temple," pilgrim Sitaram Sukhatiahe told the Press Trust of India after arriving by helicopter in Dehradun.  "It was shocking to watch a place bustling with people metamorphose in a matter of a few hours into an island of death and destruction," he said.  One of those stranded was Indian cricket star Harbhajan Singh, who was attempting to reach a Sikh pilgrimage site but had to take refuge in a police station.

WATCH: Ground crumbles underfoot as apocalyptic floods sweep India.

 "Some people are saying that we're stuck but I wouldn't say that we're stuck, I'd say we've been saved by God," said the spin bowler, who was later flown out of the flood-hit area by military chopper.  "With the kind of rainstorm we witnessed, anything could have happened. Many people lost their lives," the cricketer said.  - Telegraph.

TERMINATOR NOW: The Rise Of The Machines, Creating The European ExoSkeleton - GOOGLE Declares That They Will Be Uploading YOUR ENTIRE MINDS By 2045 And OUR BODIES Will Be Replaced By Machines Within 90 YEARS?!

June 20, 2013 - CYBERSPACEIn just over 30 years, humans will be able to upload their entire minds to computers and become digitally immortal - an event called singularity - according to a futurist from Google.

Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, also claims that the biological parts of our body will be replaced with mechanical parts and this could happen as early as 2100.

Ray Kurzweil, pictured, said that 'frail, biological parts' of human bodies will be replaced with 'non-biological' parts in the future. He added that the non-biological part will become so powerful it can completely model and understand the biological part and make it redundant.

Kurweil made the claims during his conference speech at the Global Futures 2045 International Congress in New York at the weekend.

The conference was created by Russian multimillionaire Dmitry Itskov and featured visonary talks about how the world will look by 2045.

Kurzweil said: 'Based on conservative estimates of the amount of computation you need to functionally simulate a human brain, we'll be able to expand the scope of our intelligence a billion-fold.'

He referred to Moore's Law that states the power of computing doubles, on average, every two years quoting the developments from genetic sequencing and 3D printing.

In Kurweil's book, The Singularity Is Near, he plots this development and journey towards singularity in a graph.

This singularity is also referred to as digital immortality because brains and a person's intelligence will be digitally stored forever, even after they die.

He also added that this will be possible through neural engineering and referenced the recent strides made towards modeling the brain and technologies which can replace biological functions.

Examples of such technology given by LiveScience include the cochlear implant - an implant that is attached to the brain's cochlear nerve and electronically stimulates it to restore hearing to someone who is deaf.

During Kurzweil's conference talk, and in his book The Singularity Is Near, he refers to Moore's Law of Computing, pictured. The law claims that the power of computing doubles, on average, every two years which puts us on course for singularity by 2045.

Other examples include technology that can restore motor skills after the nervous system is damaged.

Earlier this year, doctors from Cornell University used 3D printing to create a prosthetic ear using cells of cartilage.

A solid plastic mould was printed and then filled with high-density collagen gel.The researchers then added cartilage cells into the collagen matrix.

Kurweil was invited to the conference because he has previously written books around the idea of singularity.

Expanding on this idea Martine Rothblatt, CEO of biotech company United Therapeutics introduced the idea of 'mindclones'.

These are digital versions of humans that can live forever and can create 'mindfiles' that are a place to store aspects of our personalities.

She said it would run on a kind of software for consciousness and told The Huffington Post: 'The first company that develops mindware will have [as much success as] a thousand Googles.'

Rothblatt added that the presence of mindware could lead to replacing other parts of the body with 'non-biological' parts.

This is a concept that Kurweil also discussed and was the basis of his book Fantastic Voyage.

In this book he discusses immortality and how he believes the human body will develop.

He said: 'We're going to become increasingly non-biological to the point where the non-biological part dominates and the biological part is not important any more.

'In fact the non-biological part - the machine part - will be so powerful it can completely model and understand the biological part. So even if that biological part went away it wouldn't make any difference.

'We'll also have non-biological bodies - we can create bodies with nano technology, we can create virtual bodies and virtual reality in which the virtual reality will be as realistic as the actual reality.

'The virtual bodies will be as detailed and convincing as real bodies.

'We do need a body, our intelligence is directed towards a body but it doesn't have to be this frail, biological body that is subject to all kinds of failure modes.

'But I think we'll have a choice of bodies, we'll certainly be routinely changing our parent body through virtual reality and today you can have a different body in something like Second Life, but it's just a picture on the screen.

'Research has shown that people actually begin to subjectively identify with their avatar.

'But in the future it's not going to be a little picture in a virtual environment you're looking at. It will feel like this is your body and you're in that environment and your body is the virtual body and it can be as realistic as real reality.

WATCH: Ray Kurzweil - Immortality by 2045.

'So we'll be routinely able to change our bodies very quickly as well as our environments. If we had radical life extension only we would get profoundly bored and we would run out of thing to do and new ideas.

'In additional to radical life extension we're going to have radical life expansion.

