Thursday, January 22, 2015

SOLAR WATCH: Uptick In Activity On The Sun - Active Region Produces M1.4 Solar Flare Off The East Limb; Geomagnetic Storm Category G1 Predicted!

January 22, 2015 - SPACE - Solar activity is now moderate. An active region now turning into view off the east limb produced an M1.4 solar flare at 04:52 UTC.


After days of quiet, the sun is stirring. A new unnumbered sunspot emerging over the sun's southeastern limb is crackling with small explosions. Prompted by this development, NOAA forecasters have boosted the odds of an M-class solar flare today to 25%.


Attached is an updated look at the visible solar on Thursday. Solar activity during the past 24 hours was moderate. New region 2268, currently rotating into view off the southeast limb, produced an M1.4 solar flare at 04:52 UTC (Jan 22). A number of minor C-Flares were also observed around this region. All other visible Earth facing sunspots were quiet throughout the period. Another isolated M-Flare will remain possible as we approach the weekend.

Solar wind speeds remain above 400 km/s and the Bz component of the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) is currently variable. Enhanced geomagnetic activity will be possible at very high latitudes during the next 24 hours.


Space Weather Message Code: WATA20

Serial Number: 597

Issue Time: 2015 Jan 22 2111 UTC

WATCH: Geomagnetic Storm Category G1 Predicted

Highest Storm Level Predicted by Day:

Jan 23:  None (Below G1)   Jan 24:  None (Below G1)   Jan 25:  G1 (Minor)


NOAA Space Weather Scale descriptions can be found at

Potential Impacts: Area of impact primarily poleward of 60 degrees Geomagnetic Latitude.
Induced Currents - Weak power grid fluctuations can occur.
Spacecraft - Minor impact on satellite operations possible.
Aurora - Aurora may be visible at high latitudes, i.e., northern tier of the U.S. such as northern Michigan and Maine.


A stream of solar wind hit Earth during the late hours of Jan. 21st, igniting a bright display of auroras around the Arctic Circle. Oliver Wright sends this picture from Abisko, Lapland, Sweden:

"I spent some time on the lake this week and found a really cool cave where I could get behind the icicles," says Wright. "Tonight while having tea, I noticed the aurora. So a friend and I headed to the ice cave. I took a reindeer skin with me as it has been around the -30 C mark and crawled into the cave. I was intending to photograph in the other direction, but as I turned round I saw the opportunity for a shot. I asked my friend to stay very still and this is the result. I really like the refractions of the aurora and the photographer in the icicles."

Here is another beautiful aurora image sent to us by Natalia Robba who captured this shot on Wednesday (Jan 21) from Ivalo, Finland. She reports that the show lasted for about 2 hours and then subsided just after midnight. 

Image Details: Nkon D4s, 14-24mm, f/2.8, ISO-6400, Exposure 2.5 seconds.

More auroras are in the offing on Jan. 22nd as Earth continues through the solar wind stream. NOAA forecasters estimate a 45% chance of polar geomagnetic storms.

- Solar Ham | Space Weather.

PARADIGM SHIFT, SOCIETAL COLLAPSE & GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Saudi Arabia King Abdullah Dies; Sets Up Complex Succession Process, Crown Prince Salman Said To Take Throne; Oil Price Surges!

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia speaks before a meeting with the U.S. Secretary of State at his private residence in the Red Sea city of Jeddah on June 27, 2014.  
Photographer: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

January 22, 2015 - SAUDI ARABIA
- Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, the powerful U.S. ally who joined Washington's fight against al-Qaida and sought to modernize the ultraconservative Muslim kingdom with incremental but significant reforms, including nudging open greater opportunities for women, has died, according to Saudi state TV. He was 90.

More than his guarded and hidebound predecessors, Abdullah assertively threw his oil-rich nation's weight behind trying to shape the Middle East. His priority was to counter the influence of rival, mainly Shiite Iran wherever it tried to make advances. He and fellow Sunni Arab monarchs also staunchly opposed the Middle East's wave of pro-democracy uprisings, seeing them as a threat to stability and their own rule.

He backed Sunni Muslim factions against Tehran's allies in several countries, but in Lebanon for example, the policy failed to stop Iranian-backed Hezbollah from gaining the upper hand. And Tehran and Riyadh's colliding ambitions stoked proxy conflicts around the region that enflamed Sunni-Shiite hatreds - most horrifically in Syria's civil war, where the two countries backed opposing sides. Those conflicts in turn hiked Sunni militancy that returned to threaten Saudi Arabia.

And while the king maintained the historically close alliance with Washington, there were frictions as he sought to put those relations on Saudi Arabia's terms. He was constantly frustrated by Washington's failure to broker a settlement to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. He also pushed the Obama administration to take a tougher stand against Iran and to more strongly back the mainly Sunni rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Abdullah's death was announced on Saudi state TV by a presenter who said the king died at 1 a.m. on Friday. His successor was announced as 79-year-old half-brother, Prince Salman, according to a Royal Court statement carried on the Saudi Press Agency. Salman was Abdullah's crown prince and had recently taken on some of the ailing king's responsibilities.

WATCH: Saudi ruler dead - King Abdullah dies in hospital aged 90, Crown Prince Salman succeeds.

Abdullah was born in Riyadh in 1924, one of the dozens of sons of Saudi Arabia's founder, King Abdul-Aziz Al Saud. Like all Abdul-Aziz's sons, Abdullah had only rudimentary education. Tall and heavyset, he felt more at home in the Nejd, the kingdom's desert heartland, riding stallions and hunting with falcons. His strict upbringing was exemplified by three days he spent in prison as a young man as punishment by his father for failing to give his seat to a visitor, a violation of Bedouin hospitality.

Abdullah was selected as crown prince in 1982 on the day his half-brother Fahd ascended to the throne. The decision was challenged by a full brother of Fahd, Prince Sultan, who wanted the title for himself. But the family eventually closed ranks behind Abdullah to prevent splits.

Abdullah became de facto ruler in 1995 when a stroke incapacitated Fahd. Abdullah was believed to have long rankled at the closeness of the alliance with the United States, and as regent he pressed Washington to withdraw the troops it had deployed in the kingdom since the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The U.S. finally did so in 2003.

When President George W. Bush came to office, Abdullah again showed his readiness to push against his U.S. allies.

