Thursday, December 25, 2014

INFRASTRUCTURE COLLAPSE: 500 Accidents An Hour - Severe Snowfall Paralyzes Moscow; Russian Capital Stuck In The WORST EVER Christmas Traffic! (PHOTOS + VIDEO]

Cars are pictured on a road in Moscow as it snows on December 25, 2014. (AFP Photo/Yuri Kadobonov)

December 25, 2014 - MOSCOW, RUSSIA
- Moscow was gripped by the worst gridlock ever seen as unexpectedly severe snowfall hit the Russian capital on Christmas day, literally paralyzing the city. Police registered up to 500 road accidents an hour and 200 flights were delayed.

The longest traffic jam stretched 60 kilometers, or over 37 miles, Russia’s online road traffic monitoring service Yandex Probki (Yandex traffic jam), reported.

Yandex rates jams from 0 to 10 points.

"Guys, remember this historic day. It is the first time when 10 point was reached so early and for so long. It has been like that for 7 hours already. More is to come,”
Yandex spokeswoman Elina Staviskaya posted on Facebook.

More than 11,000 units of specialized equipment have been struggling to cope with such a large snowfall (25 centimeters, 10 inches) in so short a period of time.

WATCH: Blizzards in Moscow - Now that's what we call winter.

These largely futile efforts have failed to help the situation on the roads. The congestion worsened in the evening when huge numbers of people left their workplaces and began to head home.

Near zero visibility and atrocious road conditions caused numerous accidents.

By 5:00 pm traffic police reported that in just one hour they had registered over 500 accidents, including 45 serious ones.

Commuters have been advised to walk. In many cases it was nearly impossible to reach metro stations by bus.

While stuck in traffic some people tried not to lose their sense of humor. Using the Yandex Probki mobile application, many started chatting and leaving funny notes for fellow drivers on the map.

“Let’s eat snow and clean roads,”
suggested one driver. Another offered going back to their offices and having a party.

“Join us in the blue bus. We’ve been here since 8:00,” others wrote. Somebody begged Father Frost (Russian Santa Claus) to give a siren as a gift for New Year, hoping it would help.

Drivers handed over food and water, joked and cursed the weather. Numerous people stopped to help fellow travellers who were stranded in the snow.

Moscow airports have also been affected by the blizzard conditions. Over 20 flights were canceled and nearly 200 flights delayed. Some passengers said they were stuck on planes for hours as the aircraft were unable to taxi.

Moscow public services began working early in the morning and will “continue round the clock,” authorities say. They promised that by Friday morning all the snow will be cleared. - RT.

PLAGUE & PESTILENCES: "Fast-Moving, Severe, And Causes Lung And Kidney Failure, And Shock" - New Tick-Borne "Bourbon Virus" Is Deadly And Unlike Anything Previously Seen In The United States!

December 25, 2014 - KANSAS, UNITED STATES
- Researchers have identified the cause of a Kansas farmer's mysterious death this summer as Bourbon virus.

Thought to be transmitted by ticks, the virus "was fast-moving and severe, causing lung and kidney failure, and shock," The New York Times reported, killing the previously healthy man after only 10 days in the hospital.

Together, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and University of Kansas Hospital researchers identified the virus as a thogotovirus, part of a larger type of viruses called orthomyxoviruses, Dana Hawkinson, M.D., an infectious disease specialist at The University of Kansas Hospital said in the video statement below.

WATCH: Bourbon Virus.

Bourbon virus, named after Bourbon County, Kansas, where the only known patient lived, is similar to viruses seen previously in Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia, said Hawkinson, but nothing like it had ever been identified in the Western Hemisphere before.

He called the experience of working with a never-before-seen virus frustrating, as the lack of understanding of the illness left many questions unanswered for both the patient's family and the researchers. "We don't know the full spectrum of disease because it's the first case," he said. For example, no one knows whether or not the disease is usually deadly or if there could be more mild cases from which future patients could recover.

Symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, muscle aches and a general feeling of malaise. But while similar tick-borne illnesses typically are treated with antibiotics, this disease is transmitted by a virus, and therefore won't respond to the medication. Indeed, the Kansas patient did not respond to traditional therapies after testing negative for typical tick-borne diseases at the University of Kansas Hospital, New York Daily News reported.

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness in the U.S., with over 27,000 confirmed cases in 2013, the most recent year from which data is available. Cold weather typically keeps ticks and other disease-transmitting insects at bay, but from roughly April to September, Hawkinson said, be sure to protect yourself by wearing long clothes and insect repellent when you could be exposed, and to do a thorough tick check after returning home. - Huffington Post.

TERMINATOR NOW: The Rise Of The Machines - Could 2015 Be The Year Of Domestic Robots And 3D Printed Food; Futurologist Claims Technology Has Reached A "Tipping Point"!

Technology giant Honda already has a domestic robot, Asimo (left). Futurologist Dr James Bellini (right) claims the technology could be closer than we think

December 25, 2014 - TECHNOLOGY
- A smart home full of devices connected to each other, as well as domestic robots are closer than we think, according to one futurologist.

This year has seen a rush in the popularity of smart gadgets, with items like 3D printers and smart thermostats making it onto Christmas lists for the first time.

The trend is a sign of the way technology will accelerate in 2015, according to London-based futurologist Dr James Bellini.

Tipping pint: According to a recent survey, 26 per cent if people
are most looking forward to getting a robot helper in the home.
'The centrepiece of our future is the British home, which is rapidly becoming the digital hub for our increasingly connected lives,' he said.

'Our homes are set to be enriched further by energy; from high-tech gadgets and appliances to smart devices.'

Dr Bellini was commenting on the release of a report by energy company SSE, which showed that the average home was transforming, as consumer buying habits changed.

The Home of the Future report found that in 2015, the most wanted products will be 3D printers, followed by smart devices that connect to our phones - primarily thermostats and security systems, as well as solar-powered chargers.

3D printing is a technology moving further into the mainstream, with the first artificial limbs created from 3D printers being used on patients this year.

Not only are the devices now on sale in retailers, but there are multiple mobile apps that enable users to create and buy figures and toys that are printed in 3D.

