Wednesday, October 29, 2014

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - Federal Reserve Ends Quantitative Easing Bond-Buying Program, Sends Markets Reeling, Stocks End Modestly Lower!

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange await the Fed's decision Wednesday. Lucas Jackson | Reuters
October 29, 2014 - WALL STREET, UNITED STATES - Stocks weakened and bonds sold off Wednesday after the Fed surprised Wall Street with a slightly more hawkish tone that suggested it may be more aggressive with rate hikes than markets had expected.

Without surprise, the Fed ended its quantitative easing bond-buying program. But it also tweaked the language in its statement to show that it saw improvement in the economy, and it did not mention signs that it saw economic contagion.

Specifically, it said there has been "substantial improvement" in the jobs outlook and the underlying strength in the broader economy. It also said inflation has been held down by lower energy prices and other factors.
"Maybe we brought forward the (first rate) hike a month or two from where it was yesterday," said David Ader, chief Treasury strategist at CRT Capital. Wall Street has been pricing in a fourth quarter rate hike, despite Fed forecasts of a midyear hike.

Stocks initially fell sharply, then reversed much of the losses before tumbling sharply again. By the market close, stocks were just slightly lower with the Dow off 31 at 16,974, at and the S&P 500 down 2 at 1982.

The Treasury yield curve flattened, as short-end yields rose relatively faster than those at the long end. The 2-year note yield moved from 0.44 percent to 0.49, and the 10-year was as high as 2.36 percent before returning to 2.32 percent. The flattening curve signals expectations of rising rates.

While the Fed language change surprised markets, it also kept in the line that it would keep rates low for a "considerable time."

"It's a little more hawkish than people thought," said John Canally, economist and market strategist at LPL Financial. "No mention of the global growth scare. No mention of tighter financial conditions."

Canally said the changes were significant for a Fed statement that was not accompanied by a press briefing, so that Fed Chair Janet Yellen could explain the changes.

"I thought it was clearly a more hawkish tilt on the part of the Fed," said Zane Brown, fixed income strategist at Lord Abbett. "The Fed did feel better about the economy and inflation going back up to 2 percent."

Brown said the big changes were in the phrase where the Fed described the labor market. It said "underutilization of labor resources is gradually diminishing."

As a result, the market's rate hike expectations moved just slightly, with fed funds futures rising slightly for December 2015.

"The dollar will strengthen and rates are likely to rise because the Fed now thinks they are on the schedule they identified at their September meeting. They still think they can do what they suggested and start raising rates in mid-2015 and get to 1.38 by year-end," said Brown.

The 1.38 is the median expectation of Fed officials for the end of 2015, and the market, meanwhile, is pricing the fed fund futures for December 2015 well below that—at 0.52, said Brown. That was above the 0.45 rate priced in before the Fed statement, he said.

Federal Reserve Chairman Janet L. Yellen. (AFP Photo/Darren McCollester)
 "I think the stock market will be fine but I also find the Fed's comments to be more hawkish. I think the Fed is realizing that they've basically called the labor market wrong," said David Kelly, chief global strategist at JPMorgan Funds.

"Even at a moderate rate of growth, this labor market is tightening up fast. I think the key to whether we get a rate increase as early as March is—what do wages do from here?" Kelly said.

"Our research suggests that when unemployment falls below 6 percent and then declines from there, that's when you get wage gains. If we see wages pick up I think we'll see the Federal Reserve move further, toward the hawkish side. I don't think the bond market is priced for what the Fed is going to do next year."

Canally said he expects the first rate hike is about a year away. He said the list of indicators the Fed watches still shows plenty of problems with the labor market, including slow wage growth and the problems with long-term unemployment. - CNBC.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: Google's New Computer With Human-Like Learning Abilities Will Program Itself, New Hybrid Device Might Not Need Humans At All - Elon Musk Warns That AI Is Mankind's Biggest Threat, "We Are Summoning The Demon"!

October 29, 2014 - TECHNOLOGY
- In college, it wasn’t rare to hear a verbal battle regarding artificial intelligence erupt between my friends studying neuroscience and my friends studying computer science.

One rather outrageous fellow would mention the possibility of a computer takeover, and off they went. The neuroscience-savvy would awe at the potential of such hybrid technology as the CS majors argued we have nothing to fear, as computers will always need a programmer to tell them what to do.

Today’s news brings us to the Neural Turing Machine, a computer that will combine the way ordinary computers work with the way the human brain learns, enabling it to actually program itself. Perhaps my CS friends should reevaluate their position?

The computer is currently being developed by the London-based DeepMind Technologies, an artificial intelligence firm that was acquired by Google earlier this year. Neural networks — which will enable the computer to invent programs for situations it has not seen before — will make up half of the computer’s architecture. Experts at the firm hope this will equip the machine with the means to create like a human, but still with the number-crunching power of a computer, New Scientist reports.

In two different tests, the NTM was asked to 1) learn to copy blocks of binary data and 2) learn to remember and sort lists of data. The results were compared with a more basic neural network, and it was found that the computer learned faster and produced longer blocks of data with fewer errors. Additionally, the computer’s methods were found to be very similar to the code a human programmer would’ve written to make the computer complete such a task.

These are extremely simple tasks for a computer to accomplish when being told to do so, but computers’ abilities to learn them on their own could mean a lot for the future of AI. - Beta Beat.

