Thursday, June 5, 2014

MASS SEA STAR DIE-OFF: The "Unprecedented" Sea Star Disease Epidemic On The Oregon Coast - Of Such Historic Magnitude, That It Threatens To Decimate The State's Entire Population Of Purple Ochre Sea Stars!

June 05, 2014 - OREGON COAST, UNITED STATES -  Just in the past two weeks, the incidence of sea star wasting syndrome has exploded along the Oregon coast and created an epidemic of historic magnitude, one that threatens to decimate Oregon's entire population of purple ochre sea stars, experts said Wednesday.

A sea star with wasting

Prior to this, Oregon had been the only part of the West Coast that had been largely spared this devastating disease.

The ochre sea star, which is the species most heavily affected by the disease in the intertidal zone, may be headed toward localized extinction in Oregon, according to researchers at Oregon State University who have been monitoring the outbreak.

As a "keystone" predator, its loss could disrupt the entire marine intertidal ecosystem.

Researchers say this is the first time that die-offs of sea stars, more commonly known as starfish, have ever been identified at one time along such a wide expanse of the West Coast, and the sudden increase in Oregon has been extraordinary.

The best information is from the intertidal zone, which is easier to access for monitoring. In this area, less than 1 percent of the ochre sea stars in Oregon were affected in April, and only slightly more than that by mid-May.

Today, an estimated 30-50 percent of the Oregon populations of this sea star species in the intertidal zone have the disease.

The highest losses are at Fogarty Creek, where about 60 percent are affected. Researchers project that the epidemic will intensify and, at some sites, nearly 100 percent of the ochre sea stars could die.

"This is an unprecedented event," said Bruce Menge, the Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology in the Department of Integrative Biology of the OSU College of Science. "We've never seen anything of this magnitude before."

"We have no clue what's causing this epidemic, how severe the damage might be or how long that damage might last," he said. "It's very serious. Some of the sea stars most heavily affected are keystone predators that influence the whole diversity of life in the intertidal zone."

Colleagues from the Oregon Coast Aquarium are monitoring subtidal sites in Yaquina Bay, where wasting was first observed in April. Photos and video of that work are available at

Altogether, mortality has been documented in 10 species of sea stars on the West Coast. No definitive cause has yet been identified, and it could include bacterial or viral pathogens. Researchers around the nation are working on the issue. More information, including an interactive map of all observations, and opportunities for interested citizens to participate in the observation effort are available online at

Sea star wasting syndrome is a traumatic process in which, over the course of a week or less, the sea stars begin to lose legs, disintegrate, ultimately die and rot. They sometimes physically tear their bodies apart. Various epidemics of the syndrome have been observed in the past, but none of this extent or severity.

In a healthy ecosystem, sea stars are beautiful, but also tenacious and important parts of the marine ecosystem. In particular, they attack mussels and keep their populations under control. Absent enough sea stars, mussel populations can explode, covering up algae and other small invertebrates. Some affected sea stars also eat sea urchins. This could lead to increased numbers of sea urchins that can overgraze kelp and sea grass beds, reducing habitat for other fish that use such areas for food and refuge.

WATCH: Sea star disease growing on Oregon Coast.

The very ecological concept of "keystone predators," in fact, originated from work in 1969 at the University of Washington using this same purple ochre sea star as a model.

"Parts of California, Washington, and British Columbia had already been affected by this outbreak of the wasting syndrome," said Kristen Milligan, program coordinator at OSU for the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans, or PISCO, which is a collaboration of OSU, the University of California/Santa Cruz, UC/Santa Barbara and Stanford University.

"It wasn't clear why those areas had been hit and Oregon had not," Milligan said. "We were hoping that Oregon's coast would be spared. Although it was hit late, we are obviously being hit hard by this potentially devastating syndrome."

