Friday, May 23, 2014

FIRE IN THE SKY: May Camelopardalids - A Once-In-A-Lifetime Meteor Shower May Be On Its Way! [INFOGRAPHICS]

May 23, 2014 - SPACE - Skywatchers in North America may be in for a once-in-a-lifetime meteor shower this weekend if the May Camelopardalis light up the night sky early Saturday morning.

It's been 10 years since astronmer Peter Jenniskens predicted the event, which could produce as many as 200 meteors per hour. Or not.

As my colleage Deborah Netburn explained, the May Camelopardalis could happen as Earth moves into a debris field left by a small comet named 209P/LINEAR. But nothing is certain. The cloud of comet dust may turn out to be too small, or too sparse, to put on a show.

"That is the big mystery," Jenniskens told the Los Angeles Times.

Even if all goes well, the meteor shower isn't likely to be repeated. That's because Jupiter's gravity will have pulled the debris out of our way by the time Earth reaches this spot next year. - LA Times.

EARTH CHANGES: Monumental Signs Of The Times - Massive Bank Of Fog Passes Over Lake Michigan; More Than Half Of Kansas In Drought Emergency; "Tornado-Like Storm" Kills Two In Cambodia; Coldest Year On Record In Maryland So Far – 12C Colder Than 1921; The Shard, Western Europe's Tallest Building Hit By Lightning Storm; Geomagnetic Storms May Influence Risk Of Stroke; South Sudan Facing "WORST-EVER" Famine; And Three Die In French Storms, Second Highest Warning Issued!

May 23, 2014 - EARTH - The following stories constitutes some of the latest incidents of Earth changes across the globe.

Massive Bank Of Fog Passes Over Lake Michigan

Andrew Ballard and his father were fishing at Platte Bay, Lake Michigan, when they noticed some clouds in the distance.

As the Ballards watched, the clouds came closer, and lower to the water. Despite their misgivings, curiosity got the better of them, and they hung around to see what would happen.

As the fog rolled in, the winds picked up and the temperature dropped significantly, but not before Andrew got this great footage of the phenomenon.

WATCH: Huge fog bank over Lake Michigan.


  - Telegraph.

More Than Half Of Kansas In Drought Emergency

Drought conditions are continuing to worsen in Kansas despite recent rain, prompting Gov. Sam Brownback to declare half the state in a drought emergency.

All 105 counties are now under some type of drought status.

Brownback issued an updated declaration Wednesday putting 56 counties in the most serious emergency category. Twenty-six have been placed under warning status, and 23 in a watch status.

The emergency designation makes counties eligible for use of water from certain lakes.

Brownback said in a news release Kansans need to know that no matter where they live in the state, the drought is not over. He says some areas have been in drought for almost five years. The lack of precipitation is depleting soil moisture, drawing down reservoir levels and slowing stream flows. - KMBC.

"Tornado-Like Storm" Kills Two In Cambodia
Villagers inspect a concrete pillar yesterday that toppled over during a storm and killed two in
Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district.
PVireak Mai

A mother and child were killed on Tuesday in what Russey Keo district residents described as a tornado-like storm that stripped off roofs, split trees and swept chairs and baby chicks into the skies.

According to villagers, the unprecedented weather started with clouds thickening and turning darker than the muddy river. The winds gathered speed and formed a long, rotating vortex that pummelled their homes for more than an hour.

Mot Saly, 30, was securing his property while his mother-in-law took his 6-month-old daughter to a neighbouring village. His wife, 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son were huddled inside the house when he said he saw the storm's funnel rip his home from its stilts and drop it back down as a collapsed pile of wood.

"When I took my wife's and my daughter's bodies out, I saw my son was unconscious in a ditch with wood from the house covering him. At first I thought maybe he was dead as well. But after I pulled him from the ditch I could feel him breathing and saw blood pouring from his head," Saly said.

