Wednesday, March 5, 2014

FIRE IN THE SKY: Very Close Encounter - Enormous 98-Foot Asteroid To Zip Between Earth And Moon Today! [WATCH IT LIVE]

March 05, 2014 - SPACE - Talk about a close shave! An asteroid 100 feet wide is set to squeak past the Earth this afternoon, soaring fewer than 218,000 miles from our planet -- slightly closer than the orbit of the moon itself.

An artist's illustration of a large asteroid headed for Earth. (ESA)

Called asteroid 2014 DX110, the extraterrestrial visitor will stay a safe distance away from our planet, experts say. But as it barrels by at 33,000 miles per hour, the comet will present quite a spectacle. You’ll be able to watch the flyby in a live webcast directly through the website of the Slooh space telescope, as well as the site.

WATCH:  SLOOH - Tracking Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) DX110 [LIVE EVENT].

"We continue to discover these potentially hazardous asteroids — sometimes only days before they make their close approaches to Earth," Slooh's technical and research director, Paul Cox said in a statement a few weeks ago, before a very similar asteroid was discovered zipping past our planet.

This NASA image shows an artist's animation that illustrates a massive asteroid belt
(AFP Photo / NASA / JPL Caltech)

"Slooh’s asteroid research campaign is gathering momentum with Slooh members using the Slooh robotic telescopes to monitor this huge population of potentially hazardous space rocks. We need to find them before they find us!"

DX110 will make its closest pass at 5:07 p.m. EST.

The flyby of DX110 comes just over a year after two major near-Earth object (NEO) events on Feb. 15, 2013. That day, as scientists were tracking the extremely close pass of the 98-foot asteroid 2012 DA14, another, unrelated space rock unexpectedly exploded above Chelyabinsk, Russia, causing substantial damage to buildings that injured more than 1,000 people with falling glass.

The asteroid will come very close to Earth on March 5. Image: NASA JPL.

"On a practical level, a previously-unknown, undiscovered asteroid seems to hit our planet and cause damage or injury once a century or so, as we witnessed on June 20, 1908 and February 15, 2013," Slooh astronomer Bob Berman said in a statement. "Every few centuries, an even more massive asteroid strikes us — fortunately usually impacting in an ocean or wasteland such an Antarctica."

"But the ongoing threat, and the fact that biosphere-altering events remain a real if small annual possibility, suggests that discovering and tracking all NEOs, as well as setting up contingency plans for deflecting them on short notice should the need arise, would be a wise use of resources." - FOX News.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Ice Age Now - Niagara Falls Comes To A Halt AGAIN; MILLIONS Of Gallons Of Cascading Water Is Frozen In Bitter Temperatures! [STUNNING PHOTOS+VIDEO]

March 05, 2014 - NIAGARA FALLS, NORTH AMERICA - For the second time in what has been a frigid winter in the Northeastern United States, Niagara falls has come to an icy halt as the six million cubic feet of water that typically flow over the falls every minute has frozen over.

Take two: This is the second time Niagara Falls have frozen over this winter, which
is rare for the western New York tourist attraction.

The flow of water over the falls typically can withstand icy temperatures like those that have frozen much of the country this winter, but Monday's high of 9 degrees Fahrenheit brought Niagara Falls to a standstill - and photographers were there to snap some stunning images of the frozen waterfall.

In January, another record-breaking cold front managed to freeze the mighty falls in a 'polar vortex' that turned the cascading water to ice - and affected about 240 million people in the U.S. and southern Canada.

WATCH: Polar Vortex turns Niagara Falls into a frozen wonderland.

No thaw is expected anytime soon, as temperatures at the western New York tourist attraction will dip below 0 degrees Fahrenheit Monday night through Tuesday morning.

Frozen: Lights that usually reflect the water of Niagara Falls illuminate the ice after it froze over on Monday.

Rare: It is uncommon for the rushing water to freeze over the Falls, but it has happened twice so far this winter.

Icy: A man is pictured walking in front of the partially frozen American side of the Falls
as subfreezing temperatures freeze the Northeast.

Take two: The Falls has frozen twice this winter. In January when a polar vortex gripped
north America, the American Falls froze over.

Bundle up: People walk along the U.S. side of the Falls bundled up to protect against the subfreezing temperatures.

Brrr: The temperatures at the Falls were at a high of 9 degrees F on Monday, with a low of -1.

Photo op: A man stops to take a photo of the steam rising from the partially frozen Falls.

Beautiful: Mist rises over the Horseshoe Falls section of Niagara Falls during subfreezing temperatures.

Frozen: Some water continues to flow over the Falls despite the frigid temperatures.

Mist: Mist rises above the partially frozen Niagara Falls in subfreezing temperatures.

Horseshoe: The Horseshoe Falls are almost completely frozen over and mist rises above the icy water.

Eerie: As the freezing temperatures grip the natural wonder, plumes of mist billow from
the water, creating an eerie atmosphere.

Solid: Parts of the mighty Falls are frozen solid thanks to the subfreezing temperatures Monday.

Big freeze: The Falls before temperatures plummeted and the big freeze took hold for a second time this winter.

- Daily Mail.

EVANGELII GAUDIUM: The Priest Class Of The Magi's Deftly Orchestrated Blueprint To Maintain Power And Evangelical Relevance In The Transition To The Age Of Aquarius - In A Most Shocking Revelation, Pope Francis Exposes Christian Deception, That The Biblical Characters Adam And Eve Are NOT REAL, There Is NO HELL And That God EVOLVES?!

