Tuesday, January 20, 2015

PLANETARY TREMORS: Irving, Texas Rattled By Four Earthquakes Tuesday - Including A 3.0 Magnitude This Afternoon!

January 20, 2015 - TEXAS, UNITED STATES
- The U.S. Geological Survey — confirms our fourth quake of the day was a 2.2-magnitude offering at 2:43 p.m. And it was between Regal Row and the Trinity River. Technically, the fourth was in Dallas.

That’s our 43rd since April. If you lost count.

Anyway. There’s that Irving City Council town hall meeting at the Irving Arts Center tonight at 6:30. Good timing, I guess?

That's four quakes today. Plenty of time for No. 5.

Update at 2:54 p.m.:
It’s been a couple of weeks since we’ve had a three-quake day. But the U.S. Geological Survey says there was indeed a third quake today, this one a 3.0 magnitude temblor recorded at 2:25 p.m. And if you need to be told where it was at this point, then clearly nothing has fallen off of your shelves yet.

Oh — and if you did have 3.0 in our ongoing game of Guess That Magnitude, I am all out of fracking wastewater given to the winner of Round 2. But you’re more than welcome to this. I know, I know. You will rebuild. And when you’re done with that, I’ve got some fresh cracks in the wall that need fixing.

Update at 2:28 p.m.:
Just as I posted this, we received many reports of a third quake of the day. And by all accounts it was a big one. Updates to come.

Update at 2:26 p.m.:
Well, we got ourselves a bonus round of Guess That Magnitude this afternoon … and if you said 2.6, you win a year’s supply of wastewater generated from fracking wells.

The second quake of the day, recorded at 1:37 p.m., was on Tom Braniff Drive.

Original post at 8:44 a.m.:
It’s that time of the day when Northwest Dallas County residents play their favorite new game: Guess That Magnitude. Among the guesstimates submitted by this morning’s contestants via email: 2.4, 2.3, 1.7 and “boom.”

To the gentleman who guessed 2.4
, come on down. You’re today’s winner as we tally our 40th temblor since the current “Irving earthquake sequence” began in April 2014, per the SMU seismologists now keeping a close eye on the rattling ’round Irving. At 8:04 in the a.m.

Even better, this morning’s contestant — Joe Baber — even got this morning’s location correct: not just near the old Texas Stadium site, but pretty much on it.

Usually we’ve been ending these items posting the USGS’s explainer accompanying quake confirmations in which seismologists discuss the probability that quakes in formerly quakeless areas are the work of humans. Instead, here’s everything the team of SMU seismologists told the Irving City Council at last Thursday’s meeting. Long story short: It’s something. Not sure what. But it’s something. Feel that? There’s an Irving City Council town hall meeting at the Irving Arts Center tonight. Can’t imagine what’ll be on the agenda.


I would like to thank you, the Irving City Council, for the opportunity to appear tonight and discuss the recent seismic activity in the area. These earthquakes highlight the dynamic interplay of stresses and old faults within the earth’s crust, even here in the flatlands of North Texas, and the need to understand how and when such stresses can give rise to earthquakes. To date, all of the North Texas earthquakes have been small, less than magnitude 4. The fact that they have been widely felt and have continued over months has naturally raised concerns.

The seismologists at SMU have been recording earthquakes in North Texas since 2008, but it is only with the close cooperation of local community governments, officials, organizations, and citizens willing to help deploy and host seismographs that such critical observations are possible. In this most recent case for example, Jason Carriere, the Emergency Management Coordinator for the Irving Police Department and his colleagues and peers have made possible the very rapid deployment of seismographs following the M3.5 and 3.6 earthquakes only 9 days ago.

I have prepared short remarks and then we are available for questions that you might have. My intention with these remarks is to highlight four points:

First, I’ll summarize the ongoing seismic activity in Irving-Dallas in the context of the rest of the seismicity that has occurred in the Fort Worth Basin since 2008;

Second, I’ll provide an overview of the current study of the Irving earthquake swarm and anticipated outcomes;

Third, I’ll list possible subsequent steps following the deployment of instruments designed to explore the cause of the activity; and

Finally, I’ll have some brief remarks concerning assessment of earthquake hazards and preparation going forward.

The overview of past and ongoing research related to possible linkages between human activities and earthquakes will not be explicitly covered tonight although you have been supplied the materials we presented to the Texas House Subcommittee on Seismicity on 12 May 2014 and it is also available at: www.smu.edu/News/NewsIssues/EarthquakeStudy.

The Irving earthquake sequence appears to have begun on 17 April 2014 with a magnitude 2.4 event and has been followed by thirty-seven additional events as identified by the United States Geological Survey (or USGS), including the magnitude 3.5 and 3.6 earthquakes [Jan. 6]. A number of these have been widely felt across the area with a total of four above magnitude 3. Because the two largest events are of almost equal magnitude and occurred close in time to one another, we and others have called this an earthquake swarm as opposed to a single main earthquake followed by aftershocks.

