Saturday, May 3, 2014

MONUMENTAL GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Heavy Rainfall Creates Massive Landslide In Afghanistan - 2,100 People Killed; Over 4,000 Left Homeless!

May 03, 2014 - AFGHANISTAN - Officials in Afghanistan say they have given up hope of finding any more survivors after 2,100 people were killed following a landslide in the northeast of the country. More than 4,000 are homeless and all efforts are being made to help them.

An excavator digs at the site of a landslide at the Argo district in Badakhshan province, May 3, 2014. (Reuters)

The landslide, which was caused by heavy rain in the remote region, which borders Tadjikistan, happened on Friday, with the death toll initially put at 350. However, this rose significantly overnight.

“More than 2,100 people from 300 families are dead,” Naweed Forotan, a spokesman for the Badakhshan provincial governor, told Reuters.

Rescue efforts were hampered by a lack of proper equipment, but with only basic digging tools, there was little hope of finding any survivors, who were buried in up to 100 meters of mud.

There is now a race against time to try and help the 4,000 people who have been displaced because of the mudslide. They are in need of water, food and shelter, as well medical supplies.

Afghan rescuers search for survivors trapped under the mud in Argo district of Badakhshan province on
May 3, 2014 after a massive landslide May 2 buried a village. (AFP Photo/Farshad Usyan)

Afghan volunteers search for survivors in Argo district of Badakhshan province on May 3, 2014
after a massive landslide May 2 buried a village. (AFP Photo/Sharif Shayeq)

NATO troops who are in the area are ready to assist the rescue operation, but the Afghan government has not asked for their help. Those who survived the landslide face freezing conditions, with very few tents on offer to provide shelter.

US President Barack Obama offered his condolences and also said that American forces could help if needed.

“Just as the United States has stood with the people of Afghanistan through a difficult decade, we stand ready to help our Afghan partners as they respond to this disaster, for even as our war there comes to an end this year, our commitment to Afghanistan and its people will endure,” he said.

The landslide occurred at about 1pm on Friday, according to Faziluddin Hayar, the police chief in Badakshan province. The incident took place in the Agro district of the province in the village of Hobo Barik, while people were rescuing victims caught in another earlier landslide after days of heavy rains had lashed the region.

WATCH:  Lethal Landslide - Over 2,000 dead in Afghanistan disaster.


The Badakshan province is located in the Hindu Kush and Pamir mountain ranges bordering China and is one of the remotest regions in a country; it’s notoriously difficult to get around and has a very poor road network. Since the 2001 US-led invasion it has seen few attacks from insurgents.

Heavy rains and flooding in the north and north east of Afghanistan claimed scores of lives throughout April.

In February 2010, more than 170 people were killed in an avalanche in the 12,700 foot high Salang Pass, which links Kabul, the capital, with the north of the country. - RT.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: MERS Outbreak - CDC Confirms First Case Of MERS In The United States!

May 03, 2014 - UNITED STATES - Health officials confirmed the first case of an American infected with a mysterious virus that has sickened hundreds in the Middle East.

FILE - This file photo provided by the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a colorized
transmission of the MERS coronavirus that emerged in 2012. Health officials on Friday, May 2, 2014
said the deadly virus from the Middle East has turned up for the first time in the U.S.
(AP/National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases via The Canadian Press)

The man fell ill after flying to the U.S. late last week from Saudi Arabia where he was a health care worker.

He is hospitalized in good condition in northwest Indiana with Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Indiana health officials said Friday.

The virus is not highly contagious and this case "represents a very low risk to the broader, general public," Dr. Anne Schuchat told reporters during a CDC briefing.

The federal agency plans to track down passengers he may have been in close contact with during his travels; it was not clear how many may have been exposed to the virus.

So far, it is not known how he was infected, Schuchat said.

Saudi Arabia has been at the center of a Middle East outbreak of MERS that began two years ago. The virus has spread among health care workers, most notably at four facilities in that country last spring.

Officials didn't provide details about the American's job in Saudi Arabia or whether he treated MERS patients.

Overall, at least 400 people have had the respiratory illness, and more than 100 people have died. All had ties to the Middle East region or to people who traveled there.

Experts said it was just a matter of time before MERS showed up in the U.S., as it has in Europe and Asia.

"Given the interconnectedness of our world, there's no such thing as `it stays over there and it can't come here,'" said Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, a Columbia University MERS expert.

MERS belongs to the coronavirus family that includes the common cold and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which caused some 800 deaths globally in 2003.

