Wednesday, December 17, 2014

MIDDLE EAST CONFLICT: Paradigm Shift - European Parliament Votes To Recognize Palestine Statehood "In Principle"!



December 17, 2014 - EUROPE
- The European Parliament has adopted a resolution recognizing Palestinian statehood in principle. A total of 498 MEPs voted in favor, while 88 were against.

A parliamentary session in Strasbourg on Tuesday could not decide on the matter, opting for further negotiations, but on Wednesday the European Parliament eventually adopted a resolution that “in principle” grants the troubled region statehood.

"[The European Parliament] supports in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood and the two-state solution, and believes these should go hand in hand with the development of peace talks, which should be advanced," the motion said. The vote also saw 111 abstentions.

The European Parliament reiterated its support for the two-state solution "on the basis of the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states, with the secure State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security on the basis of the right of self-determination and full respect of international law."


Members of the European Parliament take part in a voting session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, December 17, 2014 (Reuters / Vincent Kessler)

MEPs emphasized the EU's strongest opposition to any acts of terrorism connected with Palestinians' campaign for statehood, however.

Several of the EU's 28 member countries were already in favor of full recognition. Sweden in October became the only EU member so far to officially recognize Palestine as an independent state.

The European Parliament vote comes as the Palestinians are soon to make their case at the UN Security Council in New York, where they will ask for a complete Israeli withdrawal from East Jerusalem and the West Bank to the 1967 borders in two years' time.

WATCH: European Parliament votes to recognize Palestine state.




These discussions follow a tense summer period when Israel carried out its controversial Protective Edge operation against the Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and elicited international condemnation for the number of civilians killed and damage that would take decades to undo.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is adamantly against any resolution under which Palestine gains back the occupied East Jerusalem and West Bank, believing it would lead to “terrorists” running wild and causing regional problems.

"Attempts of the Palestinians and of several European countries to force conditions on Israel will only lead to a deterioration in the regional situation and will endanger Israel," Netanyahu said Monday.

Although the US, which has been trying to broker a two-state solution, has been a close ally of Israel for years, it is now also taking on a more stern tone with the Israeli leadership.

"This isn't the time to detail private conversations or speculate on a UN Security Council resolution that hasn't even been tabled, no matter what pronouncements are made publicly about it,” US Secretary of State John Kerry told journalists Tuesday.

It remains to be seen what Washington’s actions will be at the Security Council, when Palestine makes its case for a full Israeli withdrawal. - RT.



FIRE IN THE SKY: Fireball Seen Shooting Across The Skies Over Colorado!

© KOAA

December 17, 2014 - COLORADO, UNITED STATES
- A possible fireball was seen west of Colorado Springs above Mountain Shadows around 5 p.m. Tuesday.

The picture was sent to News5 by viewer, Lisa.

Meteorologist Stephen Bowers said it's likely a meteor.

He said, "There are reports of this being seen around Denver, too.

It's actually under review by the American Meteor Society to see if it can be classified as a fireball."

Stephen tells us the Geminids meteor shower hit its peak last weekend, but we could still see some meteors linger.

The Geminids is one of the more active meteor showers each year, known for slow-moving, bright meteors.
 


- KOAA.


NASA sees 208 Fireballs on December 16

Every night, a network of NASA all-sky cameras scans the skies above the United States for meteoritic fireballs. Automated software maintained by NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office calculates their orbits, velocity, penetration depth in Earth's atmosphere and many other characteristics.

On Dec. 16, 2014, the network reported 208 fireballs.




In this diagram of the inner solar system, all of the fireball orbits intersect at a single point--Earth. The orbits are color-coded by velocity, from slow (red) to fast (blue). [Larger image] [movies]

- Space Weather.




GLOBAL ECONOMIC WAR: Europe Destabilizes Russia Through The United States Corporation - Russians Panic Ahead Of Economic Turmoil, Rush To Stores To Pre- empt Price Increases; Bank Run Feared!

People wait in a line to pay for their purchases at the IKEA store on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. The collapse of the national
currency triggered a spending spree by Russians desperate to buy cars and home appliances before prices shoot higher. Several car dealership were reported
to have suspended sales, unsure how far down the ruble will go, while Apple halted all online sales in Russia. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
December 17, 2014 - RUSSIA - Russian consumers flocked to the stores Wednesday, frantically buying a range of big-ticket items to pre-empt the price rises kicked off by the staggering fall in the value of the ruble in recent days.

As the Russian authorities announced a series of measures to ease the pressure on the ruble, which slid 15 percent in the previous two days and raised fears of a bank run, many Russians were buying cars and home appliances — in some cases in record numbers — before prices for these imported goods shoot higher.

The Swedish furniture giant IKEA already warned Russian consumers that its prices will rise Thursday, which resulted in weekend-like crowds at a Moscow store on a Wednesday afternoon.

Shops selling a broad range of items were reporting record sales — some have even suspended operations, unsure of how far the ruble will sink. Apple, for one, has halted all online sales in Russia.

"This is a very dangerous situation. We are just a few days away from a full-blown run on the banks," Russia's leading business daily Vedomosti said in an editorial Wednesday. "If one does not calm down the currency market right now, the banking system will need robust emergency care."