It is important to put this swarm into the context of the activity that has occurred across the DFW Metroplex since Halloween night 2008. Prior to 2008 there were no historic seismic events in the area and only one possible felt event reported in 1950. Of course the ability to detect and locate seismic events in the region has increased as a function of time, but with the substantial population in the region for well over 100 years, any felt reports associated with small events would have been made and those events would have been identified. As an aside, I would like to encourage everyone to file reports on the earthquakes they feel using the USGS “Did You Feel It” website (earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/dyfi/). We have great technology, but reports from people who have felt earthquakes are quite useful in interpreting the location of an earthquake, its size and how seismic waves decrease in amplitude as they move away from the earthquake source. Since October 31, 2008, the USGS has located over 120 earthquakes in our area. The Irving earthquakes represent the fourth sequence to be studied in our local area over the last six years. The first was an earthquake sequence centered near DFW airport in 2008 and 2009 with the largest magnitude of 3.3. A second sequence from 2009 into 2010 was near Cleburne, Texas with the largest magnitude of 2.8. A third set of events occurred near Azle, Texas beginning in the Fall of 2013 and continuing through 2014 with the largest magnitude of 3.6. In all of these cases earthquakes got smaller and further apart in time following the largest events. Additional focus areas of seismicity based on USGS locations exist NE of Cleburne, near Mineral Wells and in the Venus/Midlothian area but have not been well studied. Within the context of the increased seismicity in the area, the most recent swarm has similar characteristics to the others.
Turning to the recent Irving swarm, it is important to recognize that the USGS has primary responsibility in the US for locating earthquakes as well as providing earthquake hazard assessment. They complete this task with a high quality network of seismic stations deployed across the United States. In the case of the largest Irving earthquake, the existing USGS seismic stations used to first locate the event were as close as 40 miles and as far as 922 miles. As you can imagine, using seimic waves from such distant stations typically results in intrinsic errors in location estimates that can be as large as 3-6 miles. These errors are large enough that it can be difficult to assign an earthquake or swarm to a particular fault, which is critical to understanding the process. As a result, the deployment of additional seismic stations closer to initial earthquake location estimates provides the basis for refining these locations in order to attribute them to a fault. In areas such as California where earthquake activity is high, permanent seismic stations are already installed with spacing adequate to provide these types of refined earthquake locations. We in North Texas do not have such a network.

Before Tuesday, January 6, there were only three seismic stations within about 10 miles of the events, one of which was deployed on Monday afternoon, January 5. In order to improve our mapping of the fault causing these earthquakes, over the last week we have worked with the City of Irving and others to deploy additional seismometers designed to provide high precision locations. Today we have a total of 22 instruments fielded, although 14 of them are designed to record for only 10 days and will be recovered by the end of the week. Data from a number of these instruments is being shared with the USGS in order to enhance their real-time analysis of any subsequent earthquakes. We anticipate that within the next month as additional small events occur that these data will provide the basis for a refinement of our understanding of the responsible fault. This same approach proved to be successful for the earthquake sequences that occurred near DFW airport, Cleburne and Azle. The timing of this work is dependent on how much longer subsequent earthquakes occur in the coming weeks. Once the fault location is refined, the data provdes a basis for improving the location estimates of the earthquakes that occurred before the local stations were deployed. Thanks to the support of City of Irving, this deployment subsequent to the largest events last Tuesday has been the most rapid of any of the sequences in the area and will provide one of the best data sets for assessing the swarm.

The third thing I want to discuss are the next steps in a study like this one. Once the locations have been completed, only then can we assess possible causes. We will consider a wide-range of possibilities, including whether the earthquakes are strictly natural or possibly associated with human activities. In either case, the waves released from the earthquake are associated with pre-existing stored energy along natural faults. Steps in this next stage of the study are the development of data on subsurface fault details, assessment of relative locations of any near-by commercial activities to the earthquakes, acquisition of data related to any identfied commercial activities, and development of detailed subsurface geology and rock properties. If there are near-by commercial activities related to the injection or recovery of fluids, it might be that the impact of the associated fluids on near-by faults will be important to explore and thus require additional supporting data. In the case of two of the previous earthquake sequences, those near DFW airport and Cleburne, we found that there is a plausible or possible linkage between waste water disposal and the earthquakes. I will add that there are other experts who point out that even in these two cases the sequences could be natural.

Finally, I want to touch briefly on the seismic activity and its possible hazard to our communities. It is important for you to understand that this area is beyond our specific expertise and an important area for continued cooperation with the USGS. All of the events since 2008 have been small and, although startling to all of us when we feel them – they have not been large enough to cause significant damage. The fact that the events appear to be shallow, 2-5 miles deep, means they are close to the surface where we live and thus well felt. The previous sequences have decayed away following the largest event with magnitudes similar to those experienced last Tuesday. I do not know whether this specific swarm will die out or whether it will continue. Experience shows that the majority of earthquake swarms do not result in damaging earthquakes. But at this time we cannot rule out the possibiltiy of larger earthquakes, some possibly damaging. I believe these statements are consistent with guidance provided by the USGS. Recent earthquakes in West Texas, East Texas and South Texas have been large enough that they might cause some damage if they occurred in our area, and thus motivates the assessment of current seismicity in our local area and meetings like this one tonight. The USGS is an excellent resource for both hazard assessment and preparedness and therefore I encourage the local governments to work with these experts. - Dallas News.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - IMF Slashes Global Growth Forecast To 3.5 PERCENT!

AFP Photo / Saul Loeb

January 20, 2015 - GLOBAL ECONOMY
- The International Monetary Fund has reduced its world growth forecast to 3.5 percent this year, from 3.8 percent. Sluggish growth from China, Russia, the EU, and Japan won’t offset the benefits of cheaper oil.

The outlook for 2016 was also cut to 3.7 percent from four percent.

Here is the January 2015 report released on January 19.

The downward revisions were influenced by the worsening prospects in China, Russia, the EU, and Japan, with the last two posing the biggest threat to growth. The most severe cut was to Russia, whose economy will contract by three percent, according to the IMF, a huge departure from its previous 0.4 percent growth estimate. This economic uncertainty will spillover into CIS countries, which are closely tied to the Russian economy.

