Monday, February 17, 2014

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: More Signs Of A Magnetic Polar Migration - The Jet Stream Is Changing Direction, The Dramatic Shift Of Air Flow Could Lead To Longer And Harsher Winters!

February 17, 2014 - EARTH - The fast-moving river of air that controls weather over Northern Europe and North America is undergoing a dramatic shift that could lead to harsher winters.

The Northern Hemisphere's jet stream is a fast-moving belt of westerly winds that traverses the lower layers
of the atmosphere. Experts believe it is taking a meandering path causing weather patterns to get 'stuck'.

Scientists believe the jet stream which girdles Earth is increasingly taken a longer, meandering path causing weather patterns to become ‘stuck’.

This could result in longer and harsher winters over North America and northern Europe, according to researchers in Chicago.

 The jet stream is a ribbon of high altitude, high-speed wind in northern latitudes that blows from west to east.

It is formed when the cold Arctic air clashes with warmer air from further south. The greater the difference in temperature, the faster the jet stream moves.

According to Jennifer Francis, a climate expert at Rutgers University, the Arctic air has warmed in recent years as a result of melting polar ice caps.

This means there is now less of a difference in temperatures when it hits air from lower latitudes.

‘The jet stream is a very fast moving river of air over our head,’ she said on Saturday at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

This image shows a storm passing over Britain on the jet stream last week. The jet stream is formed when the cold Arctic air clashes with warmer air from further south. The greater the difference in temperature, the faster the jet stream moves.

‘But over the past two decades the jet stream has weakened. This is something we can measure,’ she said.

As a result, instead of circling the Earth in the far north, the jet stream has begun to meander, like a river heading off course.

This has brought chilly Arctic weather further south than normal and warmer temperatures north. Perhaps most disturbingly, it remains in place for longer periods of time.

The U.S. is currently enduring an especially bitter winter, with the midwestern and southern states experiencing unusually low temperatures.

In contrast, far northern regions like Alaska are going through an unusually warm winter this year.

One of the Met Office’s senior experts claims there is no link between global warming and the storms that have battered U.S. and the UK.

Mat Collins, a professor in climate systems at Exeter University, said the storms have been driven by the jet stream  which has been ‘stuck’ further south than usual.

Professor Collins said: ‘There is no evidence that global warming can cause the jet stream to get stuck in the way it has this winter. If this is due to climate change, it is outside our knowledge.’

Professor Collins is also a senior adviser for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). His statement appears to contradict Met Office chief scientist Dame Julia Slingo.

Last weekend, she said ‘all  the evidence suggests that climate change has a role to  play’ in the storms.

Professor Collins made clear that he believes it is likely global warming could lead to higher rainfall totals, because a warmer atmosphere can hold more water. But he said this has nothing to do with the storm conveyor belt.

This suggests ‘that weather patterns are changing,’ Professor Francis said. ‘We can expect more of the same and we can expect it to happen more frequently.’

Temperatures in the Arctic have been rising ‘two to three times faster than the rest of the planet,’ said James Overland, a weather expert with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

 Professor Francis added that it is premature to blame humans for these changes.

‘Our data to look at this effect is very short and so it is hard to get very clear signal,’ she said.

‘But as we have more data I do think we will start to see the influence of climate change.’

The meandering jet steam phenomenon, sometimes called ‘Santa's Revenge’, remains a controversial idea.

‘There is evidence for and against it,’ said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snowland Ice Data Centre in Boulder, Colorado.

This photograph shows waves crashing into Southsea in Hampshire on Friday night. Scientists believe
changes to the jet stream could create permanent harsher winters.

But he said rising Arctic temperatures are directly linked to melting ice caps.

‘The sea ice cover acts as a lid which separates the ocean from a colder atmosphere,’ Mr Serreze told the conference.

But if the lid is removed, then warmth contained in the water rises into the atmosphere.

This warming trend and the shifting jet stream will have a dire impact on agriculture, especially in the farm-rich middle-latitudes in the U.S..

‘We are going to see changes in patterns of precipitation, of temperatures that might be linked to what is going on in the far north,’ said Mr Serreze.

The main impact on agriculture and livestock will not come from small temperature changes, but rather from temperature extremes and the weather patterns that hold them in place for longer periods of time. - Daily Mail.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Terrifying Sinkholes Are Opening Up All Over Britain - They're Appearing At FIVE TIMES Their Normal Rate And Further Bad Weather Could Mean We Haven't Seen The Last Of Them! [PHOTOS]

February 17, 2014 - BRITAIN - On Saturday, a huge sinkhole opened up at the side of a house in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. Swallowing up half of the front lawn, it was 35ft wide and 20ft deep.

Gone: A Volkswagen Lupo was swallowed up by this sink hole in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

Last week, a hole as deep as a double-decker bus is high suddenly opened up in the back-garden of a house in South-East London, almost swallowing a child’s trampoline as the ground collapsed without warning.

Had the poor owner’s daughter been rushing out to play on the trampoline, she could have very easily have been seriously injured or even killed.

Two weeks ago, there was a similarly narrow escape for a family living in High Wycombe, when, overnight, a deep hole appeared  without warning in the driveway just next to the house.

This time the adult daughter’s car did end up buried at the bottom of the hole, thankfully, while there was no one in it.

And in Kent last week, motorists hoping to use the M2 were left fuming by the motorway’s temporary closure, after a substantial hole — 15ft deep — suddenly appeared in the central reservation. Again, no one was hurt but had the hole opened up just a few yards away, it is obvious what a different story it could so easily have been.

Dangerous: A 50ft-deep hole appeared in the central reservation on a busy section of the M2 in north Kent last week.
Brand new: Zoe Smith, 19, was given a replacement after the car was engulfed by the hole which
developed outside her home.

All of these holes are what the public call sinkholes and now, after weeks of heavy rain, they seem to be appearing with ever greater regularity. Hard statistics are difficult to find — not least because sinkholes that appear on farmland often go unreported — but having studied them for 35 years, I’d estimate that sinkholes are currently appearing at four-to-five times their normal rate.

With more heavy rain forecast, I’d be surprised if we’ve seen the last sudden sinkhole of this winter.

Even when the rain does stop and warmer weather returns, for reasons that I’ll come to, there could be a second spate of them.

Strictly speaking — and as I work for the British Geological Survey I do need to be strict about these things — not all the big holes that have been appearing are sinkholes. Technically, a sinkhole is a hole that opens up when the surface layers collapse into a naturally made cavity. When the surface layers collapse into a cavity made by man  — and at least two of the recent holes are in areas where mining has been carried out in the past — then it should be called a dene or crown hole.

But given that both types are caused by a collapse into an underground cavity and the end result — a large, potentially dangerous hole in the ground at the surface — is the same, for the sake of simplicity, let us call them all sinkholes.

Certainly, anyone suffering the tragedy of having their house fall into one won’t be worrying about the difference. Fatalities caused by sinkholes in this country are thankfully very rare, but a homeowner in Florida did die in exactly those circumstances only last year.

 The sheer size of sinkholes and their sudden appearance without warning does make them extremely hazardous. This explains why in  the superstitious distant past,  their appearance was often linked to misfortune.

Some saw them as a direct route to Hell itself; one near Darlington that collapsed in the 12th century  is called Hell Kettle and the  rising groundwater in it steams in the winter.