He buried his wife and daughter at the Prek Rang village mosque yesterday, while his neighbours rebuilt their homes.

"I've never seen a storm like that before," said Reung Sarin, 35, whose sheet metal roof was torn off by the storm. "When the wind started we went into the house together. But after it blew away our wall and roof we rushed outside, afraid it would take the whole building," he said.

Sarin's roof, which yesterday consisted of motley cardboard pieces, plastic and partially repaired tin sheets, will cost him more than $400 to replace. But he said he counts himself lucky: The storm lost speed by touching down on his neighbour's trees before ramming into his house.

Down the street from Sarin, Eim Soeun, 49, said she was making soup in her makeshift outdoor kitchen when she was stunned by the storm.

"We've had floods, we've had rain, we've had winds, but we've never had a storm that destroyed like that," she said.

The National Committee of Disaster Management (NCDM) could not confirm yesterday whether the incident was a tornado. Tornadoes have been recorded infrequently in Cambodia, with one in 1998, one in 2000 and two in 2006.

The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology could not be reached, but earlier this year, it warned that increasing hot spells due in part to climate change will result in low air pressure, which can cause more storms, lightning and tornadoes.

Keo Vy, NCDM spokesman, told the Post last week that in the first four months of this year, severe weather, not including lightning strikes, has killed two people. - PPP.

Coldest Year On Record In Maryland So Far – 12C Colder Than 1921

My local weather station (like most of the US) is having its coldest year on record so far, and is an astonishing 12ºC colder than 1921.  - Steven Goddard / Real Science.

 The Shard, Western Europe's Tallest Building Hit By Lightning Storm
Lightning hit The Shard in central London during a storm on May 22 MICHAEL HOLSKINSON

Witnesses saw a single bolt of lightning hitting the top of the Shard during a torrential downpour. Occupants were unaffected due to its lightning protection system.

A huge bolt of lightning directly hit The Shard during a sudden downpour in central London.

Photographs taken from across the Thames showed a single bolt hitting the top of the skyscraper during a torrential downpour on Thursday.

One writing on Twitter said the spectacle was "like something out of a movie". 

WATCH: London's Shard struck by lightning.


Another said: "It was like something out of a science fiction movie. Because the Shard is all glass, it looked like the tip of the tower was fusing with the sky, and going all molten."

Occupants of the Shard were unaffected, due to its lightning protection system.

Standing at 310m (1,016ft), the Shard is western Europe's tallest building and is located next to London Bridge station.

Many people saw the lighter side of the storm and parody pictures of a lightning-fingered Boris Johnson and the Shard as Sauron's tower in Lord of the Rings quickly appeared.

The storm caused havoc in the capital, sending people scuttling for cover and flooding some train stations with torrential rain.

The rain storm which came with the lightning also caused travel disruption, with Transport for London workers sweeping floodwater from nearby Farringdon station.

Cable car services on the Emirates Airline were briefly suspended and trees were reported to be blocking railway lines at Mortlake, Tolworth and Cheam in south London.  - Telegraph.

Geomagnetic Storms May Influence Risk Of Stroke

More strokes happen when geomagnetic storms are afoot, according to a new review of stroke literature - although it’s not clear what protective measures anyone could take, researchers said.  Geomagnetic storms happen when the Earth’s magnetic field is disturbed by solar winds or coronal mass ejections, which throw out powerful magnetic fields from the sun.  Among more than 11,000 people who had a stroke, the event was almost 20 percent more likely to happen on days with geomagnetic storms, researchers in New Zealand found.  “The results were a big surprise to us,” said lead author Dr. Valery L. Feigin of the National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences at the School of Rehabilitation and Occupation Studies at Auckland University of Technology.      