Alyona Korsuntseva, a shopper at IKEA in her 30s, said the current jitters surrounding the Russian economy reminded her of the 1998 Russian crisis when the ruble tumbled following the government's default on sovereign bonds.


People wait in a line to pay for her purchases at the IKEA store on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. The collapse of the national
currency triggered a spending spree by Russians desperate to buy cars and home appliances before prices shoot higher. Several car dealership were reported
to have suspended sales, unsure how far down the ruble will go, while Apple halted all online sales in Russia. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

A couple carry a television set they purchased from a shop in St. Petersburg, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. The collapse of the national currency triggered
a spending spree by Russians desperate to buy cars and home appliances before prices shoot higher. Several car dealership were reported to have suspended
sales, unsure how far down the ruble will go, while Apple halted all online sales in Russia. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

A woman waits in a line to pay for her purchases at the IKEA store on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. The collapse of the national
currency triggered a spending spree by Russians desperate to buy cars and home appliances before prices shoot higher. Several car dealership were reported
to have suspended sales, unsure how far down the ruble will go, while Apple halted all online sales in Russia. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

"What's pressuring us is the fact that many people (back then) rushed to withdraw money from bank cards, accounts," she says. "We want to safeguard ourselves so that things wouldn't be as bad they were back then."

Consumers are buying durable goods as they are seen as better investments than most Russian stocks. And, an overwhelming majority of Russians cannot afford to buy land or real estate.

Earlier this week, the ruble suffered catastrophic losses as traders continued to fret over the combined impact of low oil prices and Western sanctions over Russia's involvement in Ukraine's crisis.

Some signs emerged Wednesday that the ruble's freefall may have come to an end and the currency could recover, at least in the short-term. After posting fresh losses early Wednesday, the ruble rallied more than 10 percent to around 60 per dollar at 9 p.m. Moscow time (1800 GMT, 1 p.m. EST).

Analysts credited a series of reassuring statements from the Central Bank and the government for the improving ruble backdrop.

First, Deputy Finance Minister Alexei Moiseyev said the government will sell foreign currency from its own reserves "as much as necessary and as long as necessary."

Then the Central Bank announced an expanded series of measures to help calm the situation such as giving banks more freedom to increase interest rates on retail deposits and offering them more flexibility to deal with the ruble's depreciation on their balance sheets.


A man pushes a cart with his purchases at the IKEA store on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. The collapse of the national currency
triggered a spending spree by Russians desperate to buy cars and home appliances before prices shoot higher. Several car dealership were reported to have
suspended sales, unsure how far down the ruble will go, while Apple halted all online sales in Russia. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

A young woman waits in a line to pay for her purchases at the IKEA store on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. The collapse of the
national currency triggered a spending spree by Russians desperate to buy cars and home appliances before prices shoot higher. Several car dealership were
reported to have suspended sales, unsure how far down the ruble will go, while Apple halted all online sales in Russia. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

A man carries a dishwasher machine he purchased from a store in St.Petersburg, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. The collapse of the national currency
triggered a spending spree by Russians desperate to buy cars and home appliances before prices shoot higher. Several car dealership were reported to
have suspended sales, unsure how far down the ruble will go, while Apple halted all online sales in Russia. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

Neil Shearing, chief emerging markets economist at London-based Capital Economics, said the "authorities have at last started to develop a strategy for containing the effects of the ruble's collapse on the banking system and wider economy."

Tom Levinson, chief foreign exchange and rates strategist at Sberbank CIB, agreed, saying the Central Bank could ease pressure on the ruble, even without massively spending its reserves.

"If they can provide measures that help secure the banking sector, provide confidence to investors and also to the population as a whole ... that could be the first toward stabilizing the situation," Levinson said in an interview. "Long way to go, but we are seeing some positive steps at last."

The ruble's tailspin continued Tuesday, despite a surprise move by Russia's Central Bank to raise its benchmark interest rate to 17 percent from 10.5 percent — a move aimed to make it more attractive for currency traders to hold onto their rubles.

Should the current attempts to shore up the ruble fail, then the Russian authorities could be imposing capital controls.

However, Russia's Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev has denied the government is considering doing so. While easing pressure on the ruble, the move would shatter Russia's already tarnished reputation to investors.

Russian officials, meanwhile, have sought to project a message of confidence on state television, dwelling on the advantages of ruble devaluation, such as a boost to domestic manufacturing.

There are fears that the ruble could come under further pressure this week as President Barack Obama is expected to sign legislation authorizing new economic sanctions against Russia.

Whatever happens with the ruble, the Russian economy is set to shrink next year by 0.8 percent, even if oil prices stay above $80 per barrel. If oil prices stay at the current level of around $60, the Central Bank said the Russian economy could contract by nearly 5 percent.

The German government's coordinator for relations with Russia, Gernot Erler, said the economic crisis in Russia was largely the result of the drop in oil prices, not the sanctions imposed by the West.

"It's an illusion to think that if the sanctions were to fall away tomorrow, the Russian economy would suddenly be all right again," Erler told rbb-Inforadio on Wednesday. - Daily Mail.


Russian Bank Run Could Be ‘in the Cards,’ UralSib Capital Says

The Russian economy may come to “a sudden stop” and a bank run “could be in the cards,” according to an analyst at Moscow brokerage UralSib Capital.