Risk: Gretel Davidson feared she would have to pay around £10,000 after a sinkhole twice the height of a
double-decker bus appeared in her garden in Banehurst, South-East London.
Concern: A 35ft wide hole appeared underneath a home in Hemel Hempstead last week,
prompting the surrounding properties to be evacuated.
Pipes: The owner of the house above the hole is said to have warned the council about the situation weeks in advance.

Of course, it’s not the Devil but all the heavy rain that lies behind the sudden spate of sinkholes. Rainwater dissolves limestone easily because it gets acidified from  carbon dioxide in the air and by  passing through rotting vegetation or certain types of rock.

The water dissolves rocks such  as chalk, limestone and gypsum, making existing natural underground cavities bigger. It also scours fine material out of existing cavities. In addition, it makes the surface layers of soil composed of such things as clay or gravel heavier as they become waterlogged.

Bit by bit, the cavity becomes a little bigger, the covering layers a little heavier until . . . snap . . . those covering layers no longer have the mechanical strength to span the cavity and suddenly they collapse into it, taking anything unfortunate to have been standing on the surface down with them.

It’s no accident that sinkholes often seem to appear next to a fairly substantial piece of civil engineering, such as a house or road, rather than underneath the piece of civil engineering itself.

As long as we put roofs on houses and impermeable cambers on our roads, rainwater will be thrown off the things being protected. It’s often where that rainwater ends up — by the side of the road, by side  of the house — that becomes  vulnerable to sinkholes.

Nor is it a coincidence that so many of the new sinkholes have appeared in the South-East. Not only has this part of the country endured one of its wettest winters for decades, possibly centuries, but it is also home to one of the four types of underlying soluble rock — in this case chalk — that make an area vulnerable to sinkholes.

It’s also an area where mining of some sort — in the form of chalk diggings, clay pits, flint mines etc   — has been going on for thousands of years.

The South-East, however, is not the only area that is vulnerable. Much of Yorkshire lies on chalk, although the fact that it has been covered by glaciers several times means that most of the surface  cavities have long been worn away, making it more resilient to sinkholes than the softer, purer chalk of the South-East.

The underlying limestone of areas such as the Pennines, South Wales, North Wales and part of Cumbria make all those areas vulnerable to both natural sinkholes and collapses over mines, as the appearance of one of the biggest recent holes — some 160ft across in Foolow, Derbyshire — at the end of last year certainly confirmed, when an old lead and fluorite mine collapsed.

Other vulnerable areas include a belt between Darlington and Doncaster, where the underlying rock is the highly soluble gypsum.

This belt takes in the city of Ripon, which could well lay claim to the unwanted title of Sinkhole Capital Of Britain and is home to one of the most enduring sinkholes in the country, which first appeared in 1834 and remains open today, being some 36ft across and 46ft deep.

 Parts of Cheshire are also highly vulnerable to sinkholes, thanks to underlying mineral salt deposits which could have been removed both naturally and, of course, by man.

Britain’s sinkholes, however, tend to be dwarfed by those found in other parts of the world, such as the 131ft wide, 67ft deep, water-filled Bimmah Sinkhole in Oman, the 400ft deep Devil’s Sinkhole in Texas, and the Great Blue Hole off the coast of Belize, another underwater hole some 984ft wide and 410ft deep.

Guatemala City, built on particularly soft, volcanic rock, has been dubbed the Sinkhole Capital Of The World.

But it’s the growing number of sinkholes reported in parts of China and the United States that is potentially of greater concern for those  keeping an eye on sinkhole activity in the UK.

In these countries, many of the new sinkholes are being caused not by an excess of water — be it rain, leaking drains or burst water mains — but by the systematic extraction of groundwater for irrigation or mining purposes; often with disastrous consequences.

Just as covering layers can become too waterlogged to support themselves over a cavity, so they can also collapse as water drains out of a cavity below. And that does worry me about what might happen in  Britain over the coming months.

Wedged: A Los Angeles fireman looks under a fire truck stuck in a sinkhole in 2009.
Trapped: A family were in a car when it fell into a sink hold in Hetian, Xinjiang, China.
Vanished: 20 holes disappeared after a 150m-wide sink hole opened up in Guatemala.

The heavy winter rains have already produced more sinkholes than normal and, although their appearance is notoriously hard to predict, it would be a brave geologist who would say we’ve seen the last of them for this winter.

 But the rain will also have done more unseen damage underground, widening out cavities, weakening supporting pillars, washing out the fine deposits that may have kept them stable for decades.

When warmer weather does return, the groundwater will lower, the layers that cover these now  widened holes will begin to drain and, in certain cases, their mechanical strength begin to weaken until — crash! — those surface layers literally reach breaking point.

One way or another, come rain or indeed shine, we almost certainly haven’t seen the last sinkhole of 2014. So be careful where you park your car tonight. - Daily Mail.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - George Soros Bets Big On A Financial Market Crash; Doubles A Bearish Bet On The S&P 500, To The Tune Of $1.3 BILLION!

February 17, 2014 - GLOBAL ECONOMY -  Soros Fund Management has doubled up a bet that the S&P 500 SPX is headed for a fall.

Within Friday’s 13F filings news was the revelation that the firm, founded by legendary investor George Soros, increased a put position on the S&P 500 ETF   SPY by a whopping 154% in the fourth quarter, compared with the third. (A put or short position basically gives the owner the right to sell a security at a set price for a limited time, and in making such a bet, an investor generally believes the security is going to decline.)

The value of that holding, the biggest position in the fund, has risen to $1.3 billion from around $470 million. It now makes up a 11.13% chunk of all reported holdings. It had been cut to 5.14% in the third quarter, from 13.54% in the second quarter, which itself marked another dramatic lift on the bearish call.  The numbers can be found at, which makes them slightly easier to digest than the actual SEC filing.

Writing on the Bullion Baron blog, Joseph has been quick to alert readers to the hedge fund’s bets on the S&P 500, offering up a summary of changes to that call from mid-2011 onward. For the four quarters of 2013, that short has followed a pattern of big highs and big lows.

Of course, Joseph said, the bearish S&P call could be a hedge and, as it’s six weeks into the next reporting period, it may have already been reduced or increased. But he said it could also be indicative of jitters: In  January, Soros highlighted risks coming out of China and drew a comparison with the lead-up to the crash of 2008.
“It’s possible that the SPY puts are just a hedge, weighed against other long positions he holds in specific stocks. However, the views he expressed in this article lead me to believe he thinks another crisis is brewing (led by China on this occasion) and the SPY put position could be an attempt profit from it,” says Joseph.
The second- and third-biggest positions in the 13F were a fresh put on the Energy Select Sector SPDR fund  and a big jump in holds of Israeli pharmaceutical maker Teva  TEVA .  Read about more changes in Soros’s quarterly holdings here.

Soros and his hedge fund aren’t alone if they’re feeling unease at the bull run for markets. It’s been roughly 28 months since a substantial correction for the S&P 500, which is down 0.5% for the year after having endured a pullback earlier this month, triggered in part by jitters over emerging markets. Strategists have been debating about when and how the correction is going to happen.

As for whether investors should ape the 13F followings of others, MarketWatch’s Bill Watts pointed out last week that the 45-day lag in the holdings is particularly tricky when it comes to calls like a huge bearish bet on the S&P 500. And he found that while hedge funds outperform on the upside, they do far worse on the downside.