“What we were particularly surprised with was the size and consistency of the effect of geomagnetic storms on the risk of stroke occurrence, suggesting that geomagnetic storms are significant risk factors for stroke,” Feigin told Reuters Health by email.  The storms can last hours to days, and when strong enough can disrupt satellites and push the aurora borealis much further south than usual, as happened this winter over the United Kingdom.  The electromagnetic upheaval also makes magnetic compasses behave erratically and in 1989, a geomagnetic storm disrupted the Quebec power grid, causing a blackout in the province that lasted nine hours.  Researchers aren’t sure, however, why the storms would be linked to stroke risk.  The review cites six large stroke studies including a total of more than 11,000 patients that took place between 1981 and 2004 in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.  Feigin and his colleagues considered the dates of each participant’s first stroke alongside a record of geomagnetic activity from the same time period from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  For each incident of stroke, researchers compared geomagnetic activity that day with activity on eight other days when the patient did not have a stroke. 

According to their results, which are published in the journal Stroke, geomagnetic storms were 19 percent more likely to occur on geomagnetic storm days than on other days.  That is a fairly significant increase in risk, Feigin said, comparing it to the stroke risk associated with taking hormone replacement therapy.  On average, people suffered strokes around age 70, but the connection to geomagnetic storms was stronger for people under age 65.  Over the course of the study, geomagnetic activity didn’t change much from year to year, but it was calmest from 1996 to 1998, which was the period of solar minima in the sun’s 11-year activity cycle, when solar flares and sunspots are least common.  Feigin pointed out that 2014 is a “solar maximum” year.  “There is preliminary evidence suggesting effects of geomagnetic storms on blood pressure increase, variations of heart rhythm and blood clotting abilities, all of which are known risk factors for stroke,” Feigin said, although that’s mostly conjecture at this point.

Earth’s magnetic field differs depending on where you are on the planet, but geomagnetic storms influence the whole magnetic field, and based on this review they seem to affect stroke risk in Europe and Australasia in the same way, he said.  “It’s a fascinating idea, at least on that level,” said Dr. James Brorson, an expert in the evaluation and treatment of stroke in the University of Chicago department of neurology. “I wasn’t aware that this was even postulated.”  A 19 percent increase in stroke risk is enough to make one sit up and take notice, but not as large as the risk increase due to smoking or high blood pressure, he said.  “The idea that geomagnetic storms influence whether or not we have a stroke almost seems like magical thinking,” he said, and it’s certainly too early for people to change their behavior based on the storms.  “Any patient of mine, I would counsel them to by no means worry about this,” Brorson told Reuters Health by phone. “It remains to be seen whether this holds up.”  Besides, he said, geomagnetic storms are not usually very predictable, and even if they were, there’s really nothing anyone can do to avoid them. The Earth’s magnetic field is everywhere, indoors and out.  Although the authors of the review suggest that people at risk for stroke could take extra precautions in magnetically turbulent times, like avoiding stress, excessive alcohol and dehydration, those are measures people should be taking all the time anyway, Brorson said.  “I don’t think that there’s practical significance now, but it’s very fascinating,” he said. - Reuters.

South Sudan Facing "WORST-EVER" Famine
South Sudan is facing the threat of a famine on a bigger scale than that seen in Ethiopia in the 1980s, aid agencies have warned.

An acute shortage of food is threatening the lives of millions, at the same time as the country is mired in a civil war between government forces and armed rebels.

WATCH: South Sudan 'facing worst-ever famine'.

The conflict has sparked widespread ethnic violence between the country's largest tribal groups, the Dinka and the Nuer, and has led to more than one million fleeing their homes.

Stephen Sackur reports from Juba. - BBC.

Three Die In French Storms, Second Highest Warning Issued
France's national rail company SNCF workers clear off tracks from branches fallen from trees,
files July 2013 Nicolas Tucat/AFP

Stormy weather, violent winds and strong rains in southern parts of France, on Wednesday and overnight, have left three people dead and at least 28.000 homes without power.

In the south-western Midi-Pyrénées region winds reached 120 km/h and violent storms on Wednesday caused the death of two people.