In 2000, Abdullah convinced the Arab League to approve an unprecedented offer that all Arab states would agree to peace with Israel if it withdrew from lands it captured in 1967. The next year, he sent his ambassador in Washington to tell the Bush administration that it was too unquestioningly biased in favor of Israel and that the kingdom would from now on pursue its own interests apart from Washington's. Alarmed by the prospect of a rift, Bush soon after advocated for the first time the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

The next month, the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks took place in the United States, and Abdullah had to steer the alliance through the resulting criticism. The kingdom was home to 15 of the 19 hijackers, and many pointed out that the baseline ideology for al-Qaida and other groups stemmed from Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi interpretation of Islam.

When al-Qaida militants in 2003 began a wave of violence in the kingdom aimed at toppling the monarchy, Abdullah cracked down hard. For the next three years, security forces battled militants, finally forcing them to flee to neighboring Yemen. There, they created a new al-Qaida branch, and Saudi Arabia has played a behind-the-scenes role in fighting it.

The tougher line helped affirm Abdullah's commitment to fighting al-Qaida. He paid two visits to Bush - in 2002 and 2005 - at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

When Fahd died in 2005, Abdullah officially rose to the throne. He then began to more openly push his agenda.

His aim at home was to modernize the kingdom to face the future. One of the world's largest oil exporters, Saudi Arabia is fabulously wealthy, but there are deep disparities in wealth and a burgeoning youth population in need of jobs, housing and education. More than half the current population of 20 million is under the age of 25. For Abdullah, that meant building a more skilled workforce and opening up greater room for women to participate. He was a strong supporter of education, building universities at home and increasing scholarships abroad for Saudi students.

Abdullah for the first time gave women seats on the Shura Council, an unelected body that advises the king and government. He promised women would be able to vote and run in 2015 elections for municipal councils, the only elections held in the country. He appointed the first female deputy minister in a 2009. Two Saudi female athletes competed in the Olympics for the first time in 2012, and a small handful of women were granted licenses to work as lawyers during his rule.

One of his most ambitious projects was a Western-style university that bears his name, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, which opened in 2009. Men and women share classrooms and study together inside the campus, a major departure in a country where even small talk between the sexes in public can bring a warning from the morality police.

The changes seemed small from the outside but had a powerful resonance. Small splashes of variety opened in the kingdom - color and flash crept into the all-black abayas women must wear in public; state-run TV started playing music, forbidden for decades; book fairs opened their doors to women writers and some banned books.

But he treaded carefully in the face of the ultraconservative Wahhabi clerics who hold near total sway over society and, in return, give the Al Saud family's rule religious legitimacy.

Senior cleric Sheik Saleh al-Lihedan warned against changes that could snap the "thread between a leader and his people." In some cases, Abdullah pushed back: He fired one prominent government cleric who criticized the mixed-gender university. But the king balked at going too far too fast. For example, beyond allowing debate in newspapers, Abdullah did nothing to respond to demands to allow women to drive.

"He has presided over a country that has inched forward, either on its own or with his leadership," said Karen Elliot House, author of "On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines."

"I don't think he's had as much impact as one would hope on trying to create a more moderate version of Islam," she said. "To me, it has not taken inside the country as much as one would hope."

And any change was strictly on the royal family's terms. After the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings in particular, Saudi Arabia clamped down on any dissent. Riot police crushed street demonstrations by Saudi Arabia's Shiite minority. Dozens of activists were detained, many of them tried under a sweeping counterterrorism law by an anti-terrorism court Abdullah created. Authorities more closely monitored social media, where anger over corruption and unemployment - and jokes about the aging monarchy - are rife.

Regionally, perhaps Abdullah's biggest priority was to confront Iran, the Shiite powerhouse across the Gulf.

Worried about Tehran's nuclear program, Abdullah told the United States in 2008 to consider military action to "cut off the head of the snake" and prevent Iran from producing a nuclear weapon, according to a leaked U.S. diplomatic memo.

In Lebanon, Abdullah backed Sunni allies against the Iranian-backed Shiite guerrilla group Hezbollah in a proxy conflict that flared repeatedly into potentially destabilizing violence. Saudi Arabia was also deeply opposed to longtime Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whom it considered a tool of Iran oppressing Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority.

In Syria, Abdullah stepped indirectly indirectly into the civil war that emerged after 2011. He supported and armed rebels battling to overthrow President Bashar Assad, Iran's top Arab ally, and pressed the Obama administration to do the same. Iran's allies Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite militias rushed to back Assad, and the resulting conflict has left hundreds of thousands dead and driven millions of Syrians from their homes.

From the multiple conflicts, Sunni-Shiite hatreds around the region took on a life of their own, fueling Sunni militancy. Syria's war helped give birth to the Islamic State group, which burst out to take over large parts of Syria and Iraq. Fears of the growing militancy prompted Abdullah to commit Saudi airpower to a U.S.-led coalition fighting the extremists.

Toby Matthiesen, author of "Sectarian Gulf: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the Arab Spring That Wasn't," said Abdullah was not "particularly sectarian in a way that he hated Shiites for religious reasons. ... There are other senior members of the ruling family much more sectarian." But, he said, "Saudi Arabia plays a huge role in fueling sectarian conflict."

Abdullah had more than 30 children from around a dozen wives. - AP.

Saudi King Abdullah’s death sets up complex succession process

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud is expected to take over as the new king, but he is in poor health and his reign may not last long.
(Yuya Shino/Reuters)

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Adbul Aziz died early Friday, setting the stage for a transition of power at a critical moment as the key U.S. ally in the Middle East struggles with falling oil prices and rising Islamist violence.

The monarch, who was most likely 90, was succeeded by his brother, Crown Prince Salman, according to state television. That put the region’s most important Sunni power and America’s closest Arab ally in the hands of a 79-year-old who is reportedly in poor health and suffering from dementia.

Salman’s rise to the throne postpones the question of when the Saudi monarchy will turn to the next generation of princes to run their country of 28 million people at a crucial moment in a region mired in crisis.

While observers in Riyadh widely predicted a smooth transition to Salman, his poor health means his rule could be relatively short. Should there be a power struggle to succeed him, it could leave a vacuum in the Middle East at a critical time. Saudi Arabia is a key member of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State and a major ally of the government that just fell in neighboring Yemen.

“Despite so many people saying it will be a smooth transition, there’s every reason to believe that Saudi Arabia is heading for rough times,” Simon Henderson, an expert on the Saudi succession at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said in an interview Thursday.

“Having a king with dementia is the last thing they need at this difficult time,” Henderson said. “Yemen is falling apart, ISIS is knocking at the door . . . this is an extraordinarily dangerous Middle East from a Saudi perspective.”