One of the major disappointments of 2014 was the low growth in Japan, the report said.

“The most obvious downside risks involve stagnation in the euro area and in Japan,”
IMF Chief Economist Oliver Blanchard said.

The eurozone’s three largest economies, Germany, France, and Italy, all had their growth revised, but Spain got upgraded.

AFP Photo / Martin Bureau

The theme of the paper is “cross currents”, which the IMF identifies as“strong and complex.”In short, what is good news for one economy is usually bad news for another. While many economies are emerging from recession and economic crisis, others are sinking, a strong dollar and weak euro saves some and stings others, dipping oil benefits importers but not exporters.

Since September, global oil prices have tanked 55 percent. Lower oil prices, which were expected to give a 0.3-0.7 boost to global GDP, will not offset the greater threats the slowing down of big advanced and developing economies, since investment takes a hit.

"The boost from lower oil prices is expected to be more than offset by an adjustment to lower medium-term growth in most major economies other than the United States,”
the report says.

Volatile currencies will continue their swings, again tilting the scales in favor of some, and not others. Countries tied to specific currency-denominated debt are either getting a major discount or added burden, depending on where their money is. Since August, the US dollar has increased seven percent in real terms, while the euro has lost three percent, and the Yen 10 percent.

The IMF prognosis echoes Monday’s deflated forecast from the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

The IMF predicts the average oil price in 2015 will be $56.7 a barrel, a slight relief from today’s prices hovering near $50 a barrel. - RT.

EXTREME WEATHER: Apocalyptic Freak Storm Leave United Arab Emirates Desert WHITE Under Blanket Of Hail - Infrastructure Collapse; 750 Road Smashes; At Least 3 People Killed! [PHOTOS + VIDEOS]

January 20, 2015 - UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
- The UAE has been hit by a sandstorm, rain and even hail today – and the forecasters are warning there could be more to come.

In one part of the desert country in the emirate Ras Al Khaimah - better known for its long, hot stifling summers – a soaking 38.2 mm of rain fell, according to local press reports.

The roads were hit by chaotic scenes with police recording more than 750 road smashes, and at least three people killed, as inexperienced motorists, unfamiliar with the dangers posed by slippery surfaces caused by high rainfall, failed to heed warnings.

Social media was flooded with images of the extreme conditions, including many that appeared to show snow in the desert.

But a spokesman for the National Center for Meteorology and Seismology told local press: “Due to the intensity of the hail storm that struck parts of Abu Dhabi and continues to do so, it appears that it may have snowed. But what you see is intense hail.”

Out at sea there were treacherous conditions with massive waves making conditions impassable for small craft.

With little or no storm drainage system in the nation’s streets, roads became impassable under the deluge of rain.

WATCH: Floods, hail, and thunderstorms in UAE.

Police issued warnings of dangerous driving conditions, but there were still a number road smashes on the UAE’s highways.

Forecasters have warned there’s more to come over the next few hours. But they say conditions are likely to clear with temperatures reaching about 23C across the emirates. - Al Arabiya.

INFRASTRUCTURE COLLAPSE: Mansion Explodes, After Massive Fire Blaze Left Collapsed Floors And A Mountain Of Debris In Annapolis, Maryland - Six People Unaccounted For!

A fire destroyed a multimillion-dollar home on Childs Point Road Monday, Jan. 19, 2015.

January 20, 2015 - MARYLAND, UNITED STATES
- There was no call for help from any of the six people who are now unaccounted for after a $6 million waterfront mansion owned by tech CEO Don Pyle and his wife Sandy burned to the ground early Monday.

Fire officials were alerted by an alarm company which detected smoke alarms on the first and second floor of the house, said Capt. Russ Davies of the Anne Arundel County Fire Dept.

Officials at Pyle's company, ScienceLogic in Reston, Va., have told reporters they have not heard from him since the fire and they are hoping for a "miracle."

Investigators, including agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms say there are no signs uncovered yet that the fire is suspicious. The ATF will deploy a national "reaction team" including the heavy equipment that will be needed to excavate the destroyed structure and search for bodies.

WATCH: Six people unaccounted for after Annapolis mansion fire.

Neighbors say they fear the Pyle's grandchildren may be among the six people unaccounted for after the fire. Family members at the scene declined to speak with reporters.

Firefighters were called to the home at about 3:30 a.m. Monday. The blaze went to four alarms. The response included a fire boat that was positioned off the shoreline to pump the huge amounts of water needed to contain the blaze.

The house, known as "The Castle" by neighbors for its stone walls and towers, is assessed for $6.3 million, according to state property records.

"They were just incredibly kind, nice people," said neighbor Caroline Wugofski. The Pyles were noted for hosting major charitable functions at the showplace mansion for a number of causes. Sandra Pyle was a major contributor to the Maryland SPCA, according to Facebook Posts by the organization.

Aftermath of Annapolis mansion fire (Photo: Nikki Burdine, WUSA)

Neighbors leaving teddy bears/flowers at Annapolis home.

It took more than 85 firefighters three-and-a-half hours to get the blaze under control at the 16,000-square-foot home. When firefighters first arrived, the flames were so strong they were not able to get inside.

"They were met with heavy fire, collapsing floors and crews had to withdraw," said Anne Arundel County Fire spokesperson Russ Davies.

Neighbors say Sandra and Donald Pyle lived there with their two children.

"We called it the Castle, and now it's completely gone," said neighbor Tom Gay. "The Pyles themselves are great people. They had a lot of fundraisers for worthy causes."