A group of OSU undergraduate students have assisted in recent monitoring of the OSU outbreak, studying conditions at 10 sites from south of Cape Blanco to north of Depoe Bay. Researchers say this is one of the best documented outbreaks of marine disease ever undertaken in North America.

Besides OSU and PISCO, other collaborators in this Oregon initiative include the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center, Oregon Coast Watch, Haystack Rock Awareness Program in Cannon Beach, and the Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network. Oregon Sea Grant provides funding for volunteer surveys in the intertidal zone, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation provides support to PISCO.

In some past cases, ecosystems have recovered from severe losses of sea stars, but in others damage has been long-lasting.

In the past, some of the outbreaks were associated with warm-water conditions during El Nino events, but currently the water temperatures in Oregon "are only at the high end of a normal range," Menge said. - KTVZ

MONUMENTAL PARADIGM SHIFT: Precursors To The Collapse Of The Petrodollar And The United States Corporation - Russia And North Korea Switching To Trade In Rubles! UPDATE: Pivot East - Russia To Extend Trans-Eurasian Rail Project To Korea!

June 05, 2014 - RUSSIA/NORTH KOREA - Russia and North Korea have agreed to settlements in rubles in all trade between the two countries. North Korea has also agreed to ease the visa regime and activate mobile and internet services for Russian business executives.

RIA Novosti / Ramil Sitdikov

The move will help to support and simplify trade and business cooperation between the two countries, Russia's Far East Development Minister Alexander Galushka said in a statement Thursday.

“Settlements in rubles will begin starting from this month. Such an opportunity will emerge between Russia and the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] – the first accounts have already been opened at Russian banks,” said Galushka after a meeting between the two countries’ intergovernmental commission.

In return, North Korean authorities have said they will simplify visa requirements for Russian investors and employees of Russian companies in North Korea.

“The opportunity is emerging for Russian entrepreneurs and employees of Russian companies working in the DPRK to receive multiple-entry visas using the simplified procedure,” Galushka said.

“It means we can already say that considerable progress has been made in this crucial segment of our relations. It has become possible thanks to our joint work and the goodwill of the Korean side,” he added.

Galushko also said that trade between the two countries had increased to $500 million this year up from $112 million in 2013, and that he hopes it will go up to $1 billion.

Thursday’s announcement comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law an agreement that will write off much of Pyongyang’s Soviet-era loans on May 5.

The agreement, which has been ratified by all of Russia’s legislative chambers, will give a discount of 90 percent on the debt, which is in excess of $11 billion.

The remaining $1.09 billion must be paid in six-monthly repayments over a period of 20 years.

Political commentators in the west have interpreted Russia’s cozying up to North Korea as a result of the US and EU’s response to the crisis in Ukraine and part of a broader move by the Russian leadership to diversify its options in Asia and the Pacific and move away from over reliance on trade with the EU. - RT

UPDATE: Pivot East - Russia To Extend Trans-Eurasian Rail Project To Korea
A South Korean train passes over a cross-border railway bridge near the Demilitarized zone (DMZ) in Paju,
north of Seoul on August 21, 2009. (AFP Photo)
Russia will team up with North and South Korea in a railroad construction project that could restore peace between the two neighbors. The link will extend the world’s longest railroad, so goods can be shipped between Europe and Korea 3x faster.

Russia’s Minister for Far East Development Aleksander Galushka announced the plan to extend the Trans-Siberian Railroad at a meeting in Vladivostok on Thursday.

The expansion would provide a link between the Korean peninsula and Europe’s $17 trillion economy, making Russia a major transit route between Europe and Asia. Shipping by rail is nearly 3 times faster than via the Suez Canal, Russian Railways CEO Vladimir Bakunin has said.

“We have agreed to launch trilateral projects between Russia, DPRK and South Korea with a focus on the railroad project. It’s important to extend the Trans-Siberian Railroad to the Korean peninsula. It will serve to stabilize and improve the situation on the Korean peninsula as a whole,” Galushka said at the sixth annual Russian-Korean meeting on trade, economic, educational, and scientific cooperation.