“A full-blown currency and financial-crisis scenario seems to be unfolding in Russia in what was supposed to a quiet week as we head into the holiday season,” Slava Smolyaninov, deputy head of research, wrote in an e-mailed report today. “There is a risk that the economy will come to a sudden stop, along with the banks and the overall financial system. Hence, we may have underestimated the level of financial risk in the event of a full-fledged panic. A bank run could be in the cards.”

Smolyaninov didn’t reply to a call or an e-mail seeking comment. UralSib Capital is a unit of a bank that is the 13th largest consumer lender in Russia, according to its website.

Banks in Moscow, including Citigroup Inc. (C), ZAO Raiffeisen and Khanty-Mansiysk Otkritie Bank, yesterday reported a surge in demand for foreign currency as the ruble continued to slide after a plunge in oil prices. The currency has lost almost half its value against the dollar this year, a decline yesterday’s interest-rate increase initially failed to halt.

OAO Sberbank (SBER), Russia’s biggest lender, Alfa Bank and consumer lender TCS Bank responded today by offering clients higher interest in rubles in a bid to retain deposits.

“The financial system and banks in particular are clearly in danger as a crisis of trust seems to be developing as well,” Smolyaninov wrote. “We believe the worst is yet to come.”

Russia’s ruble-denominated Micex Index (INDEXCF) fell 1.7 percent today, while the dollar-denominated rallied 7 percent by 3:05 p.m. The ruble rebounded, snapping seven days of losses against the dollar, and gaining 2.3 percent to 65.95.  - Bloomberg.



AGE OF OBAMA: Paradigm Shift - President Obama Announces Breakthrough In U.S. And Cuba Policy; Will Establish Embassy In Cuba, Lift Sanctions; Normalized Banking And Trade Ties; Most Significant Shift Since 1960 Embargo!



December 17, 2014 - UNITED STATES
- United States President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the US is initiating plans to rebuild its relationship with Cuba following decades of disputes between the two nations.

Speaking from the White House in Washington, DC, Pres. Obama said Wednesday that the US is seeking to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba and soon plans to open an embassy in Havana, authorize sales and exports between nations and make changes to current travel laws that for decades have restricted traffic between the two countries.

WATCH: Embargo Ended - US lifts sanctions against Cuba.


 
“Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba,”
Obama said as he offered to “extend a hand of friendship” while unveiling what he called “the most significant changes in our policy in more than 50 years.”

“We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interest,”
Obama said.
Raúl Castro, the president of Cuba, announced in a statement televised concurrently with Obama’s that his nation will “reestablish diplomatic relations” with the US.


Cuban President Raul Castro. (AFP Photo/Yamil Lage)

Since the administration of Pres. John F. Kennedy in the 1960s, restrictions and sanctions have kept the American and Cuban ways of life from all but converging policies put in place at the dawn of the Cold War in an attempt to curb the spread of Communism.

Yet Obama said Wednesday that, while rooted in the best of intentions, this “rigid policy” has “had little effect” a half-century later. Indeed, Obama acknowledged, a Castro still sits atop the Cuban government as during the Kennedy administration, and that similar restraints concerning how the US dealt with China and Vietnam, “once controversial,” have long been lifted following decades of disagreements.

This is fundamentally about freedom and openness, and also expresses my belied in the power of people-to-people engagement,” Obama said of the policy change, adding that he intends such “contact will ultimately do more to empower the Cuban people.”

AFP Photo/Cubadebate.cu/Ismael Francisco

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, will soon begin discussions with Cuban representatives, the White House said; in April an official from Havana will be welcomed to attend the annual Summit of Americas.

The announcements on Wednesday occurred only hours after it was revealed that Alan Gross, an American citizen imprisoned in Cuba for the last five years, had been released on humanitarian grounds, along with a US intelligence official who has similarly been detained for 20 years. On its part, the US has released three individuals from the so-called “Cuban Five” who had until now been imprisoned.


US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy signs the order of naval blockade of Cuba, on October 24, 1962 in White House, Washington DC,
during the Cuban missiles crisis. (AFP Photo)

Announcements from the Obama and Castro offices came only hours after the head of the US Agency for International Development, or USAID, announced plans to resign following a five-year term marred in recent months by scandals surrounding American efforts to influence Cuban youths. - RT.



MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Extreme Water Crisis - NASA Says That It Will Take ELEVEN TRILLION GALLONS OF WATER To Relieve California Drought!

NASA GRACE satellite data reveal the severity of California’s drought on water resources across the state. This map shows the trend in water storage
between September 2011 and September 2014. Image Credit:  NASA JPL GRACE animation

December 17, 2014 - CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES
- NASA scientists say it would require 11 trillion gallons of water – more water than California's 38 million residents use each year for domestic purposes – to relieve the state’s record drought, currently in its third year.

A team of NASA scientists, using the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites, discovered that the state’s Sacramento and San Joaquin River basins were 11 trillion gallons (41.6 trillion liters) below normal seasonal levels. The researchers say that since the launch of GRACE in 2002 water levels have steadily dropped.

Californians use an average of 181 gallons of water each day, a state total of around 2.5 trillion gallons a year, according to data from the UGSC website.

But the bad news for Californians looking for a reprieve from the worst drought in centuries doesn’t end there. NASA said the satellite images show the Sierra Nevada range snowpack is half the amount of past estimates.