A passenger in a camper van was killed - near Bozouls, Aveyron - when a branch from a tree crashed through the windscreen.

In the Tarn area, an 84 year-old woman driver died when her car - pushed by a gust of wind - collided with a lorry coming in the opposite direction.

In the Dordogne near Bordeaux, another woman died in the storms when the roof of her barn collapsed.

Weather forecasts issued an alert for about 30 French areas on Wednesday and still recorded inland gusts of wind up to 124km/h on Thursday  morning. - RFI.

Regions across north and western France are placed on orange alert - the second highest weather warning
- as storms are predicted to last until the end of the week.

Twenty-nine regions in northern and western France are put on orange flood alert on Wednesday, says France Meteo, the French national meteorological service.

Storms are currently hitting the western region of Gironde, as well as the neighboring western region of Poitou-Charente and will intensify throughout Wednesday afternoon as they pass through several regions which are on alert, say the meteorological service.

Finistere, a region in the extreme west of Brittany, in the northwest of France, has been placed under red alert.

Excessive rain, high winds and storms are expected to last until the end of the week, says France Meteo. - World Bulletin.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: MERS Contagion - Sixteen People Being Monitored For Deadly Camel Virus MERS In LA County; Two Filipinos Die Of MERS Virus In The Middle East; Global MERS Death Toll Passes 200 Mark!

May 23, 2014 - HEALTH - The following constitutes the latest update on the MERS virus, as it continues to spread across the globe.

Sixteen People Being Monitored For Deadly Camel Virus MERS In LA County
Mystery: Scientists still have no idea how people are getting infected with MERS.

Sixteen people in LA County are being monitored by doctors after fears they may have been exposed to the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS.

They all shared a flight with a man being treated for the disease in Florida, said CBS Los Angeles quoting the California Department of Public Health.

The disease emerged two years ago in Saudi Arabia and like its cousin, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), causes coughing, fever and sometimes fatal pneumonia.

More than 650 people worldwide have been infected with it, and MERS is reaching new victims every day in the Saudi kingdom, killing around 30 per cent of them.

Scientists say what stands out about the MERS virus is just how little the world knows about it, even though for almost two years it has been viewed as one of the top potential pandemic threats by a global network of specialists who keep tabs on all emerging viruses.

So far, much evidence points to camels as a possible infection source - with the virus staging a so-called zoonotic event by jumping from animals to people.

Animal origin: Evidence points to camels as a possible infection source.

But scientists still have no idea how people are getting infected, whether by eating camel meat, or drinking the milk, touching blood or other body fluids, or simply being nearby when they cough or sneeze.

There is also no good data on how many people may be catching the virus but showing no or few symptoms, or how to successfully treat patients who get sick with MERS.

'There is so much missing in our knowledge of this infection after 20 months - whether it be the epidemiology, the transmission routes, the virology, or behavioural change,' said Jeremy Farrar, an infectious disease specialist and director of the Wellcome Trust international charity. - Daily Mail.

Two Filipinos Die Of MERS Virus In The Middle East

The Philippines said Thursday that two of its citizens working in Saudi Arabia have died from the MERS coronavirus.

Foreign Department spokesman Charles Jose said their relatives have been informed and efforts were being made to bring the bodies home.

“Our consul general in Jeddah confirmed that there were two Filipinos who died of MERS,” he told AFP.

“The consulate is helping to repatriate their remains,” he said, adding that the deaths were recorded on May 12 and 18.

The identities of the two, as well as other details, were not revealed to protect their relatives’ privacy.

Thousands of Filipinos work in the Middle East, while it is estimated as many as 10 million work overseas to escape widespread poverty at home.

MERS or the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome is considered a deadlier but less transmittable cousin of the SARS virus that appeared in Asia in 2003.

It infected more than 8,000 people, and had a fatality rate of nine percent.

