Thursday, November 13, 2014

MONUMENTAL SOLAR SYSTEM CHANGES: "The Weather Is INCREDIBLY ACTIVE" - Monster Storms Sighted On Ice Giant Uranus Stuns Scientists; Extends Over A Distance Of 9,000 KILOMETERS; Hints Of A HIDDEN VORTEX!

Hubble Space Telescope's NICMOS camera

November 13, 2014 - SPACE
- The normally bland face of Uranus has become increasingly stormy, with enormous cloud systems so bright that for the first time ever, amateur astronomers are able to see details in the planet's hazy blue-green atmosphere. "The weather on Uranus is incredibly active," said Imke de Pater, professor and chair of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, and leader of the team that first noticed the activity when observing the planet with adaptive optics on the W. M. Keck II Telescope in Hawaii.

"This type of activity would have been expected in 2007, when Uranus's once every 42-year equinox occurred and the sun shined directly on the equator," noted co-investigator Heidi Hammel of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy. "But we predicted that such activity would have died down by now. Why we see these incredible storms now is beyond anybody's guess."Uranus is an ice giant, about four times the diameter of Earth, with an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium, with just a bit of methane to give it a blue tint. Because it is so distant - 30 times farther from the sun than Earth - astronomers were able to see little detail on its surface until adaptive optics on the Keck telescopes revealed features much like those on Jupiter.

In all, de Pater, Hammel and their team detected eight large storms on Uranus's northern hemisphere when observing the planet with the Keck Telescope on August 5 and 6. One was the brightest storm ever seen on Uranus at 2.2 microns, a wavelength that senses clouds just below the tropopause, where the pressure ranges from about 300 to 500 mbar, or half the pressure at Earth's surface. The storm accounted for 30 percent of all light reflected by the rest of the planet at this wavelength.

When amateur astronomers heard about the activity, they turned their telescopes on the planet and were amazed to see a bright blotch on the surface of a normally boring blue dot.

Below are infrared images of Uranus (1.6 and 2.2 microns) obtained on Aug. 6, 2014, with adaptive optics on the 10-meter Keck telescope. The white spot is an extremely large storm that was brighter than any feature ever recorded on the planet in the 2.2 micron band. The cloud rotating into view at the lower-right limb grew into the large storm that was seen by amateur astronomers at visible wavelengths.

Imke de Pater (UC Berkeley) & Keck Observatory images

French amateur astronomer Marc Delcroix processed the amateur images and confirmed the discovery of a bright spot on an image by French amateur Régis De-Bénedictis, then in others taken by fellow amateurs in September and October. He had his own chance on Oct. 3 and 4 to photograph it with the Pic du Midi one-meter telescope, where on the second night, "I caught the feature when it was transiting, and I thought, 'Yes, I got it!'" said Delcroix.

"I was thrilled to see such activity on Uranus. Getting details on Mars, Jupiter or Saturn is now routine, but seeing details on Uranus and Neptune are the new frontiers for us amateurs and I did not want to miss that," said Delcroix, who works for an auto parts supplier in Toulouse and has been observing the skies - Jupiter in particular - with his backyard telescope since 2006 and, since 2012, occasionally with the Pic du Midi telescope. "I was so happy to confirm myself these first amateur images on this bright storm on Uranus, feeling I was living a very special moment for planetary amateur astronomy."

Interestingly, the extremely bright storm seen by Keck in the near infrared is not the one seen by the amateurs, which is much deeper in the atmosphere than the one that initially caused all the excitement. De Pater's colleague Larry Sromovsky, a planetary scientist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, identified the amateur spot as one of the few features on the Keck images from August 5 that was only seen at 1.6 microns, and not at 2.2 microns. The 1.6 micron light is emitted from deeper in the atmosphere, which means that this feature is below the uppermost cloud layer of methane-ice in Uranus's atmosphere.

"The colors and morphology of this cloud complex suggests that the storm may be tied to a vortex in the deeper atmosphere similar to two large cloud complexes seen during the equinox," Sromovsky said. Such vortices could be anchored much deeper in the atmosphere and extend over large vertical distances, as inferred from similar vortices on Jupiter, including its Great Red Spot.

An expanded team of astronomers led by Kunio M. Sayanagi, an Assistant Professor at Hampton University in Virginia, leveraged the amateur observations to activate a "Target of Opportunity" proposal on the Hubble Space Telescope, which imaged the entire planet on Oct. 14. Observing at a variety of wavelengths, HST revealed multiple storm components extending over a distance of more than 9,000 kilometers (5,760 miles) and clouds at a variety of altitudes.