It was Soros himself who famously once said: “I rely a great deal on animal instincts.” And as we all know, George’s made some big, crazy, winning bets in the past. - Market Watch.

"Soros Put" Hits Record As Billionaire's Downside Hedge Rises By 154% in Q4 To $1.3 Billion

A curious finding emerged in the latest 13F by Soros Fund Management, the family office investment vehicle managing the personal wealth of George Soros.

Actually, two curious findings: the first was that the disclosed Assets Under Management as of December 31, 2013 rose to a record $11.8 billion (this excludes netting and margin, and whatever one-time positions Soros may have gotten an SEC exemption to not disclose: for a recent instance of this, see Greenlight Capital's Micron fiasco, and the subsequent lawsuit of Seeking Alpha which led to the breach of David Einhorn's holdings confidentiality).

The second one is that the "Soros put", a legacy hedge position that the 83-year old has been rolling over every quarter since 2010, just rose to a record $1.3 billion or the notional equivalent of some 7.09 million SPY-equivalent shares. Since this was an increase of 154% Q/Q this has some people concerned that the author of 'reflexivity' and the founder of "open societies" may be anticipating some major market downside.

Then again, as the chart below shows, as a percentage of total AUM, the put position rose to 11.1% of his notional holdings. By way of reference, as of June 30 2013, his SPY put may have had a smaller notional value, but it represented both more shares (7.8 million), and was far greater as a % of AUM, at 13.5%.

Finally, remember that what was disclosed on Friday is a snapshot of Soros' holdings as of 45 days ago. What he may or may not have done with his hedge since then is largely unknown, and since there are no investor letters, there is no way of knowing even on a leaked basis how the billionaire has since positioned for the market.

That said, while the SPY puts are most likely simply a hedge to his overall bullish exposure, perhaps more notable was the $25 million call position that Soros put on the gold miners ETF which has been beaten into oblivion over the past year, in the fourth quarter. Does Soros think that it is finally the miners' turn to shine? - Zero Hedge.

ICE AGE NOW: Another Snow Storm For The United States - Boston To Be Blanketed By Snow For The NINTH Time In Just 16 Days?!

February 17, 2014 - BOSTON, UNITED STATES - It won’t be a blizzard.  It won’t be a nor’easter.  There will be no talk of bombogenesis.  So what will it be? A little frosting on our snowy landscape and a pain in the neck for commuters Tuesday evening. Yet another snow storm is coming, and while this one isn’t very large, it will pack a quick little punch on Tuesday afternoon, hitting southern New England square in the face.

This has been a snowy month for sure. In fact, snow has fallen on 9 of the first 16 days this month, accumulating up to 20 inches in Boston already with still a ways to go. In an average February, we see about a foot of snow, so we are already well above the norm and rising.

So, once again, let’s take you through inch-by-inch on Tuesday.


The first flakes may fly as early as mid-morning on Tuesday with some weather models indicating a light wind off the water producing some very light flurries near the coastline.

The steady snow will arrive late in the morning in western and central Massachusetts and around noon – 1 p.m. in eastern Massachusetts. The snow will be steady and heavy at times in the afternoon.

Snow rates could exceed an inch per hour between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Tuesday, covering many of the roads in white just in time for the evening commute.

By 4-to-5 p.m. I would expect a widespread 1-to-3 inches on the ground.

Also by this time, a rain/snow line will make progress from south to north, changing the snow over to rain over Cape Cod and the Islands and also in parts of southeastern Massachusetts. This will limit the snow totals down there to only 1-to-3 inches for this event.

The rain/snow line will make it just about to Boston by 5-to-6 p.m.


Boston should top out around 3-to-4 inches of heavy, wet snow.

North and west of Boston, this will be an all-snow event, with final totals between 3-to-5 inches with a few locations in the Worcester Hills and southern New Hampshire coming in near 6 inches.

WATCH:  WBZ AccuWeather Afternoon Forecast For Feb. 17.

The rain and snow will taper off between 7-to-10 p.m. and we can safely say good bye to the white stuff falling from the sky for another week or so at least.

We get a “February thaw” to finish the week.  Temperatures will rise into the 40′s for several days following this storm.

The pattern will remain active with precipitation likely at times, but it will not be cold enough for snow until sometime AFTER this coming weekend. - CBS Boston.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - Gold Price Signals China Credit Bubble Bursting As Investors Seek Safety!

February 17, 2014 - CHINA - China’s “unfolding credit crunch” is having an unforeseen and dramatic impact on gold prices as investors urgently stock up on the precious metal as a form of financial protection against a sharp correction in the world’s second largest economy.

Uncertainty is growing over China’s ability to sustain the rapid rates of economic growth
it has seen over the past decade
 Photo: Getty Images

This is the main reason why gold prices have unexpectedly shot up more than 10pc to breach $1,300 (£776) an ounce for the first time since November against the prevailing forecasts for weaker demand made by many industry experts at the beginning of the year, according to Adrian Ash, head of research at gold trading platform

Gold traded on the Shanghai Gold Exchange has also reached a three-month high.

Rebounding is part of the reason for the rise, said Ash, adding: “Gold lost 30pc and silver nearly 40pc last year. The world economy will struggle to deliver all the good news priced in by that crash. But China’s unfolding credit-crunch looks central right now.”

Uncertainty is growing over China’s ability to sustain the rapid rates of economic growth it has seen over the past decade amid concern over high-levels of debt among its provincial governments. These concerns have helped to drive sharp falls across emerging markets since the beginning of the year.

 Ash argues that capital flight is happening at a rapid rate in China because of the $1.8 trillion of funds that have flooded into unregulated, non-bank “wealth management products” which offered very high yields, up to 17 times as much as cash deposits. It is feared that many of these funds are now trading at a loss, setting up a crunch moment for China’s economy.

“Bullion traders never knew before what would happen to prices if China hit trouble,” said Ash, “because we’ve never before seen Chinese demand plumbed into the world market so deeply. Its jewellery buyers, together with rising mining costs worldwide, helped finally put a floor under gold in 2013. But while that kind of consumer demand will never drive prices higher, capital flight by wealthier households and Chinese money managers certainly can.”

According to Ash, the first default which could be a sign of China’s credit bubble bursting was reported two weeks ago when a $50m coal-mining bond failed to repay investors on maturity. He says that about $875bn of other such products are due to mature in 2014 and that Beijing has few answers available to tackle the problem.

“Gold’s 2014 rally had been steady before, far quieter than the rebound from last spring’s record crash,” he said. “But rising for seven of the past eight weeks, something it hasn’t managed in two years, gold has now risen for six trading days running. That’s a very rare move, last seen when gold neared its peak above $1900 during the euro crisis, US debt downgrade and UK riots of August 2011.”

Meanwhile, uncertainty continues to surround a 500-tonne discrepancy in China’s gold import figures and its domestic supply. The unaccounted-for Chinese gold has helped to fuel market speculation that the People’s Bank of China may be stockpiling, or that bigger volumes are changing hands on the grey market as a hedge against financial turmoil.

However, other brokers have said that the rise in gold prices last week above the commodity’s 200-day moving average was mainly because of the fall in the dollar against a basket of other currencies. Commerzbank said that SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold exchange-traded fund, raised its holdings above 800 tonnes of the precious metal for the first time.