March 05, 2014 - VATICAN - One man who is out to open many old “secrets” in the Catholic church is Pope Francis. Some of the beliefs that are held in the church but contrary to the loving nature of God are now being set aside by the Pope who was recently name The Man of The Year by TIME Magazine…

In his latest revelations, Pope Francis said:
“Through humility, soul searching, and prayerful contemplation we have gained a new understanding of certain dogmas. The church no longer believes in a literal hell where people suffer. This doctrine is incompatible with the infinite love of God. God is not a judge but a friend and a lover of humanity. God seeks not to condemn but only to embrace. Like the fable of Adam and Eve, we see hell as a literary device. Hell is merely a metaphor for the isolated soul, which like all souls ultimately will be united in love with God.”
In a shocking speech that is reverberating across the world, Pope Francis declared that:
“All religions are true, because they are true in the hearts of all those who believe in them. What other kind of truth is there? In the past, the church has been harsh on those it deemed morally wrong or sinful. Today, we no longer judge. Like a loving father, we never condemn our children. Our church is big enough for heterosexuals and homosexuals, for the pro-life and the pro-choice! For conservatives and liberals, even communists are welcome and have joined us. We all love and worship the same God.”
In the last six months, Catholic cardinals, bishops and theologians have been deliberating in the Vatican City, in discussing the future of the church and redefining long-held Catholic doctrines and dogmas. The Third Vatican Council, is the largest and most important since the Second Vatican Council was concluded in 1962.
Pope Francis convened the new council to “finally finish the work of the Second Vatican Council.”
The Third Vatican Council concluded with Pope Francis announcing that…
Catholicism is now a “modern and reasonable religion, which has undergone evolutionary changes. The time has come to abandon all intolerance. We must recognize that religious truth evolves and changes. Truth is not absolute or set in stone. Even atheists acknowledge the divine. Through acts of love and charity the atheist acknowledges God as well, and redeems his own soul, becoming an active participant in the redemption of humanity.”
One statement in the Pope’s speech has sent traditionalists into a fit of confusion and hysteria…
“God is changing and evolving as we are, For God lives in us and in our hearts. When we spread love and kindness in the world, we touch our own divinity and recognize it. The Bible is a beautiful holy book, but like all great and ancient works, some passages are outdated. Some even call for intolerance or judgement. The time has come to see these verses as later interpolations, contrary to the message of love and truth, which otherwise radiates through scripture. In accordance with our new understanding, we will begin to ordain women as cardinals, bishops and priests. In the future, it is my hope that we will have a woman pope one day. Let no door be closed to women that is open to men!”
A few cardinals in the Catholic church are against Pope Francis’ latest declarations. - EGN.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - Putin Adviser Urges Dumping US Bonds In Reaction To Sanctions, As Russia Warns It Could "Reduce To Zero" Economic Dependency On U.S.; Economist Says Russian Dollar Dump Could Crash Entire Financial System!

March 05, 2014 - GLOBAL ECONOMY - An adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that authorities would issue general advice to dump US government bonds in the event of Russian companies and individuals being targeted by sanctions over events in Ukraine.

Putin Adviser Urges Dumping US Bonds In Reaction To Sanctions
Dollar. © Fotolia/ Irochka

Sergei Glazyev said the United States would be the first to suffer in the event of any sanctions regime.

“The Americans are threatening Russia with sanctions and pulling the EU into a trade and economic war with Russia,” Glazyev said. “Most of the sanctions against Russia will bring harm to the United States itself, because as far as trade relations with the United States go, we don’t depend on them in any way.”

Glazyev noted that Russia is a creditor to the United States.

"We hold a decent amount of treasury bonds – more than $200 billion – and if the United States dares to freeze accounts of Russian businesses and citizens, we can no longer view America as a reliable partner,” he said. “We will encourage everybody to dump US Treasury bonds, get rid of dollars as an unreliable currency and leave the US market.”

According to US Treasury data from the end of 2013, Russian investments in US government bonds total around $139 billion out of a total of $5.8 trillion of US debt held in foreign hands.

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday warned that Russian military interventions in Ukraine, which have been justified by the Kremlin as protection for residents in heavily ethnic Russian-populated regions, could result in “serious repercussions” for Moscow.

"Unless immediate and concrete steps are taken by Russia to deescalate tensions, the effect on US-Russian relations and on Russia's international standing will be profound," Kerry said.

Sergei Glazyev.  © RIA Novosti. Vladimir Astapkovich

Kerry mentioned economic sanctions, visa bans and asset freezes as possible measures.

Former deputy energy minister and lively government critic Vladimir Milov slammed Glazyev’s remarks, saying they would put further downward pressure on the ruble, which was pushed down Monday to a record low of 36.5 against the dollar amid fears about the possible outbreak of war.

“That idiot Glazyev will keep talking until the dollar is worth 60 [rubles],” Milov wrote on his Twitter account.

A high-ranking Kremlin source was quick to distance his office from Glazyev’s remarks, however, insisting to RIA Novosti that they represented only his personal position.

Glazyev was just expressing his views as an academic, and not as a presidential adviser, the Kremlin insider said. - RIA.

Russia Warns It Could "Reduce To Zero" Economic Dependency On U.S.
Russia could reduce to zero its economic dependency on the United States if Washington agreed sanctions against Moscow over Ukraine, a Kremlin aide said on Tuesday, warning that the American financial system faced a "crash" if this happened.

"We would find a way not just to reduce our dependency on the United States to zero but to emerge from those sanctions with great benefits for ourselves," said Kremlin economic aide Sergei Glazyev.
He told the RIA Novosti news agency Russia could stop using dollars for international transactions and create its own payment system using its "wonderful trade and economic relations with our partners in the East and South."

Russian firms and banks would also not return loans from American financial institutions, he said.

"An attempt to announce sanctions would end in a crash for the financial system of the United States, which would cause the end of the domination of the United States in the global financial system," he added.

He said that economic sanctions imposed by the European Union would be a "catastrophe" for Europe, saying that Russia could halt gas supplies "which would be beneficial for the Americans" and give the Russian economy a useful "impulse".
Glazyev has long been seen as among the most hawkish of the advisors to President Vladimir Putin but many observers have seen his hand in the apparent radicalisation of policy on Ukraine since the overthrow of president Viktor Yanukovych.
Economists have long mocked his apocalyptic and confrontational vision of global economics but also expressed concern that he appears to have grown in authority in recent months.

A high ranking Kremlin source told RIA Novosti that Glazyev was speaking in the capacity of an "academic" and his personal opinion did not reflect the official Kremlin policy.

Glazyev descrived the new Ukrainian authorities as "illegitimate and Russophobic", saying some members of the government were on lists of "terrorist organisations, they are criminals".

"If the authorities remain criminal then I think the people of Ukraine will get rid of them soon," he added. - Yahoo.