Combining data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission and other satellite observations within a numerical model
is enabling high-resolution, timely mapping of groundwater and soil wetness conditions that are a key input to the U.S. Drought Monitor maps.
Image Credit:  NASA See animation

"The 2014 snowpack was one of the three lowest on record and the worst since 1977, when California's population was half what it is now,"
Tom Painter, principal investigator of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in the NASA release.

Jay Famiglietti, who led the team of NASA scientists, was confident of the accuracy of the data.

"Spaceborne and airborne measurements of Earth's changing shape, surface height and gravity field now allow us to measure and analyze key features of droughts better than ever before, including determining precisely when they begin and end and what their magnitude is at any moment in time," Famiglietti said.

NASA’s research indicates that groundwater levels across the American Southwest are in the lowest two to 10 percent since 1949.


A sign reading "Our Drought Is Serious" is pictured on the side of a road in Bakersfield, California (Reuters / Jonathan Alcorn)

Reuters / Lucy Nicholson

Reuters / Lucy Nicholson

In this before-and-after composite image, (Top) The Green Bridge passes over full water levels at a section of Lake Oroville near the
Bidwell Marina on July 20, 2011 in Oroville, California (AFP Photo / Paul Hames)

In this before-and-after composite image, (Top) Full water levels are visible in the Bidwell Marina at Lake Oroville on on July 20, 2011 in Oroville, California
(AFP Photo / Paul Hames)

Meanwhile, residents of the most populated US state have expressed optimism recently after many inches of rain fell across California. Experts say it’s just a drop in the bucket as far as the drought conditions are concerned.

"Recent rains are no reason to let up on our conservation efforts,"
Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board Felicia Marcus said recently.

Famiglietti agreed with that statement.

"It takes years to get into a drought of this severity, and it will likely take many more big storms, and years, to crawl out of it," he acknowledged.

The data was presented by the NASA team on Tuesday at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. - RT.




FIRE IN THE SKY: "The Christmas Comet" - Green Comet Lovejoy Brightens To Naked-Eye Visibility As It Moves Over Our Northern Skies This Holiday Season; Brightening Faster Than Experts Predicted!



December 17, 2014 - SPACE
- Is there a cylindrical object under your Christmas tree? Open it now. A small telescope is all you need to see Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2). Discovered just a few months ago by Terry Lovejoy in Australia, the green comet is brightening to naked-eye visibility as it moves into northern skies this holiday season. Italian photographer Rolando Ligustri took the picture above on December 15th.

"it's amazing how this comet is developing and increasing in brightness," says Ligustri. Indeed, it is brightening faster than experts predicted. Originally the comet was supposed to reach naked-eye visibility in January or February 2015. It may be crossing that threshold now. Reports from the southern hemisphere put the brightness of the comet at magnitude +6.0, similar to the dimmest stars the human eye can see.

On the nights around Christmas, "Comet Q2," as some are calling it, will glide just south of Sirius, the Dog Star.  - Space Weather.



A Comet of the High Dark

The new Comet Lovejoy, C/2014 Q2, as imaged on November 27th by Gerald Rhemann in Austria using a remotely operated 12-inch f/3.6 astrograph in Namibia.

A new Comet Lovejoy, designated C/2014 Q2, is heading our way out of deep space and out of the deep southern sky. It may brighten to 5th magnitude from late December through much of January as it climbs into excellent viewing position for the Northern Hemisphere, high in the dark winter night.

This is Australian amateur Terry Lovejoy's fifth comet discovery. He turned it up at 15th magnitude in Puppis last August, in search images that he took with a wide-field 8-inch scope. It hasn't moved very much since then — it's still in Puppis as of December 11th — but it's hundreds of times brighter now at visual magnitude 6.8, reports David Seargent in Australia. On December 9th "I saw it easily using a pair of 6x35 binoculars," Seargent writes. Using a 4-inch binocular telescope at 25×, he says it was a good 8 arcminutes wide with a strong central condensation and no visible tail.

And it's picking up speed across the sky for a long northward dash.

"Comet Q2," as some are calling it, will skim through Columba south of Orion and Lepus from the nights of December 16th through the 26th, brightening all the while, as shown on the finder charts for December and January below and on the print-friendly versions here: December, January. The dates on the charts are in Universal Time, and the ticks are for 0:00 UT.

The comet spends the last few days of December in Lepus at perhaps 6th magnitude, though by then the light of the waxing Moon (at first quarter on the 28th) will start to be an annoyance. On New Year's Eve, a little after January 1st Universal Time, look for the comet just off Lepus's forehead as shown on the charts.

The Moon brightens to become full on January 4th. Most of us won't get a dark moonless view again until early in the evening of January 7th, with the comet now crossing northernmost Eridanus. That's the same day it passes closest by Earth: at a distance of 0.47 a.u (44 million miles; 70 million km). That's also about when it should start glowing brightest for its best two weeks, as it crosses Taurus and Aries high in early evening.

By then the comet is starting to recede into the distance, but its intrinsic brightness should still be increasing a bit; it doesn't reach perihelion until January 30th, at a rather distant 1.29 a.u. from the Sun. By that date the comet should be starting to fade slightly from Earth's point of view. In February it will continue north between Andromeda and Perseus as it fades further, on its way to passing very close to Polaris late next May when it should again be very faint.