'3D has been described as the biggest economic revolution since Henry Ford introduced production line manufacturing in the 1900s,' Dr Bellini said.

'Nasa already use it to turn out rocket parts; they are also developing ways to deploy 3D technology to produce on-board meals for the manned Mars missions planned for 2030 and beyond.

 'At the domestic level, 3D printing will mimic the take-up of fax machines and microwaves in the 1980s.

'The cost of a printer is falling rapidly - a starter version sells for less than £500 ($777) - and they are incredibly versatile.

'Printing a new smartphone case takes about 30 minutes - then there are toys, handles, chess pieces, replacements parts for every domestic gadget.

'Then there's food.

Future of food? 3D printers such as Foodini (pictured) could change the way we prepare our meals.
They are set to become more mainstream, according to a recent study

'Nutritionists are looking at ways of printing food items for the elderly to match individual nutritional/dietary needs.

'And although it's early days for 3D printed pizzas and chocolate, it won't be long before every home has gone 3D.'

SSE's report also found that one of the products people were most looking forward to having in their home were domestic robots, with 26 per cent of those surveyed highlighting humanoids as a desirable product in years to come.

Bright idea: The Home of the Future report found that in 2015, the most wanted products will be 3D printers, followed by
smart devices that connect to our phones. Pictured is the LiFx light system

Technology giant Honda already has a domestic robot, Asimo, who can remember faces and serve drinks, and made its first appearance in Europe this year.

As the number of smartphones and tablets around the home grows, Dr Bellini said we were beginning to see the phasing out of 'traditional' technologies, such as the TV set, as well as landline phones and older portable devices.

'2014 was the tipping point, with the total number of old-style TV sets in the UK declining for the first time ever,' he said.

Earlier this year, Tokyo firm Softbank unveiled a
robot called Pepper, which can read emotions

 In a country dominated by 'kawaii' - or cute culture - Japan has embraced the rise of cuddly robots.

Earlier this year, one Tokyo-based firm has unveiled what it believes to be the world's first droid that can read human emotions.

Mobile carrier Softbank said its robot, named Pepper, will go on sale in Japan in February for 198,000 yen (£1,130 or $1,900).

The machine, which has no legs, but has gesticulating hands appeared on a stage in a Tokyo suburb, cooing and humming.

Pepper uses an 'emotional engine' and a cloud-based artificial intelligence to study gestures, expressions and human speech tones.

The 48-inch (121 cm) tall, 62 lb (28 kg) white Pepper has no hair, but two large doll-like eyes and a flat-panel display stuck on its chest.

It was developed jointly with Aldebaran Robotics, which designs, produces and sells autonomous humanoid robots.

'We're seeing more people increasingly watch TV shows and movies, as well as playing games on tablets and other devices.'

He added, 'Nostalgia is being overtaken by digital practicalities.

'In the mobile age, fixed-line phones are about as relevant as sand-filled egg-timers.

'According to a recent Ofcom study, it is a highly generational thing.

'A third of 16 to 24-year-olds and 26 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds live in mobile-only homes.

'For the over-75s, the figure is just one per cent.'

Cutting costs: 3D printing is a technology moving further into the mainstream The Micro 3D, pictured, costs $249 (£150), weighs just 2.2lbs (1.2kg)
and prints objects up 4.6-inches (116mm) tall. Its designers launched the product on Kickstarter earlier this year

Major technology brands have also spoken of the growing influence of the 'Internet of Things'; the idea that eventually all the devices and appliances in the home will be connected together via the web, and controlled from a single device.

Samsung UK president Andy Griffiths said earlier this year: 'There has been a huge change in the way the connected world is established, and so to take that forward 10 years it's interesting to note that the main trend we believe by then will be the connected home.' - Daily Mail.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: "Oh No, We've Got A Tsunami" - Massive Sinkhole Swallows Up THREE CARS And Trees In Melbourne, Australia; Threatens To Flood 50 Homes!

A sinkhole in Port Melbourne threatened to flood 50 homes at one stage, Melbourne Fire Brigade commander said. © Grant Stevenson

December 25, 2014 - MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
- Residents in a Melbourne suburb woke today to find a massive sinkhole that swallowed cars and trees.

Firefighters were called to Port Melbourne early on Tuesday after a 350mm cast iron water main ruptured under Liardet Street.

Witness Vanessa says she thought a tsunami had hit the waterside suburb.

"I heard car horns, car alarms going off erratically. I thought someone had broken into my car," she told Fairfax radio.

"I went out there, opened up my front door and saw two cars swallowed up in the street right outside my front door and all this water gushing down the street in front of me.

WATCH: Sinkhole swallows cars as burst main floods Port Melbourne street.

"I thought, 'Oh no, we've got a tsunami'."

MFB commander Paul Foster said the torrent threatened to flood 50 houses at one stage.

"It was obviously quite a big failure of the pipe, a big rupture, and it created a sinkhole large enough to swallow one car completely and another car about halfway," he told Fairfax radio.

"As well, a number of cars in the street were affected by the water." - SBS.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Latest Report Of Volcanic Eruptions, Activity, Unrest And Awakenings – December 25, 2014!

Brink of a cascade of lava that forms part of the glowing hot lava river issuing from the nearby vent. (Photo: Martin Rietze)

December 25, 2014 - EARTH
- The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing reports of volcanoes across the globe.

Fogo (Cape Verde): Lava effusion continues from the vents, while explosive activity there has more or less ended.

Lava is fed through tubes to active breakouts at different locations inside the Cha caldera. One area with active breakouts remains the former locations of Portela-Bangaeira villages, where by now almost all buildings have disappeared.

Active lava flow in the Cova Tina area west of the vents on 20 Dec (Image: Abraão Barbosa Vicente, via AVCAN)

Advancing lava flow in Portela village, with the active volcano in the background (Photo: Martin Rietze)

Night time view of the active vents beneath the starry sky, taken at the moment of a very large strombolian phase (Photo: Martin Rietze)

Another flow, particularly active in the past days, has been traveling to the west, towards the Cova Tina area, since early December. Meeting the caldera wall, it has now spit into two main lobes and advances over previous farmland. The most advanced front had a length of more than 2 km yesterday from the vents.