Elon Musk: 'We are summoning the demon' with artificial intelligence

But this is the first time I'm aware of that Musk has kicked up the rhetoric another notch -- perhaps anticipating this week's onslaught of Halloween costumes -- to compare AI to something supernatural like demons.

How to deal with the demonic forces of AI in the future? In a strange move for a tech mogul, Musk suggests it might be a good idea to fight one bogeyman with another (depending on your political perspective) in the form of government regulators.

"If I were to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it's probably that," he said, referring to artificial intelligence. "I'm increasingly inclined to thing there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level just to make sure that we don't do something very foolish."

Indeed. Who knows what demonic hellscape could emerge if we ever let artificially intelligent machines get ahold of a Ouija board.

WATCH: One-on-one with Elon Musk.


MONUMENTAL GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: The Koslanda Tragedy - More Than 100 Believed Killed, At Least 300 Missing And 150 Houses Buried In Sri Lanka's Monster TWO MILES LONG Landslide As Major Transformation Continues Across The Planet! [VIDEOS]

October 29, 2014 - SRI LANKA
- A landslide in hilly south-central Sri Lanka is believed to have killed more than 100 people on Wednesday as it buried scores of houses, a government minister said, and the toll is likely to rise.

The landslide hit a village in the tea-growing area of Sri Lanka after days of heavy monsoon rain, with more than 300 people listed as missing.

"More than 100 people are believed to have died," Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Amaraweera told Reuters from the disaster site in the village of Haldummulla, 190 km (120 miles) inland from the capital, Colombo.

"We have suspended the rescue operations because of darkness and inclement weather. There is also a threat of further landslides."

Children who left for school in the morning returned to find their clay and cement houses had been buried. Nearly 300 children were gathered at a nearby school as night fell amid further landslide threats.

The Disaster Management Center said 10 bodies had been found so far, at least 300 people were missing and 150 houses buried in the village, which lies south of a popular national park.

WATCH: Koslanda landslide in Sri Lanka.

Amaraweera said the landslide was at least 3 km (2 miles) long. Villagers had been advised in 2005 and 2012 to move away because of the threat of landslides, but many did not heed the warning, he said.

"I was under the rubble and some people took me out ... my mother and aunt have died," a woman who was being treated for injuries told media.

There have been a number of landslides since the start of heavy rains in mid-September resulting in damage to roads, but there had been no casualties until Wednesday.

Some roads in the central districts of Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, and Badulla were blocked on Wednesday due to landslides, limiting public transport.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa tweeted that military heavy machinery had been deployed to speed up search and rescue operations.

The people living in the affected hilly area are mostly of Indian Tamil origin, descendants of workers brought to Sri Lanka from South India under British rule as cheap labor to work on tea, rubber and coffee plantations. - Reuters.

EUROPEAN VAMPIRISM: The War On Mother Nature - Faroe Islanders In Denmark Mercilessly Butcher Whales In Bloody Seas; Say It's Tradition, Others Protest!

October 29, 2014 - FAROE ISLANDS, DENMARK
- The waters on the shores of Denmark’s Faroe Islands turn red in summer. The islanders are keen on preserving a centuries-old bloody practice of whale hunting, which turns small bays in slaughterhouses despite the efforts of activist to stop them.

“This is an old tradition, and as you know, there’s some conflict in this, because there are people from outside, from the mainland who don’t like what we’re doing here,”
local journalist Finnur Koba told RT.

The Faroe Islands are an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, about halfway between Norway and Iceland where the Norwegian Sea meets the North Atlantic. For their northerly latitude their climate is relatively mild and barely changes between summer and winter, with a mean summer temperature of 13 degrees Celsius and a winter average of 3 degrees.

Last month six protesters from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society were found guilty by a Faroe Islands’ court of interfering with the grind, or whale drive hunts.

Sea Shepherd was founded by Paul Watson in the 1980s with the aim of halting the practice of killing whales and uses confrontational tactics such as ramming whaling ships.

During a whale grind a flotilla of small power boats drive the whales or dolphins into a shallow bay where they are slaughtered with knives, in a process which is part of a 1,000 year old tradition.

Although Denmark is an anti-whaling member of the EU and is subject to laws prohibiting the slaughter of cetaceans – marine mammals including whales, dolphins and porpoises – it defends the right of the islanders to practice the grind.

Once the whales are in shallow water, people on the shore cut the whales’ neck and try and break the spinal cord and although there is a lot of blood, death occurs quickly.

Although whale hunting was carried out in other European communities, they have either stopped completely or changed their techniques to cut down on the amount of blood shed.

In the Faroes, the islanders still feel a real cultural attachment to the practice and point out that the hunt is primarily for food.

Whale meat can be boiled, broiled as a steak or air dried and can even be eaten raw in thin slices.

But not everyone in the Faroes is happy with the practice.

A Faroe islander, Ingi Sørensen, who also is an underwater whale photographer believes the practice belongs in the history books.

“It belongs to the past. In those days it gave us life. Without the grind there would be no life here. But today it’s absolutely unnecessary,”
he said.

Pitting tradition against modern values is something most Faroe islanders are happy to do, Finnur Koba explained.

“The tradition is very difficult to explain. It’s something that lives deep inside you, its culture you know. It’s what defines who you are,” he said.

However, the long-term yearly average catch of whales is about 800, not enough to dent the large population of pilot whales in the northeast Atlantic, or big enough to make any real difference to the local economy.

There are no professional whale hunters any more on the Faroe Islands and no one relies on it for their living.

All whalers have a day job and when the call to the grind goes out on mobile phones, local radio and social media, everyone tries to get the beach in time for the hunt.