The MERS virus has been found in camels, but officials don't know how it is spreading to humans. It can spread from person to person, but officials believe that happens only after close contact. Not all those exposed to the virus become ill.

But it appears to be unusually lethal - by some estimates, it has killed nearly a third of the people it sickened. That's a far higher percentage than seasonal flu or other routine infections. But it is not as contagious as flu, measles or other diseases. There is no vaccine or cure and there's no specific treatment except to relieve symptoms.

Federal and state health officials on Friday released only limited information about the U.S. case: On April 24, the man flew from Riyadh - Saudi Arabia's capital and largest city - to the United States, with a stop in London. He landed in Chicago and took a bus to nearby Indiana. He didn't become sick until Sunday, the CDC said.

He went to the emergency room at Community Hospital in Munster the next day with a fever, cough and shortness of breath. He was admitted and tested for the MERS virus because he had traveled from the Middle East. The hospital said he was in good condition.

As a precaution, the hospital said it would monitor the man's family and health care workers who treated him for any signs of infection.

There's been a recent surge in MERS illnesses in Saudi Arabia; cases have tended to increase in the spring. Experts think the uptick may partly be due to more and better surveillance. Columbia's Lipkin has an additional theory - there may be more virus circulating in the spring, when camels are born.

The CDC has issued no warnings about travel to countries involved in the outbreak. However, anyone who develops fever, cough or shortness of breath within two weeks of traveling in or near the Arabian Peninsula should see their doctor and mention their travel history. - AP.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Bus-Size Asteroid Buzzes Earth - Comes Closer Than The Moon! [ANIMATION]

May 03, 2014 - SPACE - A small asteroid about the size of a city bus zipped by Earth at a range closer than the moon early Saturday (May 3), but posed no threat to our planet.

File illustration.

The newly discovered asteroid 2014 HL129 came within 186,000 miles (299,338 kilometers) of Earth when it made its closest approach on Saturday morning, which is close enough to pass between the planet and the orbit of the moon. The average distance between the Earth and moon is about 238,855 miles (384,400 km).

The asteroid is about 25 feet (7.6 meters) wide, according to NASA's Asteroid Watch project based at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. It made its closest approach to Earth at 4:13 a.m. EDT (0813 GMT).

WATCH: Asteroid the size of a bus hurtles past Earth.

Saturday's close shave by asteroid 2014 HL129 came just days after its discovery on Wednesday, April 28, by astronomers with the Mt. Lemmon Survey team, according to an alert by the Minor Planet Center, an arm of the International Astronomical Union that chronicles asteroid discoveries. The Mt. Lemmon Survey team scans the night sky with a telescope at the Steward Observatory atop Mt. Lemmon in Arizona's Catalina Mountains.

NASA scientists and researchers around the world constantly monitor the sky for potentially dangerous asteroids that could pose a risk of impacting the Earth. - SPACE.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Global Food Crisis - Killer Virus Spreads Unchecked Through The United States Hog Belt, Pushing Pork To Record Prices As Concerns Grow In Europe Over Threat From Deadly Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea Virus!

May 03, 2014 - GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS - John Goihl, a hog nutritionist in Shakopee, Minnesota, knows a farmer in his state who lost 7,500 piglets just after they were born. In Sampson County, North Carolina, 12,000 of Henry Moore's piglets died in three weeks. Some 30,000 piglets perished at John Prestage's Oklahoma operation in the fall of 2013.

The virus has proved to be particularly deadly for young pigs

The killer stalking U.S. hog farms is known as PEDv, a malady that in less than a year has wiped out more than 10 percent of the nation's pig population and helped send retail pork prices to record highs. The highly contagious Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus is puzzling scientists searching for its origins and its cure and leaving farmers devastated in ways that go beyond financial losses.

"It's a real morale killer in a barn. People have to shovel pigs out instead of nursing them along," Goihl said.

Since June 2013 as many as 7 million pigs have died in the United States due to the virus, said Steve Meyer, president of Iowa-based Paragon Economics and consultant to the National Pork Board said. United States Department of Agriculture data showed the nation's hog herd at about 63 million as of March 1, 2014.

PEDv was first diagnosed in Ohio last May and has spread within a year to 30 states with no reliable cure in sight. U.S. packing plants may produce almost 2 percent less pork in 2014, according to Ken Mathews, USDA agricultural economist.

Last week the USDA responded to calls for more reliable data and classified PEDv as a reportable disease, a step that requires the pork industry to track its spread.

"It's a positive step that I wish they had taken last summer when it became obvious this was spreading rapidly," said Meyer.