Russian Railways has already started a direct rail service between Hamburg, Germany and Zhengzhou, China, a journey that only takes 15 days via Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, and Poland.

Up until now, North Korea has been very hesitant in letting in foreign partners to develop its aging and decrepit rail system.

Alexander Galushka, Minister for the Development of the Russian Far East (RIA Novosti/Alexey Filippov)

In September, Russia re-opened a 54 kilometer railway link that connects Khasan, the last Russian city before North Korea’s border to the North Korean port of Rajin.

The extension of the 9,000 kilometer railway to North and South Korea will be a big undertaking, especially in North Korea where enormous repairs are needed to revamp the dilapidated state of the railway. The poor state of roadbeds only allows trains to travel at speeds of 20 miles per hour, or not at all.

It has already been announced that Mechel, Russia’s biggest steelmaking company, will supply materials for the first stage of the project.

Another possible partner in the equation would be South Korea’s Hyundai Construction, which has already expressed eagerness to participate in any Trans-Eurasian rail projects.

Connecting the major commercial hubs of Moscow and St. Petersburg with industrial cities in Russia’s Far East, the Trans-Siberian Railway tracks already stretch across the Ural Mountains, Siberia, to Russia’s northern port cities, and connects to routes to Mongolia and China.

Travel by railway between North and South Korea has been completely closed since 1951, and remains closed today. For a brief stint in 2007-2009, a cross-border rail service operated.

Cooperation between the two Koreas on the railway could lead to compromise on a long-delayed plan to build gas pipelines and connect both Koreas with Russian gas.

Russia's pivot east

Since the West has reacted to Russia’s actions in Ukraine with economic sanctions, Russia has begun bolstering ties with eastern neighbors like China and North Korea.

In May, Russia's state-run Gazprom signed a 30-year gas deal with China valued at $400 billion.

Russia and North Korea also announced that trade between the two countries will now be settled in rubles.

The two countries have set a goal of reaching $1 billion in trade by 2020. In 2013, trade between the neighbors rose by 64.2 percent to reach $112.7 million, which Galushka said was “not enough”.

A Russian train has arrived for the opening ceremony of the railroad section from Khasan station in
Primorye Territory, Russia, to Rajin station in North Korea. (RIA Novosti/Vitaliy Ankov)

North Korea is largely ostracized by the rest of the international community in a US-led effort to isolate the nation over its development of a nuclear weapon program.

Russia also proposed to invest into the Kaesong Industrial Park, a special economic zone in North Korea that employs more than 50,000 North Korea workers in South Korea companies.

In May, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law an agreement that will write off much of Pyongyang’s Soviet-era loans. Russia will forgive 90 percent of North Korea’s debt from the Soviet era, leaving $1 billion to be repaid interest free in the next 20-40 years. Russia also recently cancelled $29 billion of Cuba’s Soviet era debt.

Galushka said the forgiveness of the debt has paved the way for stronger ties between the two states. - RT

GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS: Drought Is Fast Becoming A Problem For The United States Economy - Half Of The Country Experiencing Some Level Of Drought Conditions!

June 05, 2014 - UNITED STATES - The Federal Reserve is out with its latest Beige Book report, and it's become clear that drought conditions across the U.S. are becoming a problem.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

From the text:
"Agriculture conditions proved challenging in many Districts, with drought conditions reported by some Districts and excessive moisture reported in others. Drought conditions existed in parts of the San Francisco District, particularly in California and Arizona, resulting in a reduction in crop plantings and reduced herd sizes. Dallas also noted widespread drought conditions, especially in the Texas panhandle, as did the Chicago District in parts of Iowa.