According to Gold Money, bulls also returned to the market after Janet Yellen signalled that the US Federal Reserve will continue to prune back its stimulus measures. “Western buyers and vaults are now back in the frame amid the more bullish market sentiment,” said Roland Khounlivong, head of dealing for the broker. - Telegraph.

STAR WARS NOW: The United States Navy Ready To Deploy LASER For The First Time - Electromagnetic Rail Guns Firing Projectiles At Hypersonic Speeds Aren't Far Behind!

February 17, 2014 - UNITED STATES - Some of the Navy's futuristic weapons sound like something out of "Star Wars," with lasers designed to shoot down aerial drones and electric guns that fire projectiles at hypersonic speeds.

The Laser Weapon System (LaWS) temporarily installed aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) in
San Diego, Calif., is a technology demonstrator built by the Naval Sea Systems Command from commercial fiber solid
state lasers, utilizing combination methods developed at the Naval Research Laboratory.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

That future is now.

 The Navy plans to deploy its first laser on a ship later this year, and it intends to test an electromagnetic rail gun prototype aboard a vessel within two years.

For the Navy, it's not so much about the whiz-bang technology as it is about the economics of such armaments. Both costs pennies on the dollar compared with missiles and smart bombs, and the weapons can be fired continuously, unlike missiles and bombs, which eventually run out.

"It fundamentally changes the way we fight," said Capt. Mike Ziv, program manager for directed energy and electric weapon systems for the Naval Sea Systems Command.

The Navy's laser technology has evolved to the point that a prototype to be deployed aboard the USS Ponce this summer can be operated by a single sailor, he said.

The solid-state Laser Weapon System is designed to target what the Navy describes as "asymmetrical threats." Those include aerial drones, speed boats and swarm boats, all potential threats to warships in the Persian Gulf, where the Ponce, a floating staging base, is set to be deployed.

Rail guns, which have been tested on land in Virginia, fire a projectile at six or seven times the speed of sound — enough velocity to cause severe damage. The Navy sees them as replacing or supplementing old-school guns, firing lethal projectiles from long distances.

But both systems have shortcomings.

LaWS can be directed onto targets from the radar track obtained from a MK 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon
system or other targeting source. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

Lasers tend to loser their effectiveness if it's raining, if it's dusty, or if there's turbulence in the atmosphere, and the rail gun requires vast amount of electricity to launch the projectile, said Loren Thompson, defense analyst at the Lexington Institute.

"The Navy says it's found ways to deal with use of lasers in bad weather, but there's little doubt that the range of the weapon would be reduced by clouds, dust or precipitation," he said.

Producing enough energy for a rail gun is another problem.

The Navy's new destroyer, the Zumwalt, under construction at Bath Iron Works in Maine, is the only ship with enough electric power to run a rail gun. The stealthy ship's gas turbine-powered generators can produce up to 78 megawatts of power. That's enough electricity for a medium-size city — and more than enough for a rail gun.

Technology from the three ships in that DDG-1000 series will likely trickle down into future warships, said Capt. James Downey, the program manager.

Engineers are also working on a battery system to store enough energy to allow a rail gun to be operated on warships currently in the fleet.

Both weapon systems are prized because they serve to "get ahead of the cost curve," Ziv said.

In other words, they're cheap.

The Office of Naval Research's Solid State Laser (SSL) portfolio includes LaWS development and upgrades
providing a quick reaction capability for the fleet with an affordable SSL weapon prototype.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

Each interceptor missile aboard a U.S. Navy warship costs at least $1 million apiece, making it cost-prohibitive to defend a ship in some hostile environments in which an enemy is using aircraft, drones, artillery, cruise missiles and artillery, Thompson said.

With a laser operating on about 30 kilowatts of electricity — and possibly three times that in the future — the cost amounts to a few dollars per shot, Thompson said.

The "Star Wars" analogy isn't a bad one.

Just like in the movies, the Navy's laser directs a beam of energy that can burn through a target or fry sensitive electronics. Unlike the movie, the laser beam is invisible to the human eye.

 This capability provides Navy ships a method for Sailors to easily defeat small boat threats and aerial targets
without using bullets. SAN DIEGO, Calif, July 30, 2012  (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

The targeting system locks onto the target, sending a beam of searing heat. "You see the effect on what you are targeting but you don't see the actual beam," Ziv said.

Other nations are developing their own lasers, but the Navy is more advanced at this point.

Most folks are stunned to learn the technology is ready for deployment, Ziv said.

"It's fair to say that there are other countries working on this technology. That's safe to say. But I would also say that a lot of what makes this successful came from the way in which we consolidated all of the complexity into something that can be operated by (a single sailor)," he said. - Yahoo.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - Spain's 2013 Public Debt Highest In 100 Years!

February 17, 2014 - SPAIN - Spain's public debt is on its way to surpass total annual economic output, as it reached 93.7 percent of the country’s GDP in 2013. It stood at $1.317 trillion, which is three times as much as at the start of the crisis in 2008.

Reuters / Susana Vera

The historical series compiled by the IMF shows that a bigger debt to GDP ratio was fixed about a century ago, at about 123 percent, El Pais newspaper says.

Initially the government planned to cap the debt at 90.5 percent. But subsequently the figure was raised to 94.2 percent, driven by unemployment benefits to the increasing number of jobless and a $56 billion (41 billion euro) European bailout to clean up the banking system.

In the fourth quarter of last year Spain’s GDP grew the fastest in six years, while unemployment remained a huge drag on the recovery, as a 26 percent jobless rate in 3Q 2013 was still the second highest in Europe after Greece.

In the third quarter of 2013 the Spanish economy officially exited from a six-year-long recession, while the debt to GDP ratio hit 93.4 percent during the period, according to the European key statistics service Eurostat. To compare, in 2007, just ahead of the crisis, Spanish debt was equivalent to 36 percent of GDP, which was about half the average in Europe.

Although the Spanish government aims to stabilize the debt at 100 percent of GDP in 2016, the latest figures show that the debt could become equal to economic output in 2015. - RT.

MASS FISH/BIRDS/ANIMAL DIE-OFF: Latest Incidents Across The Earth - Severe And Persistent Drought Kills 10,000 Head Of Livestock In Chulucanas, Peru; Hundreds Of Cattle Found Dead From "Mystery Illness" In Misiones Province, Argentina; Hundreds Of Seabirds Wash Up Along Southwest Coast Of England; Thousands Of Birds Found Dead, Due To Avian Flu, In Trenggalek Regency, Indonesia; MILLIONS Of Dead Fish Wash Ashore On Lake Manyas, Balikesir, Turkey; And Thousands Of Fish Have Died "Due To Environmental Factors" In Lampung, Indonesia!

February 17, 2014 - EARTH - The following constitutes the latest incidents of mass animal, bird and fish die-offs across the Earth:

10,000 Livestock Have Died Due To Drought In Chulucanas, Peru.
Cattle killed drought in the north of the country, while also affecting rice crops and fruits.

In the province of Morropón reported 10,000 head of cattle dead. The rivers, streams and canals in the valley are dry. Ranchers are finishing their cows to not see them die of thirst. In San Lorenzo warn potential loss of large paddy season.