By Saudi tradition, the crown passes down among the sons of national founder King Abdulaziz bin Saud, who died in 1953. Salman would be the sixth son of Abdulaziz to be king, and few of his remaining brothers — out of at least 35 who were alive when Abdulaziz died — are believed to be healthy or qualified to assume the throne.

In an apparent bid to preempt quarrels about succession — and also secure the line for his own favored branch of the family — Abdullah last year took the unprecedented step of anointing a deputy heir, Prince Muqrin, 71, his youngest brother.

Muqrin is said to be smart and is well-liked by ordinary Saudis; he also has good ties with Saudi Arabia’s most important ally, the United States. But the choice sparked fierce opposition from some of the many excluded princes, who complained that Abdullah was defying a tradition that allows each king to name his own heir. Additionally, Muqrin’s mother was a Yemeni concubine, not a Saudi princess, and some in the family reportedly consider his lineage too impure for him to wear the crown.

By Saudi tradition, King Salman would be free to choose his own successor-in-waiting, but it is widely believed here that he would simply elevate Muqrin from deputy to crown prince.

At that point, the Saudi royal family would face a far more complicated puzzle about who would succeed Muqrin, but it would almost certainly be a prince from the next generation, the grandchildren of Abdulaziz. Hundreds of princes belong to that generation.

The succession process is conducted by the Allegiance Council, a body created by Abdullah. It consists of 35 senior princes, all sons and grandsons of Abdulaziz, who meet in secret to choose a new leader when the king dies.

The vast al Saud family is believed to be riven by factions. But historically, the family has managed to come together with the primary goal of preserving their iron rule.

Even if the feuds are contained behind palace doors, though, the squabbles could paralyze decision-making in the kingdom at a critical time.

Henderson said there could be far more maneuvering than the royal family will admit. He said some would privately argue that Salman is not of sound enough mind to run the country, and other factions would push their own favorites.

“The trick is always to try and understand their logic and not be too confined by our own logic,” he said. “Their logic is different. They hate the idea of public show of disunity. So they’ll try to cover that up completely.”

Henderson said “Western logic” would suggest that the Saudis would be smarter to pass over Salman in favor of Muqrin or a next-generation king to lead the country at an increasingly complex and violent time. Saudi borders a part of Iraq where the Islamic State is influential, and its southern neighbor, Yemen, is in the midst of a power struggle that Saudis believe will strengthen Iran, its regional rival.

“The problem is we have only our perspective on who counts, and it’s not an insider’s perspective,” Henderson said. - Washington Post.

Oil Surges in New York After Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Dies

Oil surged after the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, the biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Futures rose as much as 3.1 percent in New York after the Saudi Press Agency announced the death, citing a statement from the royal court. Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz will succeed as king, according to state television. Saudi Arabia led OPEC’s decision to maintain its oil-production quota at a November meeting, exacerbating a global glut that’s driven prices lower.

“The market is reacting bullishly to this news because it may usher in a period of uncertainty as far as Saudi policies going forward as new leadership takes over,” said Andy Lipow, the president of Lipow Oil Associates LLC, an energy consultant in Houston, Texas.

West Texas Intermediate for March delivery gained as much as $1.45 to $47.76 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange and was at $47.30 at 11:30 a.m. Sydney time. The contract dropped $1.47 to $46.31 on Thursday. The volume of all futures traded was about 31 percent above the 100-day average. Prices are down 2.9 percent this week.

Oil fell almost 50 percent last year as the U.S. pumped at the fastest rate in more than three decades and OPEC resisted calls to cut output. Crude inventories in the U.S., the world’s largest oil consumer, climbed by 10.1 million barrels through Jan. 16, the Energy Information Administration reported Thursday. That was the biggest volume increase since March 2001.


King Abdullah oversaw a fivefold increase in the size of the Arab world’s biggest economy and met the Arab Spring with a mixture of force and largesse. He died after almost a decade on the throne. He was born in 1924.

“Any form of economic instability after the death of the king will create a little bit of uncertainty,” said Jonathan Barratt, the chief investment officer at Ayers Alliance Securities in Sydney. “The market is exceptionally short, so even if there is a bit of a slight err, you could see a rally of some substance.”

OPEC’s 12 members, which supply about 40 percent of the world’s oil, maintained their collective production target at 30 million barrels a day at a Nov. 27 meeting in Vienna. Output averaged 30.2 million in December, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Saudi Arabia pumped 9.5 million a day last month.

Brent for March settlement fell 51 cents, or 1 percent, to $48.52 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange on Jan. 22. - Bloomberg.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Sinkholes Keep Popping Up Across The United States - Miracle Escape For Couple As Watery Sinkhole Swallows Their Car In Tampa, Florida!

The car was removed from the water around 4am on Monday
January 22, 2015 - FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - A car plunged into a massive, watery sinkhole late Sunday evening - forcing the couple inside the vehicle to flee as it continued to be engulfed.

Ashley Guzman was with her boyfriend Christopher Atkinson when the incident took place at the intersection of North 20th Street and East Yukon Street in Tampa, Florida, she told WTVT.

'Right when I got out the car it just - like the floor just started cracking towards me,' she told the affiliate station. 'That's when I started panicking more and I started yelling at him so he could get out.'

Guzman continued 'And the water, it just started flooding the whole street, it started going down, and after that the car just kept going down and it was just - I'm just very glad we didn't stay stuck in the car because if we would have stuck in the car it would have been real bad, you know?

'And I just thank god for that, that we actually, you know - we're good, we're not hurt or nothing. It's just the car.'

Caution: Tampa Public Works and Utility Services Administrator Brad Baird has said 19 families were told to boil their water as a precautionary measure
Under construction: There is a new pipe and and the hole has been closed, though an asphalt cover will be installed Tuesday

According to WFTS, it was slightly after 11pm when the hole opened due to a water main break - and the car was removed around 4am on Monday morning.

Guzman told the news outlet 'I started panicking, my legs were shaking real bad. I couldn't even talk to police on the phone. He was stuck still inside the car trying to back it up, trying to get it out, and he ended up having to get out.

'By the time he got out that's when the floor actually fell like how it is right now and the car just kept going deeper and deeper. At that moment we couldn't do nothing. We was just terrified.'

WATCH: Car sinks into hole caused by Tampa water main break.

Guzman and Atkinson drove into the water, believing it to be surface water from a broken pipe - and the road sank when the vehicle traversed the intersection, WFTS reported. The couple told the station they ought to have turned the vehicle back instead.

