Friday, January 1, 2016

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: More Signs Of Magnetic Polar Migration - Spectacular Northern Lights Outshine New Year's Eve Fireworks! [PHOTOS]


January 1, 2016 - SPACE - As the world looked up for fireworks displays marking New Year’s Eve, a lucky few watched the sky come to life with the Northern Lights.

The Aurora borealis is the collision between electrically-charged particles from the sun which enter earth's atmosphere.

The lights can be best observed in regions close to the north pole. The southern hemisphere has its very own version called the Aurora australis.

While the most spectacular views were undoubtedly from Iceland, people captured glimpses of nature’s light show from all over the world.

Most were kind enough to share awe-inspiring views on social media:
















- RT.






MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Major Seismic Uptick - 17,500 Earthquakes Recorded For Nevada In 2015!

Earthquake 3D of tremors in Nevada.

January 1, 2016 - NEVADA, UNITED STATES - More than 17,500 earthquakes were recorded in 2015 by the University of Nevada, Reno's Nevada Seismological Laboratory.

That includes the 231 recent quakes in South Reno and the magnitude 4.8 in Caliente that shook Las Vegas in January 2015, according to a Thursday report from UNR.

The biggest source of shakes is the so-called Sheldon sequence in far northwest Nevada, according to the seismological lab.


USGS recent earthquake locations in Nevada.

In 2015 there were 4,511 earthquakes recorded in the remote Sheldon Wildlife Refuge near Vya, east of Cedarville, Calif.

Other quake-prone areas in 2015 were Caliente, Carson City and Virginia City.

Outside of the persistent Sheldon sequence, Nevada was hit with 54 magnitude 3 or greater earthquakes - or about one per week all year.

"The south Reno swarm that just happened produced about 30 earthquakes in two days and about 200 more in the days that followed," said Graham Kent, director of the lab, in the news release. - Reno Gazette-Journal.


Earthquake History

Nevada ranks among the most seismically active States.

A number of the larger shocks have produced some spectacular examples of surface faulting; these include shocks at Pleasant Valley (1915), Cedar Mountain (1932), Excelsior Mountain (1934), Rainbow Mountain (1954), and Fairview Peak - Dixie Valley (1954). Although these events are classied as major earthquakes in terms of magnitude, no fatalities were reported and building damage was minimal because of the sparse population of the epicentral areas.

The earliest reported earthquake in Nevada occurred in 1851. A newspaper article in 1865 cited reports of an earthquake 13 years earlier near Pyramid Lake. The account stated that great cracks opened from which water spouted 100 feet high. Large landslides were also reported.

On October 2, 1915, three strong earthquakes within about 7 hours disturbed a large part of northern Nevada. The third tremor had an estimated magnitude of 7.75. It destroyed or seriously damaged many adobe houses in Pleasant Valley. Most of the damage was confined to the towns of Kennedy, Lovelock, and Winnemucca. The earthquake was felt over a very wide area - from Baker, Oregon, to San Diego, California, and from the Pacific coast to beyond Salt Lake City, Utah, an area of about 1,295,000 square kilometers. A scarp 1.5 to 4.5 meters high and 35 kilometers long, was formed parallel to the base of the Sonoma Mountains. About 100 aftershocks followed the main earthquake.


Nevada seismicity map - 1973 to March 2012

An earthquake of magnitude 7.3 originated in west-central Nevada on December 20, 1932. The epicentral area, near Cedar Mountain, was almost uninhabited. Two cabins, one of stone, and the other of adobe, were destroyed, and mining property was damaged. Many chimneys were thrown down at Mina and Luning. At Hawthorne, the shock cracked and threw down chimneys. Extensive and complicated faulting occurred northeast of Mina, over an area of about 60 kilometers long and 6 to 14 kilometers wide in the valley between the Cedar and Pilot Mountains. The total felt area was approximately the same as that of the 1915 shock.