A real live drama farmers in the district of La Matanza, Province Morropón-CHulucanas, where the numbers of dead livestock because of drought totaled 10,000 animals, including cows, goats, sheep and pigs, which are the engine of the economy in this region of Alto Piura valley.  This was announced by the mayor of this town, Nelson Reyes Mine, after receiving the final report of the 18 associations of farmers in the area calling for an immediate declaration of emergency, to receive prompt assistance.  The loss report indicates that it is 2,500 cattle, 2,500 sheep, 3,500 goats and 1,500 pigs.  "To this day it does not rain in the Upper Piura increasing drought damage with fallen stock and great loss of permanent and temporary crops.  The rivers, streams and canals in the valley are dry without a drop of water more aggravating problems for livestock and agricultural sector no longer know what to do waiting for the support come soon, "said the mayor.  While waiting for the support, farmers are in need of selling their cows up to 500 soles, despite the normal price reached to 1,500 soles, in order to not see them die undernourished in the field.

Rice shortage 
The situation is no different in the San Lorenzo Valley because it warns of the potential loss of large paddy season due to lack of water. This would lead to an economic crisis for small producers as well as shortages in cereal markets.  According to the chairman of the Rice Producers of Valle San Lorenzo (Tambogrande), Jorge Saavedra Burnet, this situation would require the importation of rice, to reduce the deficit would have on the domestic market, as the drought has also affected the crop in the valleys of Lambayeque and La Libertad.  He also said that the price of rice would double to strong demand. He explained that in a normal year the cost of 1 kg of paddy is S /. 1.00. However, in a dry year like this, the price would reach S /. 2.00.  The manager of the Board Members of San Lorenzo (JUSAL), Alfonso Castillo Burnet said that 4000 is over 600 acres that would stop planting by water crisis. And with that over 640,000 wages would be lost.

Before it said that one of the solutions to medium term would be to establish a complementary campaign, where rice would be replaced by other products such as corn and beans, if the reservoir of San Lorenzo, capable of storing 60 Million Cubic Meters (MMC) water. Currently only 13 MMC.  Otherwise we will choose to continue storing the liquid element to obtain a considerable amount and a girl paddy season 2000 600 acres midyear is put in place.  "With cuts of 10 and 12 days we have planned we hope to get enough water to prioritize sensitive rice and fruit. Otherwise we will have to wait until May, where more water reaches the reservoir to make a decision, "said Castillo Burnet.  However, the problem extends. La Leche Valley already suffers from thirst for districts Resume, Illimo, Jayanca, Zazape and San Isidro, who have already lost almost 3000 hectares of maize, lentils and other legumes, reported vice chairman of users that valley Juan Francisco Peche. The Republic came to the Milk River is now a desert area, damaging nearly 4000 farmers.  Arequipa also trembles before a drought. In Camana and La Joya fear is latent as a week without water involve the loss of 30% of their crops. "Water shortage is a national problem that must be addressed," says the president of the Agricultural Society of Arequipa, Hernán Vela.

Immediate effects of drought 
According to the chairman of the Rice Producers of San Lorenzo, Alfonso Castillo Burner is not reversed the situation "an economic crisis for small producers, as well as shortages in the market and therefore cause an increase in the prices of several products. "  Specialist agricultural issues, Reynaldo Trinidad, estimated as of July be observed with speculation rice prices, sugar and some fruit.  In La Libertad also endangers the planting season for rice and corn if not enough rain falls, because now there are intermittent rainfall, said Luis Tolentino, regional manager of Agriculture. - La Republica. [Translated]

Hundreds Of Cattle Found Dead From "Mystery Illness" In Misiones Province, Argentina.
After deaths of cattle, SENASA sampled in the southern provincial  A pathologist National Agrifood Health and Quality (SENASA) reached Apostles for the cause for which they died more than 500 animals  Saturday February 15, 2014 | 7:28  For answers. | Concepción de la Sierra, Tres Capones and Apostles affected.  Dr. Hector Sanguinetti, pathologist of the National Service for Agrifood Health and Quality (SENASA) Apostles arrived and toured the area to sample aimed to bring clarity on the causes of mortality of bovines in the South, affecting municipalities of Concepción de la Sierra, Three Apostles and Capones and more than 500 head of cattle were killed.

In the early hours at the offices of Apostles SENASA members of the commission set up last week and was responsible for further investigation, headed by Mayor Mario Vialey with Dr. Juan Boyesuk, head of the local branch of SENASA, veterinarians met in July Frettes (Directorate General of Livestock of the Province), Alexander Tkachuk (Food Science department head) and Martin Ramos, Alfredo Friedlmeier agronomist (Inta delegation Apostles) and technical Mabeliana Silva (Ministry of Agriculture's Office).   This group of people and other partners were divided into three crews, two of which were commissioned to carry out statistics in the area, collecting data settlers, such as livestock numbers, immunization schedule, number of heads per hectare first symptoms of disease.  

The last group was headed by Sanguinetti and Boyesuk, who along with his colleagues went to field producer Ramón Rodríguez, where samples of blood, mucus and feces were extracted, among others, a number of animals for laboratory analysis.  Then proceeded to perform the autopsy of a cow and the removal of organs, also for studies Late various teams met to evaluate the work done.  Press conference last night waiting for the collected preliminary data.  It also announced the shipment of samples to the laboratories of SENASA and private, the latter at the request of the settlers affected. - Territorio Digital. [Translated]

A still unknown evil killed hundreds of cattle in the south of Misiones. Different veterinarians attended the producers were unable to determine the cause of the plague and now requires that the State sends specialists to investigate.

"Cows largar start foaming at the mouth, get as crazy and run over people and then begin to dry inside as to death despite grazing normally," said Juan Zanek, who already has lost 70 animals by the strange box.

The rancher says that animals in general were concerned with good health status. "No veterinarian was able to tell me what's going on," he said. And in recent days also found the birth of several blind calves. "I think it might be a virus or something, but do not understand how he could not yet determine what is causing the deaths," he complained.

Juan Manulak, another farmer in the area, said some veterinarians blame the "Mary mole", a yellow flowering plant that usually populate the fields of southern missionary, "but this shrub always existed and the cows did not die. And there are still some places where Mary is not the mole and no loss of animals, "he explained.

Livestock Undersecretary of Misiones, Rodolfo Jaquet, admitted that "there is no definitive diagnosis" on the cause of the deaths of the animals, but did not rule out the case of anthrax. "High temperatures, lack of vaccination, drought, may have activated some anthrax spores in the fields," he ventured. - Nuevo Diario Web. [Translated]

Hundreds Of Seabirds  Wash Up Along Southwest Coast Of England.
Animal charities are caring from some of the hundreds of guillemots, razorbills and puffins that
have washed up in Hampshire, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall in the past week.

Hundreds of seabirds - some dead and others covered in oil - have been washed ashore in south-west England.  The RSPB believes most of the deaths were a "sad but natural occurrence" after the recent stormy weather.  In Devon, about 40 puffins, guillemots and razorbills were found at Thurlstone, while others have been reported from Hampshire to Cornwall.  Some of the "pitiful" oiled birds are being cared for at the South Devon Seabird Trust in Teignmouth.  The trust's founder, Jean Bradford, told BBC News: "It's a catastrophe and I think with everything else that's going on with people, the birds and other animals have been overlooked a little bit."