'The neighbors around the streets was telling me that the water actually been running for three hours period to the time that the car accident happened,' Guzman told WFTS. She said there should have been a road block set up.

Police told the news outlet that they had gone through the neighborhood shortly ahead of the car's submersion. - Daily Mail.

DOOMSDAY: The Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists - "We're Getting Even Closer To Doomsday"; Moves "Doomsday Clock" Ahead By Two Minutes; The World Is Now THREE MINUTES FROM A CATASTROPHIC MIDNIGHT!

- The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists says Earth is now closer to human-caused doomsday than it has been in more than 30 years because of global warming and nuclear weaponry. But other experts say that's way too gloomy.

The advocacy group founded by the creators of the atomic bomb moved their famed "Doomsday Clock" ahead two minutes on Thursday. It said the world is now three minutes from a catastrophic midnight, instead of five minutes.

"This is about doomsday; this is about the end of civilization as we know it," bulletin executive director Kennette Benedict said at a news conference in Washington.

She called both climate change and modernization of nuclear weaponry equal but undeniable threats to humanity's continued existence that triggered the 20 scientists on the board to decide to move the clock closer to midnight.

"The probability of global catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon," Benedict said.

But other scientists aren't quite so pessimistic.

Climate scientist Richard Somerville, a member, Science and Security Board, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, unveils the new Doomsday Clock in Washington,
Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. The clock advanced two minutes, an indication of how near the Earth is to destruction (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of both geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University, said in an email: "I suspect that humans will 'muddle through' the climate situation much as we have muddled through the nuclear weapons situation — limiting the risk with cooperative international action and parallel domestic policies."

The bulletin has included climate change in its doomsday clock since 2007.

"The fact that the Doomsday clock-setters changed their definition of 'doomsday' shows how profoundly the world has changed — they have to find a new source of doom because global thermonuclear war is now so unlikely," Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker wrote in an email. Pinker in his book "The Better Angels of our Nature" uses statistics to argue that the world has become less war-like, less violent and more tolerant in recent decades and centuries.

Climate scientist Richard Somerville, member, Science and Security Board, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, right, unveils the new Doomsday Clock, accompanied by Sivan Kartha, member, Science and Security Board, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and senior scientists at the Stockholm
Environmental Institute, right, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, in Washington. The clock advanced two minutes to midnight,
an indication of how near the Earth is to destruction (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Richard Somerville, a member of the Bulletin's board who is a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said the trend in heat-trapping emissions from the burning of fossil fuels will "lead to major climatic disruption globally. The urgency has nothing to do with politics or ideology. It arises from the laws of physics and biology and chemistry. These laws are non-negotiable."

But Somerville agreed that the threat from climate change isn't quite as all-or-nothing as it is with nuclear war.

Even with the end of the cold war, the lack of progress in the dismantling of nuclear weapons and countries like the United States and Russia spending hundreds of billions of dollars on modernizing nuclear weaponry makes an atomic bomb explosion — either accidental or on purpose — a continuing and more urgent threat, Benedict said.

But Benedict did acknowledge the group has been warning of imminent nuclear disaster with its clock since 1947 and it hasn't happened yet. - Yahoo.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: The Euro-Zone Crisis - EU To Start Pumping Currency As ECB President Mario Draghi Announce Open-Ended, Expanded 1.1 TRILLION EURO Quantitative Easing Bond-Buying Program; Euro Plummets To 11-Year-Low Against The Dollar; Analyst Peter Schiff Predicts "Things Are Going To Get Worse"!

January 22, 2015 - EUROPE
- European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi announced the launch of an open-ended, expanded monthly 60 billion euro ($70 billion) private and public bond-buying program on Thursday.

The long-anticipated introduction of euro zone government bond purchases, which could amount to as much as a trillion euros, will mean the ECB will join the U.S. Federal Reserve, Bank of England and Bank of Japan in launching a quantitative easing (QE) scheme.

The program will be open-ended, lasting until at least 2016, Draghi told reporters at his regular media conference on Thursday, and will start in March this year. The hope is that it will boost the region's painfully low inflation rate, which came in at an annual minus 0.2 percent in December.

Explaining the ECB's decision, Draghi said: "Inflation dynamics have continued to be weaker than expected. While the sharp fall in oil prices over recent months remains the dominant factor driving current headline inflation, the potential for second-round effects on wage and price-setting has increased and could adversely affect medium-term price developments."

The size of the program was bigger than the 50 billion euro per month rumored prior to Draghi's announcement.

"European QE is set to start with a bang rather a whimper, a fact that will be well received by investors," said Nancy Curtin, CIO of Close Brothers Asset Management, in a research note after Draghi's announcement.

"The euro zone was in need of shock-and-awe tactics from the ECB to combat the prospect of a prolonged period of deflation, and Draghi has finally delivered on his promise to do 'whatever it takes'."

The ECB will purchase euro-denominated investment-grade securities only. The debt of countries like Greece, which are subject to international bailout programs, will be subject to "additional eligibility criteria," Draghi said.

Debt that is trading with a negative yield will also be eligible for the program. Draghi also said that in the event of a sovereign restructuring or default, public and private bondholders would be treated on equal terms.

Twenty percent of the additional purchases will be subject to risk-sharing arrangements, designed to limit the amount of risk the ECB takes on to its balance books. The majority of risk will remain with euro zone national central banks.

No more than 25 percent of each debt issue will be purchased. The maturities of the debt purchases will range between two and 30 years.

The euro slid against both the sterling and the U.S. dollar after Draghi's announcement. Europe's stock markets staged a small rally on the news of the announcement, while 10-year yields on a range of European sovereign debt fell to record lows.

Earlier in the day, the ECB announced it would hold its main interest rate unchanged. It kept its main refinancing rate at 0.05 percent, with the rate on its marginal lending facility at 0.30 percent. The rate on its deposit facility was held at -0.20 percent.

Meanwhile Denmark, whose currency is pegged to the euro, was forced to issue its second rate cut in a week in a bid to defend the krone. The Danish central bank trimmed its deposit rate from minus 0.2 percent to minus 0.35 percent. - CNBC.

Mario Draghi announces €1.1 trillion quantitative easing programme - Stimulus package will include sovereign debt purchases to buoy the eurozone 

European Central Bank (ECB) president Mario Draghi unveiled bigger-than-expected quantitative easing measures on Thursday but still faced a fierce fight from Germany over any policy that could mutualise debt in the eurozone.

"The combined monthly purchases of public and private sector securities will amount to €60bn euros,” said Mr Draghi at a press conference following a meeting of the ECB’s governing council.