It is currently unclear whether or not anyone was home at the time the flames broke out. So far, the occupants of the mansion have not been located.

"If we determine there were people in the residence, then it would be a crime scene. Until then, we don't know," said Davies.

In addition to the size of the home, firefighters ran into another problem.

"There are no fire hydrants so we had to use tanker trucks and a fire boat to pump water from the creek," said Davies.

The damage is estimated to be in the multi-millions. Investigators say they will be on the scene for several more hours. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Neighbors have placed teddy bears and flowers outside the home. - USA Today.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - China Posts Worst Economic Growth Figures In 24 YEARS!

AFP Photo / China out

January 20, 2015 - CHINA
- The economic growth of China in 2014 dropped to its lowest level since 1990 with the country just failing to reach the official annual growth target of 7.5 percent for the first time in 16 years.

China's GDP growth at the end of 2014 was 7.4 percent, the country’s worst performance since the 3.8 percent growth in 1990, the year after the suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing's Tiananmen Square followed by Western sanctions.

The country’s GDP reached $10.4 trillion (63.646 trillion yuan) and is the lowest since 1998, the National Bureau of Statistics reported Tuesday.

Although China didn’t manage to achieve the performance target fixed by the government for 2014, the annual growth figures still outran the market expectations of about 7.2 percent, according to Reuters.

Chinese stock markets rose on the news, following Monday’s fall of 7.7 percent, its biggest loss in more than six years.

China's GDP growth rate slows to its lowest level in 24 years.

At the same time, the authorities are optimistic about the development of China's economy. The government says this level is enough to find jobs for the country’s enormous population.

"The economy maintains a steady growth in the ‘new normal’, with a positive trend of stable growth, structural optimization, the improvement of the quality of growth and social well-being"
, said the Bureau’s spokesperson Ma Jiantang.

Economists expect the slowdown of 2014 to result in an extended economic downturn. On Monday, the IMF forecast 6.8 percent growth for China in 2015, a number below the 7 percent target economists expect Beijing to set.

The slowdown in China comes as the world economy shows vulnerability to regional economic changes. The eurozone risks plunging into a third recession in six years, and Abenomics has proved ineffective as Japan continues to remain in stagnation.

China's economic slowdown is also triggered by domestic factors such as a drop in real estate prices, with a property sector accounting for 15 percent of GDP. High total debt is a major drag on the expansion of China’s economy.

The country’s overall borrowing is growing faster than the economy, with the debt to GDP ratio exceeding 250 percent.Falling energy prices, industrial overcapacity and a lack of demand can lead to the potential onset of a deflationary cycle.

If these issues aren’t resolved in time, China could find itself in a similar situation to Japan, and this is a reason why Beijing may need to tie more money into the system.

However, some experts believe the slowdown that is happening amid global stagnation is a natural thing, as China’s has experienced rapid growth for more than three decades in a row. - RT.

MONUMENTAL SOLAR SYSTEM CHANGES: ESA Snaps Massive Swirling Vortex On Planet Venus - Moving At Dizzying Speeds Of 400 km/h; Atmosphere Moving 60 TIMES FASTER Than The Planet Itself!

January 20, 2015 - SPACE
- This ghostly puff of smoke is actually a mass of swirling gas and cloud at Venus’ south pole, as seen by the Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer (VIRTIS) aboard ESA’s Venus Express spacecraft.

Venus has a very choppy and fast-moving atmosphere – although wind speeds are sluggish at the surface, they reach dizzying speeds of around 400 km/h at the altitude of the cloud tops, some 70 km above the surface. At this altitude, Venus’ atmosphere spins round some 60 times faster than the planet itself. This is very rapid; even Earth’s fastest winds move at most about 30% of our planet’s rotation speed. Quick-moving Venusian winds can complete a full lap of the planet in just four Earth days.

Polar vortices form because heated air from equatorial latitudes rises and spirals towards the poles, carried by the fast winds. As the air converges on the pole and then sinks, it creates a vortex much like that found above the plughole of a bath. In 1979, the Pioneer Venus orbiter spotted a huge hourglass-shaped depression in the clouds, some 2000 km across, at the centre of the north polar vortex. However, other than brief glimpses from the Pioneer Venus and Mariner 10 missions in the 1970s, Venus’ south pole had not been seen in detail until ESA’s Venus Express first entered orbit in April 2006.

One of Venus Express’ first discoveries, made during its very first orbit, was confirming the existence of a huge atmospheric vortex circulation at the south pole with a shape matching the one glimpsed at the north pole.

This south polar vortex is a turbulent mix of warming and cooling gases, all surrounded by a ‘collar’ of cool air. Follow-up Venus Express observations in 2007, including this image, showed that the core of the vortex changes shape on a daily basis. Just four hours after this image the vortex looked very different and a day later it had morphed into a squashed shape unrecognisable from the eye-like structure here.

A video of the vortex, made from 10 images taken over a period of five hours, can be seen below. The vortex rotates with a period of around 44 hours.

The dynamic nature of the South polar vortex can be seen in this video sequence, composed of images obtained on 7 April 2007.     The video is composed of a
series of ten images taken over a period of five hours at half-hourly intervals, at a wavelength of 3.9 micrometres.  The vortex is rotating with a period of about
44 hours. In video, the point of view of the observer has been rotated at the same rate so that the vortex appears stationary in the centre of the image. These
images were obtained as part of the ‘VIRTIS movie’ sequence, previously reported on 7 May 2007.  This movie shows that the vortex is very complex, with
atmospheric gases flowing in different directions at different altitudes.  The bright region at the top-centre appears to be the most active region and its
brightness suggests that it is where atmospheric gases are flowing downward. Extending leftward from this point is an ‘S’-shaped feature which is seen
frequently in the polar vortex. A very similar feature was observed at the northern polar vortex in 1979 by Pioneer Venus.