De Pater, Sromovsky, Hammel and Pat Fry of the University of Wisconsin will report the details of their observations on Nov. 12 at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division of Planetary Sciences in Tucson, Ariz.

De Pater and her colleagues have been following Uranus for more than a decade, charting the weather on the planet, including bands of circulating clouds, massive swirling storms and convective features at its north pole. Bright clouds are probably caused by gases such as methane rising in the atmosphere and condensing into highly reflective clouds of methane ice.

Because Uranus has no internal source of heat, its atmospheric activity was thought to be driven solely by sunlight, which is now weak in the northern hemisphere. Hence astronomers were surprised when these observations showed such intense activity.

Observations taken with the Keck telescope by Christoph Baranec, an Assistant Professor at the University of Hawaii on Manoa, revealed that the storm was still active, but had a different morphology and possibly reduced intensity.

"If indeed these features are high-altitude clouds generated by flow perturbations associated with a deeper vortex system, such drastic fluctuations in intensity would indeed be possible," Sromovsky added.
"These unexpected observations remind us keenly of how little we understand about atmospheric dynamics in outer planet atmospheres," the authors wrote in their paper. - Daily Galaxy.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Celestial Convergence - Meteor Fireball Sighted Passing Over Georgia, Southeast United States!

File photo
November 13, 2014 - UNITED STATES - At least five reports of a meteor going overhead were received from Georgia Tuesday evening - and up to 10 reports came from neighboring states according to the American Meteor Society.

The reports came from Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia between 6:45 and 7 p.m. Tuesday.

According to the reports, the fireball appeared blue to white to orange in color as it passed overhead.

The meteor did not make a sound as it passed according to all of the reports received.

The Georgia reports came from Blackshear, Ranger, Cumming, Morven and along Interstate 20 east of Atlanta.

Other reports came from Greenville and Pawleys Island in South Carolina, from Garner, NC and Moneta, VA.

The American Meteor Society received at least 10 reports of a meteor over the Southeast on Tuesday, November 11, 2014.  © American Meteor Society

Two reported meteors were seen over Georgia's skies last week -- one on Monday and another on Thursday.

Scientists say that meteors pass through the atmosphere with regularity.

Two major observatories in north Georgia -- one at North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega and a second one at the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville -- are part of a network of six cameras across the Southeast and 15 such observatories across the nation that watch the skies for fireballs. - WXIA.

WORLD WAR III: Russia Reaches Parity With U.S. In Strategic Nuclear Weapons For The First Time Since The Collapse Of The Soviet Union - Putin Prepares Nuclear Surprise For NATO; Plans Long-Range Bomber Flights Near U.S. Shores; Sends Flotilla Bound For G20 In Australia!

November 13, 2014 - RUSSIA
- On September 1, 2014 the US State Department published a report, in which it was stated that for first time since the collapse of the USSR, Russia reached parity with the US in the field of strategic nuclear weapons. Thus, Washington admitted that Moscow regained the status that the Soviet Union had obtained by mid-70's of the XX century and then lost.

Russia prepares nuclear surprise for NATO

According to the report from the State Department, Russia has 528 carriers of strategic nuclear weapons that carry 1,643 warheads. The United States has 794 vehicles and 1,652 nuclear warheads.

It just so happens that today, Russia's strategic nuclear forces (SNF) are even more advanced in comparison with those of the US, as they ensure parity on warheads with a significantly smaller number of carriers of strategic nuclear weapons. This gap between Russia and the United States may only grow in the future, given the fact that Russian defense officials promised to rearm Russia's SNF with new generation missiles.

The progress was made possible thanks to the treaty on the limitation of nuclear weapons, also known as START-3. The treaty was signed by Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama on 8 April 2010 in Prague (came into force on 5 February 2011). In accordance with the document, nuclear warheads of the parties are to be reduced to 1,550 by 2021. The number of carriers (intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and heavy bombers) is supposed to be cut to 700 units.

It was the first strategic agreement, after the treacherous policy of democrats, in which Russia managed to win significant advantages. In the treaty, the Americans, for the first time in history, undertook to reduce their strategic nuclear potential, while Russia won an opportunity to increase it. Furthermore, the new treaty removed important limitations that existed in the previous START 1 and START 2 treaties. It goes about the size of areas for the deployment of mobile ICBMs, the number of multi charge ICBMs, and the possibility to build railway-based ICBMs. Russia did not make any concessions.