Originally Comet Q2 wasn't expected to become this bright. We're basing these predictions on an analysis by J. P. Navarro Pina in late November using the comet's visual behavior for the previous several weeks. Whether it will continue to brighten on schedule is anybody's guess, but the odds are good; comets that don't come near the Sun are more predictable in their brightnesses than those that do.

Q2 is a very long-period comet, but this is not its first time coming through the inner solar system. On the way in, its path showed an orbital period of roughly 11,500 years. Slight perturbations by the planets during this apparition will alter the orbit a bit, so that it will next return in about 8,000 years.



Update

Comet Lovejoy is brightening faster than expected. Last night it was visual magnitude 6.1, estimated veteran comet observer Alan Hale using 10×50 binoculars in a post to the Comet Mailing List on Yahoo Groups. The comet was very low in his sky.

From Australia, where the comet currently passes overhead, David Seargent says that on December 13th he "just managed to glimpse 2014 Q2 naked eye in a very clear sky. I estimated it at mag. 6.1 and at 6.2 with 2×25 opera glasses." Then on the 14th: "Much easier to see naked eye than 24 hours earlier, and estimated as bright as 5.5!" That same night Michael Mattiazzo in Australia estimated it at 6.0. Paul Camilleri said 5.7.

At this rate it would crest at about 4.1 in mid-January.


Finder chart for Comet Lovejoy, C/2014 Q2, during December 2014. The dates are in Universal Time; the ticks are at 0:00 UT
(7 p.m. on the previous date Eastern Standard Time).

Finder chart for Comet Lovejoy, C/2014 Q2, during January 2015. The dates are in Universal Time; the ticks are at 0:00 UT
(7 p.m. on the previous date Eastern Standard Time). 

- Sky and Telescope.



SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: "Tsunami Waves" - Interstellar Shock Waves Buffet NASA's Voyager 1; Interstellar Space Is Not As Quiet As Some Researchers Expected?! [LISTEN TO THE SOUND]

This artist's concept shows NASA's Voyager spacecraft against a backdrop of stars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


December 17, 2014 - SPACE
- Since 2012, NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has experienced three 'tsunami waves' in interstellar space.  The most recent, which reached the spacecraft earlier this year, is still propagating outward according to new data. It is the longest-lasting shock wave that researchers have seen in interstellar space.

"Most people would have thought the interstellar medium would have been smooth and quiet. But these shock waves seem to be more common than we thought," said Don Gurnett, professor of physics at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Gurnett presented the new data Monday, Dec. 15 at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

A "tsunami wave" occurs when the sun emits a coronal mass ejection, throwing out a magnetic cloud of plasma from its surface. This generates a wave of pressure. When the wave runs into the interstellar plasma -- the charged particles found in the space between the stars -- a shock wave results that perturbs the plasma.


The Voyager 1 spacecraft has experienced three "tsunami waves" in interstellar space

"The tsunami causes the ionized gas that is out there to resonate -- "sing" or vibrate like a bell," said Ed Stone, project scientist for the Voyager mission based at California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

This is the third shock wave that Voyager 1 has experienced. The first event was in October to November of 2012, and the second wave in April to May of 2013 revealed an even higher plasma density. Voyager 1 detected the most recent event in February, and it is still going on as of November data. The spacecraft has moved outward 250 million miles (400 million kilometers) during the third event.

"This remarkable event raises questions that will stimulate new studies of the nature of shocks in the interstellar medium," said Leonard Burlaga, astrophysicist emeritus at NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who analyzed the magnetic field data that were key to these results.

It is unclear to researchers what the unusual longevity of this particular wave may mean. They are also uncertain as to how fast the wave is moving or how broad a region it covers.

The second tsunami wave helped researchers determine in 2013 that Voyager 1 had left the heliosphere, the bubble created by the solar wind encompassing the sun and the planets in our solar system. Denser plasma "rings" at a higher frequency, and the medium that Voyager flew through, was 40 times denser than what had been previously measured. This was key to the conclusion that Voyager had entered a frontier where no spacecraft had gone before: interstellar space.

WATCH:  Voyager 1 Experiences Three Tsunami Waves in Interstellar Space.




"The density of the plasma is higher the farther Voyager goes," Stone said. "Is that because the interstellar medium is denser as Voyager moves away from the heliosphere, or is it from the shock wave itself? We don't know yet."

Gurnett, principal investigator of the plasma wave instrument on Voyager, expects that such shock waves propagate far out into space, perhaps even to twice the distance between the sun and where the spacecraft is right now.

Voyager 1 and its twin, Voyager 2, were launched 16 days apart in 1977. Both spacecraft flew by Jupiter and Saturn. Voyager 2 also flew by Uranus and Neptune. Voyager 2, launched before Voyager 1, is the longest continuously operated spacecraft and is expected to enter interstellar space in a few years. - NASA.



SOLAR WATCH: Almost X-Flare - Active Sunspot Region 2242 Erupts With M9-Class Solar Flare; Produces Bright Coronal Mass Ejection; Explosion Caused A Brief HF Radio Blackout!