Gas emissions remain significant, suggesting the eruption could continue for a while. Since its beginning, it is estimated that more than 220,000 tons of sulfur dioxide have been released. 

Kilauea (Hawaii): The lava flow front that has been progressing towards the Pāhoa Marketplace, is currently stalled at approx. 600 m distance, to the relief of Pahoa. However, several breakouts are active in several areas behind the inactive front.

Map of the lava flow near Pahoa as of 24 Dec 2014 (HVO)

Shiveluch (Kamchatka): A moderately strong explosive eruption occurred Saturday night.

An ash plume rose to estimated 22,000 ft (6.5 km) altitude and bright glow was visible on webcam imagery, likely from incandescent material deposited during a dome collapse event.

Daikoku (Volcano Islands): A team of scientists from Oregon State University and NOAA found evidence that the submarine volcano, whose top is about 300 m below sea level, is currently erupting (or at least has been very recently).

Cross-section over the top of Daikoku seamount with the results from a CTD tow (black line), showing anomalies in turbidity (warm colors indicate high particle
concentrations) in the eruption plume. Image courtesy of Submarine Ring of Fire 2014 - Ironman, NOAA/PMEL, NSF

Pond of molten sulfur discovered in the bottom of a small crater (from the 2006 Submarine Ring of Fire expedition)

Bathymetric comparison of data collected at Daikoku summit on this 2014 expedition (top)
and in 2003 (bottom). A large crater formed at the summit, and it was confirmed to be
hydrothermally (and possibly volcanically) active by the CTD tow and midwater
data collected on this expedition. (NOAA)

The expedition "Submarine Ring of Fire 2014 - Ironman" found this evidence in form of two observations: very strong plumes coming from the top of the seamount were detected that show characteristics that can only be explained by an eruption. During a previous survey in 2006, only hydrothermal activity, including the spectacular discovery of a liquid sulfur pond, were seen at the volcano.

Second, a comparison of bathymetric data shows that new craters have formed, something which also is difficult to explain other than by an eruption.

Gamalama (Halmahera): The volcano, one of the most active in the region, erupted unexpectedly last night (Thursday evening, 22:41 local time).

Unfortunately, it seems that the eruption claimed at least some victims: Several people (10-12 according to varying news reports) were on the volcano, a popular hiking destination, when the initial explosion occurred at night. At least two of them were reported missing, presumably killed, and several others wounded, mainly from injuries suffered when falling during their escape.

Intermittent ash emissions continue from the volcano. As it is unknown whether the eruption will dwindle down or increase, an exclusion zone of 2.5 km radius around the summit is in place.

Ash emissions from Gamalana Friday morning (Image @WorldVision / twitter)

Glow from the new eruption Thursday night (@PedomanNEWS / twitter)

All persons that had been missing immediately after the eruption have been found, fortunately there were no victims, only 4 injured (by falling during escape).

Ash fall has been causing small problems in Ternate where over 45,000 dust masks were distributed. The airport is still closed.

Pavlof (Alaska Peninsula, USA): A small eruption Saturday night was reported by a pilot. Alaska Volcano Observatory has no indications of significant activity, but maintains alert level yellow.

Bardarbunga (Central Iceland): The eruption continues with little variation. The Nornahraun lava field is now almost 80 square km in size. An extensive lava tube system has formed inside it, bringing supply of lava to the outer areas.

View of the eruption at Holuhraun this morning (MILA webcam)

Updated map of the lava flow field at Holuhraun (IMO)

A sea of lava at the eruption seen during an overflight on 8 Dec (Univ. Iceland)

Active breakout with lava advancing over snow (Univ. Iceland)

Aerial view of the Holuhraun eruption yesterday (credit: Martin Hensch / IMO)

Earthquake activity remains significant under the caldera, which continues to subside. Occasional quakes reach magnitudes above 5.

According to the latest measurements, the lava field from Holuhraun now covers 77,5 km². The eruption which had its 100th day on 9 Dec, continues with little changes and there is no end in sight.

Active breakouts are located on the northern margin of the lava field, now called "Nornahraun".

Earthquake activity under the central volcano remains elevated, but over the past weeks, earthquakes larger than magnitude 4 have become more rare. Recent geochemical studies of the lava show that it seems to rise directly from a source at 9-20 km depth, i.e. is generated by decompressing mantle material.

Volcano Activity Summary as  of December 22, 2014:

Currently erupting:

Ambrym (Vanuatu): active lava lakes in several craters (updated 14 Aug 2013)
Aso (Kyushu): intense strombolian activity from 2 vents (updated 18 Dec 2014)
Bagana (Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea): ash emissions, lava dome growth (updated 10 Nov 2014)
Bardarbunga (Central Iceland): lava lake, sporadic fountains, lava flow (updated 18 Sep 2014)
Barren Island (Indian Ocean): intermittent activity, likely strombolian-type and/or lava flows (updated 4 Feb 2014)
Batu Tara (Sunda Islands, Indonesia): strombolian explosions, ash plumes up to 500 m, extrusion of a small lava dome with rockfalls (updated 4 Nov 2014)
Colima (Western Mexico): new lava flow on SW flank (updated 30 Nov 2014)
Copahue (Chile/Argentina): ash venting (updated 4 Dec 2014)
Daikoku (Volcano Islands): underwater eruption discovered on 14 Dec 2014 (updated 22 Dec 2014)
Dukono (Halmahera): thermal anomaly, probably small explosive activity in summit crater (updated 25 Nov 2014)
Erebus (Antarctica): active lava lake in summit crater (updated 8 Dec 2014)
Erta Ale (Ethiopia): active lava lake in northern pit crater, active hornito with intermittend flow in southern crater (updated 11 Jan 2013)
Fogo (Cape Verde): weak lava effusion, strong SO2 release (updated 22 Dec 2014)
Fuego (Guatemala): strombolian explosions from summit crater, intermittent lava flows (updated 12 Dec 2014)
Gamalama (Halmahera): new eruption on 18 Dec 2014 (updated 22 Dec 2014)
Ibu (Halmahera, Indonesia): stromolian and phreatomagmatic explosions (updated 14 Nov 2014)
Karymsky (Kamchatka): occasional small explosions, thermal anomaly (updated 4 Oct 2014)
Kilauea (Hawai'i): new lava flow from vents on NE flank of Pu'u 'O'o (updated 13 Aug 2013)
Manam (Papua New Guinea): degassing, occasional ash venting (updated 28 Aug 2013)
Marapi (Western Sumatra, Indonesia): sporadic explosions (updated 27 Mar 2014)
Nasu (Honshu)
Nishino-shima (Volcano Islands, Japan): growing island (updated 3 Dec 2014)
Nyamuragira (DRCongo): active lava lake (updated 29 Nov 2014)
Nyiragongo (DRCongo): active lava lake in summit crater (updated 26 Feb 2014)
Ol Doinyo Lengai (Tanzania): effusion of natrocarbonatite lava inside the crater (updated 8 Jul 2013)
Poas (Costa Rica): phreatic explosions (updated 14 Oct 2014)
Rabaul (Tavurvur) (New Britain, Papua New Guinea): lava fountains, ash emissions from Tavurvur cone (updated 12 Sep 2014)
Raung (East Java): mild strombolian activity in summit crater (updated 2 Dec 2014)
Reventador (Ecuador): lava flow on southwestern flank, intermittent explosions (updated 7 Dec 2014)
Sakurajima (Kyushu, Japan): ash venting, intermittent explosions (updated 15 Dec 2014)
Sangeang Api (Indonesia): growing lava dome & lava flow (updated 7 Jul 2014)
Santiaguito (Guatemala): generation of hot lahars (updated 12 Dec 2014)
Semeru (East Java, Indonesia): growing lava dome, lava flow, strombolian activity (updated 26 Nov 2014)
Shiveluch (Kamchatka): growing lava dome, incandescent avalanches, occasional explosions (updated 22 Dec 2014)
Sinabung (Sumatra, Indonesia): continuing pyroclastic flows (updated 18 Dec 2014)
Slamet (Central Java): intense strombolian explosions (updated 13 Sep 2014)
Suwanose-jima (Ryukyu Islands): strombolian activity in summit crater (updated 14 Nov 2014)
Tungurahua (Ecuador): moderate to strong strombolian explosions from central crater (updated 25 Sep 2014)
Ubinas (Peru): degassing, sporadic small explosions and ash venting (updated 11 Sep 2014)
Yasur (Tanna Island, Vanuatu): ash emissions, weak strombolian explosions (updated 14 Aug 2013)
Zhupanovsky (Kamchatka, Russia): degassing, last eruption ended mid Oct 2014 (updated 16 Dec 2014)

Eruption warning / minor activity:

Augustine (Cook Inlet (SW Alaska))
Bezymianny (Central Kamchatka Depression): steaming, weak seismic activity (updated 3 Jul 2014)
Etna (Sicily, Italy): sporadic weak ash emissions from New SE crater (updated 19 Apr 2014)
Heard (Australia, Southern Indian Ocean): possibly lava lake in summit crater (updated 5 Dec 2014)
Karangetang (Siau Island, Sangihe Islands, Indonesia): incandescent lava dome (updated 24 Oct 2014)
Kavachi (Solomon Islands): no eruption since 2007 (updated 16 Jun 2014)
Kerinci (Sumatra): seismic unrest (updated 5 Jun 2013)
Kirishima (Kyushu): degassing, alert lowered (updated 25 Oct 2014)
Krakatau (Sunda Strait, Indonesia): degassing (updated 31 Mar 2014)
Kuchinoerabu-jima (Ryukyu Islands): explosion on 3 Aug 2014 (updated 5 Dec 2014)
Lokon-Empung (North Sulawesi, Indonesia): small explosions, lava flow? (updated 13 Sep 2014)
Lopevi (Vanuatu ): eruption warning (updated 16 Dec 2014)
Mayon (Luzon Island): steaming (updated 18 Dec 2014)
Monowai (Kermandec Islands, New Zealand): frequent submarine eruptions, last confirmed during Oct 2014 (updated 14 Nov 2014)
Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia): ash emissions (updated 16 Dec 2014)
Ontake-san (Honshu): steaming, low seismic activity (updated 18 Dec 2014)
Pacaya (Guatemala): weak strombolian activity (updated 14 Nov 2014)
Papandayan (West Java): strong hydrothermal activity, increased seismicity (updated 6 May 2013)
Pavlof (Alaska Peninsula, USA): steaming, elevated seismic activity (updated 22 Dec 2014)
Piton de la Fournaise (La Réunion): short-lived eruption during 21-22 June (updated 4 Dec 2014)
Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): degassing, sporadic explosions, slowly growing lava dome (updated 18 Dec 2014)
Rasshua (Central Kuriles)
Rincón de la Vieja (Costa Rica): phreatic explosions from crater lake (updated 21 Sep 2014)
Sabancaya (Peru): steaming, elevated seismic activity (updated 10 Nov 2014)
Sacabaya (Northern Chile, Bolivia and Argentina)
San Cristobal (Nicaragua): possible ash emission on 11 April (updated 12 Apr 2014)
San Miguel (El Salvador): ash emissions, small explosions, increasing tremor (updated 2 Sep 2014)
Sangay (Ecuador): degassing (updated 24 May 2013)
Shishaldin (United States, Aleutian Islands): mild explosive activity, intermittent more intense phases (updated 18 Dec 2014)
Stromboli (Eolian Islands, Italy): weak strombolian activity at summit vents (updated 12 Dec 2014)
Turrialba (Costa Rica): occasional ash emissions (updated 9 Dec 2014)
Ulawun (New Britain, Papua New Guinea): degassing, ash venting (updated 5 Aug 2013)
Villarrica (Central Chile): deep-seated strombolian explosions in summit crater (updated 18 Dec 2014)

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: New Milky Way Neighbor Discovered - "May Be A Huge Number Of Dwarf Galaxies Out There"!