Having written off Moscow as a serious geopolitical rival, flying on the wings of inaccessible military and technological superiority, Washington drove itself into a trap, from which it does not see a way out even in a medium-term perspective.

Recently, a lot has been said about so-called "sixth-generation wars" and high-precision long-range weapons that should ensure victory over enemy without coming into direct contact with its armed forces. This concept is highly questionable (The US failed to achieve victory in such a way both in Iraq and Afghanistan). Yet, this is the point, where Russia enters the parity line as well. The proof is long-range cruise missiles of a new generation that will soon be deployed on submarines of the Black Sea Fleet and missile ships of the Caspian Flotilla.

In today's Russia, many find this hard to believe. This is a common belief for many of those, who still enthusiastically remain in captivity of the myths about the absolute "weakness" of Russia and the absolute "superiority" of the West. The myth was made up in the 90's under the influence of Boris Yeltsin and his betrayal of Russian national interests. One has to admit that during that time, the myth was real, if one may say so.

Times have changed. One can easily understand the new state of affairs.

For example, let's consider the potential of conventional weapons of Russia and the West in the European Theater of Operations (ETO). In this area, it is generally believed that NATO is a lot stronger than Russia.

Yet, a first encounter with reality smashes this misbelief into pieces.

As is known, the main striking force, the core of combat power of the ground forces are tanks. By the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Armed Forces had about 20,000 tanks in the ETO.

The Americans, in turn, deployed 6,000 heavy Abrams tanks on the territory of the allied group. Despite this, the combined potential of NATO forces in Europe was still significantly inferior to the Soviet potential. To compensate this imbalance, NATO strategists were forced to resort to tactical nuclear weapons (TNW).

In the first half of the 1950s, NATO conducted a research about what kind of forces the bloc should have to show reliable resistance to large-scale ground offensive of superior forces of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries. The calculations showed then that one required at least 96 full-fledged divisions for the purpose. Yet, the cost of armament for one of such divisions exceeded $1 billion. Plus, one required two or three more billion to maintain such a large group of troops and build appropriate infrastructure. This burden was clearly beyond the power of the economy of the West.

The solution was found in a move to deploy a group of US tactical nuclear weapons on the continent, and that was done soon. By early 1970s, the US arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons counted about 7,000 units of ammunition. The highest achievement in the area was the creation of weapons of selective action - neutron warheads (for guns of 203-mm and 155-mm caliber, and for Lance missiles) with a capacity from 1 to 10 kilotons. The warheads were seen as the key in combating land forces personnel, particularly Soviet tank crews.

Given the nuclear factor, to reflect "Soviet aggression," NATO required to deploy only 30, rather than 96 divisions, and so they were deployed.

How do things work in this area now? In early 2013, the Americans withdrew the last group of heavy Abrams tanks from Europe. In NATO countries, over the last 20 years, one new tank would replace 10-15 old, yet still capable, tanks. At the same time, Russia was not decommissioning its tanks.

As a result, today Russia is the absolute leader in this regard. In mid-2014, the balance of the Defense Ministry had as many as 18,177 tanks (T-90 - 400 pcs., T-72B - 7,144 pcs., T-80 - 4,744 pcs, T-64 - 4,000 pcs, T-62 - 689 pcs, and T-55 - 1200 pcs.).

Of course, only a few thousand tanks are deployed in permanent readiness units, and most of them remain at storage bases. Yet, NATO has the same picture. Therefore, the decisive superiority of Russian tanks has not gone anywhere since the times of the USSR.

Here is another surprise. As for tactical nuclear weapons, the superiority of modern-day Russia over NATO is even stronger.

The Americans are well aware of this. They were convinced before that Russia would never rise again. Now it's too late.

To date, NATO countries have only 260 tactical nuclear weapons in the ETO. The United States has 200 bombs with a total capacity of 18 megatons. They are located on six air bases in Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Turkey. France has 60 more atomic bombs. That is pretty much it. Russia, according to conservative estimates, has 5,000 pieces of different classes of TNW - from Iskander warheads to torpedo, aerial and artillery warheads! The US has 300 tactical B-61 bombs on its own territory, but this does not change the situation against the backdrop of such imbalance. The US is unable to improve it either, as it has destroyed the "Cold War legacy" - tactical nuclear missiles, land-based missiles and nuclear warheads of sea-based Tomahawk cruise missiles. - Pravda.