Health authorities in Saudi Arabia this week reported new deaths from the MERS coronavirus, taking the death toll to 173. It has been the worst affected by the outbreak with a total of 537 people infected.

Other nations including Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates and the United States have also recorded cases, mostly in people who had recently returned from travel in the desert kingdom.

The Filipinos’ deaths came as the Philippines has been stepping up its defence against the virus by screening all those coming from the Middle East at ports of entry.

Last month, it quarantined a male Filipino nurse who had tested positive for the virus.  - Medical Observer.

Global MERS Death Toll Passes 200 Mark
In this photo taken May 13, 2014, a Muslim pilgrim wears a surgical mask to prevent infection from MERS coronavirus in
the holy city of Makkah. The global death toll from MERS has surpassed the 200-mark, including 177 in Saudi Arabia.

The world’s total death toll from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus has passed the 200-mark and is still going up.

As of Thursday, the cumulative global number of MERS infections since September 2012 was 661, of which 205 patients have died, data compiled from reports of the Saudi Health Ministry and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control showed.

Saudi Arabia bore the brunt of the outbreak, with the Health Ministry’s count on May 23, 2014 standing at 551 cases, including 177 deaths.

A statement posted by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control on its website on Thursday said that as of May 20, the cumulative number of infections in all countries other than Saudi Arabia stood at 110, with 28 deaths.

Topping the list was the United Arab Emirates with 67 cases and 9 deaths, followed by Jordan with 9 cases and 4 deaths, and Qatar with 7 cases and 4 deaths.

Rounding up the Middle East countries with MERS cases were Oman had 2 cases, 2 deaths; Kuwait, 3 cases/1 death; Egypt: 1 case/0 deaths; Yemen: 1 case/1 death and Lebanon: 1 case/0 deaths.

In Europe, UK led with 4 cases/3 deaths, followed by Germany: 2 cases/1 death; France, 2 cases/1 death; Italy, 1 case/0 deaths; Greece, 1 case/0 deaths; and the Netherlands, 2 cases/0 deaths.

Africa had 3 cases/1 death, all in Tunisia.

The Americas had two cases, all in the United States.

In Asia, Malaysia reported 1 death and Philippines had 1 infection.

While the Philippines had only one case of infection, a number of Filipino workers in the Middle East were reported to have been among the victims, including two nurses who have died in Saudi Arabia and one in the United Arab Emirates.  - Riyadh Vision.

INFRASTRUCTURE & SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: Deadly Donetsk Region Checkpoint Attack - 16 Ukraine Soldiers Killed!

May 23, 2014 - UKRAINE - 16 Ukrainian troops were killed and over 30 injured in an attack on a military checkpoint in Donetsk Region.

Screenshot from

The deadliest assault on the army since Kiev launched its military operation in the south-east of the country comes a few days ahead of election.

The checkpoint on the edge of Blagodatnoe village, near the town of Volnovakha, was assaulted on Thursday night.

Eyewitnesses told Russian Chanel One that the attackers arrived in transit vans, with armored vehicles and combat helicopters providing cover for them.

The gunmen set fire to the military’s armored vehicles and began shooting at the rookie soldiers, who had their encampment near the checkpoint.

Ukrainian soldiers block traffic near the site (seen in background) where pro-Russian rebels killed thirteen
Ukrainian servicemen on the outskirts of the eastern Ukrainian town of Volnovakha,
south of Donetsk May 22, 2014.(Reuters / Yannis Behrakis )

One of the shells hit an ammunition depot, which resulted in a massive explosion that saw dozens injured, Channel One reports.

The video, which allegedly captures the events in Blagodatnoe, emerged on the internet on Thursday.

WATCH:  Two combat helicopters heavily, shelling an area covered by trees, and a huge explosion are seen in the footage.


WATCH:  Another clip from the scene shows the aftermath of the battle, with two burning armored vehicles and dead bodies on the ground.


The Donetsk Regional Administration said that 16 soldiers died and 32 received injuries in the attack on the checkpoint.