About a year later, on January 30, 1934, a magnitude 6.5 earthquake which centered in the Excelsior Mountains area about 80 kilometers west of the 1932 zone, again caused some damage at Mina. The collapse of some adobe buildings at Marietta was also reported. Several foreshocks were noted; the strongest had a magnitude of 5.5 and occurred about an hour before the main earthquake. Slight damage at Mina resulted from this foreshock. A small fault scarp 12.5 centimeters high and about 1,500 meters long was formed on the south slope of the Excelsior Mountains. The earthquake was felt widely over Nevada and in parts of California and Utah, an area of about 285,000 square kilometers.

The Rainbow Mountain area in the Stillwater Range, about 25 kilometers east of Fallon, was the origin of a series of earthquakes in July and August 1954. The first strong earthquake on July 6, magnitude 6.6, was damaging at Fallon; it was followed by a magnitude 6.4 shock about 11 hours later and by a series of smaller aftershocks. Another large earthquake, magnitude 6.8, on August 23 caused additional damaged at Fallon. It too was followed by many aftershocks. Ground breakage was traced for about 40 kilometers.

On December 16, 1954, a major earthquake of magnitude 7.1 occurred about 50 kilometers east of the epicentral region of the July - August shocks, near Frenchman's Station. A magnitude 6.8 aftershock followed 4 minutes later. Intensity X was assigned to the spectacular surface ruptures which occurred in two major fault zones; one on the west side of Dixie Valley along the east base of the Stillwater Range and the other on the east side of Fairview Valley in the Clan Alpine Range. Faulting extended north and south for a linear distance of approximately 90 kilometers. Vertical movement of 1.5 to 4.5 meters was measured in Dixie Valley. About 2 to 6 meters of vertical movement and about 1 to 4 meters of horizontal movement were measured near Fairview Peak. Because the epicentral region was sparsely populated, this potentially destructive earthquake caused relatively little property damage. At Fallon, a few toppled chimneys were noted. Chimneys twisted and fell at Austin. At Sacramento, California, located about 265 kilometers distant, the shock caused an estimated $20,000 damage to a large underground water tank at the city's filtration plant. Some damage was also reported at the city's sewage disposal plant. The shock was felt throughout Nevada and in parts of Arizona, California, Idaho, and Oregon, an area of about 520,000 square kilometers. Again, a long series of aftershocks followed.

Only Nevada's major shocks have been listed here. A study by the University of Nevada in 1965 tabulated 1,173 "felt" events with epicenters within the State during the 1852 - 1961 period. Another 586 having magnitudes greater than 4.0 were recorded and probably were felt by some residents. Approximately 220 were reported in nonspecific terms (for example, "several aftershocks were felt"). A general increase in the number of events reported each year has been correlated with the upward trend in population. - USGS.





GLOBAL VOLCANISM: "Unprecedented" - Increased Activity At 3 Volcanoes In Vanuatu!

A giant plume of volcanic ash billowing from Mount Yasur volcano on Tanna Island in Vanuatu on May 26, 2010. © Ulla Lohmann/ AFP

January 1, 2016 - VANUATU
- Disaster authorities in Vanuatu are closely monitoring unprecedented simultaneous increases in activity at three of the country's volcanoes.

The Vanuatu Geohazards Department has put out level 2 alerts for both the northern and southern volcanoes of Ambrym and Tanna with local communities and tourists banned from visiting the rim of these craters.

There is a lesser level 1 alert for a volcano on Ambae island.

Geohazard officer Eslien Garaebiti says increased activity at all volcanoes has never been seen before and says the department is particularly worried about the Tanna and Ambrym craters.

"They are under major level of unrest so they are the ones that are catching our attention at the moment for any increase of activity we would respond or in backing up our monitoring system for those volcanoes."
Vanuatu's volcanoes are among the most accessible in the world and are a major attraction for the tourist industry. - Radio New Zealand.







PLANETARY TREMORS: Magnitude 4.2 Earthquake Strikes North Of Oklahoma City - USGS!

USGS earthquake location.