“They are intended to be carried out until end-September 2016 and will in any case be conducted until we see a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation," he added, meaning the package will amount to at least €1.1 trillion.

Mr Draghi’s package of asset purchases, including bonds issued by national governments and EU institutions such as the European Commission, is intended to boost the eurozone’s flagging economy and to ward off the spectre of deflation.

It took a dramatic toll on the euro, which dropped to an 11-year low against the dollar at $1.14.

Mauro Vittorangeli, of Allianz Global Investors, said that the new QE measures would satisfy markets and could prove as effective as the US Federal Reserve Bank’s policies in kickstarting the economy.

“He has delivered a bigger bazooka than investors were expecting,” he said.

“The 18 month minimum run for the programme will convince markets of the ECB’s determination to address the challenges that have been stalking the Eurozone. Like the Fed before it, the ECB has now proved that it is capable of tackling serious market challenges.”

Under the asset purchasing scheme the ECB will not hold more than 33pc of any issuer’s debt and will not buy more than 25pc of any issue.

Greece will not be eligible for the new bond purchases until July, under existing rules and would have to continue with its austerity programme to qualify.

Germany fears that by lowering the yield on sovereign bonds, the ECB’s QE will lower the cost of government borrowing for indebted eurozone members such as France and Italy.

Mr Draghi played down the concerns that QE will, in the medium term, take the pressure off France and Italy to implement budget cuts or even encourage more borrowing by governments.

“It would be a big mistake if countries were to consider that the presence of this programme might be an incentive to fiscal expansion. That would undermine confidence,” he said.

“It's not directed, certainly, to monetary financing at all. Actually it's been designed as to avoid any monetary financing. It should increase the lending capacity of banks.”

While Mr Draghi succeeded in pushing a bigger than expected purchasing package, he failed in ensuring that the risks of asset purchases would be divided equally among eurozone countries with only 20pc of the QE “subject to a regime of risk sharing.”

Usually the ECB shares responsibility on potential losses for sovereign bond purchases among all the eurozone’s central banks as its “default” position.

Instead national central banks will be expected to take on the responsibility for any losses arising from restructuring or defaulting on their own government’s debts.

Germany, the Netherlands and others pushed hard for this as a safeguard against mutualising debts across the eurozone or removing incentives from governments to cut borrowing.

Other central banks and Mr Draghi pushed back, warning that the absence of risk sharing would suggest that the ECB is less than serious about monetary union, undermining confidence in the QE measures.

Hinting at bitter battles behind the closed doors of the ECB’s governing council, Mr Draghi described “discussion of risk sharing as quite futile” but acknowledged that Germany’s opposition had watered down the measures.

“On the one hand we want to keep the principle of risk sharing,” he said.

“On the other hand we had to take a decision that would mitigate the concerns that many participating countries in the euro area have about the unintended fiscal consequences of potential developments in the future.”

“We took these concerns into account and that’s why this decision will mitigate those concerns.”

The climb down means that four-fifths of bond purchases will not be underwritten by the ECB, limiting the true scale of the QE as a monetary stimulus.

“Without full-blown risk-sharing then assets, and risks, sit on member states’ central bank balance sheets, which don’t have the power to print money. So, if these assets lose value, then the national central bank may still have to rely on a sovereign bailout,” said Kathleen Brooks, research director at

“This form of QE is not bailout-proof. In comparison to Fed or BOJ-style QE, the ECB’s QE programme is actually only €200bn over 18 months, as this is the only portion of the purchases where risks will be shared among member states.” - Telegraph.

WATCH: Peter Schiff on ECB 'easy money' - 'Things are going to get worse'.

SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: "An Unconstructive Political Maze" - Yemeni President Resigns After Standoff With Shia Rebels!

A military vehicle belonging to the presidential guards, which was seized by Houthi fighters during clashes,
is seen outside the Presidential Palace in Sanaa January 21, 2015.(Reuters / Khaled Abdullah)

January 22, 2015 - YEMEN
- Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has submitted his resignation amid a standoff with Houthi rebels that has seen him surrounded in his own residence, Reuters reports citing a government source.

Hadi stepped down just after Prime Minister Khaled Baha had offered his government’s resignation saying it did not want to be dragged into “an unconstructive political maze.”

Baha was apparently referring to a stand-off between the president and the Houthis – a powerful Shia movement whose gunmen are in position outside his residence.

Senior Houthi official has welcomed the president’s resignation.

However the Yemeni parliament is rejecting Hadi’s resignation, according to Saudi-owned news channel Al Arabiya.

Hadi has been at loggerheads with the Shia Muslim movement since it overran the capital, took over security and started dictating terms to his administration.

A source quoted by Reuters said that Hadi’s resignation letter had cited the failure to achieve a peaceful transfer of power as one of the main reasons for his departure.

“We have found that we are no longer able to achieve the objective for which we had endured so much suffering, desertion and lack of participation from partners in the political process in shouldering the responsibility to help Yemen (reach) safety," read the letter.

Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi (Reuters/Jason Reed)

Earlier on Thursday the Houthis welcomed the concessions proposed by the government regarding power-sharing.

On Wednesday, the rebels had agreed to withdraw their fighters from the presidential palace as well as freeing former nominee prime minister and the presidential office manager, Ahmed bin Mubarak.

Gulf states denounced the seizure of the presidential palace by the Houthis on Wednesday as a coup d’etat.

The Yemeni government was composed mainly of technocrats and politicians from a range of political parties and won a parliamentary vote of approval.

However, Houthi leaders have accused Hadi of attempting to bypass a power-sharing deal signed in September and have insisted that they are trying to protect the state from corruption.

WATCH: ‘Chaos in Yemen show drone strikes part of problem’ – Code Pink co-founder.

- RT.

EXTREME WEATHER: Tropical Storm Chedza Batters Madagascar - Claims 46 Lives; Over 120,000 Others Injured!

A NASA satellite photo shows Tropical Cyclone Bansi off Madagascar on January 14, 2015 (AFP Photo/)

January 22, 2015 - MADAGASCAR
- A tropical storm that overwhelmed Madagascar last week has left at least 46 people dead and more than 120,000 others injured, the state-run National Bureau of Risk and Disaster Management has said.

The bureau said previously that tropical storm "Chedza" had killed 15 people and injured 100,000 others.

It said in a Wednesday statement that the central region of Vakinankaratra had been the most affected by the storm, noting that 12 people in the region had been killed.

A tropical storm that overwhelmed Madagascar last week has left at least 46 people dead

It added that around 53,000 people had been affected by the storm in the southeastern Vatovavy Fitovinany region.