December 17, 2014 - SPACE
- Active sunspot AR2242 erupted on December 17th, producing an M8.7-class solar flare. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the extreme ultraviolet flash in the image above.

The explosion caused a brief HF radio blackout on the daylitt side of Earth. The event was minor, however, and would have been noticed by only a small number of mariners and ham radio operators. The event was associated with a 7 minute long Radio Burst (TenFlare) measuring 320 solar flux units (SFU) and a Type II radio emission with an estimated velocity of 910 km/s.

Of greater interest is the CME. SOHO coronagraphs have detected a bright and massive cloud of plasma emerging from the blast site:




The bulk of the CME appears to be traveling south of the sun-Earth line, so a direct hit is unlikely. However, our planet could receive a glancing blow from the cloud a few days hence.




More strong flares could be in the offing. Region 2242, along with region 2241, will each remain a threat for additional moderate to strong solar flares. AR2242 is growing and it has an unstable 'beta-gamma-delta' magnetic field poised to explode again. NOAA forecasters estimate a 55% chance of M-flares and a 10% chance of X-flares on December 17th.

WATCH: Earth-Facing M8.7 Solar Flare - December 17, 2014.




Sunspots

Attached is an updated look at the visible solar disk as of Tuesday, including a closeup view of regions 2241 and 2242.




Solar activity since Monday was low with a number of C-Flares detected around both of the active regions (2241 and 2242).

Each region continued to expand during the past day in both size and magnetic complexity. There is an increasing chance for moderate M-Class flaring during the next few days. All other visible regions were stable. No Earth directed coronal mass ejections were observed during the past 24 hours.


Auroras

Ian Johnson in Fairbanks, Alaska sends us this beautiful aurora photo he captured Monday night (Dec 15).

"I wanted to share this photo with you taken from last night (12/15/2014 @ 11:30 PM). I’m a student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and with finals week I couldn’t go further than my house to photograph and watch last night. I watched the ovation and data on your site while studying until 10:30pm and then out the door I went."




Sky watchers around the Arctic Circle should remain alert for visible aurora while an elevated solar wind stream passes our planet.

- Space Weather | Solar Watcher | Solar Ham.




WORLD WAR III: Cold War 2.0 - Pentagon Confirms Military Buildup Along Russian Borders For "Peace And Stability"; Russia And The U.S. Locked In High-Stakes Submarine Drone Race; Russia Prepares For, Builds Massive Defense And Super Computer Network!

AFP Photo / Janek Skarzynski

December 17, 2014 - WAR
- The Pentagon has confirmed the military buildup along Russia’s borders to ensure long-term “peace and stability” in the region. Earlier Moscow accused NATO of a sharp increase in air activity and intelligence flights in the border zone. Replying to RIA Novosti’squery on the increased number of NATO flights around Russia's borders, a Pentagon representative told the news agency that the military presence of the alliance has increased, but all operations are carried out under utmost “transparency.”


Pentagon confirms military buildup along Russian borders for ‘peace and stability’

The current efforts of the US European Command, the Pentagon official said, are in line with Operation Atlantic Resolve and demonstrate American “commitment to the collective security of NATO, the long-term peace and stability in the region”, particularly in the light of Russian “interference” in Ukraine.

The official added that this includes among other measures, an increase in “air, and land, sea presence,” as well as holding military drills.

US Operation Atlantic Resolve comprises all US efforts to support their NATO allies and partners in Europe, which translates to persistent presence of land forces in Poland and the Baltic region as well as holding naval drills in the Black Sea.


Portuguese Air Force fighter F-16 (R) and Canadian Air Force fighter CF-18 Hornet patrol over Baltics air space,
from the Zokniai air base near Siauliai. Lithuania. (Reuters / Ints Kalnins)

Russia’s relations with NATO deteriorated dramatically after the alliance accused Moscow of destabilizing the situation in conflict-torn Ukraine and condemned Crimea’s reunification with Russia in March.

The Pentagon’s comments came after Lieutenant-General Mikhail Mizintsev, head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s joint military command center told Bloomberg news that NATO's presence in Eastern Europe is becoming a concern for Moscow.

WATCH: American tanks, APCs, Humvees roll through Latvia.




“The Russian Defense Ministry leadership has repeatedly expressed its concerns over the significant increase of NATO military activity near the Russian borders,”
Mizintsev said.

The General was quick to point out that NATO’s flights have doubled to about 3,000 this year. Mizintsev told Bloomberg that foreign jets were flying in “dangerous proximity” to Russian long-range military aircraft at least on 55 occasions at a distance of less than 100 meters, in 2013-14.

Russia’s missions were “as risky as NATO aircraft flights near the Russian border can be considered risky,” Mizintsev said.


Lt. General Michail Mizintsev. Image by Defence Ministy

Furthermore the lack of “any mutual exchange of information,” has ruined the trust between the alliance and Russian military command as Russian fighters flew more than 300 missions in response to NATO planes approaching the country’s borders.

“All achievements in the field of trust-building and voluntary transparency that NATO and Russia have formed over the years have ceased,”
the general warned, as he challenged NATO’s claims on the number of Russian intercept missions.

Mizintsev said that NATO jets escorted Russian planes 140 times in 2014, a 70 percent increase on the previous year, but not 400 as the alliance claims. All Russian fighter missions, Mizintsev stressed were “in strict compliance with international rules.”