One islander explained to the RT crew that he took his daughter to a grind to show her how whales are killed and then cut up for meat. He said he wanted her to understand where food comes from. His daughter was not apparently particularly fazed either way about what she witnessed.

WATCH: Whales butchered in bloody seas.

“Simply cook it [whale] up with potatoes, which is probably my favorite anyway,” said one islander.

The islanders are adamant that they kill the whales as humanely as possible and they point out that they only hunt pilot whales not the bigger killer whales, which in some areas of the world are a protected species.

If there is anything likely to put a stop to the practice, it’s not protests by animal rights activists but health concerns as increasing amounts of heavy metal toxins are being found in whale meat. Some Faroe islanders, including the head physician of the islands Dr Pál Weihe, are not enthusiastic about eating it.

In 2008 Weihe, alongside the Chief Medical Officer of the islands, advised against human consumption of pilot whale.

“The amount of toxins found in pilot whales has not decreased, and we still don´t know much about the long-term damage caused by biological toxins. This is why we warn that pilot whale is not fit for human consumption,”
Weihe told a Faroese magazine in September 2013. - RT.

WAR DRUMS: German Typhoons Have Intercepted 7 Russian Air Force Combat Planes Over The Baltic Sea, One Of The Largest Formations Encountered By NATO - Russian Army Beefs Up Arctic Presence Over Western Threat!

Eurofighter – Geoffrey Lee, Planefocus Ltd

October 29, 2014 - BALTIC SEA
- According to the Latvian military, on Oct. 28, the German Air Force Eurofighter jets on QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) at Amari, Estonia, to provide NATO Baltic Air Policing were scrambled to intercept seven Russian Air Force planes flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea.

The German interceptors identified the Russian planes as a large package, made of attack planes and escort, which included 2x MiG-31 Foxhound, 2x Su-34 Fullback, 1x Su-27 Flanker and 2x Su-24 Fencer jets.

Regardless to whether the Russian aircraft were involved in one of the frequent training missions in the Baltics or were commuting to/from the Russian airfield in Kaliningrad oblast, the package on Oct 28 represents one of the largest “formations” intercepted by NATO fighter planes during the last couple of years.

Usually, close encounters involve Russian, Swedish or U.S. spyplanes intercepted before (or after) violating sovereign airspaces. Sometimes, scrambles are required to greet Moscow’s Tu-22 or Tu-95 bombers on long-range training patrols or strike packages involved in (alleged) simulated air strikes on one of North Europe’s states (usually, Sweden).

Anyway, Russian Air Force missions in the Baltic area have surged, to such an extent NATO presence has quadrupled in the last year: from one nation providing four aircraft in QRA at one base in Lithuania (Šiauliai), to four nations (currently Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal and Canada) at two airbases (the second being Amari, in Estonia). - The Aviationist.

Russian army beefs up Arctic presence over Western threat

The NS 50 Let Pobedy Arktika-class nuclear-powered icebreaker sails in the Arctic Ocean (cropped image). (RIA Novosti/Vladimir Astapkovich)

By next year Russia will be ready to “meet unwelcome guests” coming from any direction, after completing a network of radar stations in the Arctic, the Russian Defense Minister said.

The massive buildup of facilities in Russia's north is part of the country's strategy to ensure control of the Arctic. The military is currently rebuilding two northern bases in the Novosibirsk Islands and in the Franz Josef Land archipelago, Sergey Shoigu told the defense ministry's public council on Tuesday. Military airfields at Tiksi, Naryan-mar, Alykel, Vorkuta, Anadyr and Rogachevo have been scheduled for modernization.

“The plan involves the building of 13 airfields, one land test range for the Air Forces, 10 radar sites and direction centers,”
said Lt. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, head of the National Defense Control Center, who took part in the session.

The general heads a recently created body in the ministry, which is tasked with day-to-day monitoring of potential threats to national security and launching a rapid military response, should it be needed.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu. (RIA Novosti/Igor Russak)

Shoigu said the most immediate result of the buildup would be total radar coverage of Russia's borders. Russia abandoned many of its less-crucial and more costly military installations after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but now wants them operational again.

“This year we will have total radar coverage and in 2015 we will be almost fully prepared to meet unwelcom guests from east and north,”
the minister said.

Foreign outposts against emerging threats

The Russian minister said, in addition to domestic military modernization, Russia will continue upgrading its foreign military bases as well.

“We are continuing to develop our bases in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Armenia,”
he said, adding that this year Russia had deployed a fighter squadron in Belarus. “We have made ourselves at home there and are doing our jobs in terms of combat readiness and training.”
Belarus' role as a key military ally of Russia was in the focus on Wednesday as Shoigu visited the country to meet Belorussian generals. The visit comes days after the two countries finished an exercise for its joint air defense system.

Screenshot from Google Maps
Speaking in Minsk, Shoigu warned that the military of the two countries must be prepared for new challenges posed by an assertive West as shown by the Ukrainian turmoil.

“The problem of 'colored revolutions' shines anew today. We see the results of the use this instrument of foreign action in Ukraine today,”
he said.

“In essence Western forces are trying to form in that country an advanced front of pressure on the union state of Russia and Belarus, to influence their development.”

He added such threats require close coordination of efforts between Moscow and Minsk. - RT.

EUROPEAN VAMPIRISM: The War On Mother Nature - The 2010 BP Oil Spill Left Oily Ring On The Seafloor The Size Of Rhode Island; About 10 Million Gallons Of Oil Over 1,200 Square Miles!