Most farmers and researchers believe PEDv is transmitted from pig to pig by contact with pig manure.

"Something like a tablespoon of PEDv infected manure is roughly enough to infect the entire U.S. hog herd," said Rodney "Butch" Baker, swine biosecurity specialist at Iowa State University.

The National Pork Board has spent about $1.7 million researching the virus, which is nearly always fatal in pigs younger than 21 days. With pork prices at an all-time high of $3.83 a pound, the loss of baby pigs cuts into profits for hog farmers.

"If you have four weeks of mortality in a PEDv break, that's pretty devastating to the financial wellbeing of that operation," said Greg Boerboom, a Minnesota hog farmer.

"I think most producers are scared," Boerboom said. "They stay up at night."

PEDv does not pose a risk to human health and is not a food safety issue, the USDA says.


Months of forensic research so far have turned up no clear evidence of how the disease entered the United States.

The virus is nearly identical to one that infected pigs in China's Anhui province, according to a report published in the American Society of Microbiology journal mBio. Researchers also are exploring whether the widespread use of pig-blood byproducts in hog feed might have introduced the disease.

There have been outbreaks in recent years in Europe, Japan, Mexico and parts of South America, though in milder forms than seen in the U.S. and China.

The disease has taken root in Canada, too, where the pork industry is deeply integrated with U.S. pork production.


PEDv thrives in cold, damp environments, and after slowing last summer its spread accelerated during the past winter. In mid-December, there were over 1,500 cases but by mid-April, that had more than tripled to 5,790, according to USDA data.

Altogether, of nearly 15,000 samples tested for PEDv about 32 percent have been positive.

The virus "acts like a lawn mower" on the villi in a pig's intestines, which are the tiny projections that aid digestion, said Tony Forshey, chief of animal health at the Ohio Department of Agriculture. With their villi gone, the piglets cannot absorb nutrients from food or water, contract diarrhea and die from dehydration.

So far, no vaccine has been able to completely protect pigs from the disease. An Iowa company, Harrisvaccines Inc., has made some progress, while pharmaceutical giants Merck Animal Health and Zoetis Inc have joined with universities to begin vaccine development.

"There is no silver bullet for PEDv," said Justin Ellis, marketing manager at Alltech, which developed a feed additive designed to reduce risk of the disease.


The disease is spreading even as farmers and truckers impose stricter cleanliness measures across the so-called Hog Belt, which stretches across most of the U.S. Midwest and Plains States and extends south to North Carolina, the nation's No. 2 hog producer. Iowa ranks first.

"It's a complete lifestyle change," said Iowa State's Baker. "In the past the truckers haven't thought of biosecurity much."

Some hog farmers prohibit outside visitors. Others require workers to change clothes when entering and leaving barns. Truck drivers wipe down the step into their cabs, disinfect their steering wheels and change boots or wear disposable booties before entering farm yards.

The industry wants truck washes to use fresh water instead of recycled, since PEDv can live in room temperature water for up to 13 days, a University of Minnesota study said.

"The only truck I regularly allow on site is the feed truck and last November I told the driver not to get out of the truck," said Bill Tentinger, an Iowa farmer who so far has kept PEDv at bay.

The extra washing, drying and disinfecting can consume at least two hours and cost up to $500 per load, industry sources said.


Bright yellow signs marked "PED" are popping up outside North Carolina farms warning the virus is present. One-third of North Carolina's 3,000 hog farms have been struck by PEDv since the first diagnosed case there in June 2013, the state says.

So many piglets have died that Tom Butler, a farmer who fattens hogs for market in southeastern Harnett County, is having difficulty finding animals. His herd is down 25 percent to 6,000 pigs, costing him more than $100,000.

"We were spiraling downhill for a while but I think we've leveled off," Butler said. "The industry is learning to cope." - Yahoo.

Concerns Grow In Europe Over Threat From Deadly Pig Virus
France is expected to suspend pig-related imports from a number of countries as worries grow over the spread of a deadly swine virus.

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea Virus (PEDv) has killed some seven million piglets in the US in the past year.

The disease has also been found in Canada, Mexico and Japan.

While the virus isn't harmful to humans or food, France is concerned over the potential economic impact and is set to suspend imports of live pigs and sperm.

PEDv is spread in faecal matter and attacks the guts of pigs, preventing them from absorbing liquids and nutrients.

Older animals can survive but fatality rates among piglets run between 80% and 100%.

So virulent is the agent that one expert estimated that a spoonful of infected manure would be enough to sicken the entire US herd.