Russia plans long-range bomber flights near U.S. shores

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor, top, escorts a Russian Air Force Tu-95 bomber off the coast of Alaska during 2011.

Russia plans to send long-range bombers to the Gulf of Mexico in what appears to be Moscow's latest provocative maneuver in its increasingly frosty relations with the West.

Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said Wednesday that "we have to maintain (Russia's) military presence in the western Atlantic and eastern Pacific, as well as the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico" -- including sending bombers "as part of the drills." Shoigu added that Russia will also boost its security in Crimea, the region it annexed from Ukraine earlier this year.

"In many respects, this is connected with the situation in Ukraine, with fomentation of anti-Russian moods on the part of NATO and reinforcement of foreign military presence next to our border," Shoigu said.

The situation in Ukraine remains very much unsettled, as it has been since early this year. In fact, there are signs that the violence there is growing worse, with U.S. and allied officials accusing Moscow of sending fresh troops, tanks and other military equipment across the border in recent days -- something that Russian officials have strongly denied.

It's also true, of course, that Ukraine sits some 6,000 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. But the fact the situation there is being used as justification for military moves elsewhere speaks to the broader implications stemming from the tensions between Russia and the West, particularly the United States.

The plans come after Shoigu said Russia will expand its presence in the Arctic region, which would seemingly affect Alaska and northern Canada. This includes full radar coverage of that region by year's end, leaving Russia ready "to meet unwanted guests" both from the north and east by 2015, Shoigu said, according to a state-run TASS news agency report.

Jeffrey Mankoff, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the Russians are "clearly" trying to make a point with their plan to send bombers toward the Gulf of Mexico, a message "connected to the tensions over Ukraine that have also affected the broader relationship."

"It's kind of a reciprocity," Mankoff told CNN. "They see us trying to muscle in on what they see as their sphere of influence. (Russia is likely thinking), 'If they can do it to us, we can do it them.'"

Russian planes flew near U.S. before

It's not as though the United States doesn't have its own warplanes in places like Japan and Turkey, not to mention NATO air operations assisting Albania, Slovenia and Baltic nations. And Mankoff, who previously served as a U.S. State Department adviser on U.S.-Russia relations, notes that the U.S. military also sometimes flies not far from Russia -- also to send a message, as well as to test things like response times.

"It's not necessarily anything to be overly alarmed about as long as the patrols stay in international airspace," he said.

And, as recently as June, U.S. fighter jets have intercepted Russian long-range bombers off Alaska and California.

Those four Russian planes flew within an area 200 miles from the North American coast. Two peeled off and headed west, while the other two flew south and were intercepted by U.S. F-15s within 50 miles of the California coast.

Capt. Jeff Davis, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said at the time that this was the first time U.S. jets intercepted Russian military aircraft off California in about two years. But such incidents generally are not uncommon, with Davis estimating that Russian flights fly into the so-called air defense zone -- the area 200 miles from the U.S. coast but not within the 13.8 miles that international law would define as U.S. territory -- 10 times a year.

Yet there are signs that Russia has stepped up its military provocations as of late, some of which the European Leadership Network documented earlier this week.

Last month, the Swedish military searched for a mystery underwater vessel after intercepting an emergency radio call in Russian and getting reports about a foreign vessel being spotted in the waters near Stockholm. Though no vessel was found, it was the largest submarine hunt in Swedish waters since the end of the Cold War.

In September, the United States intercepted six Russian planes, including fighter jets and tankers, in airspace near Alaska, officials said.

The same month, an Estonian official was abducted from a border post, taken to Moscow and accused of espionage, sparking dueling claims between the two nations.

Analyst: 'Real danger' is accident, overreaction

And not only have the encounters escalated, so have the risks.

In March, a covert Russian military plane nearly collided with a Swedish passenger aircraft carrying 132 people.

The "real danger" of new Russian flights near the American coast is that an accident actually happens or things "get a little bit out of hand."

"If there's a collision or if somebody overreacted," Mankoff said, that could inflame U.S.-Russia tensions even further.

He recalled a 2001 incident, in which a U.S. spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet before making an emergency landing inside China. That episode shook up relations between Beijing and Washington.

During the Cold War, Soviet warplanes were more frequent in areas around the United States. But Mankoff noted that changed with the fall of the Soviet Union, in part because of cost.