December 25, 2014 - SPACE
- The Milky Way, the galaxy we live in, is part of a cluster of more than 50 galaxies that make up the ‘Local Group’, a collection that includes the famous Andromeda galaxy and many other far smaller objects. Now a Russian-American team have added to the canon, finding a tiny and isolated dwarf galaxy almost 7 million light years away.

The image below is a negative image of the galaxy, KKs 3, made using the Advanced Camera for Surveys on the Hubble Space Telescope. The core of the galaxy is the right hand dark object at the top centre of the image, with its stars spreading out over a large section around it. (The left hand of the two dark objects is a much nearer globular star cluster.)

“Finding objects like Kks3 is painstaking work, even with observatories like the Hubble Space Telescope," said.

Team member Prof Dimitry Makarov, also of the Special Astrophysical Observatory. "But with persistence, we’re slowly building up a map of our local neighbourhood, which turns out to be less empty than we thought. It may be that are a huge number of dwarf spheroidal galaxies out there, something that would have profound consequences for our ideas about the evolution of the cosmos.”

The team, led by Prof Igor Karachentsev of the Special Astrophysical Observatory in Karachai-Cherkessia, Russia, found the new galaxy, named KKs3, using the Hubble Space Telescope Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) in August 2014. Kks3 is located in the southern sky in the direction of the constellation of Hydrus and its stars have only one ten-thousandth of the mass of the Milky Way.

Kks3 is a ‘dwarf spheroidal’ or dSph galaxy, lacking features like the spiral arms found in our own galaxy. These systems also have an absence of the raw materials (gas and dust) needed for new generations of stars to form, leaving behind older and fainter relics. In almost every case, this raw material seems to have been stripped out by nearby massive galaxies like Andromeda, so the vast majority of dSph objects are found near much bigger companions.

Isolated objects must have formed in a different way, with one possibility being that they had an early burst of star formation that used up the available gas resources. Astronomers are particularly interested in finding dSph objects to understand galaxy formation in the universe in general, as even HST struggles to see them beyond the Local Group. The absence of clouds of hydrogen gas in nebulae also makes them harder to pick out in surveys, so scientists instead try to find them by picking out individual stars.

For that reason, only one other isolated dwarf spheroidal, KKR 25, has been found in the Local Group, a discovery made by the same group back in 1999.

The team will continue to look for more dSph galaxies, a task that will become a little easier in the next few years, once instruments like the James Webb Space Telescope and the European Extremely Large Telescope begin service. - Daily Galaxy.

GLOBAL AWAKENING: Embracing Of Mother Nature And Detaching From European Vampirism - In An Unprecedented Decision, An Argentine Court Has Extended Human Rights To Freedom To Orangutan!

An orangutan named Sandra (Reuters / Marcos Brindicci)

December 25, 2014 - ARGENTINA
- In an unprecedented decision, an Argentine court has ruled that the Sumatran orangutan 'Sandra', who has spent 20 years at the zoo in Argentina's capital Buenos Aires, should be recognized as a person with a right to freedom.

The ruling, signed by the judges unanimously, would see Sandra freed from captivity and transferred to a nature sanctuary in Brazil after a court recognized the primate as a "non-human person" which has some basic human rights. The Buenos Aires zoo has 10 working days to seek an appeal.

The "habeas corpus" ruling in favor of the orangutan was requested last November by the Association of Professional Lawyers for Animal Rights (AFADA) alleging that Sandra suffered "unjustified confinement of an animal with proven cognitive ability."

WATCH: Captive orangutan granted human rights.

Lawyers argued that just as a person, the ape is capable of maintaining emotional ties and has the ability to reason, while feeling frustrated with her confinement. Furthermore, the legal team claimed that the 29-year old orangutan can make decisions, has self-awareness and perception of time. And therefore, all things considered, Sandra's presence at the Zoo constituted illegal deprivation of liberty.

Habeas corpus is a fundamental legal term in human rights, dating back to the early fourteenth century during the reign of Edward I in England. At that time courts began requiring the monarchy to report the reasons behind restricted freedom of a subject.

"This opens the way not only for other Great Apes, but also for other sentient beings which are unfairly and arbitrarily deprived of their liberty in zoos, circuses, water parks and scientific laboratories," the daily La Nacion newspaper quoted AFADA lawyer Paul Buompadre as saying.

Sandra who was born in 1986 in the German zoo of Rostock, arrived in Buenos Aires in September 1994, where she’s spent 20 years behind bars. The World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) claims Sumatran orangutan to be the most endangered of the orangutan species. Found only in the northern and western provinces of Sumatra, Indonesia, the species is fast losing its natural habitat to agriculture and human settlements.

Sandra's case is not the first in which "habeas corpus" was invoked to secure the release of wild animals in human captivity. However, in the US the two recent cases failed. A New York court, earlier this month has ruled that Tommy chimpanzee was not legally a person and is therefore not entitled to human rights. And in 2011, a lawsuit against SeaWorld to free five wild-captured orca whales was dismissed by the San Diego court. - RT.

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Disaster Precursors - Scientific Study Reveals That Warbler Birds Are "Psychic," Can Predict Storms And Tornadoes More Than 24 Hours In Advance, And Will Escape Before They Hit!

Photo from

- Birds can predict tornadoes and hurricanes and move away before the disaster unfolds, US scientists discovered conducting a research on golden-winged warblers.

Tracking a population of golden-winged warblers, a research team led by UC Berkeley ecologist Henry Streby revealed that birds in the mountains of eastern Tennessee escape their breeding grounds one or two days prior to the arrival of powerful storms.

A storm system which swept through the central and southern US in April caused up to 84 tornadoes and killed 35 people. The findings are published in the journal Current Biology.

“It is the first time we’ve documented this type of storm avoidance behavior in birds during breeding season,
” Streby told UC Berkley news center.

“We know that birds can alter their route to avoid things during regular migration, but it hadn’t been shown until our study that they would leave once the migration is over and they’d established their breeding territory to escape severe weather,” he noted.

The warblers in the latest study flew up to 1,500km to avoid the storm. They smartly returned home as soon as the disaster passed and the picture cleared.