The swirling region shown in this VIRTIS image is about 60 km above the planet’s surface. Venus’ south pole is located just up and to the left of the image centre, slightly above the wispy ‘eye’ itself.

This image was obtained on 7 April 2007 at a wavelength of 5.02 micrometres. It shows thermal-infrared emission from the cloud tops; brighter regions like the ‘eye’ of the vortex are at lower altitude and therefore hotter. - ESA.

MIDDLE EAST CONFLICT: Iran And Hezbollah Are Planning "IMMINENT JOINT INVASION" Of Israel's Northern Galilee Region - According To "High Level Intelligence"!

January 20, 2015 - MIDDLE EAST
- Senior Iranian and Hezbollah figures killed in an airstrike in Syria this weekend were likely planning an 'imminent' attack on Israel, security sources have claimed.

Six Iranian army chiefs died alongside five Hezbollah militants after an Israeli helicopter fired rockets at a convoy in the Golan Heights region on Sunday.

Among those killed was Iranian General Mohammed Allahdadi, as well as commander Abu Ali Tabatabai, who is known to have worked with both Hezbollah and Iran.

Today Major General Eyal Ben Reuven, a former deputy head in the Israeli Defense Forces, accused the senior military figures of meeting to plot an attack on Israel.

He added that the commanders' decision to meet in Syria could mean that a 'high-level' and 'sophisticated' attack on Israel's northern border is 'imminent'.

Top Hezbollah and Iranian commanders killed in an Israeli airstrike on Sunday were meeting to discuss a plan
to invade Galilee, according to a former Israeli general (pictured, Israel deploys troops today)

Major General Eyal Ben Reuven said that a 'high-level' and 'sophisticated' attack on northern Israel could be
'imminent', a week after Hezbollah's leader threatened to bring war to the region

Research group The Israel Project came to a similar conclusion, saying that the presence of Tabatabai 'probably indicates operations aimed at overrunning Israeli border towns.'

The warnings come just a week after Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah, warned that the group 'is ready and prepared for a confrontation in the Galilee and beyond the Galilee.'

Iran has also promised a 'crushing response' to the weekend strike, without laying out exactly what action will be taken.

General Mohammad Ali Jafari, head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, said: 'These martyrdoms proved the need to stick with jihad. The Zionists must await ruinous thunderbolts.

Jihad Mughniyeh (pictured), the son of a prominent
Hezbollah leader, died alsongside Iranian General
Mohammed Allahdadi on Sunday

'The Revolutionary Guards will fight to the end of the Zionist regime... We will not rest easy until this epitome of vice is totally deleted from the region's geopolitics.'

Israeli troops have been marshalled along the country's northern border, while an Iron Dome missile launcher has been deployed to destroy any incoming rockets.

Senior Iranian politicians are said to be incensed at the death of Allahdadi, which they confirmed yesterday, saying he had been 'martyred' in the name of his country.

Officials also denied that he had been planning any kind of attack, instead saying he had been in Syria to advise the government on how to tackle extremists such as Islamic State, who control much of the country's north.

Hezbollah said that Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of a prominent commander, and Mohammed Issa, who was responsible for the group's operations in Syria and Iraq, died alongside Tabatabai.

Jihad Mughniyeh was the son of Imad Mughniyeh, a senior Hezbollah figure killed in Damascus in 2008. Hezbollah accused Israel of assassinating him, but Israel has not claimed responsibility.

The latest strike, which Israel has also not officially accepted responsibility for, has seen tensions in the already volatile region come to a head.

Major Reuven said the presence of Hezbollah and Iranian senior commanders in Syria meant that they were
likely planning an attack on Israel (pictured, troops mass in Galilee today)

Iran has denied planning any attack on Israel, saying that General Allahdadi was in Syria to help advise
the Assad regime on Islamic State militants that occupy the country's north

Israel has already been carrying out a series of controversial airstrikes in Syria which it says are to prevent rockets from Bashar Al-Assad's regime and Iran being passed to Hezbollah.

Hezbollah has previously used such missile stockpiles to attack Israel from Lebanon, such as in the brief by bloody 33-day war between the two countries in 2006.

Nasrallah had already called the strikes 'a major aggression', warning that Hezbollah has a 'right to respond', even before Sunday's attack.

The attack took place in the Syrian-controlled portion of the Golan Heights region.

Most of the rocky plateau in south western Syria was seized by Israel in the closing stages of the 1967 Middle East War. About 200 square miles remains under Syrian control.  - Daily Mail.

INFRASTRUCTURE COLLAPSE: Horrific Bus Crash In Zimbabwe - 25 People Killed; 46 Others Injured!

The collision took place along Harare-Nyamapanda highway. Photo: The Herald

January 20, 2015 - ZIMBABWE
- Twenty five people died while 46 others were seriously injured Sunday afternoon when Zupco and Pioneer buses side-swiped each other at 35 km peg along Harare-Nyamapanda highway near Blue ridge.

National Police spokesperson Charity Charamba confirmed the accident.

"We confirm that 24 people lost their lives when two buses from ZUPCO and Pioneer had a side-swipe at 35km peg along Harare-Nyamapanda highway," she said.

But according to police sources, the figure rose to 25 as the driver of the state owned Zupco died on his way to hospital.