January 1, 2016 - OKLAHOMA, UNITED STATES - A 4.2 magnitude earthquake centered north of Oklahoma City hit Friday morning, the latest in a series of quakes that's prompted state regulators to call for more restrictions on oil and gas operators.

According the U.S. Geological Survey's website, the quake happened at 5:39 a.m. in an area 3 miles northeast of Edmond and 16 miles north-northeast of Oklahoma City.


USGS shakemap intensity

There were no immediate reports of injury or damage.

Oklahoma has become one of the most earthquake-prone areas in the world, with the number of quakes magnitude 3.0 or greater skyrocketing from a few dozen in 2012 to more than 800 in 2015.


Many of the earthquakes are occurring in swarms in areas where injection wells pump salty wastewater — a byproduct of oil and gas production — into the earth. - ABC.


Tectonic Summary - Earthquakes in the Stable Continental Region

Natural Occurring Earthquake Activity
Most of North America east of the Rocky Mountains has infrequent earthquakes. Here and there earthquakes are more numerous, for example in the New Madrid seismic zone centered on southeastern Missouri, in the Charlevoix-Kamouraska seismic zone of eastern Quebec, in New England, in the New York - Philadelphia - Wilmington urban corridor, and elsewhere. However, most of the enormous region from the Rockies to the Atlantic can go years without an earthquake large enough to be felt, and several U.S. states have never reported a damaging earthquake.

Earthquakes east of the Rocky Mountains, although less frequent than in the West, are typically felt over a much broader region than earthquakes of similar magnitude in the west. East of the Rockies, an earthquake can be felt over an area more than ten times larger than a similar magnitude earthquake on the west coast. It would not be unusual for a magnitude 4.0 earthquake in eastern or central North America to be felt by a significant percentage of the population in many communities more than 100 km (60 mi) from its source. A magnitude 5.5 earthquake in eastern or central North America might be felt by much of the population out to more than 500 km (300 mi) from its source. Earthquakes east of the Rockies that are centered in populated areas and large enough to cause damage are, similarly, likely to cause damage out to greater distances than earthquakes of the same magnitude centered in western North America.

Most earthquakes in North America east of the Rockies occur as faulting within bedrock, usually miles deep. Few earthquakes east of the Rockies, however, have been definitely linked to mapped geologic faults, in contrast to the situation at plate boundaries such as California's San Andreas fault system, where scientists can commonly use geologic evidence to identify a fault that has produced a large earthquake and that is likely to produce large future earthquakes. Scientists who study eastern and central North America earthquakes often work from the hypothesis that modern earthquakes occur as the result of slip on preexisting faults that were formed in earlier geologic eras and that have been reactivated under the current stress conditions. The bedrock of Eastern North America is, however, laced with faults that were active in earlier geologic eras, and few of these faults are known to have been active in the current geologic era. In most areas east of the Rockies, the likelihood of future damaging earthquakes is currently estimated from the frequencies and sizes of instrumentally recorded earthquakes or earthquakes documented in historical records.

Induced Seismicity
As is the case elsewhere in the world, there is evidence that some central and eastern North America earthquakes have been triggered or caused by human activities that have altered the stress conditions in earth's crust sufficiently to induce faulting. Activities that have induced felt earthquakes in some geologic environments have included impoundment of water behind dams, injection of fluid into the earth's crust, extraction of fluid or gas, and removal of rock in mining or quarrying operations. In much of eastern and central North America, the number of earthquakes suspected of having been induced is much smaller than the number of natural earthquakes, but in some regions, such as the south-central states of the U.S., a significant majority of recent earthquakes are thought by many seismologists to have been human-induced.