"The biggest problem on the planet is not some devilish supernatural entity locked in an eternal struggle for human souls, or for that matter shape-shifting reptilian aliens manipulating mankind through secret societies. No, these evilous figures are really allegories or aspects of the European's inherently vampiric nature and irreverence for Mother Earth, the indigenous peoples and the animals." - Andre Heath, Publisher.

October 29, 2014 - GULF OF MEXICO
- The 2010 BP oil spill that resulted in 172 million gallons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico has, four years later, left an oily “bathtub ring” about the size of Rhode Island on the sea floor surrounding the site of the Macondo well, according to new research.

About 10 million gallons of oil has collected on the sea floor near the former site of the Deepwater Horizon rig and BP-operated Macondo well, where the oil spewed from April 20 to July 15 in 2010, according to a study by David Valentine, a University of California Santa Barbara geochemist, and co-author Christopher Reddy, a marine chemist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

Cumulative BP / Deepwater Horizon oil slick footprint (orange).

The study, published Monday in ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,’ found that the oil spill has left several splotches in the Macondo well area, some with more oil residue than the 1,200-square-mile “bathtub ring.”

Valentine said though there are no chemical signature tests given the oil has since degraded, the source of the oil is obvious.

"There's this sort of ring where you see around the Macondo well where the concentrations are elevated,"
Valentine said, according to AP.

He added that oil levels found inside the ring were as much as 10,000 times higher than outside the ring. A chemical ingredient of oil was found on the sea floor, from two-thirds of a mile to a mile below the water’s surface.

BP questioned the study’s findings, especially since the oil can no longer be tested given its degraded state.

A drilling platform near the Transocean Discoverer Enterprise drillship burns off gas collected at the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill
on June 25, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. (Chris Graythen / Getty Images / AFP)

The BP oil spill spewed 172 million gallons of oil into the Gulf in 2010.

In an email to AP, spokesman Jason Ryan said, "the authors failed to identify the source of the oil, leading them to grossly overstate the amount of residual Macondo oil on the sea floor and the geographic area in which it is found."

Though such chemical analysis is impossible at this point, study authors Valentine and Reddy said other evidence point to the Deepwater Horizon disaster: the depth of the oil, the area it encompasses, and the distance from the Macondo well.

The study was praised by marine scientists Ed Overton, of Louisiana State University, and Ian MacDonald, of Florida State University, neither of whom were involved in its conclusions, according to AP.

Though the spill is more than four years old, scientists are still measuring - and debating - the total ecological impact of the BP spill. For now, Reddy said they believed their findings validated earlier research that found deep water coral was coated with oil and damaged from the spill.

The Deepwater Horizon explosion killed 11 people and polluted Gulf waters that wash onto the shores of five US states as oil gushed from the drilling rig for nearly three months before the flow was brought to a halt.
In all, prosecutors said over 4 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf, making it the largest accident of its kind in petroleum industry history. Around 16,000 miles of coastline were affected and, according to the National Park Service, over 8,000 animals died as a result.

In early September, a federal judge ruled that BP had acted with gross negligence before the spill, indicating that the corporation may have to pay billions of dollars in fines.

US District Court Judge Carl Barbier also wrote in his ruling that two other oil companies — Transocean and Halliburton — acted negligent as well, but failed to find them as responsible as BP with regards to the spill. Transocean owned the Deepwater Horizon rig, but drilling rights were leased to BP; Halliburton was in charge of the “cementing” process on the doomed drilling site.

The three companies, Barbier wrote, are "each liable under general maritime law for the blowout, explosion and oil spill," but the bulk of the blame — specifically 67 percent — will rest on BP. According to Bloomberg News, BP may next face fines as high as $18 billion — the maximum penalty under the Clean Water Act — and has already put aside $3.5 billion to cover those costs.

Despite the ruling, energy companies can count on political allies in states like Louisiana to defend their interests. For instance, in June, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law legislation that rescued dozens of oil and gas companies from a lawsuit over long-term damage done to the state’s wetlands.

Waves carry in blobs of oil as it washes ashore from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on June 26, 2010 in Orange Beach, Alabama.
(Joe Raedle / Getty Images / AFP)

The rig blew on April 20, 2010 and spewed 172 million gallons of oil into the Gulf through the summer. Scientists are still trying to figure
where all the oil went and what effects it had.

The study by David Valentine, the chief scientist on the federal damage assessment research ships, estimates that about 10 million gallons of oil coagulated on
the floor of the Gulf of Mexico around the damaged Deepwater Horizons oil rig. Valentine said the spill left other splotches containing even more oil.

New research shows that the BP oil spill left an oily "bathub ring" on the sea floor that's about the size of Rhode Island.

Experts said
the law may very well thwart future claims against energy companies, including those against BP.
In a letter urging Jindal to veto the legislation, Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell wrote that the bill included “very broad and all-encompassing language” and “may have other potential serious unintended consequences."

“No one can currently quantify or identify all of the causes of action which will be swept away if this bill becomes law,”
the letter warned

“In the coming years perhaps the proponents of the bill can tailor legislation more narrowly drawn which does not portend such a broad and vague attack on the abilities of the State, and most importantly, local governmental entities to protect their citizens.” -

DISASTER PRECURSORS: Omen – The Latest Incidents Of Strange Animal Behavior, Mass Animal Die-Offs, Appearance Of Rare Creatures And Warnings From Mother Nature!