The disease is believed to have its origins in China, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

"According to the information from genetic analyses, there is some similarity with a strain from Asia," director-general Dr Bernard Vallat told BBC News.

"But the evidence of the crossing from Asia to the US is not yet established. For the moment it is not possible to make a final conclusion on the formal link, it is a suspicion."

In North America, the disease has moved rapidly, with around 4,000 outbreaks in 30 US states, in four Canadian provinces and in parts of Mexico. Virus on the move

Experts in the field believe that lax biosecurity is an important factor.

In June last year, a US study found that 17% of trucks going into a slaughterhouse were positive for the infection.

"They also discovered that 11% of the trucks that had been negative when they went into the slaughterhouse were subsequently positive when they left," said Dr Zoe Davies from the UK's National Pig Association (NPA).

"It's how many animals you are moving around, that's how its being spread."

Another factor that is making the disease more difficult to stop is the use of dried pig blood in feedstuffs that are given to weaned piglets.

China has seen a number of outbreaks of deadly pig diseases in recent years
and it is believed that PEDv originated there

"The feed is suspected," said Dr Bernard Vallat from OIE.

"Blood from slaughterhouses with insufficient heat treatment is suspected to be the origin. We don't have a scientific publication on that but it is highly suspected," he said.

The French move to suspend the importing of live pigs, some by-products and pig sperm is being seen as a reaction to the lack of action at EU level.

In the UK, the NPA says it has already secured support from all major importers to restrict pigs from infected countries. It says that more than 92% of pigs reared in the UK are not fed on blood products.

However the use of these feeds is more widely used in other EU countries, where movement of animals is also widespread.

There are concerns that if the virus was to gain a foothold in Europe it could lead to huge economic losses especially for breeders in Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany.

While the issue has been discussed by the EU Commission, there has been no agreement yet to restrict imports.

According to agency reports, French government officials say their suspension has been made while "waiting for a European decision".

PEDv was first diagnosed in the UK in 1971 but that strain was a milder form and pigs quickly adapted to it and became immune.

However the fact that European pigs have a history of exposure to a related virus may give some hope of protection, according to Dr Vallat.

"It circulated before in Europe but it was a different strain. If there is some remaining circulating virus there is a possibility that animals would be protected - but it is not sure."

This perspective though is challenged by Dr Zoe Davies who says that Europe is now highly vulnerable to the infection.

"Everyone seems to think that because we've had versions of PEDv in the past we will have some immunity to this new strain and we know categorically that this is not the case."

"We've tested our own herds and we think around 10% of the animals have antibodies to the older strains, we are effectively a naive herd, which is why we are worried."

In the US, pig prices have risen considerably as a result of the losses to the virus while demand for pork shows no sign of abating. According to pig producers in the US, the industry is in for a strong financial year.

"One of the consequences of the problem, the restriction of the products in the market, mean perhaps prices could grow," said Dr Vallat.

"For the non-infected herds it is good news." - BBC.

FIRE IN THE SKY: "Never Seen Anything Like It" - Massive Meteor Sighted Over New Zealand!

May 03, 2014 - NEW ZEALAND - New Zealanders are reporting sightings of a "massive" meteor seen in the skies over the country last night.

File photo.

Edward Ennis, of Christchurch, said he saw a "massive meteor burn up in the sky" from his home in Spreydon about 7.55pm.

"Never seen anything like it," he said. "Amazing."

Vice president of the Canterbury Astronomical Society Adrian Kelly said he was holding an open night at the organisation's observatory when a "sizable fragmented fireball" was seen.

He said the meteor was probably a couple of metres in diameter and had broken up in the earth's atmosphere causing the dramatic image seen across the country.

"It's not often you see them break up. You need to be in the right place at the right time."

He said May was a good time to see a meteor but you still had to be lucky to catch a glimpse of them let alone a photograph.

"They are incredibly fleeting things."

Sharon Boland said she also saw it from West Melton.

Another witness commented online that they had seen a "bright light with tail on it" about 8pm over Lower Hutt.

Others described it as "a large white shooting star, heading south-ish, with a firework-like tail" and a "bright flash in sky proceeded by [a] falling fireball, shattering into small pieces".

Tony Smith from Parklands in Christchurch told reporters he first thought it was a shooting star.

"It then turned into a fireball. I said to my partner, 'I just saw a meteor'. She thought I was crazy," he said.

Leigh Hindry reported seeing a "very bright" light from Waikanae shortly before 8pm.