The birds, with their trademark gray plumage spiced up by patches of yellow on the head and wings, fled while the storm was about 900km away, before changes in atmospheric pressure and wind speed. It means that when meteorologists were only announcing that the storm was on its way, the birds were already "packing their bags and evacuating the area,” Streby explained.

Reuters / Bill Waugh

There's currently a real need to study the golden-winged warblers, their population only 5 percent of historic levels in the Appalachians due to habitat loss and hybridization with other species.

The researchers were testing whether a tiny bird, weighing some 9 grams, could manage to carry a half-gram geolocator throughout the year. To obtain the tracking data, they had to retrieve as many geolocators as possible from the 20 birds that had been originally tagged. The study results come from five geolocators.

According to Streby, these warblers are the smallest bird species ever marked. The fact that any geolocators had returned at all was a great relief, he mentioned.

Studying the data on the geolocators, the researchers detected anomalies in the geographical locations for the birds from April 26 to May 2. It turned out that the birds changed course and flew back from their breeding grounds in Tennessee’s Cumberland Mountains to the Gulf coast. At first the scientists thought there was a mistake in the data. When they double-checked and realized it wasn't the case, they started looking for a better explanation.

Streby said the supercell storm came to mind simply because they also had to move to a hotel to wait it go away.

However, the wise birds had gone long before, when local weather conditions were still normal. This made the researchers wonder how they got their early alert.

Infrasound appeared to be the answer. Acoustic waves, which occur at frequencies below 20 hertz, fall into the infrasound range below the limits of human hearing, but birds and other animals can hear infrasound. Tornadoes are also known to produce powerful infrasound, so the ability of birds to forecast deadly storms could become extremely important.

“There’s growing research that shows that tornadoes are becoming more common and severe with climate change, so evasive actions like the ones the warbler took might become more necessary,
” Streby said. “It could come at a cost, though, since such actions place added energetic and reproductive stress on populations that are already struggling.” - RT.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - Plunging Oil Prices Leave Venezuela On The Brink Of Financial Collapse As The United States And The Saudis Continue Their Pricing Collusion!

December 25, 2014 - VENEZUELA
- The ongoing plunge in global oil prices is pushing Venezuela toward economic collapse just as President Nicolas Maduro — the hand-picked successor to the late socialist Hugo Chavez — faces mounting international criticism for jailing opposition figures after months of street protests.

Where Chavez once drew praise from the world’s leftist elite for using the high price of crude oil during the 2000s to underwrite a socialist revolution, a growing number of analysts in Washington say Mr. Maduro is clinging to power in a country on the edge of becoming a failed state.

Venezuela still boasts some of the world’s largest known crude reserves, but it has continued for too long spending more on government programs than it has collected in oil revenue, analysts say. The average price of oil has dropped from more than $100 a barrel to less than $60 during recent weeks, only adding to Venezuela’s woes.

Simply put, the “current situation in Venezuela is unsustainable if the price continues to fall,” said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a policy research group in Washington. “You can debate what a failed state is and what it looks like, but Venezuela can’t continue like this.”

Others offer an even more stark assessment. “There are parts of Venezuela where the state is already failed,” said Adam Isacson, a senior associate at the Washington Office on Latin America. He said there is “complete lawlessness” along several Venezuelan border zones, and in certain “Caracas slums where you’ve had shootouts between pro-Chavez militias and police.”

Although national security analysts are debating what the Obama administration might be able to do to positively affect the situation, Mr. Isacson said, Washington should, at a minimum, be wary of the security implications at play for the region and the world.

Venezuela is “not an area that you want ungoverned because of the way organized crime could use it as a base,” he said, pointing to a United Nations estimate that at least 200 tons of cocaine cross through the nation en route to Europe and the U.S. each year.

But such realities are largely in the backdrop of more pressing domestic political turmoil that has gripped Venezuela since Chavez died of cancer in March 2013.

While reviled as a dictator by American conservatives and free market advocates in many parts of the world, Chavez carried a glorified status among his supporters during his 14-year rule. He built a cult of personality with followers — the “Chavistas” — who hailed him and his social programs for lifting millions of Venezuelans out of poverty.

At the same time, the nation struggled to overcome basic problems. On Chavez’s death, The Associated Press noted that, as a whole, Venezuelans were afflicted by chronic power outages, crumbling infrastructure, unfinished public works projects, double-digit inflation, food and medicine shortages, rampant crime and one of the world’s highest homicide and kidnapping rates.

President Nicolas Maduro — the hand-picked successor to the late socialist Hugo Chavez — faces mounting
international criticism for jailing opposition figures after months of street protests. (Associated Press)

Mr. Maduro won a razor-thin victory in a special election a month after Chavez’s death. But the nation’s opposition, famously wealthy and notoriously fractured during the Chavez’s reign, was determined to make a stand. Refusing to recognize the Maduro victory, several opposition leaders called for massive rallies in Caracas under the message that Chavez had spent years squandering the nation’s oil wealth and putting it on a path to financial ruin.

At first, it appeared Mr. Maduro might be able to weather the political storm. But Chavez left huge shoes to fill and demonstrations in Caracas soon spiraled out of control, resulting in the deaths of at least 43 people, including anti-Maduro demonstrators, his supporters and security officials.

The new president then began drawing the ire of international human rights groups by cracking down on the opposition. In February, his government arrested Leopoldo Lopez Mendoza, who had run for president against Mr. Maduro. The 43-year-old Harvard graduate remains in jail on charges of arson, terrorism and homicide.

More recently, the government indicted longtime anti-Chavez activist Maria Corina Machado, charging the former member of the Venezuelan parliament with conspiracy in connection with a suspected plot to kill Mr. Maduro.

Analysts say Mr. Maduro is acting out of desperation to send a threatening message to an opposition eager to seize on his own plummeting approval ratings. Polls put his approval ratings as low 24 percent amid reports that the Venezuelan has no serious strategy for tackling the nation’s more than 63 percent inflation rate and widespread shortages of consumer goods such as diapers, milk and laundry detergent.

The Obama administration’s strategy appeared until recently to be watching the unraveling while nursing a long-delicate balance in which the U.S. buys a small but steady stream of crude oil from Venezuela.