AFP PHOTO / Iggoy el Fitra

October 29, 2014 - EARTH
- The following constitutes the latest reports of unusual and symbolic animal behavior, mass die-offs, beaching and stranding of mammals, and the appearance of rare creatures.

Millions of dead fish appear in a river in South Kalimantan, Indonesia

Millions of fish are dying because of lack of oxygen causes the Riam Kanan River in South Kalimantan Banjar district contaminated with bacteria derived from fish carcasses.

"The river must have been contaminated due to the millions of fish carcasses filled the whole body of the river," said Saifuddin, the owner of the floating net cage in the village of Bangkal Awang Martapura Monday.

Owner floating net cages else Burhan said, millions of tilapia carcasses and pomfret meets Riam Kanan watershed which has a width of 30 meters and a length of seven kilometers.

Mentioned, streams filled with fish carcasses will become longer if the water flow of runoff water running when the door is opened so that the Riam Kanan reservoir widespread pollution.

"The flow of the river all the new seven kilometers from the village to the village of Bangkal Awang Tambela, later when the water flow, fish carcasses will be carried downstream," he said.

According to him, the owner may not dispose of the carcass cage fish ashore or buried because of the very large so that the only way to throw into the river.

Explained, the current condition of the river water was terrible because it filled millions of fish carcasses that could not be used meet daily needs such as bathing and others.

"Instead of bathing, washing hands alone is not possible because the river filled with fish carcasses and smells so anyone should cover the nose," he said.

It is said, the death of hundreds of tons of fish are harvested and seed consumption was made hundreds of floating net cage owners have lost billions of dollars.

"Every average farmer losing hundreds of millions because of dead fish weighing several tons so if multiplied hundreds of billions in losses, the fish farmers," he said.

Secretary of the Department of Marine and Fisheries Kalsel Mariatul Ayesha met the owner of cages, Monday afternoon said it requested the full data related to the problem.

"We asked for a good number of complete data owner cages, the number of dead fish and other data that can be retrieved quickly step problem-solving," he said. - Antara News. [Translated]

Mass die off of sea stars now happening in Sitka, Alaska, America

Taylor White pulls up a rock on Sage Beach to see three leptasterias, which are small, 6 legged sea stars that are common at this site.
She points to the one with three legs and lesions, symptoms of sea star wasting disease. (Photo by Anne Brice/KCAW)

A trip to the coast usually means you’re going to see sea stars, but a mysterious disease is killing them along the West Coast. There had been a few reports of sick sea stars in Alaska, but recently in Sitka, the first mass die offs in the state were detected. Scientists in Sitka are tracking the progress.

Patty Dick lives on a boat in Thompson Harbor in Sitka. In the morning, when it’s low tide and she has an extra moment, she goes out and checks on the sea stars living in the area.

“I just sit there in awe of the beauty of that animal,” she said. “Everybody loves sea stars.”

Dick teaches 6th grade biology at Blatchley Middle School. She often takes her students on field trips to learn about marine animals, and they usually find dozens of sea stars.

But one morning last month, Dick noticed something was wrong with the sea stars. “I just looked over and I just stopped. There were these big, huge, white spots all over them and they were just wasting away. My heart just sank.”

She’d heard about this happening, but she hadn’t seen it with her own eyes. “I’m trying to find one star fish that is not affected,” she said, “and they were all dead. They were all dead.”

They had sea star wasting disease. All along the West Coast, sea stars have been dying of this disease. The first case was discovered in the summer of 2013 on the Olympic Peninsula and scientists still don’t know what’s causing it.

Taylor White is the aquarium manager at the Sitka Sound Science Center. For the past year, she’s been working with a team that is monitoring sea stars and other marine life in Sitka and along the West Coast.
“You really do look a lot harder at sea stars now that sea star wasting disease is occurring. I feel like a lot of people are paying a lot more attention now.”
“It’s a lot of just crouching down and going from the top left corner and going through the entire plot, moving this rockweed around, and counting as any starfish as you see,” White said.

She takes me for a walk along the beach to see for myself. She pulls up a rock and is looking at some six-legged sea stars called leptasterias. We’re looking at sea stars on Sage Beach, next to the science center.

The Sitka Sound Science Center is part of a project called MARINe, which stands for Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network. MARINe is made up of agencies that use the same marine monitoring methods. They’ve set up about 120 sites along the coast in the U.S., from Southern California to Alaska. There are three sites in Sitka – the only long-term MARINe sites in Alaska. White helps monitor the Sitka sites as part of her job at the science center.

“You really do look a lot harder at sea stars now that sea star wasting disease is occurring,” she said. “I feel like a lot of people are paying a lot more attention now.”

Once sea star wasting hits an area, it can quickly spread through the population. Research divers from the University of Alaska, Sitka, have surveyed different areas in Sitka Sound and have seen evidence of wasting in most locations. At Sage Beach, divers found that in the past few weeks, sunflower stars have disappeared, leaving behind white ‘ghost piles’ of tissue.

While there have been minor wasting events in the past, this event is by far the longest and most widespread.
White says she’s seeing the same thing happen in the touch tanks at the Sitka Sound Science Center. “A lot of those guys have been in there for a very long time. It was hard to see it suddenly hit.”

They use an open system, so sea stars live in water straight from the ocean. She describes what she saw when the disease hit. “They just started crawling away from their bodies,” she said. “They contort themselves. Then they just started to decay since there are so many bacteria in the water. They just kind of break down after that point.”