"This occurred after the Pioneer bus encroached into the lane of the oncoming Zupco bus but we are still verifying the number of people who were in each bus. We urge motorists to exercise maximum caution and pay attention to avoid such cases. As police we express our heartfelt condolences to the deceased's families," Charamba said.

Eye-witnesses attributed the accident to speeding by both drivers while others, just like the police, blamed the Unifreight bus driver for encroaching into the right lane thereby colliding with the Zupco bus.

The Zupco bus had 58 passengers and was heading to Chisambiro, Mutoko in Mashonaland East Province while the Unifreight bus was Harare bound.

"I do not dispute that the Zupco bus was speeding but the blame is on the Unifreight bus driver who encroached into the wrong lane. The Zupco bus driver applied brakes after realising the danger but his efforts went in vain," a traumatised survivor who requested not to be named.

When the Newzimbabwe.com team arrived at the scene police officers and the Fire Brigade team were still retrieving some of the goods and bodies that were trapped in the wreckage while bags and other goods were scattered all over the scene.

The rescue team's bloody gloves were also strewn all over.

The road had to be closed, and a detour was established for other motorists to use as the police conducted their business.

Speaking at the accident scene Mutoko East legislator Ricky Mawere, whose constituency accommodates most of the deceased people, blasted speeding drivers.

Most roads in Zimbabwe have become "death traps" due to both narrowness and dilapidation. - All Africa.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Rumblings On The San Andreas Fault - Shallow 4.4 Earthquake Jars Area Of Northern California! [MAPS + TECTONIC SUMMARY]

USGS earthquake location.

- A shallow earthquake of magnitude 4.4 was reported this morning 16 miles from the small town of Greenfield, Calif., according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The quake occurred at 5:21 a.m. PST at a depth of 5.6 miles.

The earthquake was felt as far away as Fresno, which is about 100 miles to the east, KABC reports.

According to the USGS, the epicenter was 17 miles from King City, 19 miles from Soledad and 37 miles from Hollister.

USGS shakemap intensity

In the last 10 days, there have been no earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater centered nearby.

This information comes from the USGS Earthquake Notification Service and this post was created by an algorithm. - LA Times.

Tectonic Summary - San Andreas Fault

The San Andreas Fault forms the main strand of the plate boundary, running from the Gulf of California (Baja California, Mexico) north to the region of Cape Mendocino. The fault in the San Francisco Bay region is a largely strike-slip fault running through the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Gulf of the Farallons west of the Golden Gate, through Tomales Bay and Bodega Bay, and north to Fort Ross and Point Arena. Northward of Point Arena, the location and character of the San Andreas Fault is less well known. The fault in this region is locked, exhibiting no creep at the surface and generating very few microearthquakes that are associated with minor slipping at depth. Through the San Francisco Bay Area, the slip rate on the San Andreas Fault is about 20 mm/yr (4/5 inch/year).

The October 17, 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake was the most recent major earthquake associated with the San Andreas Fault. While the earthquake was not produced by the main San Andreas Fault, it occurred on a closely associated blind thrust fault that had formed as a result of a bend in the San Andreas Fault, south of the bay. Although that earthquake struck along a remote segment of the Santa Cruz Mountains, 64 deaths resulted, most from the collapse of the Cypress Freeway in Oakland. About 16,000 homes and apartment units were uninhabitable after the earthquake. The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was closed for more than a month because of a collapse of a section of its eastern span.

WATCH: "San Andreas" Official Trailer.

The left bend in the San Andreas Fault in the Santa Cruz Mountains favors thickening of the crust and uplift of the Earth's surface, and is thought to be responsible to the formation of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The M7.9 April 18, 1906 San Francisco earthquake was the most recent great earthquake on the San Andreas Fault and it ruptured from approximately Cape Mendocino south to San Juan Bautista. The 1906 earthquake was the largest earthquake to strike Northern California in historic times, and is thought to have killed more than 3,000 Bay Area residents. The epicenter of that earthquake is now estimated to be offshore about 2 miles west of San Francisco. The fire following the 1906 earthquake burned 5 square miles of San Francisco and resulted in 225,000 homeless refugees of the earthquake.

A large (magnitude 6.8) earthquake in 1838 is often assumed to have occurred on the Peninsula segment of the San Andreas Fault. To date, however, unambiguous observations placing that earthquake on the San Andreas Fault have not been found.

The 2003 Working Group for California Earthquake Probability assigned a 21% probability that the San Andreas Fault would produce a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake in the next 30 years. - USGS.

INFRASTRUCTURE COLLAPSE: "Catastrophic Pancake Collapse" - Aging Bridge Prematurely Collapses On Interstate 75 In Cincinnati, Ohio During Demolition; One Person Killed, Another Hospitalized!

"Pancake collapse" in Cincinnati: http://cin.ci/1BwThCa (Photo: Patrick Reddy, The Enquirer)

January 20, 2015 - OHIO, UNITED STATES
- One person has been killed after an aging bridge on Interstate 75 in Cincinnati, Ohio prematurely collapsed while it was being prepared for demolition. Another person was taken to hospital to be treated for injuries sustained.

The "catastrophic pancake collapse" of a section of the Hopple Street overpass occurred around 10:30 p.m. EST on Monday, according to Cincinnati officials, who shut down part of the interstate.

The Enquirer reported that the worker was pinned underneath a piece of construction equipment that was moving concrete when the bridge gave way, Cincinnati Police Captain Doug Wiesman stated.

The Cincinnati office of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said on Tuesday it has opened an investigation into the cause of the collapse.