'We're going to have million of virtual environments to explore that we're going to literally expand our brains - right now we only have 300 million patterns organised in a grand hierarchy that we create ourselves.

'But we could make that 300 billion or 300 trillion. The last time we expanded it with the frontal cortex we created language and art and science. Just think of the qualitative leaps we can't even imagine today when we expand our near cortex again.'


Technological singularity is the development of 'superintelligence' brought about through the use of technology.

The first use of the term 'singularity' refer to technological minds was by mathematician John von Neumann. Neumann in the mid-1950s.

He said: 'ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.'

The term was then used by science fiction writer Vernor Vinge who believesbrain-computer interfaces are causes of the singularity.

Ray Kurzweil cited von Neumann's use of the term in a foreword to von Neumann's classic The Computer and the Brain.

Kurzweil predicts the singularity to occur around 2045 while Vinge predicts it will happen before 2030.


An avatar system that can help schizophrenics control the voices in their heads is being developed by British researchers.

As part of the therapy, patients create an avatar by choosing a face and a voice for the person, or persons, they believe are inside their head.

Therapists can then encourage the patients to oppose the avatar and force it away, which boosts their confidence in dealing with their hallucinations.

The first stage in the therapy is for the patient to create a computer-based avatar, by choosing the face and voice of the entity they believe is talking to them.

The system then synchronises the avatar’s lips with its speech, enabling a therapist to speak to the patient through the avatar in real-time.

The therapist encourages the patient to oppose the voice and gradually teaches them to take control of their hallucinations.

The avatar doesn't address the patients' delusions directly but the study found the hallucinations improve as an overall effect of the therapy.

This is because patients can interact with the avatar as though it was a real person, because they have created it, but they know it cannot harm them.

Many of the voices heard by schizophrenics threaten to kill or harm them and their family.

- Daily Mail.

WAR ON MOTHER NATURE: Pollution From Indonesia Illegal Forest Fires Engulfs Singapore In Apocalyptic Smog - The Worst Environmental Crisis In A Decade; Well Above Hazardous Levels; Could Last For Weeks!

June 20, 2013 - SINGAPORE - Singapore's prime minister has warned that the haze engulfing the city could last for weeks, as air pollution in the city-state soared to record levels.

The pollution standards index peaked at 371 on Thursday, breaking previous records and well above hazardous levels, before falling to about 300.

The haze is caused by illegal forest fires in Indonesia's Sumatra island.

The issue has sparked accusations between the two neighbours over who is responsible for the smog.

Environment officials from the two nations are holding an emergency meeting in Jakarta on Thursday.

Many residents have donned face masks amid government warnings that those who can should stay at home.

The haze, caused by slash-and-burn land clearance on Indonesia's Sumatra island, has hit other parts of the region, including Indonesia's Riau islands, just off Singapore.

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore's Environment and Water Resources Minister, wrote on his Facebook wall that he would demand "definitive action" from Jakarta.

"No country or corporation has the right to pollute the air at the expense of Singaporeans' health and wellbeing," he said.

However, Indonesian Minister for People's Welfare Agung Laksono said that Singapore was "behaving like a child".

"This is not what the Indonesian nation wants, it is because of nature," he said.

'Cloud seeding'

Since the haze arrived, Singapore's buildings have been obscured by the polluted air and the smell of burnt wood has permeated the city-state.

A PSI reading above 200 indicates "very unhealthy" air, while a PSI score above 300 is "hazardous". Readings are being posted on the website of the National Environment Agency.

At a press conference, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the haze could "easily last for several weeks and quite possibly longer until the dry season ends in Sumatra".

The haze, which has obscured much of Singapore's skyline, has brought with it a strong smell of burnt wood.

On Thursday the pollution standards index (PSI) hit 371, breaking all previous records. A reading of more than 300 means the air is officially "hazardous".

Mr Lee asked Singaporeans to "stay indoors where possible and avoid heavy outdoor activities".

He also announced that the Singaporean government will hold daily press conferences on the haze situation.

Air traffic controllers in Singapore have been told to work with extra caution given the poor visibility, while McDonald's has temporarily cancelled its delivery service.

The Singaporean military has also reportedly suspended all outdoor training.

The poor air quality has prompted widespread buying of disposable face masks, leading shops to run out of stock.

Parts of Malaysia have also recorded "hazardous" pollution levels, with over 200 schools in the country's south ordered to shut.

Malaysia's Department of Environment has also banned open burning in some states.

Transboundary pollution

Indonesia's forestry ministry said it intended to use cloud seeding to try to induce rain on Sumatra, AFP news agency reported.

Haze caused by forest fires in Indonesia is continuing to choke Singapore, shrouding the city-state.

The fires are started to clear land for plantations and generate smoke, particularly in the dry season.

Indonesian officials have suggested that foreign palm oil investors, including Singaporean companies, may bear some responsibility for the fires.

However, several major Singapore-based palm oil companies have denied any involvement.

Singapore's prime minister said the city-state had provided satellite data to Indonesia to help identify who was responsible for the fires.