Mrs Bradford said the oiled and storm-blown birds that had been rescued were in a "pitiful state".  "Even if these birds get to shore, very often it's the case that they're washed back out to sea by the enormous waves that are coming in.  "By the time they reach another beach, perhaps at low tide, many of them are too ill to be saved."  A number of birds were rescued from Chesil Beach in Dorset earlier in the week and taken to the RSPCA West Hatch animal centre in Taunton.

Both the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Environment Agency said there had been no reports of major pollution incidents, leading the RSPB to conclude the storms that have battered the South West were responsible.  "On Thursday we had reports of 137 birds - some of them oiled - and although any number is regrettable, it's not completely unexpected," RSPB spokesman Tony Whitehead said.  "We think what's happening is a sad, but naturally occurring event, off the back of really bad weather.  "The birds become exhausted, they're tossed up and down by giant waves and sometimes they get covered in oil."  The RSPB said anyone finding beached seabirds should not attempt to rescue them, but should contact the RSPCA.  Last year wildlife charities in south and south-west England dealt with thousands of seabirds affected by a spill of polyisobutene (PIB) - a chemical used as a lubricant in ships' engines. - BBC.

Thousands Of Birds Found Dead, Due To Avian Flu, In Trenggalek Regency, Indonesia.
A fresh bird-flu outbreak has hit Trenggalek regency, East Java, where thousands of birds were found dead in Pakis village, Durenan district. Tests have confirmed the deaths were due to infection by avian flu (H5N1).
“Laboratory test results on 20 samples of bird carcasses confirm they were bird-flu virus positive,” head of Trenggalek Animal Health Center Budi Satriawan said on Tuesday as quoted by Antara news agency.

Budi explained that the virus that killed the birds was identical to that which had infected chickens and other poultry within the area, and was potentially harmful to humans.

Following the test results, Budi issued a recommendation letter ordering a mass cull and destruction of all poultry in the affected farm.

“The rules are clear. Birds that are still alive must be killed and burned,” Budi said.

In the midst of eliminating thousands of birds, Budi added that his team, after further investigation, would also cull other poultry farms to be on the safe side.

Poultry within a 200-meter radius of the original location where the bird flu virus was detected will be vaccinated and disinfectant would be sprayed on all farms, poultry and otherwise.

Previously thousands of birds died in Pakis village, Durenan regency. A total of 7,000 birds were culled following that outbreak. - Jakarta Post.

MILLIONS Of Dead Fish Wash Ashore On Lake Manyas, Balikesir, Turkey.

Balikesir is linked to Manyas Lake 'is located in the coastal village of Hammam millions of carp, roach, pike and Israeli carp fry the fish hit the coast. Fish fry to hit the shore has caused concern. Lake manyas 's millions of fish dying hitting the shore, the lake shore in the village of Hammam who was greeted with surprise by sitting. The dead fish, carp, roach, pike and Israel were determined to be of carp fry.

Manyas Governor Mehmet Erdem, where the fish waste from the District of Food Agriculture and Livestock Department officials taking samples were sent for analysis after analysis to be made ​​of the exact cause of death will be clarified, explained. While engaged in fishing in the village of Hammam Hayrullah Selvi, reeds and sheltered areas for fish spawning sites, said: said:

"Eggs left in the period when irrigation canal sufficient water were available but lack of rainfall and Ergili regulator cover are open because of the water went to the sea. Manyas Lake 's water level drop caused. lake water by lowering this time on irrigation water came, and unfortunately millions of young fish perished . "

In order to determine the cause of death of the fish began to research. - Sondakika. [Translated]

Thousands Of Fish Have Died "Due To Environmental Factors" In Lampung, Indonesia.
Thousands of grouper aquaculture in waters kramba Rarem Dam Way, Village Abung Pekurun, North Lampung, died on Thursday (13/2). As a result, farmers suffered losses of tens of millions of dollars. Aquatic environmental factors in the area suspected to be the cause of thousands of cages grouper stress and die.

Head of Division (Head) Monitoring and Fisheries Resources, Fisheries North Lampung, Amirsyah say, mass death in cultured grouper kramba have been studied in laboratory testing of quarantine stations, quality control and safety of fishery products Lampung first class marine and fisheries ministry .

Based on lab testing. No.0055/1.11U/KI-PJG/I/2014, which published water quality conditions in the waters of the dam in the category of normal for cultivation, with PH, 7, solute concentration for NO2, 0, phosphate, 0.05, and Al Kalin, 18.5. While the seeds of disease were found to infect fish, caused by a virus attack rate refers to the results of lab tests. lightweight category instead outbreak.

"Concluded the cause of dead fish in the waters of the dam due to the stress of going on the environmental conditions around kramba. Regarding deaths from the disease, may be indicated against the odds. "Said Amirsyah.

Before getting counseling and explanation of the death of the fish, the grouper farmers in Dam Way Rarem, Pekurun Abung Village, District Abung Pekurun, no thanks to the mass mortality of grouper, and to recover damages on employers stone quarrying and sand mining, over alleged environmental pollution by cause the death of fish. - Poskota News. [Translated]

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Geological Upheaval - New Photos Of The Growing Lava Dome At Mexico's Popocatépetl Volcano!

February 17, 2014 - MEXICO - No significant changes in the currently low activity of the volcano have occurred recently.

Aerial view of Popocatépetl's summit crater (image: CENAPRED)

The volcano produces a small number (less than 10 usually) weak explosive emissions of steam, gas and sometimes ash on a daily basis, and magma continues to rise slowly to the summit where a lava dome forms.

This is evidenced by glow at night, and was confirmed during a recent overfly with the support of the Mexican Navy.

The lava dome inside Popo's inner summit crater (CENAPRED)

On the images obtained, one could see that a dome is slowly growing within the inner crater, partially filling it.

Its diameter was estimated to about 200 m and it is about 50 meters below the average level of the floor of the main crater.

The alert level of the volcano remains unchanged at Yellow phase 2. - Volcano Discovery.

WAR DRUMS: "Significant Chinese Strategic Development" - Australia Scrambles Planes In Response To Chines Warships Near Australian Waters!

February 17, 2014 - AUSTRALIA - Australia scrambled an air force surveillance plane earlier this month to monitor an unannounced Chinese military exercise that took the emerging superpower’s ships closer to Australian territory than ever before.

In what observers say is a significant strategic development, China carried out combat simulations at the beginning of the month between Christmas Island and Indonesia in an apparent flexing of its growing naval muscle.

China had not announced the exercise. When Australia became aware that the three Chinese vessels were sailing across the waters to the north, the Royal Australian Air Force sent an AP-3C Orion maritime surveillance plane from RAAF Base Edinburgh, near Adelaide, to observe.

The Chinese flotilla – two destroyers and a landing ship able to carry hundreds of marines – came closer than the People’s Liberation Army Navy ships had ever come while carrying out such an exercise. It was the first time China had carried out a military simulation in Australia’s maritime approaches.

The three warships came through the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra, skirted along the southern side of Java – taking them close to Christmas Island – before turning north through the Lombok Strait next to Bali.

Analysts stressed China’s move was legal – taking place in international waters – and not inherently hostile. But it did constitute a signal by Beijing that it meant to become a truly global naval power, which fundamentally changed Australia’s strategic position. Rory Medcalf, director of the Lowy Institute’s international security program, said China was sending a message it considered the Indian Ocean part of its maritime domain as well as the Pacific.