The scene at the Cincinnati overpass collapse at 6:20 and 7:45 a.m. ET: http://usat.ly/1J5tMal  (Photo: Pat Brennan)

The scene at the Cincinnati overpass collapse at 6:20 and 7:45 a.m. ET: http://usat.ly/1J5tMal  (Photo: Pat Brennan)

1 dead, 1 injured when highway overpass collapses in Cincinnati http://nbcnews.to/1Bx9pDX 

"What appears to have happened is, in essence, an industrial incident -- a workplace incident with respect to a construction crew that's doing work out here,"
city manager Harry Black said. "Something went wrong, and a tragedy has occurred as a result."

The Enquirer reported that “the bridge did not appear to have any structural problems” based on a review of federal inspection data.

A new bridge is currently open at Hopple Street, and will remain open despite Monday’s accident.

In 2013, the Associated Press found that of 607,380 bridges in the most recent (at the time) federal National Bridge Inventory, 65,605 of them were classified as "structurally deficient” -- or when a bridge is deemed in poor condition or worse by inspectors -- and 20,808 as "fracture critical” -- or if the bridge does not have proper protections and could collapse should one major component fail. And of all those, 7,795 received both classifications.

The Congressional Budget Office reported in March 2013 that the Highway Trust Fund -- a federal fund employed to improve roads, bridges, and ports -- was to hit “insufficient revenues to meet its obligations, resulting in steadily accumulating shortfalls” by early 2015.

Interstate 75 North in Marietta, Georgia (Reuters / Tami Chappell)

Warning that money was running low, the Obama administration urged Congress last year to boost the Fund, which is mainly supported by gasoline taxes.

"We have an infrastructure deficit in this country,"
said Anthony Foxx, secretary of the US Department of Transportation, in May 2014.

"We cannot meet the needs of a growing country and a growing economy by simply maintaining our current level of effort,"
Foxx said. "We must do more."

Last summer, Congress passed a short-term plan to boost the Highway Trust Fund. Now, with a Republican-led Congress, lawmakers are debating new funding mechanisms for transportation projects. - RT.

BIG BROTHER NOW: The Rise Of The Global Police State - New Police Radars Can "SEE" INSIDE YOUR HOMES!

January 20, 2015 - UNITED STATES
- At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies have secretly equipped their officers with radar devices that allow them to effectively peer through the walls of houses to see whether anyone is inside, a practice raising new concerns about the extent of government surveillance.

Those agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, began deploying the radar systems more than two years ago with little notice to the courts and no public disclosure of when or how they would be used. The technology raises legal and privacy issues because the U.S. Supreme Court has said officers generally cannot use high-tech sensors to tell them about the inside of a person's house without first obtaining a search warrant.

The radars work like finely tuned motion detectors, using radio waves to zero in on movements as slight as human breathing from a distance of more than 50 feet. They can detect whether anyone is inside of a house, where they are and whether they are moving.

Current and former federal officials say the information is critical for keeping officers safe if they need to storm buildings or rescue hostages. But privacy advocates and judges have nonetheless expressed concern about the circumstances in which law enforcement agencies may be using the radars — and the fact that they have so far done so without public scrutiny.

"The idea that the government can send signals through the wall of your house to figure out what's inside is problematic," said Christopher Soghoian, the American Civil Liberties Union's principal technologist. "Technologies that allow the police to look inside of a home are among the intrusive tools that police have."

Agents' use of the radars was largely unknown until December, when a federal appeals court in Denver said officers had used one before they entered a house to arrest a man wanted for violating his parole. The judges expressed alarm that agents had used the new technology without a search warrant, warning that "the government's warrantless use of such a powerful tool to search inside homes poses grave Fourth Amendment questions."

(Photo: L3 Communications)

By then, however, the technology was hardly new. Federal contract records show the Marshals Service began buying the radars in 2012, and has so far spent at least $180,000 on them.

Justice Department spokesman Patrick Rodenbush said officials are reviewing the court's decision. He said the Marshals Service "routinely pursues and arrests violent offenders based on pre-established probable cause in arrest warrants" for serious crimes.

The device the Marshals Service and others are using, known as the Range-R, looks like a sophisticated stud-finder. Its display shows whether it has detected movement on the other side of a wall and, if so, how far away it is — but it does not show a picture of what's happening inside. The Range-R's maker, L-3 Communications, estimates it has sold about 200 devices to 50 law enforcement agencies at a cost of about $6,000 each.

Other radar devices have far more advanced capabilities, including three-dimensional displays of where people are located inside a building, according to marketing materials from their manufacturers. One is capable of being mounted on a drone. And the Justice Department has funded research to develop systems that can map the interiors of buildings and locate the people within them.

The radars were first designed for use in Iraq and Afghanistan. They represent the latest example of battlefield technology finding its way home to civilian policing and bringing complex legal questions with it.

Those concerns are especially thorny when it comes to technology that lets the police determine what's happening inside someone's home. The Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that the Constitution generally bars police from scanning the outside of a house with a thermal camera unless they have a warrant, and specifically noted that the rule would apply to radar-based systems that were then being developed.

In 2013, the court limited police's ability to have a drug dog sniff the outside of homes. The core of the Fourth Amendment, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, is "the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion."

Still, the radars appear to have drawn little scrutiny from state or federal courts. The federal appeals court's decision published last month was apparently the first by an appellate court to reference the technology or its implications.

That case began when a fugitive-hunting task force headed by the U.S. Marshals Service tracked a man named Steven Denson, wanted for violating his parole, to a house in Wichita. Before they forced the door open, Deputy U.S. Marshal Josh Moff testified, he used a Range-R to detect that someone was inside.