Economist John Williams Says Russian Dollar Dump Could Crash Financial System
John Williams
Economist John Williams says if Russia sells its U.S. dollar holdings, it could trigger hyperinflation.  Could it collapse the financial system?  Williams contends, “Yes, it certainly has a potential to do that.  Looking outside the United States, there is something over $16 trillion in cash, or near cash.  That’s about the same size as our GDP.  . . Nobody has wanted to hold the dollar for some time.  The dollar, fundamentally, is weak.  It couldn’t be weaker. 

All the major factors are against it.  It’s just a matter of what would trigger the massive selling.  Nobody wants to hold it.  The Russians start selling, and you have China indicating a general alliance here in terms of what’s transpiring.  If the rest of the world believes this is what’s going to happen, people who have been wanting to get out of the dollar for some time very easily could front-run the Russians.  The scare is on.  People will try to get out of it as rapidly as they can.

What would happen if there was massive dollar dumping globally?  Williams says, “It would be disastrous for our markets.  All those excess dollars coming in, with bonds being sold, interest rates would spike. The stock market would sell off and we’d see inflation.  To prevent that and try and keep things stable, the Fed would tend to buy up those Treasuries.  It would intervene wherever it could to stabilize the circumstance.  It’s going to be very difficult, and it’s going to be very inflationary.  Williams goes on to say, “You have to keep in mind, back in 2008, we had one of the greatest financial crises the United States had ever faced.  The system was on the brink of collapse at that point in time.  What the Fed and the federal government did was spend every penny they could, anything they could create or anything they could guarantee.  They did everything they could possibly do to keep the system from crashing.  They guaranteed all bank accounts.  So, they saved the system, but now what they did has not borne fruit.  We have not seen an economic recovery.  We have not seen a return of health to the banking system.  So, the system is very vulnerable; and if the Russians carry through with their threat, you have, indeed, the risk of it collapsing the system.”

Is this the end of the world as we know it in the U.S.?  Williams says, “It does have the effect of creating a hyperinflation, which I think it would.  It’s the type of circumstance that will not allow life to continue as we know it because the U.S. is not able to handle hyperinflation.  We’re not structured for it.  Zimbabwe had one of the worst hyperinflations that anyone has ever seen.  They were still able to function for a while because they get paid in a rapidly depreciating currency.  It was so rapid it became like toilet paper overnight, but they would go to a black market and exchange it for dollars.  We (the U.S.) don’t have a black market to escape from our dollars.  Gold is probably the closest thing to that.  Gold will tend to rally here as the dollar sells off, baring very heavy intervention by the central banks which you may see.  The fundamentals will eventually dominate, and you will see a very weak dollar and very strong gold coming out of this.”

Don’t look for the U.S. dollar as the safe haven because Williams says, “Historically the dollar has been the safe haven in a political or financial crisis, but that hasn’t been the case for four or five years now.  Instead, what you have seen is a flight to other traditional safe havens such as gold and the Swiss Franc.  The dollar has lost its magic.  Nobody wants to hold it.  So, if the Russians follow through and convince the rest of the world that they are going to do it and it looks like China may join them, a lot of countries will want to dump dollars and get out ahead of the crowd.” 

On the overall economy, Williams says, “It is rolling over, and the numbers are starting to show we are starting into a new recession.  You should have an actual quarterly contraction in the first quarter GDP.  One of the best indicators of that are retail sales, and they gave a clear recession signal in January.  That’s the strongest recession signal since September of 2007, which is three months before the ‘Great Recession’ took place, and I’ll contend it never ended.”

WATCH:  Economist John Williams - Financial collapse if Russia sells U.S. dollar holdings.


After the Interview: 
Williams says that some are blaming the bad economic numbers recently on bad weather.  Williams says that is nonsense and adds, “It is much more than bad weather.”  Williams told me he expects “gold to take off in response to the flight from the U.S. dollar.”  Williams says the flight from the U.S. dollar would have happened without the Russia/Ukraine crisis.  Williams says, “The Fed will likely intervene to mitigate dollar problems but the effects are doomed,” and went on to predict the Fed taper of bond purchases would likely continue to help support the dollar. - USA Watch Dog.

FUK-U-SHIMA: Dismantling Fukushima: The World's Toughest Demolition Project; Taking Apart The Shattered Power Station And Its Three Melted Nuclear Cores Will Require Advanced Robotics!

March 05, 2014 - JAPAN - A radiation-proof superhero could make sense of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in an afternoon. Our champion would pick through the rubble to reactor 1, slosh through the pooled water inside the building, lift the massive steel dome of the protective containment vessel, and peek into the pressure vessel that holds the nuclear fuel. A dive to the bottom would reveal the debris of the meltdown: a hardened blob of metals with fat strands of radioactive goop dripping through holes in the pressure vessel to the floor of the containment vessel below. Then, with a clear understanding of the situation, the superhero could figure out how to clean up this mess.

Photo: Kyodo News/AP Photo

Unfortunately, mere mortals can’t get anywhere near that pressure vessel, and Japan’s top nuclear experts thus have only the vaguest idea of where the melted fuel ended up in reactor 1. The operation floor at the top level of the building is too radioactive for human occupancy: The dose rate is 54 millisieverts per hour in some areas, a year’s allowable dose for a cleanup worker. Yet, somehow, workers must take apart not just the radioactive wreck of reactor 1 but also the five other reactors at the ruined plant.

This decommissioning project is one of the biggest engineering challenges of our time: It will likely take 40 years to complete and cost US $15 billion. The operation will involve squadrons of advanced robots, the likes of which we have never seen.

Nothing has been the same in Japan since 11 March 2011, when one of history’s worst tsunamis flooded Fukushima Daiichi, crippled its emergency power systems, and triggered a series of explosions and meltdowns that damaged four reactors. A plume of radioactive material drifted over northeast Japan and settled on towns, forests, and fields, while plant workers scrambled to pour water over the nuclear cores to prevent further radioactive releases. Nine months later, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the utility company that operates the plant, declared the situation stable.

Stability is a relative concept: Although conditions at Fukushima Daiichi aren’t getting worse, the plant is an ongoing disaster scene. The damaged reactor cores continue to glow with infernal heat, so plant employees must keep spraying them with water to cool them and prevent another meltdown. But the pressure vessels and containment vessels are riddled with holes, and those leaks allow radioactive water to stream into basements. TEPCO is struggling to capture that water and to contain it by erecting endless storage tanks. The reactors are kept in check only by ceaseless vigilance.