Things slowly changed as Russia took shape, long before Ukraine became an issue. And there's also interest in Moscow in having close ties with its allies in the Americas, such as Venezuela.

"When I was in government four or five years ago, when there was definitely concern that this was becoming more frequent even then," Mankoff said of about Russian military provocations. "This isn't happening out of the blue."

Russia again denies it has troops in Ukraine

Still, there's no doubt that the Ukraine crisis is the driving wedge in U.S.-Russia relations at this point.

A ceasefire deal reached in September has seemingly crumbled, with intensified fighting of late between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels.

Those rebels have been joined by Russian troops, tanks, artillery and air defense systems that have recently crossed the border, according to U.S. Gen. Phillip Breedlove, NATO's commander for Europe.

On Thursday, Ukrainian defense spokesman Andriy Lysenko said there's been "constant movement of Russian military equipment with (separatist) marks to the dividing line."

Yet Russia, as it's done time and again, is knocking down any claims that it has troops inside Ukrainian territory.

"I am telling you very frankly and officially as well: There are no military forces or any military movement across the border, and moreover there is no presence of our troops in the territory of (southeast) Ukraine," foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukhashevich said. - CNN.

Russian flotilla bound for G20 in Brisbane

 Heading to intercept the Russian flotilla ... Royal Australian Navy (RAN) ship HMAS Stuart, with its 127mm gun capable of firing 20 rounds per minute.
Picture: New Corp Australia Source: News Corp Australia

A third Australian warship has been dispatched to intercept a Russian flotilla steaming towards the G20 summit in Brisbane and a fourth navy vessel is ready to divert to the area.

The replenishment ship HMAS Sirius is heading into the Coral Sea to support the frigates HMAS Parramatta and HMAS Stuart and the frigate HMAS Sydney is preparing to divert from an exercise in New Zealand to join the mission, according to a government source.

Both Parramatta and Stuart are understood to be carrying Seahawk anti-submarine warfare helicopters, although defence sources said it was unlikely that a Russian submarine is in the area.

News Corp Australia understands that the government also asked the Navy about the possibility of a Collins Class submarine joining the mission but was told that the nearest boat was in Perth and would not be able to reach the area until well after the G20 summit was over.

Three RAAF AP-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft, also equipped for anti-submarine warfare, have been sent to Amberley near Brisbane and are maintaining a 24/7 patrol above the flotilla, according to official sources.

 Pride of Russian fleet bound for Brisbane ... The Russia Navy’s guided-missile cruiser, The Varyag. Source: AFP

The Russian task group is steaming southwest in the Coral Sea off Townsville at 15 knots and is due to arrive in international waters off the G20 venue on Saturday November 15. The ships will be off Rockhampton on Friday.

While Australian officials have played down the presence of the flotilla led by the Russian Pacific Fleet flagship the cruiser Varyag, frantic efforts have been underway in Moscow to establish the intention of the fleet, according to a government source.

It is understood that the Australian Defence Attache in the Russian capital has advised senior Russian military officers that the ships would be refused port access in Brisbane unless there was an emergency.

The National Security Committee of Cabinet is not scheduled to meet ahead of the weekend G20 conference but according to insiders the lines have been “running hot”.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott threatened to “shirt-front” Mr Putin over Russia’s role in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and the deaths of 38 Australian residents.

 Expected to be off Rockhampton on Friday ... The Russian flotilla is due to arrive in international waters off the G20 venue on Saturday November 15.
Source: News Corp Australia

The unpredictable Russian strongman will arrive in Brisbane for the summit on Friday and is expecting a hostile reception.

Military fellow at the Lowy Institute James Brown said it made sense to have Russian warships nearby.
“If something did happen it helps to have military forces in the region,” Mr Brown said.

Defence released a statement saying that Russian warships had been deployed to previous international summits including the 2009 APEC meeting in Singapore and the visit of President Medvedev to San Francisco in 2010.

Russian has increased its global military activity in recent weeks with submarine incursions in the Baltic, bomber flights over the Arctic and the Caribbean and the task group in the South Pacific.

Swedish Navy submarine Captain Jens Nykvist told a Submarine Institute conference in Fremantle yesterday that the Baltic had returned to “Cold War” status after years of peace.

“We have increased activities and it has affected our operations ... we spend more time at sea. It is an interesting future we see,” Captain Nykvist said.