The Russian general also warned of a growing concern of NATO ships in the Black Sea.

WATCH: Pentagon confirms military buildup along Russia borders for ‘peace & stability’.



On the diplomatic front, earlier in the day, in an interview with the French media, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, explained what role the alliance plays in Russia’s military doctrine.

“What [Russia’s military doctrine] says is that the security risks for Russia, among other things, are NATO expansion to the East and the movement of military infrastructure of NATO closer to the Russian borders – not NATO itself, but its militarized movement to the East is considered by the Russian military doctrine as a security risk and threat for Russia,”
he said.

Tuesday's NATO-Moscow exchanges follow Russia’s recent massive surprise drill in the Kaliningrad region conducted to test the combat readiness of some 9,000 troops and 642 vehicles, including tactical Iskander-M ballistic missile systems deployed from the mainland. - RT.


Cold War comeback: U.S.-Russia locked in high-stakes submarine drone race

The U.S. Navy’s Pacific Command’s recent announcement that it has successfully completed tests on its GhostSwimmer unmanned underwater vehicle prompted an immediate rebuttal from Russia: They, too, are close to unmanned submarine drones.

The U.S. Navy first trumpeted its successful test on Friday.

“GhostSwimmer will allow the Navy to have success during more types of missions while keeping divers and sailors safe,” Michael Rufo, director of Boston Engineering’s Advanced Systems Group, said in Pacific Command’s statment.

Three days later, state-funded media outlet Russia Today heralded a story about how underwater drones would be incorporated into Russia’s fifth-generation subs, which are in development.

WATCH: Is it a shark? No, it's US underwater drone on duty.



“We’re talking about battle robots which can be released by the submarine, and a type of underwater drone,” Russian engineer Nikolay Novoselov was quoted in Russia Today.

The Russians revealed few details about its underwater drones in development, but the U.S. Navy said its 5-foot, 100-pound drone essentially mimics aquatic life.

“It swims just like a fish does by oscillating its tail fin back and forth. The unit is a combination of unmanned systems engineering and unique propulsion and control capabilities,” Mr. Rufo added, the Navy reported.

Capt. Jim Loper, concepts and innovation department head at the Navy Warfare Development Command, told Military.com about the project in July, saying, “We’re imaging this can loiter for days, possibly weeks on a battery that allows it to maintain its position. This is a sensor we can put out there that matches in with the local life so to speak.” - Washington Times.


Russia Prepares for War - Builds massive defense and super computer network 

Image Credits: Russian Defense Ministry

Russian media has announced the government is preparing for war.

Russia Today reports the country now has a new fortified national defense facility located in Moscow that “would take control of the entire country in case of war.” The cost of the project is estimated at several billion dollars.

“The creation of NDCC [National Defense Control Center] was one of the biggest military projects of the past few years. The closest analogy in the past in terms of functions and tasks was the Commander-in-Chief HQ in 1941-45, which centralized all controls of both the military machine and the economy of the nation in the interests of the war,” Lt. General Mikhail Mizintsev, the NDCC chief, said during an interview.

The National Defense Control Center replaces an old facility that monitored nuclear weapons deployment by the West. It is compared to the U.S. National Military Command Center located deep inside the Pentagon that provides the Joint Chiefs with worldwide situation monitoring and crisis management.

In addition to a number of large war rooms and an underground complex, the facility hosts a state-of-the-art supercomputer, RT reports. Described as “very robust,” the computer network features data encryption and numerous backup sites located around the country that will keep the center functional even if its main facility in Moscow is damaged by an enemy attack or sabotage.

In 2013 Russia reported a Stuxnet attack on one of its nuclear power plants. Stuxnet is malware designed by the United States and Israel and was used to attack Iran’s nuclear program.

The West has accused Russia of launching cyber attacks against NATO, EU ministries and Wall Street. In November, the Department of Homeland Security accused the Russians of inserting trojan horse malware in critical U.S. infrastructure computers. It said the malware “is poised to cause an economic catastrophe,” ABC News reported.

In 2001 the Pentagon declared a cyber attack on U.S. networks would be considered an act of war. The U.S. considers Russia and China as primary adversaries.

Russian president Putin has accused the United States of rekindling the so-called Cold War in the wake of developments in Ukraine. In October he said his country will resist any attack by using all means at its disposal, including the nuclear option.

“The US is now seen in Moscow as irredeemable and determined to destroy Russia, which must resist by reinforcing and rearming its military, investing in technological independence (the so-called import replacement or ‘importozamescheniye’), and by building a world-wide anti-US alliance,” the globalist Jamestown Foundation reports.  - Info Wars.


PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: "This Is A Higher Rate Than Usual" - Mass HIV/AIDS Outbreak Spreads Panic In Cambodia Village, More Than 80 People Affected!

Reuters / Samrang Pring

December 17, 2014 - CAMBODIA
- More than 80 people, including elderly, women and children, have tested positive for HIV/AIDS infection in a small village in Cambodia, authorities confirmed. The infection may have been caused by medics re-using needles during treatment.

“It’s very rare indeed to have such a high number of people affected in the same place, that’s why it’s really worth investigating what happened,”
UNAIDS country director Marie-Odile Emond said.