TEPCO’s job isn’t just to deal with the immediate threat. To placate the furious Japanese public, the company must clean up the site and try to remove every trace of the facility from the landscape. The ruin is a constant reminder of technological and managerial failure on the grand scale, and it requires a proportionally grand gesture of repentance. TEPCO officials have admitted frankly that they don’t yet know how to accomplish the tasks on their 40-year road map, a detailed plan for decommissioning the plant’s six reactors. But they know one thing: Much of the work will be done by an army of advanced robots, which Japan’s biggest technology companies are now rushing to invent and build.

The Site: During the 2011 accident, reactors 1, 2, and 3 ­suffered partial meltdowns. Explosions shattered reactor
buildings 1, 3, and 4. Reactors 5 and 6 are undamaged.  Illustration: James Provost

Here’s some more bad news: Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, the only other commercial-scale nuclear accidents, can’t teach Japan much about how to clean up Fukushima Daiichi. The Chernobyl reactor wasn’t dismantled; it was entombed in concrete. The Three Mile Island reactor was defueled, but Lake Barrett, who served as site director during that decommissioning process, says the magnitude of the challenge was different. At Three Mile Island the buildings were intact, and the one melted nuclear core remained inside its pressure vessel. “At Fukushima you have wrecked infrastructure, three melted cores, and you have some core on the floor, ex-vessel,” Barrett says. Nothing like Fukushima, he declares, has ever happened before.

Barrett, who is now a consultant for the Fukushima cleanup, says TEPCO is taking the only approach that makes sense: “You work from the outside in,” he says, dealing with all the peripheral problems in the buildings before tackling the heart of the matter, the melted nuclear cores. During the first three years of the cleanup, TEPCO has been surveying the site to create maps of radiation levels. The next step is removing radioactive debris and scrubbing radioactive materials off walls and floors. Spent fuel must be removed from the pools in the reactor buildings; leaks must be plugged. Only then will workers be able to flood the containment structures so that the melted globs of nuclear fuel can safely be broken up, transferred to casks, and carted away.

Many of the technologies necessary for the decommissioning already exist in some form, but they must be adapted to fit the unique circumstances of Fukushima Daiichi. “It’s like in the 1960s, when we wanted to put a man on the moon,” says Barrett. “We had rocketry, we had physics, but we had never put all the technologies together.” Just as with the moon shot, there is no guarantee that this epic project can be accomplished. But faced with the wrath of the Japanese people, TEPCO has no choice but to try.

To begin the first step—inspection—TEPCO sent in robots to map the invisible hot spots throughout the smashed reactor buildings. The first to arrive were the U.S.-made PackBot and Warrior, hastily shipped over from iRobot Corp. of Bedford, Mass. But Japan is justly proud of its own robotics industry, so the question arose, Why didn’t TEPCO have robots ready to respond in a nuclear emergency? Yoshihiko Nakamura, a University of Tokyo robotics professor, has the dispiriting answer. The government did fund a program on robotics for nuclear facilities in 2000, following a deadly accident at a uranium reprocessing facility. But that project was shut down after a year. “[The government] said this technology is immature, and it is not applicable for the nuclear systems, and the nuclear systems are already 100 percent safe,” Nakamura explains. “They didn’t want to admit that the technology should be prepared in case of accident.”

Still, some roboticists in Japan carried on their own research despite the government’s indifference. In the lab of Tomoaki Yoshida, a roboticist at the Chiba Institute of Technology, near Tokyo, robots have learned to crawl over rubble and to climb up and down steps. These small tanks roll on a flexible series of treads, which can be lifted or lowered individually to allow the bot to manage stairs.

After the Fukushima accident, Yoshida’s academic research became very relevant. With seed money from the government, he constructed two narrow metal staircases proportioned like the 5-floor staircases inside the Fukushima Daiichi reactor buildings. This allowed Yoshida to determine whether his bots could navigate those cramped stairs and tight turns. His acrobatic Quince robots proved themselves able, and after hundreds of tests they received TEPCO’s clearance for field operations. In the summer of 2011, the Quince bots became the first Japanese robots to survey the reactor buildings.

The Quinces were equipped with cameras and dosimeters to identify radioactive hot spots. But the robots struggled with a communication issue: The nuclear plant’s massive steel and concrete structures interfere with wireless communication, so the Quinces had to unspool cables behind them to receive commands and transmit data to their operators. The drawback of that approach soon became apparent. One Quince’s cable got tangled and damaged on the third floor of reactor 2, and the lonely bot is still sitting there to this day, waiting for commands that can’t reach it.

Armed for Duty: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries contributed this two-armed bot, the MHI-MEISTeR. Its arms can
be fitted with a variety of tools, including one drill that can take a core sample from concrete walls and floors. Each
arm has seven degrees of freedom, making the bot a versatile and flexible worker.  Photo: Kyodo/AP Photo

Back at Yoshida’s lab, where modest bunk beds bespeak the dedication of his students, the team is currently working on a new and improved survey bot named Sakura. To guard against future tangles, Sakura not only unspools cable behind, it also automatically takes up the slack when it changes direction. It’s waterproof enough to roll through puddles, and it can carry a heavy camera capable of detecting gamma radiation. The bot can tolerate that radiation: Yoshida’s team tested its electronics (the CPU, microcontrollers, and sensors) and found that they’re radiation-tolerant enough to perform about 100 missions before any component is likely to fail. However, the robot itself becomes too radioactive for workers to handle. Sakura must therefore take care of itself: It recharges its batteries by rolling up to a socket and plugging itself in.

The second step in the Fukushima decommissioning is decontamination, because only when that is complete will workers be able to get inside to tackle more complex tasks. The explosions that shattered several of the reactor structures sprayed radioactive materials throughout the buildings, and the best protective suits for workers in hot zones are of little use against the resulting gamma radiation—a worker would have to be covered from head to toe in lead as thick as the width of a hand.

After the accident, the Japanese government called for robots that could work on decontamination, and several of Japan’s leading companies rose to the challenge. Toshiba and Hitachi have designed robots that use jets of high-pressure water and dry ice to abrade the surfaces of walls and floors; the robots will scour away radioactive materials along with top layers of paint or concrete and vacuum up the resulting sludge. But the robots’ range is defined by their own communication cables, and they can carry only limited amounts of their cleaning agents. Another bot, the Raccoon, has already begun nosing across the floor in reactor building 2, trailing long hoses behind it to supply water and suction.