WATCH: Apocalyptic smog in Singapore.

He added that if any Singaporean companies, or companies with a presence in Singapore played a part in the fires, they would be held responsible.

In 1997 and 1998, many countries in the region were affected by the South East Asian haze, which was caused by smog from Indonesian fires.

Road and air traffic was disrupted, and reports said the smog made around 20 million people ill.

The haze led to an agreement on transboundary haze pollution being approved by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in 2002.

However, Indonesia has yet to ratify the agreement. - BBC.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: The Great Rift Valley, Why Is Africa Ripping Apart - Asthenosphere Upwelling Or Thinning Of The Lithosphere?!

June 20, 2013 - AFRICAArrays of sensors stretching across more than 1,500 miles in Africa are now probing the giant crack in the Earth located there - a fissure linked with human evolution - to discover why and how continents get ripped apart.

This radar image highlights portions of three of the lakes located in the Western Rift of the Great Rift Valley, a geological fault system of Southwest Asia and East Africa: Lake Edward (top), Lake Kivu (middle) and Lake Tanganyika (bottom).

Over the course of millions of years, Earth's continents break up as they are slowly torn apart by the planet's tectonic forces. All the ocean basins on the Earth started as continental rifts, such as the Rio Grande rift in North America and Asia's Baikal rift in Siberia.

The giant rift in Eastern Africa was born when Arabia and Africa began pulling away from each other about 26 million to 29 million years ago. Although this rift has grown less than 1 inch (2.54 centimeters) per year, the dramatic results include the formation and ongoing spread of the Red Sea, as well as the East African Rift Valley, the landscape that might have been home to the first humans.

"Yet, in spite of numerous geophysical and geological studies, we still do not know much about the processes that tear open continents and form continental rifts," said researcher Stephen Gao, a seismologist at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, Mo. This is partly because such research has mostly focused on mature segments of these chasms, as opposed to ones that are still in development, he explained.

Seismic SAFARI
Geodynamic models suggest that below mature rifts, a region called the asthenosphere is upwelling. The asthenosphere is the hotter, weaker, upper part of the mantle that lies below the lithosphere, the planet's outer, rigid shell. So far, there are two contenders for what might cause this upwelling: anomalies deeper in the mantle or thinning of the lithosphere due to distant stresses.

To help find out which of the two different rifting models is correct, the Seismic Arrays for African Rift Initiation (SAFARI) project installed 50 seismic stations across Africa in the summer of 2012, each spaced about 17 to 50 miles (28 to 80 kilometers) apart.

"One of the techniques that we will use to image the Earth beneath the SAFARI stations is called seismic tomography, which is in principle similar to the X-ray CAT-scan technique used in hospitals," Gao told LiveScience's OurAmazingPlanet. "The only differences are that our sources of the 'rays' are earthquakes and man-made explosions, and the receivers are the seismic stations such as the 50 SAFARI stations."

Altogether, these arrays encompass a length of about 1,550 miles (2,500 km) and are located in four countries - Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia.

"I think the project has a positive impact on local communities," Gao said. "Some of our 50 SAFARI seismic stations are on local schools, and the teachers and students were excited and were proud about the fact that their school was selected for a high-tech scientific instrument. We believe that this project showed some kids that the outside world is different and even fascinating."

The arrays will image the areas under the Okavango, Luangwa and Malawi rifts, the southwest and southernmost segments of the East African Rift system. These so-called incipient rifts are not yet mature and could thus shed light on why and how rifting occurs.

"This is the first large-scale project to image the structure and deformation beneath an incipient rift," Gao said. "The Okavango rift in Botswana is as young as a few tens-of-thousand years, while most other rifts such as the Rio Grande and Baikal rifts are as old as 35 million years."

Upwelling or thinning?

If thermal or dynamic anomalies deep in the mantle are responsible for rifting, then upwelling from the asthenosphere should already be occurring beneath these incipient rifts. In contrast, if thinning of the lithosphere is the cause of rifting, then any levels of upwelling should be insignificant because the lithosphere should not have thinned adequately for major upwelling to occur yet.

A magnitude-5.6 earthquake in November near the northern end of the Indian Ocean's mid-ocean ridge sent out seismic waves that were more than 1 second slower than predicted. This supports the idea that the mantle layer beneath Southern Africa is hotter than normal, perhaps due to a jet of magma known as a mantle plume that geologists have proposed exists beneath this area.

To image the structures beneath these rifts and pin down what the rifting mechanism in Eastern Africa is, researchers need data from more than just one event. The seismic arrays will be deployed for 24 months, and each station will sample the Earth for seismic waves 50 times per second.

"We are anxious to see if there are melted rocks in the mantle beneath the rifts, if there is convective mantle flow that is driving the rifting process, and how much the crust has been thinned in different portions of the rifts," Gao said. "But this cannot be done until next summer, when all the data recorded by SAFARI are processed."

The scientists detailed their findings to date in the June 11 issue of Eos, the online newspaper of the American Geophysical Union. - Live Science.