When sea stars are sick, they can lose a leg and then regrow a healthy one. But with the wasting disease, they just keep losing legs, sometimes until only a central disk is left. The aquarium has had 35 sea stars die within three weeks, and now, only two remain in the touch tanks.

Scientists know there will be substantial impacts from these mass deaths, but they aren’t sure what yet.

Marnie Chapman, a biology professor at the University of Alaska, Sitka, has been working with White in the longterm monitoring project. She says sea stars play a big role in the ecosystem.

“They are major predators in the intertidal,” she said. “They’re definitely the lions and tigers of the intertidal environment.”

And they’re diverse. There are about 1900 species of sea stars in the world, and at least 18 in Sitka alone. “Sea stars are as unique and as individual than those predators that we’re more familiar with,” said Chapman.

There are several groups trying to figure out what’s causing this mass die off. It could be a bacterium, a virus, or environmental change, like lower pH levels in the ocean or warmer water. Most scientists think it’s a combination of things.
“They just started crawling away from their bodies. They contort themselves. Then they just started to decay since there are so many bacteria in the water. They just kind of break down after that point.”
When scientists do figure it out, there’s not much that can be done. If it’s a pathogen, there won’t be a sea star vaccine. If it’s warmer water, that’s irreversible.

Chapman worries about the future of the species. She recalls a day when she was out counting dying sea stars and a boy was looking at healthy ones nearby. “This young kiddo was saying, ‘mom, look at all the sea stars,’ and there were a lot of really healthy, unaffected on the side they were looking on,” she said, “and I thought, ‘boy, I hope that still happens. I hope that still happens next summer.’”

But there is some hope. At some of the MARINe sites along the coast, they’re seeing some juvenile sea stars. So, they could make a comeback. In time, we’ll know better.

And there is something that everyone can do to help track the disease. If you see sick or healthy sea stars, report it to Reports from the public help scientists better understand the disease and could help solve this mystery. - KTOO.

Beached long-finned pilot whale dies on Tain sands, Scotland

The long-finned pilot whale was stranded on the mud flats at Tain

A long-finned pilot whale has died after becoming stranded on mud flats near an Easter Ross beach.

More than 100 locals gathered round the stricken mammal as it was pulled 55 yards inshore and lifted by a crane onto a truck at Tain Links.

The 14ft long young male cetacean is thought to have become stuck after becoming separated from its pod in deeper waters.

A local vet went to the scene on behalf of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue at about 2pm on Saturday after a member of public raised the alarm.

But as the tide went out, the whale was left in shallow water and died at about 4pm.

Workers from G Bannerman in Tain arrived with a small crane at about 6pm to remove the whale, and local farmers helped them strap it up and drag it inshore to the beach.

It was then lifted by the crane on to a truck and taken away to be stored overnight at a local farm.

Kirsty MacDonald, from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, said: "It was in shallow water for a long time and it was about 4pm when it died.

"We managed to get it uplifted because it was dead. Bannermans were there from 6pm and they had a couple of local farmers who helped attach straps and they had to drag it about 55 yards into the beach.

"There were cars parked in the nearby car park and about 100 folk standing around at the time.

"These types of whales are common around these waters and common in deep water. They are the most commonly stranded species so it is important that members of the public try to keep an eye out for them.

"Last year we had three pilot whales stranded at Portmahomack and another one stranded up in Dornoch."

The Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS) will carry out an autopsy on the mammal today.

The Scottish SPCA was also at the scene on Saturday.

Long-finned pilot whales can grow to about 20ft long and adult females can weigh up to 1.5 tonnes and live for 60 years.

They feed predominantly on squid and live in groups of about 10-30, although some are as big as 100.

Source: The Press and Journal

- Whales And Marine Fauna.

Hundreds of thousands of TONNES of shrimp wiped out due to disease in Thailand

Shrimp exports are not expected to recover until next year's second quarter, as Thailand has yet to eliminate early mortality syndrome (EMS) from its shrimp farms.

"Overall shrimp exports remain in bad shape, with the conditions expected to be prolonged until next year," said Poj Aramwattananont, president of the Thai Frozen Foods Association.

"For this year, we expect the country's total production to reach only 200,000 tonnes, with export volume expected to fall by 25% from last year."

EMS first hit a shrimp farm in China in 2009, then moved through Vietnam before spreading to Thailand in mid-2012.

The outbreak has severely damaged the Thai shrimp industry and exports of related products.

Before the disease hit Asian farms, Thailand produced 500,000 to 600,000 tonnes of shrimp annually.

But that figure fell by 42% last year to 270,000 tonnes, while shrimp exports fell by 34% to 187,000 tonnes worth 60 billion baht.

Mr Poj said shrimp export value this year was expected to fall by 12% from last...

"The Fisheries Department is raising baby shrimp available from imported foreign breeders and has started supplying them to farmers," he said.

"If the hatchery succeeds, we expect Thailand's shrimp...

Mr Poj said EMS would remain a threat to shrimp exports. - Bangkok Post.

Massachusetts conservationist discovers extremely rare blue leopard frog

Conservation scientist Jacob Kubel with the blue leopard frog, rare compared with green and beige specimens.
Late this summer, Jacob Kubel, a conservation scientist with the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, was slogging through a Sudbury wetland, searching for a new species of leopard frog, when something unusual caught his eye.

"The frogs were quick and blended in with their surroundings," Kubel said in an e-mail, "so we were basically chasing blurs and moving vegetation."