To clear a path for the robotic janitors, another class of robots has been invented to pick up debris and cut through obstacles. The ASTACO-SoRa, from Hitachi, has two arms that can reach 2.5 meters and lift 150 kilograms each. The tools on the ends of the arms—grippers, cutting blades, and a drill—can be exchanged to suit the task. However, Hitachi’s versatile bot is limited to work on the first floor, as it can’t climb stairs.

Out Of The Pool: Spent fuel pools inside the damaged reactor buildings contain hundreds of nuclear fuel
assemblies. TEPCO is emptying reactor 4’s pool [top] first. In the extraction process, a cask is lowered into
the pool and filled with radioactive fuel assemblies. Then the cask is transported to a safer location,
lowered into another pool [middle], and unloaded. The job is made more complicated because
some of the assemblies are covered with debris [bottom] from the accident's explosions. 
Photos: TEPCO

Removing spent fuel rods is the third step. Each reactor building holds hundreds of spent fuel assemblies in a pool on its top floor. These unshielded pools, perfectly safe when filled with water, became a focus of public fear during the Fukushima Daiichi accident. After reactor building 4 exploded on 15 March, many experts worried that the blast had damaged the structural integrity of that building’s pool and allowed the water to drain out. The pool was soon determined to be full of water, but not before the chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission had caused an international panic by declaring it dry and dangerous. The reactor 4 pool became one of TEPCO’s urgent decommissioning priorities, not only because it’s a real vulnerability but also because it’s a potent reminder of the accident’s terrifying first days.

The process of emptying that pool began in November 2013. TEPCO workers use a newly installed cranelike machine to lower a cask into the pool, then long mechanical arms pack the submerged container with fuel assemblies. The transport cask, fortified with shielding to block the nuclear fuel’s radiation, is lowered to a truck and brought to a common pool in a more intact building. The building 4 pool contains 1533 fuel assemblies, and moving them all to safety is expected to take a year. The same procedure must be performed at the highly radioactive reactors 1, 2, and 3 and the undamaged (and less challenging) reactors 5 and 6.

Containing the radioactive water that flows freely through the site is the fourth step. Every day, about 400 metric tons of groundwater streams into the basements of Fukushima Daiichi’s broken buildings, where it mixes with radioactive cooling water from the leaky reactor vessels. TEPCO treats that water to remove most of its radioactive elements, but it can’t be rendered entirely pure—and as a result local fishermen have protested plans to release it into the sea. To store the accumulating water, TEPCO has installed more than 1000 massive tanks, which themselves must be monitored vigilantly for leaks.

TEPCO hopes to stop the flow of groundwater with a series of pumps and underground walls, including an “ice wall” made of frozen soil. Still, at some point the Japanese public must grapple with a difficult question: Can the stored water ever be released into the sea? Barrett, the former site director of Three Mile Island, has argued publicly that the processed water is safe, as contamination is limited to trace amounts of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. Tritium is less dangerous than other radioactive materials because it passes quickly through the body; after it’s diluted in the Pacific, Barrett says, it would pose a negligible threat. “But releasing that water is an emotional issue, and it would be a public relations disaster,” he says. The alternative is to follow the Three Mile Island example and gradually dispose of the water through evaporation, a process that would take many years.

TEPCO must also plug the holes in the reactor vessels that allow radioactive cooling water to flow out. Many of the leaks are thought to be in the suppression chambers, doughnut-shaped structures that ring the containment vessel and typically hold water, which is used to regulate temperature and pressure inside the pressure vessel during normal operations. Shunichi Suzuki, TEPCO’s general manager of R&D for the Fukushima Daiichi decommissioning, explains that one of his priorities is developing technologies to find the leak points in the suppression chambers.

“There are some ideas for a submersible robot,” Suzuki says, “but it will be very difficult for them to find the location of the leaks.” He notes that both the suppression chambers and the rooms that surround them are now filled with water, so there’s no easy way to spot the ruptures; it’s not like finding the hole in a leaky pipe that’s spraying water into the air. Among the robot designs submitted by Hitachi, Mitsubishi, and Toshiba is one bot that would crawl through the turbid water and use an ultrasonic sensor to find the breaches in the suppression chambers’ walls.

If robots prove impractical, TEPCO may take a more heavy-handed approach and start pouring concrete into the suppression chamber or the pipes that lead to it. “If it’s possible to make a seal between the containment vessel and the suppression chamber, then the leaks don’t matter,” Suzuki says. One way or another, TEPCO hopes to have all the leaks stopped up within three years. Sealing the leaks is a necessary precondition for the final and most daunting task.

Water, Water Everywhere: Groundwater flowing through the site mixes with radioactive cooling water leaking
from reactor buildings and must therefore be stored and treated. To contain the accumulating water, TEPCO
is filling fields with storage tanks [bottom]. These tanks must be monitored for leaks [top]. In August 2013,
TEPCO admitted that 300 metric tons of contaminated water had leaked from one tank.  
Photos, top: TEPCO; bottom: The Yomiuri Shimbun/AP Photo

Removing the three damaged nuclear cores is the last big step in the decommissioning. As long as that melted fuel glows inside reactors 1, 2, and 3, Fukushima Daiichi will remain Japan’s ongoing nightmare. Only once the fuel is safely packed up and carted away can the memory begin to fade. But it will be no easy task: TEPCO estimates that removing the three melted cores will take 20 years or more.

First, workers will flood the containment vessels to the top so that the water will shield the radioactive fuel. Then submersible robots will map the slumped fuel assemblies within the pressure vessels; these bots may be created by adapting those used by the petroleum industry to inspect deep-sea oil wells. Next, enormously long drills will go into action. They must be capable of reaching 25 meters down to the bottoms of the pressure vessels and breaking up the metal pooled there. Other machines will lift the debris into radiation-shielded transport casks to be taken away.