On the other hand, rains delayed plantings of crops in parts of the Atlanta and Minneapolis Districts. Planting progressed well overall in the Chicago District and in Idaho as reported by San Francisco. Minneapolis and San Francisco reported a loss of hogs due to a fatal virus, contributing to higher hog prices. More generally, low cattle supplies and strong demand resulted in high beef prices in Minneapolis and Kansas City. Both Kansas City and Dallas reported problems with the quality and quantity of the winter wheat crop, though winter wheat crops were generally in good condition in the St. Louis District."

Last month, Mike Carlowicz of NASA Earth Observatory noted that as of May 6, half of the U.S. was experiencing some level of drought conditions.

More recently, BI's Dina Spector chronicled the problems facing California's Central Valley, known as the "nation's salad bowl," which is has been hard hit by drought.

Overall, the Beige Book was pretty solid, showing economic activity expanded in all 12 of the Federal Reserve's Districts.

Following the report, the markets are little changed, keeping with the recent pattern of notably low volatility in financial markets.  - Business Insider

INFRASTRUCTURE & SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: Another United States Military Jet Crashes Off California Coast - The Second In Less Than 24 Hours?!

June 05, 2014 - CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - A US Navy Super Hornet jet fighter crashed in the Pacific Ocean off the southern coast of California late Wednesday night, the US Navy said. This is the second crash of a US marine jet in the area in 24 hours.

F/A-18E Super Hornet jet (image by US Army)

The Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet jet “impacted the water” as it approached the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) at about 10pm local time (6am GMT) Wednesday.

“The pilot ejected from the aircraft, was recovered safely and is currently aboard Carl Vinson in stable condition,” the Navy said in a statement.

The jet was part of the Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 81 based at Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana in Virginia. The jet has not been recovered from the crash.

An investigation has been launched into the crash’s causes, while all operations have been halted aboard the USS Carl Vinson.

The remaining airborne aircraft operating in the area were diverted to NAS North Island in Coronado, California, and landed at about 11 pm local time (7 am GMT).

The Carl Vinson and Carrier Air Wing 17 have been conducting a Joint Task Force Exercise “to test a strike group's ability to operate in hostile and complex environments with other US and coalition forces,” the official statement of the Navy said. The exercise was carried out ahead of the group's upcoming deployment.

This incident is the second military jet to crash in the region of South California in 24 hours. Earlier on Wednesday the Third Marine Aircraft Wing AV-8B Harrier crashed into a residential area in Imperial Valley, Southern California. At least two houses caught fire.

WATCH: Fiery aftermath of military jet crash in California.

There were no reports of injuries on the ground. The pilot successfully ejected from the aircraft and was not hurt. The jet was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, officials said. The causes are being investigated. - RT

ICE AGE NOW: Extreme Weather Anomalies - Rare June Snowfall Hits Communities In North-Eastern British Columbia?! [PHOTOS+VIDEOS]

June 05, 2014 - BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA -  People in the community of Chetwynd, B.C. woke up to a surprise this morning.

Environment Canada says the town received up to five centimeters of snow today.

Temperatures are expected to rise above zero this afternoon, and the snow will turn to rain.

"Although snow this time of year is not unheard of for this region, some localized areas have received so much that today's accumulation in a few areas is quite rare," says Global BC meteorologist Kristi Gordon.

Chetwynd resident Carmen Gansevles says they sometimes get snow over May long weekend, but almost never in June.

 Carmen Gansevles

Wesley B. Ilnisky

She says they started getting flurries earlier this morning and there is now three inches of snow in her backyard.

"Yesterday we were in shorts," says Gansevles. "It was 19-20, and the day before we were getting sunburns, it was up to 30 degrees on Monday."

WATCH: Snow in Chetwynd, B.C.

Gansevles says her son is going to his prom party on Friday, and they are hoping the snow will be completely gone by then.

Meanwhile, some Global BC viewers in the community of Dawson Creek reported significant snow accumulation in their neighbourhood.

Conditions have since changed to periods of wet snow mixed with rain. - Global News

THE THEATRE OF WAR: More Jets And Warships - United States Increasing Military Presence In The Black Sea!