”It should focus Australian minds because for decades Australian defence policy has been based on the view that Indonesia is between us and the great powers of East Asia. That’s no longer quite the case,” he said.

Route of Chinese warships

The signal was directed not at Australia but to the Asia-Pacific region more broadly – including a message to the United States and India that they could not blockade the vital sea lanes through the Strait of Malacca in the event of a crisis of conflict with China.

Hugh White, professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University, said the exercise was ”a very vivid demonstration of how far and fast those changes are happening”.

”It doesn’t mean that this exercise is threatening to Australia but it does show how much the region is changing and how dangerous it is to assume – as successive Australian governments have done – that China can rise economically … without it making a fundamental strategic difference to the region.”

A spokesman for Defence Minister David Johnston said Australia had not been informed in advance but there had been no obligation for China to do so. - China Daily Mail.

ICE AGE NOW: "The Day After Tomorrow" - Third Coldest Winter On Record So Far In The United States!

February 17, 2014 - UNITED STATES - It’s been three decades since Americans have experienced a winter colder than this.

Poster for the 2004 American science fiction disaster film, The Day After Tomorrow.

Yesterday, Steven Goddard of Real Science declared 2014 as the third coldest winter on record, based on the database of temperature, precipitation and pressure records of the Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN).

Managed by the National Climatic Data Center, Arizona State University and the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, the aggregate data are collected from many continuously reporting fixed stations at the Earth's surface and represent the input of approximately 6000 temperature stations, 7500 precipitation stations and 2000 pressure stations.

If February ended today, this would be the third coldest winter on record in the US, after 1979 and 1899.
- Steven Goddard.

This work is often used as a foundation for reconstructing past global temperatures, and is used in two of the best-known reconstructions, that prepared by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), and that prepared by NASA as its Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) temperature set.

WATCH: The Day After Tomorrow - Official Trailer.


PROTESTS & SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: Venezuela Is On The Brink Of Collapse - Leader Of Opposition Accused Of Inciting Violence, Calls For Massive March On Tuesday; As President Maduro Calls Allies To Rival Opposition Protest; The Inflation Rate Doubles To 56.3%; Scarcity Index Rise To 28%; 1 In 4 Basic Goods Are Out Of Stock Anytime!

February 17, 2014 - VENEZUELA - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called supporters to take to the street tomorrow, hours after an opposition politician sought by police urged his allies to march with him on the same day.

The protests are the largest faced by Maduro since he came to power last year after the death of Hugo Chávez.(AFP Photo / Juan Barreto)

Leopoldo Lopez, the leader of opposition party Voluntad Popular who Maduro accuses of inciting violence, urged Venezuelans to dress in white and march with him on Tuesday, daring officials to enforce an arrest order issued against him. Maduro responded by summoning a demonstration of 30,000 to 40,000 oil workers.

“I’ve not committed any crime,” Lopez said in a YouTube video posted on his Twitter account yesterday. “If there is a decision to illegally jail me, I’ll be there.”

On Feb. 12, three people died and 66 were injured when protesters clashed with government supporters. The biggest demonstrations against Maduro’s administration since he was elected in April spread across the country this month as Venezuelans struggle with the world’s fastest inflation and shortages of everything from medicine to food.

“There’s no force that can stop us from seeking justice,” Maduro said yesterday. “We are willing to take the ultimate consequences to defend our independence.”

The South American country’s benchmark dollar bond due in 2027 fell 1.7 percent in the past week to 64.80 cents on the dollar, near a 30-month low. The yield on the bond rose to 15.45 percent on Feb. 14, the highest in the emerging markets according to the JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s EMBIG index. U.S. markets are closed today.

Pellet Shots

Groups of students protested in Venezuela’s capital for a fifth day yesterday, defying a Presidential ban on public demonstrations. The national police fired tear gas and pellets to disperse crowds that gathered around Plaza Altamira, a square in upscale eastern Caracas, leaving at least 40 people injured over the weekend, Ramon Muchacho, mayor of Chacao municipality, said in posts on his Twitter account.

The prospect of competing marches on the same day may lead to more bloody clashes this week and heightens the chance of a disorderly outcome to the stand-off between government and opposition, said Virgilio Arraes, professor of international affairs at the University of Brasilia.

“If violence continues, Venezuela moves closer to an institutional crisis,” in which the legitimacy of the government may be questioned, Arraes said by phone.

Maduro said yesterday he would expel three American diplomats, accusing them of helping plot against his government. He vowed to announce economic measures today to increase the supply of dollars that has crimped the economy.

Bolivarian Revolution

“I’m not going to step down,” Maduro said to allies in Caracas on Feb. 15. “No one will remove me from the path of building the Bolivarian revolution.”

National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello said this weekend that Venezuela’s government had issued an arrest warrant for Lopez. Military officials visited Lopez’s house in Caracas, and the residence of his parents, on Feb. 15 and showed a warrant that included the charge of intentional homicide, opposition party Voluntad Popular said yesterday in a statement.

Lopez said that he would take petitions to the Interior Ministry that declare the government responsible for the Feb. 12 violence, ask for the release of students currently being held and ask for the disarmament of pro-government groups known as collectives. He has maintained his innocence and says he only called for peaceful protests.

‘Fascist Coup’

Leader of opposition Party Voluntad Popular Leopoldo Lopez said that he
would takepetitions to the Interior Ministry that declare the government
responsible for the Feb. 12 violence, ask for the release of students
currently being held and ask for the disarmament of pro-government
groups known as collectives. Photo: Getty Images
Opposition lawmaker Maria Corina Machado said yesterday in an e-mailed statement that students would march to downtown Caracas today.

Maduro banned street demonstrations, threatened media and ordered the arrest of opposition politicians in an effort to quell the protests. He accuses the opposition of trying to incite a coup.

“I’m evaluating actions to defeat the fascist coup that started this week,” Maduro said yesterday in a post on his Twitter account.

Opposition Governor Henrique Capriles, who lost to Maduro in the April election, said that the government was behind the violence in the protests.

The government is using violence to “hide the grave problems that the country is facing with the scarcity of food, medicine, the inflation, devaluation and insecurity,” Capriles said yesterday at a press conference in Caracas.

Inflation Doubled

Inflation more than doubled in Venezuela in the past year to 56.3 percent in January, according to the central bank. At the same time, the central bank’s scarcity index rose to a record 28 percent, meaning that more than one in four basic goods was out of stock at any given time.

The public prosecutor said Feb. 15 in an e-mailed statement that 13 of 99 people who were detained over violent events Feb. 12 and Feb. 13 will remain in prison after judges ruled that their actions were “severe.” Student protesters are demanding the release of all those detained.

Maduro has accused international news outlets of bias. He took Colombian station NTN24 off the air in Venezuela for covering the protests and in a national address Feb. 13 criticized Agence France-Presse for manipulating information.

“We are particularly alarmed by reports that the Venezuelan government has arrested or detained scores of anti-government protesters and issued an arrest warrant for opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement on Feb. 15. “These actions have a chilling effect on citizens’ rights to express their grievances peacefully.”

Maduro repudiated Kerry’s statement yesterday, as Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry sent out an e-mailed statement saying the U.S. was trying to legitimize destabilization in Venezuela.