Making the task more complicated is the design of the reactors. They have control rods that project through the bottom of the pressure vessels, and the entry point for each of those control rods is a weak spot. Experts believe that most of the fuel in reactor 1, and some in reactors 2 and 3, leaked down through those shafts to pool on the floor of the containment vessel below. To reach that fuel, some 35 meters down, TEPCO workers will have to drill through the steel of the pressure vessel and work around a forest of wires and pipes.

Before TEPCO can even develop the proper fuel-handling tools, Suzuki says, the company must get a better understanding of the properties of the corium—the technical term for the mess of metals left behind after a meltdown. The company can’t just copy the drills that broke up the melted core of the Three Mile Island reactor, says Suzuki. “At Three Mile Island, [the core] remained in the pressure vessel,” he says. “In our case, it goes through the pressure vessel, so it melted stainless steel. So our fuel debris must be harder.” The melted fuel may also have a lavalike consistency, with a hard crust on top but softer materials inside. TEPCO is now working with computer models and is planning to make an actual batch of corium in a laboratory to study its properties.

When the core material is broken up and contained, it will be whisked away to some to-be-determined storage facility. Over the decades its radioactivity will gradually fade, along with the Japanese public’s memory of the accident. It’s a shame that those twisted blobs of corium are too dangerous to be displayed in a museum, where a placard could explain that we human beings are so clever, we’re capable of building machines we can’t control.

Depending on whom you ask, nuclear power stations like Fukushima Daiichi are exemplars of either humanity’s ingenuity or hubris. But, the museum placard might add, these metallic blobs, plucked from the heart of an industrial horror, prove something else—that we humans also have the grit and perseverance to clean up our mistakes. - IEEE Spectrum.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - 28-Year-Old CEO Of Bitcoin Exchange Dead After Possible Suicide!

March 05, 2014 - GLOBAL ECONOMY - According to Tech in Asia, Singapore-based Bitcoin exchange platform First Meta’s 28 year old CEO Autumn Radtke committed suicide. Reasons are currently unknown.

[UPDATE: Tech in Asia has updated the article to emphasize that suicide is only suggested and not certain]

First Meta is a Singaporean start up company that runs a exchange platform for virtual currencies such as Bitcoin. The news of suicide of its CEO Autumn Radtke spread on Facebook and Twitter, drawing attention from the Bitcoin industry.

The exact reason that may have led to the suicide is not known, and whether the Police have concluded that the cause of death is suicide is also unofficial. First Meta has stated that an official announcement will be given by the company soon.

Before joining First Meta, Radtke was the Director of Business Development at Xfire – a company that develops IM systems for gamers. Radtke was also the Co-founder, Business Development at Geodelic Systems, Inc.

The Bitcoin market is fairly unstable right now, facing wave after wave of turmoils. On Tuesday one of the biggest Bitcoin exchange centre Mt. Gox suddenly ceased its operations, its company CEO stating that the industry is at its ‘turning-point’, bringing Bitcoin investors great concern over the unregulated virtual currency. - Newswatch.

EXTREME WEATHER: "Like Armageddon" - Spectacular Storm Hits Sydney, Australia With Thunder, Lightning, Wild Showers And Stunning Cloud Formations! [PHOTOS]

March 05, 2014 - AUSTRALIA - Sydney was yesterday battered by a brief but spectacular storm that shook buildings in the CBD.

A storm comes from the south over Bondi Beach. Picture: Damian Shaw Source: Supplied

More than 12mm of rain was recorded at Sydney Airport between 4.30pm and 5pm, while severe thunder and lightning rocked the city.

The intense system was driven straight at the CBD by strong south-westerly winds.

Lightning strike as a storm passes over the suburb of Bangor in Sydney. Source: News Corp Australia

Like Armageddon: Storm Clouds roll across Sydney. Picture: Twotter/Jenni Eastbrook Source: Supplied

More than 22mm of rain was recorded in the Illawarra. Wind gusts exceeding 50km/h were also recorded along the NSW south coast. Sydney Airport received wind gusts approaching 60km/h.

The storm proved a nightmare for peak-hour commuters, with a number of roads and train lines suffering minor flooding.

A storm front moves over Bondi beach but at least one couple didn’t let it ruin their day.
Picture: Mark Evans
Source: News Corp Australia

Trains were delayed on the Bankstown line after the tracks were partially closed by flooding near Marrickville station. The Transport Management Centre also reported the delays were exacerbated as emergency authorities treated a person injured by a train at Dulwich Hill.

Replacement buses were organised for travellers.

Passengers travelling on the Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra Line and South Coast Line have been advised to allow additional travel time due to a power supply problem at Sydenham.

A Qantas plane takes off as a large storm front arrives at Sydney airport from the South West.
Picture: Bradley Hunter
Source: News Corp Australia

For the latest public transport information, visit or call 131 500.

Wind gusts exceeding 50km/h have also been recorded along the NSW south coast.

Flight tracking website FlightAware showed how the storm affected aircraft movements. Source: Supplied

While the thunderstorms were expected to have cleared by today, intermittent showers are predicted to last right through to the weekend.

Last week the Bureau of Meteorology warned Sydneysiders to seek shelter and “get home early” as an intense tempest approached the city. - Daily Telegraph.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Hong Kong Reports Sixth H7N9 Bird Flu Case - Reigniting Fears That The Virus Could Mutate And Becoming Transmissible Between Humans, Triggering A Pandemic!

March 05, 2014 - HONG KONG - Hong Kong confirmed Tuesday a new human case of the deadly H7N9 avian flu found in an 18-month-old girl, the sixth case to be discovered in the city.

 Hong Kong reports sixth H7N9 bird flu case. AFP

Fears over avian flu have grown following the deaths of three men from the H7N9 strain in Hong Kong since December last year, all of whom had recently returned from mainland China.

The child, who had also recently visited the mainland, was hospitalised on February 28 after developing a fever and was treated in an isolation ward, the city's health department said in a statement.

She was sent home "in a stable condition" on Monday but routine laboratory test results later showed positive for the virus, the statement said.

The girl is now in isolation in another hospital undergoing tests, but has no fever or symptoms.

She had travelled to the neighbouring Chinese province of Guangdong for three weeks in February, the health department said, where her mother had taken her to a wet market -- though they did not buy poultry.

Family members and patients from the first hospital that admitted the child will be taken in for testing and observation, the statement said.

Others who may have had contact with the girl will be "put under medical surveillance", it added.