June 05, 2014 - UKRAINE - Following President Obama’s commitment of $1 billion to expand NATO’s role in Eastern Europe, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced on Thursday that the United States will be bolstering its presence in the Black Sea region.

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel (AFP Photo / Radu Tuta)

Hagel is currently swinging through Romania, a NATO member that has urged the US to increase its presence in Eastern Europe in the wake of the Ukraine conflict and Russia’s accession of Crimea. Since then, the country has been a part of joint military exercises with American forces and has promised to increase its own defense spending.

According to Reuters, Hagel said President Obama’s $1 billion fund would allow for a "stronger presence of U.S. ships in the Black Sea," and that the plan would mean a consistent stream of rotating vessels in the region.

"We will sustain that tempo going forward,” he added.

WATCH: USS Donald Cook enters Black Sea amid Ukraine tensions.


At the time of Hagel’s comments, he was touring a guided missile cruiser, the US Navy’s Vella Gulf, which has been stationed in the Black Sea for about two weeks. It is the fourth American ship to move through the region since tensions with Russia increased, with the US hoping its deployment reassures European allies regarding its obligation to defend them.

Hagel also met with Romanian Defense Minister Mircea Dusa, who agreed “the ongoing U.S. ship presence increases the area's sense of security.”

"The Vella Gulf is a clear representation of America's commitment to security in the region," Hagel said, according to the AP.

MT @lbaldor: SecDef says ongoing US ship presence in Black Sea shows US commitment to the region @NAVEUR_NAVAF @USNavy

The comments come just one day after Obama spoke in Poland and pledged $1 billion to expand its military role in Eastern Europe. As RT reported, the president said more troops would begin rotating through the region, and that the US would help fund and train military forces of NATO allies.

"Given the situation in Ukraine right now, we have also increased our American presence. We've begun rotating additional ground troops and F-16 aircraft into Poland... to help our forces support NATO air missions," Obama said, calling the commitment to NATO allies in Europe “the cornerstone of our own security.”

While the plan earned the praise of Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, Russia criticized NATO for boosting its presence near its borders and argued the group is also responsible for unrest in Ukraine.

“NATO is providing Kiev – a member of its Partnership for Peace program – with technical assistance, thus encouraging the prolongation of its use of force. Thus the Alliance accepts a part of the responsibility for the escalation of the situation, and the collapse of diplomatic negotiations,” said Aleksandr Grushko, Russia’s envoy to NATO. - RT

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Spring Flood Cuts Off Road To Montezuma In Colorado - A Washout Of 15-FEET DEEP!

June 05, 2014 - COLORADO, UNITED STATES -  Spring runoff is starting to take a toll on high country roads, with a major washout reported along Montezuma Road and minor flooding in other areas, including a partial washout on the Meadow Creek trailhead road in Frisco.

Flood waters caused a major washout of Montezuma Road in Summit County, Colorado. Photo: Summit County Road and Bridge

East of Keystone, Summit County officials reported a 45-washout of Montezuma Road, leaving Montezuma residents with out vehicular access. According to the county, the road is washed out 15-feet deep near the Peru Creek trailhead.

Summit County Road and Bridge Department currently has a team in Jackson County retrieving a temporary bridge, with no definite schedule for its arrival. The road and bridge team onsite is also working on alternate solutions if the bridge cannot restore access.

Currently, the only access to and from the Town of Montezuma by Montezuma residents is by foot. The hike is about 30 minutes long. Montezuma currently has power and limited Internet access. Excel Energy is onsite and monitoring the situation.

Flooding along Meadow Creek Road, Frisco, Colorado. Photo: bberwyn

On Tuesday afternoon at 2:15 pm the Summit County Sheriff's Office ordered a voluntary evacuation of the Town of Montezuma. An estimated 10 - 12 people have evacuated from the town. Approximately 20 people have chosen to stay in Montezuma.