Leopard frogs, which are named for their dark spots, are usually green, beige, or some combination of those colors, but one of the blurs Kubel saw through the stems of sedge and grass appeared to be bright blue.

"I couldn't be sure of the exact color," said Kubel, "so I just thought to myself, 'Oh, I have a brightly colored one here - he should be easier to chase down.' "

Kubel said he didn't think much of it at first: Individual animals in many wildlife species, after all, vary greatly from one another. But when he captured the 2-inch frog and looked at it up close, he realized it was something he - in fact, most everyone - had never seen before: a blue-colored leopard frog.

"It was truly blue, without even a hint of green," said Kubel.

Kubel said green and bull frogs, two other species found in Massachusetts, sometimes tend to be blue or partly blue, but blue leopard frogs are extremely rare. As in: one in 300,000 specimens. That's Kubel's best estimate, based on a 1960s study across the United States and Canada of the genus that includes leopard frogs. Conceding there may be cases he's unaware of, Kubel knows of only three such recent discoveries: a blue leopard frog found in New Jersey in 2003, one in Delaware in 2007, and one in New York earlier this year.

When he made his remarkable discovery, Kubel was looking for something exciting in and of itself: a new species not yet found in Massachusetts. It was just two years ago that a new type of leopard frog was found on New York City's Staten Island. Now, scientists like Kubel are catching leopard frogs across nine states, extracting genetic material to determine whether they are members of the still unnamed species.

That extraction is a lot less painful to the frog than you might think: To obtain a tissue sample, said Kubel, researchers clip a small piece of a single toe. Because of the limb-regeneration capabilities of frogs and other amphibians, the toe clip is considered to cause minimal, if any, harm, he said. The frog is then released at the point of capture, after a few photos are taken.

It's those photos of Kubel's frog that capture what's most striking about it: its beauty. Its blueness represents no scientific breakthrough, merely a gorgeous aberration.

When people think of "malformations" in wildlife, said Kubel, they tend to think of second heads, third eyes, or other "negativities."

"This colorful little frog, which looked like it belonged in the tropics,'' he said, "was a welcome deviation from that norm, especially in a place like New England."

The normal greenish or beige colors of leopardfrogs, he explained, have much to do with the yellow pigment ususally found in its skin cells.

Those cells are generated in a structure called the neural crest during embryonic development. Kubel said that a blue frog is a natural phenomenon that occurs when the yellow pigment cells are absent, either because they fail to develop or they migrate from the neural crest to other parts of the frog's body.

"Obviously, my work does not include an objective to find aberrantly colored frogs," said Kubel, "but incidental discoveries like this - seeing things I've never observed before - help to keep my work interesting."

Such eureka moments are few and far between as he navigates through mucky swamps, dense vegetation, and swarms of biting insects. But Kubel said his love of nature - and helping to counter the threats that native wildlife face - provide plenty of motivation for him in his work as a conservation scientist. He derives much personal satisfaction, he said, from advancing knowledge about wildlife populations and playing some role in their long-term protection.

With a master's degree in wildlife and fisheries science from Penn State, Kubel has worked with a wide variety of animal species during his career, including mammals and birds, but most recently his focus has been on amphibians, he said.

"In the big picture,'' said Kubel, "amphibian populations are important to research, monitor, and understand because they are critical components of the food web and are relatively sensitive to environmental change.

"Amphibians,'' he said, "are widely considered to be important indicators of environmental health, which of course impacts all forms of life." - Boston Globe.

Mass deaths of fish and crabs found washed up in Sampur, Sri Lanka

The National Aquatics Research Agency has commenced an investigation with regard to the sudden death of fish in the Sampur, Ralpalam and Kattankudy seas.

The agency stated that a team of officials have already been dispatched to the area to investigate the mysterious deaths. The mass deaths of fish at the Ralpalam sea started to occur on Friday.

WATCH: Mass fish die-off in Sri Lanka.

The deaths have prompted the Fisheries Department to issue a temporary ban on fishing in these seas.

Meanwhile, according to our correspondent, death of fish has also been reported in the Puttalam and Kattankudy seas. - News First.

Two-year-old girl and adult seriously injured in Kenya by elephant attack

Two people including a two-year-old girl are fighting for their life in hospital in Taita-Taveta County after they were attacked and seriously injured by marauding elephants.

Villagers of Jipe in Taveta district said the victims were attacked by stray jumbos while walking along the road.

The villagers who identified one of the victims as Julius Kibanga Nyerere, 50 suffered broken ribs while the toddler sustained multiple head injuries.

"The old man was carrying his grand child to see her mother when they were attacked by the jumbos. They escaped death by a whisker after villagers intervened," said Paul James, the victim's neighbor.

Speaking to The Standard at Taveta district hospital where the victims had been admitted in critical condition, James claimed elephants had virtually imposed a dawn-to-dusk curfew on residents.

At the same time residents and leaders complained that the jumbos had reportedly destroyed hundreds of acres of food crops, an issue that is compounding the already famine situation in the region which is dependent on relief supplies from the government and donors.

"The area has been overrun by marauding elephants. The jumbos have disrupted education among other economic activities in the area. Residents have abandoned their farms for fear of being attacked," he claimed.

James and two Ward Representatives Tiges Kipambi and Sagurani Kibunungwa accused the Kenya Wildlife Service of doing little to address the menace.

"KWS value wildlife more than human beings. The conservation body personnel do not respond quickly to resident's constant pleas to have stray elephants driven out of human settlement," they protested.