A total of 31 people died from H7N9 bird flu in mainland China in January, the government said, making it by far the worst month of the outbreak. There were a total of 127 confirmed human H7N9 cases that month, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

The outbreak, which first emerged on the mainland in February 2013, has reignited fears that a bird flu virus could mutate to become easily transmissible between people, threatening to trigger a pandemic.

Hong Kong slaughtered 20,000 chickens in January after the virus was found in poultry imported from Guangdong.

Officials said last month that they were extending for four months a ban on live poultry imports from mainland China to guard against the disease.

Hong Kong is particularly alert to the spread of viruses after an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) swept through the city in 2003, killing 299 people and infecting around 1,800. - Yahoo.

EXTREME WEATHER: The Great Walls Of Fire - Staggering Pictures Of The Towering Flames From Coalmine Blaze In Australia, Which Has Been Burning For Three Weeks; New Study Forecast Australia To Get Hotter And Bushfire Season To Last Longer! [STUNNING PHOTOS]

March 05, 2014 - AUSTRALIA - Towering flames reach to the sky in a spectacular scene that resembles a volcano eruption as a wall of fire rages at an Australian coal mine.

Engulfed: These pictures shot by the fire service show staggering scenes at Morwell, Victoria, where Australian firefighters have been battling for three weeks to put out a fire which has engulfed the coalmine.

Wall of fire: Coalmine in Morwell, Victoria, Australia has been on fire for almost three
weeks after an arsonist lit bushfire that spread.

Dramatic photographs have emerged of an out-of-control fire at Hazelwood open-cut coal mine, which has left the Victorian town of Morwell exposed to smoke and ash.

The fire is burning over 400 hectares of land, with flames reaching between 20 and 50 metres high.

Sick and elderly people are being urged to leave the town, amid mounting concern over the health risks associated with rising carbon monoxide levels.

The Government is expected to make an announcement today on the recommended course of action for thousands of residents in Victoria's LaTrobe Valley who have been enveloped by a thick, smokey haze for the past three weeks after the coal mine blaze broke out.

Flare up: Firefighters work through the night to battle a blaze that continues to burn
at Hazelwood coalmine at Morwell, Victoria, in Australia.

Health risk: Smoke from the fire is causing rising levels of carbon monoxide for nearby residents in the town of Morwell.

Fresh fears of potential landslides have emerged, as firefighters pour tens of thousands of water on the out-of-control fire at the mine pit.

While firefighters do their best to contain the blaze, there are new concerns that the mine's walls may not be structurally sound with cracks opening up along the mine's southern walls.

WATCH: Town choked by coal mine fire that could burn for months.

Vulnerable people such as the elderly, young children, pregnant women and anyone with respiratory conditions are being urged to leave the area.

Emergency officials says that although an evacuation has not been declared, they are recommending people leave the area if they are affected by the smoke.

On February 9 an arsonist lit a bushfire that spread to the site in Morwell, Victoria, leaving Hazelwood open-cut mine ablaze. Coal mine fires like this one are particularly hard to put out because they are difficult for firefighters to access underground.

Douse the flames: Fire crews watch on as helicopters are deployed to battle the fire from above.

Broader view: Fire smoulders at Hazelwood coal mine in Victoria, where firefighters
have been battling the blaze for close to three weeks.

Even if the fire looks extinguished it keeps smouldering. A mine spokesperson told ‘You can drop a bucket of water over it and it looks like the fire is out, but it will come back as a smouldering fire.’

Morwell, a town 150km east of Melbourne, is touted by tourism agencies as ‘Victoria’s energy centre’.

The town's 14,000 residents are worried about the long-term health risks associated with exposure to smoke, even though health officials say there is no risk.

‘We are in the dark, we don't know what's going on,’ one resident told ABC.

Authorities say the ‘best case scenario’ would see the fire extinguished in 14 days but concede it could take months.

And police are still hunting for the arsonist who they say has ‘knowledge of fire behaviour’ amid fears the perpetrator could strike again.

Detective Sen-Constable Jason Benbow said police were focusing on arsonists who had struck before, The Herald Sun reported.

'We think someone with local knowledge is behind this, and definitely a knowledge of fire behaviour.

‘This fire has caused millions and millions dollars of damage, not to mention the health effects it has caused, plus the possibility of the power station going down.’

Wide angle: Smoke drifts over the Hazelwood coal mine, causing a health hazard to the nearby community.

The fire could take months to extinguish because coalmine fires are hard to access and keep smouldering.

Cracks in the earth reveal exposed coal seam burning underground.

Victoria's chief health officer Rosemary Lester said an evacuation plan had been prepared but it was not yet necessary to carry out.

‘We've been keeping a very close eye on the carbon monoxide and that has not been a level of concern, which is good,’ she said.

About 25,000 face masks have been given to residents, Vice reported.

Residents are gathering evidence in order to launch a possible class action against the owners of the mine.

Local protest organiser Nerissa Albon said: ‘We're going to collect data to find out whose businesses are suffering and what are the health issues.

‘They're scared, they're starting to get annoyed now.... nobody can say when it's going to finish, it could go on for months. They would want compensation.’ - Daily Mail.

Australia To Get Hotter And Bushfire Season To Last Longer.
Australia will suffer more days of extreme heat and a longer bushfire season as greenhouse gases force temperatures to continue rising, a new report warned yesterday.

The joint study by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Bureau of Meteorology said temperatures across Australia were, on average, almost 1.0 degree Celsius warmer than a century ago.

Seven of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1998 while over the past 15 years the frequency of very hot months has increased five-fold, it said.

The scenario was starkly illustrated in 2013, which was Australia’s hottest year since records began in 1910 and included a prolonged national heatwave.

Megan Clark, chief executive of the CSIRO, Australia’s peak science body, said the country has warmed in every state and territory and in every season.

“Australia has one of the most variable climates in the world. Against this backdrop, across the decades, we’re continuing to see increasing temperatures, warmer oceans, changes to when and where rain falls and higher sea levels,” Clark said.

“The sea-surface temperatures have warmed by 0.9 C since 1900 and greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise.” Australia is routinely hit by bushfires during its December-February summer months, with hot windy conditions again fanning hundreds of blazes this season with dozens of homes destroyed.