In Frisco, Meadow Creek has overflowed its main channel and is carving a new path along the road to the trailhead. Tuesday afternoon, the flood-created ditch spanned about a quarter of the road and was about 18 inches deep.

Forest Service officials also reported high water along Tiger Run Road, where several culverts are under water. - SCV

MONUMENTAL WAR ON MOTHER NATURE: Plastiglomerates - Rocks Made Of Plastic Found On Hawaiian Beach, Could Result In The Formal Declaration Of A New EPOCH In Earth's History, The ANTHROPOCENE!

June 05, 2014 - HAWAII, UNITED STATES - Plastic may be with us a lot longer than we thought. In addition to clogging up landfills and becoming trapped in Arctic ice, some of it is turning into stone. Scientists say a new type of rock cobbled together from plastic, volcanic rock, beach sand, seashells, and corals has begun forming on the shores of Hawaii.

Left behind. A sample of plastiglomerate, collected on Kamilo Beach in Hawaii.
Patricia Corcoran

"The article is intriguing and fascinating," says geophysicist Douglas Jerolmack of the University of Pennsylvania, who was not involved in the work. "If these things can be preserved, then they might be a nice marker around the world of when humans came to dominate the globe and leave behind their refuse in mass quantities."

Geologist Patricia Corcoran of the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, and Charles Moore, captain of the oceanographic research vessel Alguita, stumbled upon the new rocks on a beach on the Big Island of Hawaii.

These stones, which they've dubbed "plastiglomerates," most likely formed from melting plastic in fires lit by humans who were camping or fishing, the team reports this month in GSA Today. Although anywhere there is a heat source, such as forest fires or lava flows, and "abundant plastic debris," Corcoran says, "there is the potential for the formation of plastiglomerate." When the plastic melts, it cements rock fragments, sand, and shell debris together, or the plastic can flow into larger rocks and fill in cracks and bubbles to form a kind of junkyard Frankenstein.

Corcoran says some of the plastic is still recognizable as toothbrushes, forks, ropes, and just "anything you can think of." Once the plastic has fused to denser materials, like rock and coral, it sinks to the sea floor, and the chances it will become buried and preserved in the geologic record increase.

Corcoran and her team canvassed Kamilo Beach on the Big Island for more of the rocks and found plastiglomerate in all 21 sites they surveyed. She says people have already found plastiglomerate on another Hawaiian island, and she expects there to be much more on coastlines across the world. Plastiglomerate is likely well distributed, it's just never been noticed before now, she says.

Jerolmack agrees. "All around the world where there's trash being openly burned in mass quantities, you can imagine there are even larger melted plastic deposits" where plastiglomerate could form.

The discovery adds to the debate about whether humanity's heavy hand in natural processes warrants the formal declaration of a new epoch of Earth history, the Anthropocene, says paleontologist Jan Zalasiewicz of the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the study. Plastics in general are so pervasive that they've been documented in a number of surprising places, including ingested in wildlife and on the sea floor. The mass of plastic produced since 1950 is close to 6 billion metric tons, enough to bundle the entire planet in plastic wrap. Combine plastic's abundance with its persistence in the environment, and there's a good chance it'll get into the fossil record, Zalasiewicz says. "Plastics, including plastiglomerates, would be one of the key markers by which people could recognize the beginning of the Anthropocene."

How long the plastic will endure remains a matter of debate, however. Jerolmack says he doubts the material will stick around in the fossil record. After all, plastic melts, and rocks often pass through hellish depths and temperatures through tectonic processes and burial. Geologist Philip Gibbard of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom says he imagines that plastics might "revert back to a source of oil from whence they came, given the right conditions of burial." But Zalasiewicz and Corcoran say that isn't true for all the plastic. Some of the material can be preserved as a thin carbon film, much like the way fossil leaves are preserved. Zalasiewicz says that in some rare cases, in that etch of carbon "you may well be left the shape for a flattened plastic bottle." - Science AAAS