"Rains that accompanied the storm left six people dead and badly harmed 43,000 others in the Analamanga region, which includes capital Antananarivo," the bureau stated.

It went on to note that most deaths had occurred due to building collapses and landslides.

Madagascar remains in a state of high alert in the wake of the storm, which overwhelmed ten of the island-nation's 22 regions. - AA.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Taiwan Sees Worst Bird Flu Outbreak In 10 Years - Over 300 Farms Infected; Mass Poultry Culling!

January 22, 2015 - TAIWAN
- The current outbreak of bird flu, also known as avian flu, in Taiwan is the most severe experienced in the past decade, the island's agriculture council chief said.

"It is the fastest-spreading, largest outbreak they have seen in 10 years," Xinhua reported Thursday quoting Chen Bao-ji, Taiwan's agriculture council chief as saying.

According to the latest figures released by the agriculture authority, 31 more poultry farms were found to be infected with avian influenza as of 6 p.m. Tuesday, bringing the total number of affected farms on the island to 301.

Poultry culls have been carried out on 186 farms from the island's ten counties. A total of 403,811 infected livestock from these farms have been killed.

The first case in the latest outbreak was confirmed Jan 9 when a chicken farm in Pingtung was found to have been hit by the H5N2 virus.

To prevent the virus from spreading, the agriculture authority has required that all farms infected with the H5 strain of the bird flu virus that have seen a death rate of 20 percent or more within a span of two days will be subject to culling. - Zee News.

MONUMENTAL DELUGE: Widespread Flooding – The Latest Reports Of High Tides, Heavy Rainfall, Flash Floods, Sea Level Rise, And Catastrophic Storms!

January 22, 2015 - EARTH - The following list constitutes the latest reports of high tides, heavy rainfall, flash floods, widespread flooding, sea level rise and catastrophic storms.

Malawi Floods – 250 Square Miles Under Water

Nsanje and Chikwawa, Malawi Jan 2015. Malawi Red Cross

Vice President Saulos Chilima yesterday 21 January 2015, issued a statement on the current flood situation in Malawi In it he said that Malawi’s Department of Surveys estimates that 63,531 hectares (about 245 square miles) have been submersed by the flood waters.

Areas and Numbers Affected

Since later December, floods have affected 15 of the country’s 28 districts, including Chikwawa, Nsanje, Phalombe, Zomba, Rumphi, Karonga, Thyolo, Machinga, Mangochi, Ntcheu, Chiradzulu, Mulanje, Balaka, Salima and Blantyre.

The Department of Surveys estimates that 63,531 hectare have been submersed by flood waters as of 21 January 2015 – about 245 square miles, an area just under the size of Singapore.


There remains some confusion over numbers of casualties and displaced. Figures understandably change as further assessments are carried out.
In his statement, the Vice President said that currently 121,000 households were displaced. Most of those displaced are living in displacement sites like: churches, schools and evacuation centres. In an earlier statement, the UN said that the number of displaced is 121,000 people rather than households.


The latest figures from the Government regarding the number of victims puts the total at 62 deaths, with a further 153 people still missing.

Crop Damage

The Malawi government estimate that around 120,000 farmers country-wide have been affected by the floods, which have submerged around 40,000 hectares of farm land. The government say this represents an expected food production loss of over 48,000 metric tons.

Malawi Defence Force Rescues

Rescue operations continue and the Malawi Defence Force and other organisations have been using boats and helicopters to rescue those still cut off by the floods and to find those (153) still missing.
The MDF has also been involved in delivery of relief items, which is still ongoing.

Aid and Relief

According to WFP, a total of 33,500 metric tons of relief food at an estimated cost of $22 million U.S. is needed to feed thousands of displaced people in Malawi.

International governments have been quick to respond to the crisis and contributions have come from countries including US, UK, Japan, South Africa, EU, Canada and Zambia, with further promises from Ireland and Germany once a Disaster Response Plan has been finalised.

Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on 20 January, 2015:

“Search and rescue operations continue with relief supplies being dispatched to affected areas, and such assistance includes food and non-food items and chlorine for water treatment in affected communities.”

The Red Cross, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, plans to assist 40,000 affected people in Chikwawa, Nsanje, Phalombe and some urban parts of the city of Blantyre between February and March.

Ethel Kaimila, Secretary General of the Malawi Red Cross Society, said that “Working through our local volunteers, we have been responding to the disaster and helping victims in all the affected areas,”

Apart from general response operations, the Red Cross has directly supported 7,000 displaced people with tarpaulins, family tents, shelter kits, mosquito nets and hospital tents.

“The affected people will need continued support for some time and we need 2.7 million US dollars to provide such support between,” added Kaimila.

Funds raised will be used to distribute additional emergency relief supplies such as kitchen sets, shelter kits and tarpaulins; food supplies to support displaced families for three months, and to rehabilitate 600 houses damaged by the floods.

Marshall Islands King Tide Floods

The Marshall Islands sits in the open ocean located about halfway between Hawaii and Australia, in the region of the Pacific known as Micronesia. The average height above sea level of its 1,225 islets in 29 atolls is only 7 feet (2 meters). As such, it is extremely vulnerable to rises in sea levels.

Yesterday 21 January 2015, a king tide flooded wide areas of the capital, Majuro, as well as several of the country’s outer islands, including Mejit, Kili, Utrik and Ailuk. Further flooding is expected, and could be worsened if accompanied by strong winds and storm surges.

The flooding has caused damage to property and some roads. Some reports say local schools had to be evacuated. There are no reports of any casualties.

Photos below courtesy of Tony de Brum, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

Regular High Tide Floods

Many areas of the Marshal Islands are of course no stranger to coastal flooding.

In March last year, a storm surge combined with a an extreme high tide flooded parts of the Marshall Islands, including the capital Majuro, early on Monday 3 March 2014. Around 800 people had to evacuate their homes and stay in temporary accommodation.

Later in the year, during October 2014, high waves and tide caused yet more coastal damage and flooding.

Marshal Islands – The Canary in the Coal Mine

Christopher Loeak, President of the Marshall Islands, last year presented the Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, calling for the world to be more ambitious on climate action.

He also has warned the world against indifference, saying what is happening in his country is just a foretaste of what other countries will soon experience. In a video address, he said:
“We are all in the same boat together; what is happening here is a mere preview … If my country goes, others will surely follow.”“We are the canary in the coal mine.”