The Defence Department confirmed the ship and aircraft deployments on Thursday night. - News Australia.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Ice Age Now - Denver Cold Shatters 130-Year-Old Record For The Coldest Temperature Of -5 Degrees; Wind Chill Advisory Issued For Much Of The State!

November 13, 2014 - DENVER, UNITED STATES
- Denver broke two records Wednesday.

The city's 6-degree high on Wednesday shattered a 98-year-old record for the coldest high on this date. And, according to a National Weather Service tweet late in the evening, the temperature had fallen to -5 degrees at Denver International Airport — a record low for the date.

The previous record low of -4 was even older, set more than 130 years ago in 1882.

Also Wednesday night, the weather service issued a wind chill advisory for much of the state — including Denver and the Front Range. The advisory is in effect until 9 a.m. Thursday.

Wind chill values are expected to be as low as minus-25 degrees overnight, with 10 mph winds.

The low temperature overnight is expected to be in the negative teens.

During the day, Denver made Anchorage, at 41 degrees, seem balmy. Iceland? Its capital, Reykjavik, was practically basking in 52 degrees. Even the Russian capital, Moscow, hit 42.

Thanks to a brief glimpse of afternoon sun, Denver warmed up to 6 briefly. The previous coldest temperature ever recorded for a high on Nov. 12 in Denver was 9 degrees, set in 1916.

Ice- and snow-covered roads were snarled with traffic throughout the region on Wednesday. Some delays were reported at Denver International Airport , with 28 inbound flights and 27 outbound flights canceled.

Denver set a record low high on Tuesday at 16 degrees, breaking a mark from 1916.

Denver weather forecasters said 2 to 4 inches of snow accumulation was possible in Denver on Wednesday.

The largest snow total recorded across the Front Range so far from this storm has been in Boulder, where 8.3 inches fell.

Roads across the Denver metro area were icy and snow-packed in spots, especially on bridges and elevated roads. Blowing snow was also making lane recognition perhaps the biggest challenge.

Here are a few images, courtesy of social media:

Motorists were urged to give themselves extra time during their commute and to drive at slower speeds.

"You're just going to need some patience today," said David Barjenbruch, a meteorologist at the National

Weather Service in Boulder. "It's going to be slow during the morning commute and evening commute as well."

Denver Public Works deployed its 70 large snow plows overnight in anticipation of the morning commute. - Denver Post.

CONTAGION: World Health Organization - Ebola Death Toll Tops 5,000; Steep Rise In Sierra Leone Cases!

  Health workers carry the body of an Ebola virus victim in the Waterloo district of Freetown, Sierra Leone, October 21, 2014. 
Credit: Reuters/Josephus Olu-Mamma

November 13, 2014 - THE EBOLA OUTBREAK
- The death toll from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa's three hardest-hit countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, has risen to 5,147 out of 14,068 cases at the end of Nov. 9, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday.

A further 13 deaths and 30 cases have been recorded in five other countries - Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, Spain and the United States, the U.N. agency said.

"There is some evidence that case incidence is no longer increasing nationally in Guinea and Liberia, but steep increases persist in Sierra Leone," the WHO said in a statement. "Cases and deaths continue to be under-reported in this outbreak."

Some 421 new infections were reported in Sierra Leone in the week to Nov. 9, especially in the west and north, it said.

Ebola is still spreading intensely in Sierra Leone's capital of Freetown, with Koinadugu and Kambia northern regions now "emerging areas of concern", it added.

The virus is spreading rapidly in Macenta in Guinea's southwest near the Liberian border and to a lesser extent in Siguiri bordering Mali, it said, calling for a high level of vigilance due to the district's proximity to its neighbor.

There have been a total of four confirmed and probable cases in Mali and four deaths, the WHO said. A two-year-old girl who died of Ebola last month in Mali was among the fatalities, but her infection was not linked to the latest cases, it added.

More than 90 people were quarantined across the Mali capital of Bamako on Wednesday after a 25-year-old nurse died of Ebola after treating a Guinea man who died after showing Ebola-like symptoms.
In Liberia, which reported 97 new cases in the week to Nov. 8, the Montserrado district which includes the capital Monrovia accounted for nearly half, the WHO said. However, cases continue to decline in Lofa county.

Only 19 of 53 Ebola treatment centers planned in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are in operation, the WHO said.

An estimated 370 trained teams are needed to conduct safe burials in the three countries with widespread and intense spread of Ebola, but only 140 teams are on the ground, it said. - Reuters.

Tracking the EBOLA Virus Outbreak