The report said it would only get worse.

“A further increase in the number of extreme fire-weather days is expected in southern and eastern Australia, with a longer fire season in these regions,” it said of areas devastated by fires this year.

It also forecast less rainfall in southern Australia and more severe droughts in a grim warning for farmers. The report, released every two years, added that tropical cyclones were projected to decrease in number but increase in intensity, while rising seas levels would cause more problems for coastal dwellers.

The report said Australian temperatures could rise by 1.0 to 2.5 C by 2070, compared to 1980 to 1999, depending on the level of greenhouse gas emissions.

While cutting global emissions would be crucial to preventing the worst global warming has in store, that alone would not be enough, the agencies warned.

“Adaptation is required because some warming and associated changes are unavoidable,” it said.

Neville Nicholls, a professor at the School of Geography   Environmental Science at Monash University, said Australia was already working to deal with climate change on a practical level.

“Luckily, we have started to adapt to these risks,” he said.

“Heat alert systems in many cities across the world, including Australia, are starting to reduce some of the impacts of severe heat events. And governments, fire services, and bureaucrats have worked to improve the way we prepare for and deal with bushfires; this is an effective climate change adaptation, even if it was not done specifically in response to the climate-driven increased risk.”

Jim Salinger , a climate scientist at the University of Auckland, predicted that the growing heat risks in Australia would see more people moving to the cooler climate of neighbouring New Zealand. - Borneo Post.

WAR DRUMS: Escalating Tensions On The Korean Peninsula - North Korea Tests New Long-Range Rocket Launcher!

March 05, 2014 - NORTH KOREA - North Korea has tested a new multiple-rocket launcher with a range long enough to strike major US and South Korean military bases, South Korean military officials said.

South Koreans watch a TV report on the North's missile test at a Seoul railway station. Photo: AP

Four rockets were launched on Tuesday from Wonsan, a coastal city east of the North Korean capital Pyongyang, and flew 150 kilometres to the north-east before crashing into the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan, a South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman said.

Earlier on Tuesday, North Korea tested an older multiple-rocket launcher, firing three rockets that flew 50 kilometres off its east coast, the spokesman said.

The tests were seen as Pyongyang's latest show of force as the US and South Korea conduct annual joint military exercises, to which the North strongly objects. Last Thursday, North Korea fired four short-range ballistic missiles from its east coast. On Monday, it fired another short-range ballistic missile that flew 500 kilometres.

"We believe this is an intentional provocation to raise tensions," the South Korean ministry spokesman said.

Despite its moribund economy, North Korea has been conducting a vigorous missile and rocket program, trying to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile. But the apparent test of the new rocket launcher on Tuesday sparked special interest in South Korea.

Apart from its nuclear arms, North Korea's multiple-rocket launchers and artillery pieces are the weapons most feared in the South. The North is estimated to have 13,000 of them clustered on the inter-Korean border, less than 50 kilometres from Seoul. The North's occasional threats over the years to turn the South Korean capital into a "sea of fire" are presumed to be references to these weapons.

The North's older rocket launchers have a range of 60 kilometres, putting Seoul and its 10 million people within range. Partly for this reason, the US and South Korea have situated major air force and other military bases well south of the capital. But South Korean military intelligence has long suspected the North of developing a longer-range rocket launcher that could reach some of the bases.

The US and South Korea have been building up their ability to counter the North's rocket and artillery threat in recent years, especially since the North's artillery attack on a South Korean border island in 2010 which killed four people.

South Korea recently deployed Israeli-designed Spike missiles and their mobile launchers on its western border islands. The Spike missiles, with a range of 20 kilometres, target North Korean coastal guns and rocket batteries. But the range of North Korea's new multiple-rocket launcher means that the North can keep the launchers outside the range of the Spike missiles and still be able to hit Seoul. - The Age.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - Bitcoin Bank Flexcoin Shuts Down After $600,000 Theft Of The Digital Currency!

March 05, 2014 - GLOBAL ECONOMY - A second online bitcoin bank has shut down after a security breach allowed thieves to steal a large quantity of bitcoins.

A Bitcoin ATM sticker is posted to the window of a coffee shop in Vancouver, Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. Will that be cash,
credit card or Bitcoin? A small number of Canadian businesses now accept Bitcoin, the digital currency that made its
debut five years ago, and has been gaining momentum ever since. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Flexcoin made the abrupt announcement on its website Tuesday, admitting that it had been robbed of 896 bitcoins after a thief or thieves managed to collect them from Flexcoins servers and transfer them to two bitcoin wallets — a unique string of numbers and letters that function similarly to an email address, and bitcoin's equivalent to individual bank accounts where customers store money.

At current market rates, the theft amounts to more than $600,000 US. The figure represents the bank's entire bitcoin holdings online, effectively wiping out any customers who held assets there.

"As Flexcoin does not have the resources, assets, or otherwise to come back from this loss, we are closing our doors immediately," Flexcoin said in a statement.

The bank did say however, that any customers who had bitcoins held in so-called "cold storage" — not on the site online servers and therefore safe from digital attack — can still retrieve their funds free of charge.

Flexcoin also says it will work with law enforcement to decipher the source of the hack. The company said in a release the money was transferred to the following two bitcoin wallets:
  • 1NDkevapt4SWYFEmquCDBSf7DLMTNVggdu
  • 1QFcC5JitGwpFKqRDd9QNH3eGN56dCNgy6
Bitcoin is a digital cryptocurrency that isn't tied to any physical assets or controlled by any country's central bank. It's pitched as an alternative to the fiat money system and a way for users to do business online without detection or interference from governments or multinational corporations.

But it's been rocked by security concerns recently, especially after the world's largest bitcoin bank, Japanese-based Mt. Gox, announced that hackers had managed to steal several hundred million dollars from their reserves. Mt. Gox initially froze all accounts in the hopes of retrieving the money, but has subsequently begun bankruptcy proceedings.

In U.S. dollar terms, Flexcoin wasn't a major player in bitcoin, but a second security breach on the heels of Mt. Gox's demise will do little to assuage fears that bitcoin's existence outside government regulation leaves the currency open to criminal activities.

"While the MtGox closure is unfortunate, we at Flexcoin have not lost anything," Flexcoin said via their twitter account as recently as February 25th. - CBC.