In September last year United Nations chose 26-year-old Marshall Islands poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner to be a keynote speaker at the U.N.’s climate summit in New York

In her address, she said:

“We’ve seen waves crashing into our homes and our breadfruit trees wither from salt and droughts. We look at our children and wonder how they will know themselves or their culture should they lose our islands.”

Thousands Evacuated after Floods in Malaysia and Indonesia

Heavy rainfall in Borneo and Sumatra over the last 3 days has left parts of Malaysia and Indonesia struggling with yet more flooding. Malaysia is still recovering from the floods of December 2014 in the north of the country, which were some of the worst flooding seen in years.

Floods in Sarawak, Malaysia, January 2015. Photo: BOMBA

Sarawak, Malaysia

In Borneo, over 5,000 people have been evacuated in the flood-hit state of Sarawak. This figure has dropped slightly from almost 7,000 earlier today. 38 relief centres have been set up to house those displaced by the floods.

The worst affected area is around the state capital of Kuching, where at one point almost 5,000 were staying in temporary accommodation. Just over 1,000 people have been displaced in Padawan.

One flood-related death has been reported in Mukah, when a teenage girl drowned after a boat capsized in rough waters.

Floods in Sarawak, Malaysia, January 2015. Photo: BOMBA

Power Outages

The heavy rain has caused power outages in Limbang, Bau and Lundu after Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB) said it had shut down several substations in areas affected by torrential rain

Flood Waters Receding but More Rain Forecast

Some reports say that the flood water have started to recede, at least in some places, allowing almost 2,000 to return to their homes. Malaysia’s Drainage and Irrigation Department say there are currently no rivers with water levels at the danger point.

The rainfall over the last 24 hours has been less intense. 64 mm of rain fell in Kuching in 24 hours yesterday, compared to over 250 mm the day before.

However, further heavy rainfall has been forecast for parts of Borneo, including parts of Sarawak, and the Malaysian Meteorological Department has issued Orange level severe weather warnings.

Floods in Sarawak, Malaysia, January 2015. Photo: BOMBA

East Kalimantan, Indonesia

Just over the border from Sarawak, the Indonesian provinces of East and West Kalimantan has also been affected by heavy rain and flooding over the last 3 days. Over 160 mm of rain fell in 24 hours in Putussibau yesterday, according to WMO.
Around 1,000 people have been evacuated in East Kalimantan after a river overflowed in the province.


Elsewhere in Indonesia, over 2,000 people have been evacuated in Aceh province after floods in South Aceh regency that first struck almost one week ago. Pidie Jaya regency has also been badly affected and 4,000 houses have been reportedly damaged as a result.

NASA's Earth Observatory Images Of Madagascar Flooding That Killed 13 People And Damaged Over 3,000 Homes

A tropical disturbance that had already swamped southern Africa with rain strengthened into a tropical storm as it passed over the Mozambique Channel on January 15, 2015. When tropical storm Chedza passed over Madagascar the next day, it brought lashing winds and heavy rains that killed at least 13 people, destroyed or damaged more than 3,000 homes, and displaced 9,500 people.

NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured this image of flooding along the Tsiribihina River on January 20, 2015. For comparison, the lower image shows the same area on December 3, 2014. Turn on the comparison tool to slide between the two images. In the more recent image, brown, sediment-rich floodwater spills across the river delta and into the Mozambique Channel.

Several settlements along the Tsiribihina River—including Belo Tsiribihina and Masoarivo—appear to be at least partially flooded. The same weather system produced widespread flooding in Mozambique and Malawi. For a broader view of flooding on the Tsiribihina River, you can view imagery captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite on the Worldview browser. 

- Floodlist | EO.

FIRE IN THE SKY: "This Is Exceptional" - Strange Fireball Seen Flying Over Houston Area In Texas?!

"I look up in the sky and just right there in the sky," Sterling says pointing to the horizon, "is a huge fireball with
a giant fire tail on it just streaking across the sky!"(Photo: Sterling)

January 22, 2015 - TEXAS, UNITED STATES
- A strange fireball spotted flying slowly over the Houston area raised a lot of questions after images and videos started popping up on social media. They were posted by a Webster man named Jordan Sterling.

Sterling is used to the view from his balcony but he rarely see's anything but signs and wires.

"I'm always looking in the sky to try to catch something out of the ordinary," Sterling explained.

Early Sunday evening that changed.

"I look up in the sky and just right there in the sky," Sterling says pointing to the horizon, "is a huge fireball with a giant fire tail on it just streaking across the sky!"

WATCH: Strange fireball spotted over Houston skies.

He grabbed his camera then rolled for three minutes as the object crawled across the horizon.

"At first I thought it was a meteor but it was moving way too slow. Meteors usually go a lot faster."

KHOU 11 News was curious about the fireball too so asked Patricia Reiff, a professor of physics and astronomy at Rice University.

"What we are seeing is a fireball or a bolide," Reiff explained. A type of meteor.

"Usually they don't linger quite so long, so this is exceptional because of how long it stayed in the air!"

"I look up in the sky and just right there in the sky," Sterling says pointing to the horizon, "is a huge fireball with
a giant fire tail on it just streaking across the sky!"(Photo: KHOU)

Reiff says that when a meteor nearly misses the earth and skims the atmosphere as it comes around the world, it slows the speed down significantly. A slow moving meteor can make one full swing around the world before crashing or disintegrating. The fireball Sterling captures is similar to the one that fell on Russia in 2013.

"A really dangerous meteor happens very seldom," explained Reiff. "Even the one in Russia last year nobody was hurt by the meteor, what hurt people was the breaking glass caused by the sonic boom."

Thousands of meteors fall to earth every day. Most are the size of a grain of sugar, dozens the size of a coffee cup but the one that Sterling saw was the approximate size of a microwave. Only one that size falls a day around the entire world. The chances of someone ever seeing one are slim.

"I was freaking out!" said Sterling. "Definitely I didn't know what it could've been. I thought it was going to crash somewhere and cause some serious damage! Never seen anything like that before. Ever."

And chances are he never will again. - KHOU.

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

January 22, 2015 - EARTH - The following constitutes the latest reports of unusual and symbolic animal behavior, mass die-offs, beaching and stranding of mammals, and the appearance of rare creatures.

3 minke whales found dead in just 9 days, South Korea

A 5.9 meter long and 3.2 meter wide minke whale weighing 2 tons was found dead, stranded in a fishnet in the East Sea 19 kilometers from land in Wondeok-eup, Samcheok City, Kangwon-do on January 20.