Analysts say President Obama has few strategic options to pursue without triggering a diplomatic confrontation with Caracas because serious criticism or policy shifts from Washington are likely to be seized by Mr. Maduro only as an example of U.S. bullying.

Chavez had a history of boosting his own popularity in the nation and in much of the Latin America by lambasting what he described as subversive U.S. imperialism toward the region.

However, the Maduro government’s jailing of Mr. Lopez and leveling of charges against Ms. Machado appear to have changed things.

Last week, Mr. Obama signed legislation to impose sanctions that could block visas and U.S. market access to Venezuelan officials accused of violating protesters’ rights during the anti-Maduro demonstrations this year.

It remains unclear whether the administration will name any Venezuelan officials with the sanctions. “These are sanctions that don’t have a lot of teeth and are not going to affect a lot of people,” said Mr. Shifter, who believes Mr. Obama support can at least partly be explained by politics.

The president, Mr. Shifter said, has effectively created political cover against criticism from human rights activists for pursing a historic detente this month with Cuba — another leftist bastion in Latin American and longtime ally to Venezuela. “It’s an astute play on Obama’s part to show that he does care about human rights while he’s moving to normalize relations with Cuba,” he said. “It lets the president say, ‘We do care about human rights, look what we’re doing in Venezuela.’”

While concerns swirl about the Maduro government’s human rights posture, Venezuela has grown closer to China.

As Beijing’s energy needs exploded over the past decade, Caracas emerged as a key partner by borrowing billions of dollars from the rising Asian superpower in exchange for cut-rate oil.

Some 95 percent of Venezuela’s exports to the rest of the world consist of crude oil shipments. According to a report by Business Insider, the exports account for more than 60 percent of the nation’s revenue stream.

But in light of its vast government expenditures, most reports maintain that the global price of oil needs to be as high as $120 a barrel in order for Venezuela to turn a profit extracting and exporting the commodity.

With the price having plummeted, Beijing is feeling the weight of risk associated with its investment in Venezuela. “China stands to lose a lot here,” said Mr. Isacson, who maintains that Venezuela owes Beijing $10 billion to $15 billion in oil shipments in exchange for cash doled out to Caracas during recent years.

“China’s stake in Venezuela’s economy is probably greater than the U.S. stake, and it’s not a really winning bet for them right now,” he said. “If they want to prop up a pro-Chinese government in the short term they’ve got to be very gentle about it.”

“China definitely has a reason to root for Maduro, and they have a stake in his ability to remain in office,” Mr. Isacson said. “But I don’t see them giving any more to subsidize their current course because they’re already losing. It would be like throwing good money after bad.”

With the danger of default looming, Venezuela’s ability to borrow more money is drying up. Without more credit, Caracas won’t be able to pay its own bills at home.

The ultimate result, Mr. Isacson said, will be “a huge cutback in basic services, including energy and public security.”

“There will be an immediate impact on housing and food subsidies, meaning the programs that have lifted people out of poverty will go away,” he said.

Such developments are likely to inflame the seething political tensions. Mr. Isacson and Mr. Shifter pointed to vexing uncertainty over who may take over if the Maduro government implodes.

“One should be cautious about predicting the imminent collapse of the Venezuelan government,” said Mr. Shifter, although he said the possibility is real that the nation’s military leaders may suddenly push for his replacement.

“But it’s unclear what the other options may be and who else can do a better job,” he said.

Mr. Isacson went further. “Venezuela’s never had a civil war before, [but] they’ve never been this polarized before, either,” he said. “Assuming things get so bad Maduro can’t govern, then the big question is who has the credibility with enough of the country to actually viably take over?”

“There’s no single figure within the opposition, except maybe the military, so you could be looking at a period of no clear successor, something like Libya after Gadhafi, which hasn’t risen to the level of a huge civil war but is chaotic like Egypt after Mubarak — but with a less-cohesive military.”  - Washington Times.

Did The Saudis And The US Collude In Dropping Oil Prices?

The oil price drop that has dominated the headlines in recent weeks has been framed almost exclusively in terms of oil market economics, with most media outlets blaming Saudi Arabia, through its OPEC Trojan horse, for driving down the price, thus causing serious damage to the world's major oil exporters – most notably Russia.

While the market explanation is partially true, it is simplistic, and fails to address key geopolitical pressure points in the Middle East. looked beyond the headlines for the reason behind the oil price drop, and found that the explanation, while difficult to prove, may revolve around control of oil and gas in the Middle East and the weakening of Russia, Iran and Syria by flooding the market with cheap oil.

The oil weapon

We don't have to look too far back in history to see Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter and producer, using the oil price to achieve its foreign policy objectives. In 1973, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat convinced Saudi King Faisal to cut production and raise prices, then to go as far as embargoing oil exports, all with the goal of punishing the United States for supporting Israel against the Arab states. It worked. The “oil price shock” quadrupled prices.

It happened again in 1986, when Saudi Arabia-led OPEC allowed prices to drop precipitously, and then in 1990, when the Saudis sent prices plummeting as a way of taking out Russia, which was seen as a threat to their oil supremacy. In 1998, they succeeded. When the oil price was halved from $25 to $12, Russia defaulted on its debt.

The Saudis and other OPEC members have, of course, used the oil price for the obverse effect, that is, suppressing production to keep prices artificially high and member states swimming in “petrodollars”. In 2008, oil peaked at $147 a barrel.

Turning to the current price drop, the Saudis and OPEC have a vested interest in taking out higher-cost competitors, such as US shale oil producers, who will certainly be hurt by the lower price. Even before the price drop, the Saudis were selling their oil to China at a discount. OPEC's refusal on Nov. 27 to cut production seemed like the baldest evidence yet that the oil price drop was really an oil price war between Saudi Arabia and the US.

However, analysis shows the reasoning is complex, and may go beyond simply taking down the price to gain back lost marketshare.

“What is the reason for the United States and some U.S. allies wanting to drive down the price of oil?” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro asked rhetorically in October. “To harm Russia.”