She added that none of the most commonly HIV transmission paths - mother-to-child, sexual intercourse and drug use - seemed to cause the infection.

A total 82 people in a village in Battambang province, northwestern Cambodia, have been infected with the virus.

"Of 556 people tested, 72 of them came back positive for HIV/AIDS,"
Teng Kunthy, Secretary General of the National AIDS Authority, told AFP. Fourteen children are among the infected, he added.

"This is a higher rate than usual... It may be caused by the use of the same tools such as needles. This is our preliminary conclusion... we are working to collect more evidence,"
he said.

A further 10 people tested positive for the virus, local HIV/AIDS program director, Hei Sik, told AFP, adding that the villagers suspected the infection “may have been caused by injections from private local medics.”

"This is a surprisingly high rate, the highest that I have ever seen. Some of them are women aged in their 70s and 80s,"
Hei Sik added.


Reuters / Samrang Pring


At least 30 village residents told the National AIDS Authority (NAA) they had received injections for different maladies, from typhoid to fevers, from an unlicensed local doctor.

“I suspect we got this from the injection that a doctor in this commune did to the villagers who often went to get services from him,”
Seoum Chhorn, deputy chief of Roka commune, where the infection was centered, told the Phnom Penh Post. Chhorn, his wife and two grandchildren tested positive for the virus.

He identified the doctor as Yem Chren, who left the commune a week ago with his wife. Health officials have been trying to contact Chren since Sunday, but unsuccessfully.

“I want to appeal to the Ministry of Health and the government to intervene and help us immediately and take action against the doctor who treated and cheated the villagers when he is unskilled,”
added Chhorn.

Now the infected villagers are receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) drugs from NAA to have the disease under control.

The first HIV case was reported in Cambodia back in 1991. Since then more than 76,000 people are currently living with the virus in the country, according to UNAIDS estimates from 2012.

Authorities are trying hard to stop the spread of the virus. Prime Minister Hun Sen promised to stop new HIV infections by 2020. Cambodia also allocated at least $ 3.7 million of national funding to HIV treatment from 2015 to 2017. - RT.


MONUMENTAL GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Cape Verde Volcanic Eruption Leaves A Massive Trail Of Destruction - Two Villages And Over 1,000 Homes Destroyed; 1,500 People Displaced!

Screengrab from video footage obtained by AFP from TCV (Televisão de Cabo Verde) shows lava spewing from the Pico do Fogo volcano
on the island of Fogo in Cape Verde on an unspecified date in December 2014 (AFP Photo/)

December 17, 2014 - CAPE VERDE
- The biggest eruption of Cape Verde volcano Pico do Fogo in decades has destroyed two villages and threatens a forest reserve Tuesday, officials said.

Some 1,500 people were forced to abandon their homes before the lava flow reached the villages of Portela and Bangeira on Fogo island in the Atlantic archipelago, fire brigade chief Arlindo Lima said late Monday on national radio.

More than 1,000 people were evacuated from the Cha das Caldeiras region at the foot of the volcano immediately after it first erupted on November 23, while officials closed the airport as the skies darkened with ash.

Lima, who heads civil protection services, said that the lava gained ground on Sunday. "The lava front, (which was) more than 500 metres (547 yards) north of outlying houses in Bangeira a week ago, has swept over much of the village and continues to move forward."


Screengrab from video footage obtained by AFP from TCV (Televisão de Cabo Verde) shows lava from the Pico do Fogo volcano surrounding
houses on the island of Fogo in Cape Verde on an unspecified date in December 2014 (AFP Photo/)

A general view showing the village of Portela, moments before getting buried by the lava coming out of the erupting volcano on the island of Fogo, in Cape
Verde, early 07 December 2014. The lava of the volcano plaguing the Cape Verdean island of Fogo for over two weeks has surpassed Portela, virtually
destroyed, and reached Bangaeira, a small community of approximately 1,000 inhabitants. EFE/EPA/NICOLAU CENTEIO

The village of Portela has also been destroyed, according to Lima and local journalists.

Cape Verde is a volcanic archipelago comprised of 10 islands, nine of them inhabited by a population of about 530,000 people. They mostly live by fishing, making garments for export, a thriving tourist trade and remittances from the islands' diaspora.

Volcanic activity is rare, but when its highest peak Pico do Fogo erupted, expert Bruno Faria told state-owned Radio Cape Verde that the initial blast was "much greater than the one in 1995", which showered the island with ash. Residents said that gas was also coming out of the crater.

"The eruption was very fast. But we are appealing to the people for calm," Interior Minister Marisa Morais told the radio station.


WATCH: Cape Verde's Pico do Fogo volcano has been erupting since the 22nd November, destroying two villages and several hectares of agricultural land.



Pico do Fogo, which stands almost 2,900 metres (9,500 feet), quietened down for four days after the first eruption, but started to blow again last weekend.

Authorities have warned inhabitants of Fonsaco village to prepare to leave as the lava advances, while they also fear for the Monte Velho forest reserve, lying in its path.

"There's a whole local economy and a whole way of life that the volcano has claimed in the space of just 22 days," local journalist Arlinda Neves said after Portela and Bangeira were "struck off the map".

"It's more than a century and a half of history that has literally been wiped out," she added, with some of the buildings destroyed dating back to the 1860s. - Yahoo.