Even within areas with many human-induced earthquakes, however, the activity that seems to induce seismicity at one location may be taking place at many other locations without inducing felt earthquakes. In addition, regions with frequent induced earthquakes may also be subject to damaging earthquakes that would have occurred independently of human activity. Making a strong scientific case for a causative link between a particular human activity and a particular sequence of earthquakes typically involves special studies devoted specifically to the question. Such investigations usually address the process by which the suspected triggering activity might have significantly altered stresses in the bedrock at the earthquake source, and they commonly address the ways in which the characteristics of the suspected human-triggered earthquakes differ from the characteristics of natural earthquakes in the region.

- USGS.






MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFFS: Disaster Precursors - Thousands Of Carcasses Of Olive Ridley Turtles Wash Ashore In Andhra Pradesh, India?!

Dead Olive Ridley turtles. © The Hindu/ Lingaraj Panda

January 1, 2016 - INDIA - Thousands of carcasses of Olive Ridley turtles washed ashore from Ranasthalam to Ichapuram in Srikakulam district.Fishermen said they have seen innumerable carcasses in seashore villages of Gunupalli, Akkupalli, Dokulapadu, Manchineellapeta and Devunaltada in Vajrapu Kothuru mandal in the district in the last two days.

Srikakulam district fisheries joint director MA Yukub Basha said the turtles had died after they were accidentally trapped by trawlers. "This is the breeding season and the turtles come to the shore to lay eggs. Many of them get trapped in the nets of mechanised boats," he said.

Fishermen said that the dead turtles weighed up to 50 kg each. The length of the carapace is between 60 cm and 70 cm. Palasa, Baruva and Vajrapu Kotturu in Srikakulam district and RK Beach, Bheemili and Sagarnagar in Visakhapatnam district are the nesting spots of the turtles in north coastal Andhra. One can find about 1,000 nesting spots between January and March in the region.

Visakha Society for Protection and Care of Animals (VSPCA) founder secretary Pradeep Nath said the animals died due to mechanised boats used by fishermen.

"We will set up an artificial hatchery with the help of AP forest department at RK Beach, and Jodugullapalem beach in Visakhapatnam. We hope to facilitate nearly 35,000 hatchlings," Pradeep Nath said. - Times of India.






MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: What Is Going On With The Weather - Magnetic Polar Migration Sparks Climate Chaos Across The Earth?!

 Clockwise from top left: Flooding in Straiton, Scotland, on Wednesday; haze in Kalimantan Province, Indonesia, in October; flooding in Horry County, S.C., in October;
drought in South Australia in November. Credit Danny Lawson/Press Association, via AP; Haris Sadikin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images; Janet Blackmon
Morgan/The Sun News, via AP; David Gray/Reuters

January 1, 2016 - EARTH - What is going on with the weather?

With tornado outbreaks in the South, Christmas temperatures that sent trees into bloom in Central Park, drought in parts of Africa and historic floods drowning the old industrial cities of England, 2015 is closing with a string of weather anomalies all over the world.

The year, expected to be the hottest on record, may be over at midnight Thursday, but the trouble will not be. Rain in the central United States has been so heavy that major floods are beginning along the Mississippi River and are likely to intensify in coming weeks. California may lurch from drought to flood by late winter. Most serious, millions of people could be threatened by a developing food shortage in southern Africa.Scientists say the most obvious suspect in the turmoil is the climate pattern called El Niño, in which the Pacific Ocean for the last few months has been dumping immense amounts of heat into the atmosphere. Because atmospheric waves can travel thousands of miles, the added heat and accompanying moisture have been playing havoc with the weather in many parts of the world.


WATCH: How It Happens | El Nino. The weather phenomenon known as El Niño can cause dramatic effects around the world. Henry Fountain explains where it comes from





But that natural pattern of variability is not the whole story. This El Niño, one of the strongest on record, comes atop a long-term heating of the planet caused by mankind’s emissions of greenhouse gases. A large body of scientific evidence says those emissions are making certain kinds of extremes, such as heavy rainstorms and intense heat waves, more frequent.

Coincidence or not, every kind of trouble that the experts have been warning about for years seems to be occurring at once.