A motorist driving up Hills Rd in Christchurch last night said it was "an amazing green, like Superman Kryptonite green". - Stuff.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: "Ice Tsunami" Hits Lake Superior Community - Wind Pushes 8-FOOT High Ice Slab Ashore On Keweenaw Peninsula, Damaging Properties!

May 03, 2014 - LAKE SUPERIOR, NORTH AMERICA - Strong winds on Lake Superior this week slowly edged an 8-foot mass of ice against outhouses and homes on the Keweenaw Peninsula, an event that meteorologists say is rare for the area.

Strong winds on Lake Superior pushed a mass of ice against homes and outhouses in
the Keweenaw Peninsula along Big Traverse Bay on Monday, April 28.
National Weather Service

Dave Petrovich, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Negaunee Township, said outbuildings and other structures along Big Traverse Bay were damaged Monday, April 28, when easterly winds stronger than 27 mph pushed the ice mass to shore.

"It was moving this mass of ice westward, not very fast mind you, but inexorably when it got to the eastern shores," Petrovich said. "The ice itself was not like the thick ice skating rink ice that you would imagine on a lake."

WATCH: "Ice Tsunami" hits Lake Superior community.

Petrovich said the slow and steady ice formation called ice shelving isn't unheard of - there have been other recent formations in Gladstone that moved into a city park, he said - but it is rare for Lake Superior, which was still about over 60 percent covered when the ice mass formed.

"They happen quite regularly when the conditions are like this," Petrovich said. "In recent history we've not had as much ice."  - MLive.

ICE AGE NOW: Weather Anomalies - Unexpected Snowfall Destroys 2,000 Hectares Of Crops In Adjara, Turkey!

May 03, 2014 - TURKEY - Most of the perennial crops grown on 2000 hectares (5,140 acres) died due to snowfall, said correspondent Levan Bolkvadze.

"As a result of an unexpected snowfall, which hit the mountainous regions of Adjara on April 22 affected 200 hectares of vineyards, 650 hectares of walnut (of which 120 grow large varieties), as well as 600 hectares and 650 hectares of persimmon stone fruits (tkemali,)" said Bolkvadze.

According to Bolkvadze, 70 percent of those vineyards under the snow will not yield this year, walnuts will give only 20 % of the expected yield, and the persimmon do not even ripen - the trees are just green leaves.
Adjara is an autonomous republic in the southwestern corner of Georgia, bordered by Turkey to the south and the eastern end of the Black Sea.

The hectare is defined as 10,000 square metres (100 m by 100 m). An acre is about 0.4047 hectare and one hectare contains about 2.47 acres.
Thanks to Argiris Diamantis for this link.

- Ice Age Now.

DISASTER PRECURSORS: Is Something Monumental Stirring Down Below - Rare Deep Water Goblin Shark Caught Off Key West, Florida?!

May 03, 2014 - FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - Shrimp fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico have caught a goblin shark - a species so rare that one has not been seen for 10 years.

Prehistoric-looking pink shark caught in Florida has only been seen a handful of times
Carl Moore/courtesy of NOAA

The 18ft-long pink predator was caught in a shrimp net off Key West, Florida.

The crew were shocked to find the prehistoric-looking shark thrashing around with the rest of the haul.

It has a long snout hiding racks of sharp teeth and is often called a "living fossil".

Thought to swim in the deep water of Japan and the Gulf, it is only the second known sighting in the area.

"I didn't even know what it was," said Carl Moore, a fisherman. "I didn't get the tape measure out because that thing's got some wicked teeth. They could do some damage.

"My three-year-old grandson just loves sharks, so I've been taking pictures of every one we find. When I showed him this one he said, 'Wow, Pappa!'"

Much to the disappointment of scientists, Mr Moore decided to snap a quick photo of the shark with his mobile then release it back into the water.

Scientists know so little about the shark that they cannot even determine how old or how big it gets.

Researchers, using his photographs, have guessed that the shark was a female and at least 18 feet long.

However, previous estimates had been much smaller than the size of the one caught by Mr Moore. It is thought that deep underwater the colour red appears black making the shark appear almost invisible to predators and prey.

Its snout contains electrical sensors so it can find prey even when it cannot see or hear.

They eat fish, including other sharks and rays, as well as crabs, shrimps and other small organisms.

Mr Moore caught the creature on April 19 but only reported the catch to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Friday.

David Schiffman, a marine biologist at the University of Miami, did not believe that a goblin shark would ever be found in the Gulf.

"At first I wasn't sure if it was even possible for this to happen," he said.

"But then, when the photos came through, it is undeniably a goblin shark."  - Telegraph.