"If the KWS fail to drive the elephants out of human settlement today, we will use other means to deal with the wildlife," said Kipambi without specifying the action they will take.

The incident comes barely a month after Mbulia-Mlilo village in Voi district was thrown into mourning following the killing of a 70-year-old Abigael Samba by a marauding elephant.

The deceased was said to have been collecting fire wood at the time of the tragedy.

The incident comes at a time when the government is still grappling with unrelenting wildlife conflict in the region.

The incident also comes at a time when the government is still yet to constitute the County Compensation committee that will be charged with the responsibility of verifying compensation claims. - Standard Media.

Hundreds of dead fish wash ashore along the waters in Montelimar, France

Hundreds of dead fish have been found since Wednesday on the shores of Roubion Montelimar.
A disaster for the Federation fishing Drome had invested specifically in the repopulation of the river. Pollution of unknown origin.

Eight years of resettlement policy to naught ... fishermen who Drome habits on the banks of Roubion well have had to face the facts.
Several hundred pounds of fish died due to pollution whose origin has not yet been formally established. The Federation of Fishing is devastated and she will complain: She had invested heavily in recent years reintroducing fine fish, zander, pike and carp in this stretch of water.

The prefect of the Drôme asked the Compagnie Nationale du Rhône to make a drop of water to reduce the pollution of the river. But fishing is obviously prohibited for the moment. - France3. [Translated]

North Carolina teenager saves toddler from pit bull

Grandmother: Pit bull broke through window screen, attacked toddler. © WSOC
A North Carolina teen is being hailed as a hero for saving a toddler who was being attacked by a dog.

T.J. Blake, of Caldwell County, and her grandson Eli, 2, had seen the dog as they were making their way to a neighbor's house last Thursday.

As they were walking back home, Blake says the dog lunged through a screened window and latched on to the 2-year-old boy, reports. Blake was also scratched on her arm.

Blake says she attempted to use her body as a shield, but the dog pulled the child from underneath her.
That's when Colton Hartley quickly responded. According to witnesses, the 13-year-old tackled the animal and sat on him until Blake and her grandson could escape.

Eli was taken to the hospital and was treated for minor injuries. He has since been released and is expected to recover.

"Colton was able to save my grandson and for that I will be forever grateful," Blake told WSOC-TV.

Caldwell County Animal Control has quarantined the dog, who is now considered potentially dangerous.

The owners say their dog has never behaved aggressively before. - Opposing Views.

Thousands of fish die in a lake in Dexter, New Mexico, United States

Hundreds of fish are dying at a New Mexico lake, and now, people who have caught some of those fish are wondering if they could get sick, or even die.

Rotting fish are everywhere at Lake Van in Dexter.

"The more I look, there's thousands and thousands of fish just floating to the top, and now the stench is getting really bad; there's flies everywhere," said Colleen Cole-Velasquez.

Velasquez lives on the lake.  She says the smell from the rotting fish is getting into her home.

"When the smell crosses the road over to your property, that's not exactly what you want to smell when you're getting ready for dinner," said Cole-Velasquez.

Walk up to any bank on the lake outside of Roswell and you will see dozens of dead fish.

"People should be worried," said Game and Fish Biologist Shawn Denny. "When you see something dying in your environment, that should set off an alarm bell for you."

Denny says the reason for the die-off is a microscopic plankton called golden algae. Denny says since last Monday, the algae have wiped out 95 percent of the fish in the lake.

Now there's a whole lot of rotting fish, flies and questions.

"You see a lot of fish floating to the top, and of course it makes you concerned living on the lake," said Cole-Velasquez. "Is this something that could harm me? Is this something that could harm our pets?"

Game and Fish says yes, and that you should avoid sick fish.

"We tell people, 'do not pick up any sick or dying fish and eat them, period,'" said Denny.

But Cole-Velasquez says he wonders how you know if they're sick and why there aren't any signs.

"How do you know if a fish is sick? It's not going to cough at you, you know. You can't take its temperature," said Cole-Velasquez.

The lake is still open to the public, but Game and Fish says to use caution until this algae is gone.

"We do ask people if you are going to fish in this lake, if you're going to boat in this lake, to clean all of your equipment," said Denny. "Let it dry out significantly before you go to another water body."

The last golden algae kill was in 2010. Game and Fish says it will re-stock the lake when the bloom is over.  - KOB4.

Thousands of dead fish appear in a lake in Puebla, Mexico

In Puebla, a weather phenomenon caused the death of thousands of fish in Lake Valsequillo.

"It is the water hovers and fish start to come, all are there in the bank and we believe that is a lack of oxygen," said Enrique Gomez settler.

The fish of the carp and tilapia varieties floating dead since the area of the panga in San Baltazar Tétela up to the dam Maximino Avila Camacho.

"This is a cyclical phenomenon appeared I remember in October last year, is called thermocline and consisting of an abrupt warming of the water layers also makes a sharp reduction in the amounts of oxygen which kills fish, "said Alberto Jimenez Merino Sagarpa delegate.

"There's the thick edge. If every year is, is temperature change, that is," said Ramon Aguilar, fisherman.

In the area known as the Oasis, a foul odor is recorded due to the decomposition of dead fish that have not been removed from the lake.

Residents claim that this phenomenon is typical of this time of year, but authorities already conduct an investigation to rule that it is any pollution in the water.

Valsequillo Lake is one of the principal bodies of water in Puebla, used for irrigation, fishing and recreation. - Plano Informativo. [Translated]