The self-defense forces of the People Republic of Donetsk said that the attack on the army’s checkpoint was a reprisal raid by the radicals.

“The Blagodatnoe residents came out to defend their homes. The soldiers were ordered to crush the resistance. But they refused to shoot at people, and were, eventually, punished for that,” the source in the self-defense forces told LifeNews.

WATCH: This eight-minute video on YouTube was shot near the town of Volnovakha in Ukraine’s Donetsk Region, according to the description. It shows a group of armed uniformed men with Ukrainian army insignia and at least two others in civilian clothes taking cover behind a military truck. .


The witnesses told the channel that the transit vans, which the attackers used for transportation, belonged to the Privat-Bank, which is owned by oligarch Igor Kolomoisky.

Kolomoisky bankrolled the Ukrainian coup in February and largely contributed to the creation of the National Guard, which helped legitimize the far-right militants among the Maidan protestors.

The newly-appointed Dnepropetrovsk Region governor is also blamed for masterminding the Odessa tragedy on May 2 when 48 anti-Kiev protestors died after radicals set fire to the local Trade Unions House.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has confirmed that there was a battle at Blagodatnoe village, but spoke only of eight casualties among its troops.

An ambulance carrying dead Ukrainian soldiers travels off the site (seen in background) where pro-Russian rebels
killed thirteen Ukrainian servicemen on the outskirts of the eastern Ukrainian town of Volnovakha,
south of Donetsk, May 22, 2014.(Reuters / Yannis Behrakis )

AP journalists, who visited the checkpoint, said they saw 11 bodies scattered around the site of the battle, with a witness speaking of around 30 injured, some of them in grave condition.

A surviving Ukrainian soldier told the agency that the attack was “horrible” and he has lost three of his friends in it.

“My daughter told me that war has begun there and I came to help,” one of the locals told AP. “I was providing all possible assistance since 5-00 AM. I was transporting the injured. I did all I could.”

However, the agency reports that it was the self-defense forces of the People’s Republic of Donetsk, behind the assault.

WATCH:  Violence flares in eastern Ukraine, 16 government soldiers killed.


The agency reports that a group of anti-Kiev rebels in the town of Horlovka later claimed responsibility for the raid and displayed weapons, which were seized during the operation.

"We destroyed a checkpoint of the fascist Ukrainian army deployed on the land of the Donetsk Republic,'' the unit’s commander, who wore a balaclava, said.

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian army major, who spoke to the survivors of the attack, told the BBC on condition of anonymity that he was sure that the attackers weren’t from the Donetsk self-defense forces, but were “mercenaries.”

Ukrainian soldiers survey an area where pro-Russian rebels killed thirteen Ukrainian servicemen on the outskirts
of the eastern Ukrainian town of Volnovakha, south of Donetsk May 22, 2014.(Reuters / Yannis Behrakis )

Also on Thursday night, Kiev forces continued shelling the outskirts of the besieged town of Slavyansk in the Donetsk region.

The artillery fire injured three people and destroyed several houses, the local self-defense forces said.

A bridge was blown up near the town of Lisichyansk in the neighboring Lugansk Region as the military engaged the anti-Kiev activists.

A soldier was killed and two others injured in the battle, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said, with the self-defense forces also speaking of several wounded on their side.

The Border Guard said that five of its troops were injured and one suffered a concussion in a gunfight at the service’s Stanchino-Luganskoe department, RIA-Novosti reports.

Kiev is pulling in more troops on into south-east of the country in anticipation of the presidential election on Sunday.

“According to our data, there’s currently around 6,000 [Kiev troops in the Lugansk Region], and their number has increased in recent days,” Valery Bolotov, the head of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Lugansk, said.

Lugansk and Donetsk regions have refused to recognize Kiev’s coup-imposed authorities, and staged referendums on May 11, which garnered landslide support for independence from Kiev. - RT.