“The U.S. said that we shouldn’t arrest Leopoldo Lopez because it would have negative consequences,” Maduro said. “That’s an insolent and unacceptable request. I don’t take threats from anyone.” - Bloomberg.

WATCH:  U.S. diplomats expelled from Venezuela, protests growing.


Maduro Left Alone To Deal With Protests.
An anti-government student gestures during a protest in Caracas on February 16, 2014.(AFP Photo / Juan Barreto)

As a wave of protests grips Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro is suspiciously left without any support for his policies from other Latin American nations.

Days and days of protests. Some are dead. Many others are in jail. Spontaneous street demonstrations are forbidden. Public services shut down. Loads of threats on the media. Opposition politicians under siege. Suspicions of a coup underway. And President Nicolas Maduro, who took office less than a year ago, promising not to step down.

South America’s leftist haven is in shambles – thanks in part to food shortages and inflation of 56 percent last year. But Latin American leaders outside Caracas have mostly kept quiet as neighboring Venezuela gazes into the abyss. They are silent in a way that they probably wouldn’t have been if the man in the Miraflores Palace were Hugo Chavez (1954-2013).

Most of the regional leaders met last year at a regional summit of UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) to defend Maduro’s controversial election. Diplomatic officials in Brasilia, Buenos Aires, or even in rival and conservative Bogota, said it was important for Venezuela to have some political stability after Chavez passed away. Now it is a different game.

After days of quietude, UNASUR published a simple statement to criticize “the attempt to destabilize the democratic order” in Venezuela. The three powerful women of South America, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner and Chile’s Michelle Bachelet, said nothing. Bolivia’s Evo Morales, a traditional ally, was a clear exception to the silence.

Students take part in a protest against Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas February 16, 2014.
(Reuters / Jorge Silva)

 The most important players in the region have problems of their own to solve. That’s why a meeting on Venezuela isn’t in the plans so far. Argentina is itself in a big problem with inflation and financial markets get jumpy by whatever happens in Buenos Aires. Brazil has its sluggish growth rates and social unrest in the run up to the FIFA World Cup, in June this year.

For the poorest Latin American and Caribbean countries, cheap Venezuelan oil has been a good reason to keep their mouths shut. That situation doesn’t persist exclusively in Cuba, unlike most allies think. Instability in the ‘region’s Saudi Arabia’ would pressure inflation in smaller nations – and that is the same reason why Maduro has dealt with the uprising of students.

Even the defeated opposition candidate Henrique Capriles noticed Maduro’s isolation in the region and had to come out to reject a coup against his rival. The conservative politician would much rather wait for the incumbent to lose ground in the next five years so he can build a proper base to win the next presidential elections and govern.

Silence in the region isn’t exactly support for Maduro, but it allows him to really go after radical opposition members, like Leopoldo Lopez. The leader of a group called Popular Will hasn’t been seen in public since the government issued an arrest warrant against him. The accusation against Lopez isn’t very clear, but regional powers didn’t come out in his defense.

When Chavez was around, he’d rally the region and, by his own standards, force other leaders to embrace his decisions. If they disagreed with the Venezuelan, at least they would say their nation is sovereign and has its own political history to make things happen the way they do. Maduro, otherwise, seems to enjoy his loneliness. Perhaps not for too long. - RT.

PLANETARY TREMORS: A Sharp Rise In Earthquakes Puts Oklahomans On Edge - The Yearly Average Of 50 Tremors Skyrockets To Almost 3,000 In 2013?! UPDATE: Strong 4.2 Magnitude Earthquake Jolts Sleepy Central Oklahoma!

February 17, 2014 - OKLAHOMA, UNITED STATES - For the past three decades, Oklahoma averaged about 50 earthquakes a year. But that number has skyrocketed in the past few years. In 2013 — the state's most seismically active year ever — there were almost 3,000.

Chad Devereaux cleans up bricks that fell from his in-laws' home in Sparks, Okla., in November 2011,
after two earthquakes hit the area in less than 24 hours. Sue Ogrocki/AP

The quakes are small, and they're concentrated in the central part of the state, where the Erwins live.

Amanda Erwin says that even on a clear day, she knows something's up when the thunder begins: The chandelier swings, and the walls and bed start rumbling. Her husband, Keith, says the earthquakes remind him of the artillery he used to hear growing up near a military base. And when the sound and shaking fade, the game starts.

"We're just trying to look at each other, and we play this game: What do you think it was? Er, 2.5? Nah, that had to have been a 3.0," he says. "It's a daily thing."

In October, the that Oklahoma's risk of quakes has increased tenfold. The swarm of earthquakes includes Oklahoma's largest ever, a that struck east of Oklahoma City in 2011.

"That doesn't mean that there's going to be a large earthquake tomorrow, or next month, or next year even. But those probabilities are up very substantially," says , senior science adviser for earthquake and geologic hazards at the USGS.

He says there's linking Oklahoma's earthquakes to the state's large oil and gas industry. When they drill, toxic fluid from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and other types of drilling is injected deep underground. That can change pressures near fault lines, says , a seismologist at Cornell University.

"We can show that it's quite reasonable that water flowing from these wells is actually triggering these earthquakes," Keranen says.

But while scientists say the quakes are likely connected to the wells, there's no proof. That's why regulators aren't considering new rules or laws.

Austin Holland, a research seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, says oil and gas activity might trigger earthquakes, but it could just be a natural increase.

"I don't think we can, at this point, attribute all the earthquakes to some sort of man-made cause," Holland says.

In the fall, state regulators along the Oklahoma-Texas border to reduce injection volume and pressure after a series of earthquakes nearby. But the state might allow an experiment — to let the company increase the injections to see if it does trigger more rumbling. Scientists, like Holland, would monitor the outcome.

"Or, no earthquakes happen and we say, 'Wow, that was the most amazing coincidence we've seen,' and we move on," Holland says.

Back at the Erwin home, every little noise or rumble sends them scrambling for the iPad to see if they felt a real earthquake or a phantom.

"You feel like you're playing Battleship," says Amanda Erwin. "You look at the map, and you see these little pings of all the different places where they hit." - NPR.

4.2 Magnitude Earthquake Jolts Sleepy Central Oklahoma
Earthquakes in Oklahoma over the last 7 days. Image: USGS.

Same song. Different verse. Central Oklahoma was again rocked by a palpable earthquake late Sunday night.

A seventh earthquake struck around the Guthrie/Edmond area just before 11 p.m. on Sunday. The latest temblor was the strongest of the bunch, weighing in at a solid 4.2 on the Richter scale, at a depth of just over three miles.

The epicenter of this latest earthquake was located six miles south southwest of the town of Guthrie, eight miles north of Edmond, or about 21 miles north of the Oklahoma City metro. As with all of this weekend's tremors, several News 9 viewers from all over the state reported feeling the vibrations.

There has been no official word of any injuries or damage associated with any of the earthquakes this weekend. 

Friday was the most seismically active of the recent earthquake outbreak. Five earthquakes struck throughout the day, all in between the cities of Edmond and Guthrie, ranging in magnitudes from 2.7 and 3.1.

Saturday saw a single earthquake rattle through roughly the same area. That quake was recorded as a 3.5.

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), earthquakes with magnitudes ranging from 2.5 to 3.0 are generally the smallest ones felt by humans. - News 9.