Moff's report made no mention of the radar; it said only that officers "developed reasonable suspicion that Denson was in the residence."

Agents arrested Denson for the parole violation and charged him with illegally possessing two firearms they found inside. The agents had a warrant for Denson's arrest but did not have a search warrant. Denson's lawyer sought to have the guns charge thrown out, in part because the search began with the warrantless use of the radar device.

WATCH: Radar devices allowing officers to detect movement through walls have been secretly used by at least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies over the last two years. VPC

Three judges on the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the search, and Denson's conviction, on other grounds. Still, the judges wrote, they had "little doubt that the radar device deployed here will soon generate many questions for this court."

But privacy advocates said they see more immediate questions, including how judges could be surprised by technology that has been in agents' hands for at least two years. "The problem isn't that the police have this. The issue isn't the technology; the issue is always about how you use it and what the safeguards are," said Hanni Fakhoury, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The Marshals Service has faced criticism for concealing other surveillance tools. Last year, the ACLU obtained an e-mail from a Sarasota, Fla., police sergeant asking officers from another department not to reveal that they had received information from a cellphone-monitoring tool known as a stingray. "In the past, and at the request of the U.S. Marshals, the investigative means utilized to locate the suspect have not been revealed," he wrote, suggesting that officers instead say they had received help from "a confidential source."

William Sorukas, a former supervisor of the Marshals Service's domestic investigations arm, said deputies are not instructed to conceal the agency's high-tech tools, but they also know not to advertise them. "If you disclose a technology or a method or a source, you're telling the bad guys along with everyone else," he said. - USA Today.

TERMINATOR NOW: The Rise Of The Machines - Japanese Androids Hold News Conference, Chat With Baby Droids!

Japanese androids Otonaroid (left) and Kodomoroid (right) hold a press conference at the Miraikan technology museum in Tokyo on Tuesday, introducing
tabletop conversation robots developed by the Japan Science and Technology Agency, Osaka University and Vstone, an Osaka-based robot firm.

January 20, 2015 - JAPAN
- If you find lifelike robots unnerving, try attending a news conference held by a pair of androids.

That was the scene on Tuesday in Tokyo when the androids Kodomoroid and Otonaroid introduced a new pair of communication robots developed by an Osaka-based company, Vstone, and its partners.

Sota and CommU, each about 30cm tall, engaged in dialog with their full-sized counterparts at the Miraikan technology museum as journalists looked on, entranced. The smaller, tabletop droids can only move their arms and upper bodies, but spoke in cute Japanese resembling the speech of a toddler.

"We're good at natural dialog and that's tough to do," CommU, which looks like a baby, told Otonaroid, a hyper-realistic robot "woman." The exchange was like a cybernetic mother and child, evoking both the lifelike "replicant" androids and the sentient toys in the 1982 science fiction film "Blade Runner."

Kodomoroid and Otonaroid have been a feature at the museum since last summer, providing information to visitors, and are not for sale.

Sota (short for "Social Talker"), however, may hit the market around April for under ¥100,000 (US$852), according to Vstone. Developed in collaboration with Osaka University and the Japan Science and Technology Agency's Exploratory Research for Advanced Technology (ERATO) program, the cartoonish Sota is powered by an Intel Edison single-board computer with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, and expresses itself via voice, arm movements and LEDs in its eyes and mouth. It also has a camera, speaker and microphone.

Japanese android Otonaroid (left) holds a press conference at the Miraikan technology museum in Tokyo on Tuesday, introducing tabletop conversation robots
developed by the Japan Science and Technology Agency, Osaka University and Vstone, an Osaka-based robot firm.

CommU (left) and Sota are tabletop conversation robots developed by the Japan Science and Technology Agency,
Osaka University and Vstone, an Osaka-based robot firm.

During a press conference at the Miraikan technology museum in Tokyo on Tuesday, a pair of androids introduced tabletop conversation robots (seen here)
developed by the Japan Science and Technology Agency, Osaka University and Vstone, an Osaka-based robot firm.

The baby-like CommU, still in the research phase, is more sophisticated, with moving eyelids and 14 axes of movement compared to Sota's eight, and is powered by a Raspberry Pi Model B+ single-board computer with HDMI and USB ports.

In a promotional video introduced by the androids, Sota and CommU were seen welcoming a woman when she arrived home, as well as discussing the weather and practicing English. The scene was somewhat poignant as Japan is struggling with a declining and aging population due to its low birthrate.

After the news conference, one of the robots' human developers explained the project's goals.

"The purpose of ERATO is to develop a fully autonomous interactive robot, and this is just the first stage," said Osaka University roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro, whose robotic creations include android versions of himself and his daughter as well as Kodomoroid and Otonaroid. "Precise voice recognition is difficult in robots but by watching the interaction between two robots, we can have a very realistic feeling of conversation."

The developers have submitted a patent application based on their insights into how to make robot conversation sound natural, including the timing of questions and answers, Ishiguro added.

At a press conference at the Miraikan technology museum in Tokyo on Tuesday, developers introduced tabletop conversation robots backed by the Japan
Science and Technology Agency, Osaka University and Vstone, an Osaka-based robot firm.

The news conference had scripted dialogs and there were human operators remotely controlling the full-sized androids, but Sota will have voice and image recognition abilities and can be loaded with various apps. Sota could be used to help sell electronics and other products, according to Ishiguro.

That approach is also being taken up by mobile carrier SoftBank's humanoid robot Pepper, which has been deployed to help sell Nestle coffee machines in Japan. Pepper is slated to go on sale this year in Japan for around ¥200,000. - Tech World.