© Yonhap /

© Yonhap /

The whale was sold for 48 million won (US$ 44,138) on consignment. The minke whale is the third whale found stranded in Korean waters so far this year. One minke whale was found in a net near Pohang on January 14, and sold for 16 million won (US$ 14,711) on consignment. Another was found stranded near Daejin Port in Donghae City on January 12, and sold for 19 million won (US$ 17,463). - Korea Bizwire.

Mass die off of Tuna at a sea life park 'baffle experts' in Tokyo, Japan

This photo, taken at Tokyo Sea Life Park in Edogawa Ward, Tokyo, on Thursday, shows a large virtually empty fish tank
in which a huge proportion of bluefin tuna and other fish have died.  The Yomiuri Shimbun

A large number of bluefin tuna and bonito have died at a well-known Tokyo aquarium since December, baffling officials over the cause.

Tokyo Sea Life Park in Edogawa Ward, known for hosting the world’s first major exhibition on bluefin tuna migration, had 165 tuna and bonito on Dec. 1. Now, only seven are left.

If the trend continues, the aquarium, which has kept bluefin tuna for 25 years, could face its own tuna extinction.

Empty tanks

“I’ve haven’t seen so many deaths over such a short period since we opened in 1989. There might not be any fish left in the tanks by the end of the month,” aquarium Vice Director Kazuomi Nishikiori said Thursday, standing in front of an empty 30-meter-diameter ring-shaped fish tank.

Three species of migratory fish have been dying at the aquarium — bluefin tuna, mackerel tuna and striped bonito.

Workers first noticed something unusual in early December. The bonito were no longer biting at their feed properly, and they had started floating up to the water’s surface and then sinking to the bottom.

By the end of the month, the same phenomena began with the tuna.

On Dec. 1, there were 63 bluefin tuna, 67 mackerel tuna and 35 striped bonito at the aquarium.

But as of Tuesday morning, only three bluefin tuna and four striped bonito were left. The last mackerel tuna in the tank died Sunday.

Some of the surviving fish are exhibiting signs of abnormal swimming, such as moving up and down in the tanks.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

“We wanted to see big schools of fish swimming around. It’s too bad, isn’t it?” said Takahiro Sekiguchi, a 26-year-old company employee from Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, who visited the aquarium on Thursday with his family.

It is difficult to raise migratory bluefin tuna in captivity, though Sea Life Park has acquired a wealth of practical know-how about caring for the fish.

The aquarium uses a combination of LED, halogen and mercury lights to mimic the natural rising and setting of the sun. It is famous for being the only domestic aquarium to have a large school of bluefin tuna.

“Tuna and bonito are sensitive. If the way their lighting is switched off and on is changed even a little, they’ll start swimming erratically,” aquarium worker Takashi Sugino said.

Previously, the aquarium saw more than 100 fish smash violently into the acrylic panels of the tank in a year.

Deaths due to collisions from broken spines and other reasons still occur, but most of the tuna and bonito that have died recently showed no such signs.

Nothing abnormal has been found in their water, and autopsies have revealed no evidence of parasites or disease.

Last December, however, the aquarium began repairs on a tank that sits near the large fish tank. Vibration and noise from the construction may have stressed the fish.

A research organization has been asked to help investigate the cause.

Experts’ views - What do experts think is going on?

Keiichi Mushiake, head of the Nagasaki-based Seikai National Fisheries Research Institute’s Research Center for Tuna Aquaculture, said: “Sea Life Park has plenty of experience caring for fish, so it’s hard to imagine they made a rookie mistake, like not properly managing the water quality. We can’t rule out a combination of causes, such as disease plus collisions.”

Kinki University executed the world’s first “complete aquaculture” of bluefin tuna in 2002 when it succeeded in artificial hatching, raising the fish to adulthood and having them spawn.

It offers the fish at restaurants in Tokyo and Osaka. “Kindai Maguro” has proved popular.

Takashi Kitagawa, a tuna specialist and associate professor at the University of Tokyo’s Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, said: “The same problem could occur at other facilities that keep tuna. It’s a fish that gets a lot of attention in connection with fishery resource issues, so I hope a solution can be found quickly.”

The aquarium does not plan to introduce new fish until the reason for the deaths is determined.“A lot of visitors come to see the tuna, so I feel bad about disappointing them. We intend to do everything we can to figure out the cause,” Nishikiori said. - The Japan News.

Mysterious goo coats hundreds of California seabirds

A bufflehead duck is seen covered in a mysterious substance at the International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center. 
© Cheryl Reynolds/International Bird Rescue

Hundreds of birds in the East Bay area of Northern California have been found covered in a mysterious goo that causes hypothermia.

About 100 seabirds had died at the International Bird Rescue's San Francisco Bay center, where rescue workers were cleaning dozens a day.

"The good news is that we have modified our wash protocol and it appears to be working on healthier birds," said International Bird Rescue's interim director, Barbara Callahan, in a statement. "However, some of the birds that have recently arrived are in much poorer condition, likely because they've had this substance on their feathers for several days now."

After an oil spill, birds are typically washed using just soap and water, but it's not working in this case, the Los Angeles Times reported. Volunteers are now using a mixture that includes a chemical agent, baking soda and vinegar -- and then washing the birds with soap and water.

A spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife told the Times that the substance does not appear to be petroleum based and does not seem to be a hazard to humans.

"It's some material that we nor the wildlife center has ever seen before," said Andrew Hughan, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. "It's a real mystery." - Discovery News.

Snake bites customer’s head in Mississippi Lowe’s store

Lowe's motto to 'never stop improving' seems to apply to snakes and their hunting skills, at least in one Mississippi store, an unfortunate customer discovered.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A terrified shopper was bitten on the head by a snake at a Lowe's store in Mississippi.

The customer was opening a cabinet at the Corinth outlet 2:30 p.m. Saturday when the chicken snake suddenly jumped out, reports WTVA.

The nonvenomous critter locked its fangs onto the unidentified victim's head.

It's unclear how the victim managed to dislodge the serpent, which is also known as a black rat snake, corn snake or pilot snake.

But the shopper was rushed to Magnolia Regional Health Center for treatment. The patient's current condition is not known.

WATCH: Witness to snake bite at N. Mississippi Lowe's speaks out.

Amanda Manna, spokeswoman for the home improvement store chain, said an investigation was launched, reported Consumerist.

Police Chief Ralph Dance would not comment further, reported the Clarion-Ledger.Chicken snakes can grow to 5 feet long, can climb up smooth wood surfaces, and usually feast on rodents and birds. - NY Daily News.