Many believe the oil price plunge is the result of deliberate and well-planned collusion on the part of the United States and Saudi Arabia to punish Russia and Iran for supporting the murderous Assad regime in Syria.

Punishing Assad and friends

Proponents of this theory point to a Sept. 11 meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi King Abdullah at his palace on the Red Sea. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, it was during that meeting that a deal was hammered out between Kerry and Abdullah. In it, the Saudis would support Syrian airstrikes against Islamic State (ISIS), in exchange for Washington backing the Saudis in toppling Assad.

If in fact a deal was struck, it would make sense, considering the long-simmering rivalry between Saudi Arabia and its chief rival in the region: Iran. By opposing Syria, Abdullah grabs the opportunity to strike a blow against Iran, which he sees as a powerful regional rival due to its nuclear ambitions, its support for militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah, and its alliance with Syria, which it provides with weapons and funding. The two nations are also divided by religion, with the majority of Saudis following the Sunni version of Islam, and most Iranians considering themselves Shi’ites.

“The conflict is now a full-blown proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which is playing out across the region,” Reuters reported on Dec. 15. “Both sides increasingly see their rivalry as a winner-take-all conflict: if the Shi’ite Hezbollah gains an upper hand in Lebanon, then the Sunnis of Lebanon—and by extension, their Saudi patrons—lose a round to Iran. If a Shi’ite-led government solidifies its control of Iraq, then Iran will have won another round.”

The Saudis know the Iranians are vulnerable on the oil price. Experts say the country needs $140 a barrel oil to balance its budget; at sub-$60 prices, the Saudis succeed in pressuring Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, possibly containing its nuclear ambitions and making the country more pliable to the West, which has the power to reduce or lift sanctions if Iran cooperates.

Adding credence to this theory, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told a Cabinet meeting earlier this month that the fall in oil prices was “politically motivated” and a “conspiracy against the interests of the region, the Muslim people and the Muslim world.”

Pipeline conspiracy

Some commentators have offered a more conspiratorial theory for the Saudis wanting to get rid of Assad. They point to a 2011 agreement between Syria, Iran and Iraq that would see a pipeline running from the Iranian Port Assalouyeh to Damascus via Iraq. The $10-billion project would take three years to complete and would be fed gas from the South Pars gas field, which Iran shares with Qatar. Iranian officials have said they plan to extend the pipeline to the Mediterranean to supply gas to Europe – in competition with Qatar, the world's largest LNG exporter.

“The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline – if it’s ever built – would solidify a predominantly Shi’ite axis through an economic, steel umbilical cord,” wrote Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar.

Global Research, a Canada-based think tank, goes further to suggest that Assad's refusal in 2009 to allow Qatar to construct a gas pipeline from its North Field through Syria and on to Turkey and the EU, combined with the 2011 pipeline deal, “ignited the full-scale Saudi and Qatari assault on Assad’s power.”

“Today the US-backed wars in Ukraine and in Syria are but two fronts in the same strategic war to cripple Russia and China and to rupture any Eurasian counter-pole to a US-controlled New World Order. In each, control of energy pipelines, this time primarily of natural gas pipelines—from Russia to the EU via Ukraine and from Iran and Syria to the EU via Syria—is the strategic goal,” Global Research wrote in an Oct. 26 post.

Poking the Russian bear

How does Russia play into the oil price drop? As a key ally of Syria, supplying Assad with billions in weaponry, President Vladimir Putin has, along with Iran, found himself targeted by the House of Saud. Putin's territorial ambitions in the Ukraine have also put him at odds with US President Barack Obama and leaders of the EU, which in May of this year imposed a set of sanctions on Russia.

As has been noted, Saudi Arabia's manipulation of the oil price has twice targeted Russia. This time, the effects of a low price have hit Moscow especially hard due to sanctions already in place combined with the low ruble. Last week, in an effort to defend its currency, the Bank of Russia raised interest rates to 17 percent. The measure failed, with the ruble dropping another 20 percent, leading to speculation the country could impose capital controls. Meanwhile, Putin took the opportunity in his annual televised address to announce that while the economy is likely to suffer for the next two years and that Russians should brace for a recession, “Our economy will get diversified and oil prices will go back up.”

He may be right, but what will the effect be on Russia of a sustained period of low oil prices? Eric Reguly, writing in The Globe and Mail last Saturday, points out that with foreign exchange reserves at around $400 billion, the Russian state is “in no danger of collapse” even in the event of a deep recession. Reguly predicts the greater threat is to the Russian private sector, which has a debt overhang of some $700 billion.

“This month alone, $30-billion of that amount must be repaid, with another $100-billion coming due next year. The problem is made worse by the economic sanctions, which have made it all but impossible for Russian companies to finance themselves in Western markets,” he writes.

Will it work?

Whether one is a conspiracy theorist or a market theorist, in explaining the oil price drop, it really matters little, for the effect is surely more important than the cause. Putin has already shown himself to be a master player in the chess game of energy politics, so the suggestion that sub-$60 oil will crush the Russian leader has to be met with a healthy degree of skepticism.

Moscow's decision on Dec. 1 to drop the $45-billion South Stream natural gas pipeline project in favor of a new pipeline deal with Turkey shows Putin's willingness to circumvent European partners to continue deliveries of natural gas to European countries that depend heavily on Russia for its energy requirements. The deal also puts Turkey squarely in the Russian energy camp at a time when Russia has been alienated by the West.

Of course, the Russian dalliance with China is a key part of Putin's great Eastern pivot that will keep stoking demand for Russian gas even as the Saudis and OPEC, perhaps with US collusion, keep pumping to hold down the price. The November agreement, that would see Gazprom supply Chinese state oil company CNPC with 30 billion cubic meters of gas per year, builds on an earlier deal to sell China 38 bcm annually in an agreement valued at $400 billion.

As commented on Sunday, “ongoing projects are soldiering on and Russian oil output is projected to remain unchanged into 2015.”

“Russia will go down with the ship before ceding market share – especially in Asia, where Putin reaffirmed the pivot is real. Saudi Arabia and North America will have to keep pumping as Putin plans to uphold his end in this game of brinksmanship.” - Oilprice.