 Waiting out the flood Wednesday in Dumfries, Scotland, after heavy rain. Credit Andy Buchanan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


“As scientists, it’s a little humbling that we’ve kind of been saying this for 20 years now, and it’s not until people notice daffodils coming out in December that they start to say, ‘Maybe they’re right,’ ” said Myles R. Allen, a climate scientist at Oxford University in Britain.

Dr. Allen’s group, in collaboration with American and Dutch researchers, recently completed a report calculating that extreme rainstorms in the British Isles in December had become about 40 percent more likely as a consequence of human emissions. That document — inspired by a storm in early December that dumped stupendous rains, including 13 inches on one town in 24 hours — was barely finished when the skies opened up again.

Emergency crews have since been scrambling to rescue people from flooded homes in Leeds, York and other cities. A dispute has erupted in Parliament about whether Britain is doing enough to prepare for a changing climate.

Dr. Allen does not believe that El Niño had much to do with the British flooding, based on historical evidence that the influence of the Pacific Ocean anomaly is fairly weak in that part of the world. In the Western Hemisphere, the strong El Niño is likely a bigger part of the explanation for the strange winter weather.


 Cutting grass in South Africa, which is experiencing its worst drought since 1994. Credit Joao Silva/The New York Times

The northern tier of the United States is often warm during El Niño years, and indeed, weather forecasters months ago predicted such a pattern for this winter. But they did not go so far as to forecast that the temperature in Central Park on the day before Christmas would hit 72 degrees.Likewise, past evidence suggests that an El Niño can cause the fall tornado season in the Gulf Coast states to extend into December, as happened this year, with deadly consequences in states like Texas and Mississippi.


WATCH: Heavy Flooding Across Britain. Many parts of England and Scotland are experiencing damage from severe flooding brought on by Storm Frank.





Matthew Rosencrans, head of forecast operations for the federal government’s Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Md., said that the El Niño was not the only natural factor at work. This winter, a climate pattern called the Arctic Oscillation is also keeping cold air bottled up in the high north, allowing heat and moisture to accumulate in the middle latitudes. That may be a factor in the recent heavy rains in states like Georgia and South Carolina, as well as in some of the other weather extremes, he said.Scientists do not quite understand the connections, if any, between El Niño and variations in the Arctic Oscillation. They also do not fully understand how the combined effects of El Niño and human-induced warming are likely to play out over the coming decades.

Although El Niños occur every three to seven years, most of them are of moderate intensity. They form when the westward trade winds in the Pacific weaken, or even reverse direction. That shift leads to a dramatic warming of the surface waters in the eastern Pacific.

“Clouds and storms follow the warm water, pumping heat and moisture high into the overlying atmosphere,” as NASA recently explained. “These changes alter jet stream paths and affect storm tracks all over the world.”

The current El Niño is only the third powerful El Niño to have occurred in the era of satellites and other sophisticated weather observations. It is a small data set from which to try to draw broad conclusions, and experts said they would likely be working for months or years to understand what role El Niño and other factors played in the weather extremes of 2015.

It is already clear, though, that the year will be the hottest ever recorded at the surface of the planet, surpassing 2014 by a considerable margin. That is a function both of the short-term heat from the El Niño and the long-term warming from human emissions. In both the Atlantic and Pacific, the unusually warm ocean surface is throwing extra moisture into the air, said Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

Storms over land can draw moisture from as far as 2,000 miles away, he said, so the warm ocean is likely influencing such events as the heavy rain in the Southeast, as well as the record number of strong hurricanes and typhoons that occurred this year in the Pacific basin, with devastating consequences for island nations like Vanuatu.

“The warmth means there is more fuel for these weather systems to feed upon,” Dr. Trenberth said. “This is the sort of thing we will see more as we go decades into the future.” - NY Times.





TERMINATOR NOW: The Rise Of The Machines And A Post-Human Future - ERICA, The "Most Beautiful And Intelligent" Android, Leads Japan's Robot Revolution; Meet Knightscope's Crime-Fighting Robots; Gadgets Around Us Will Keep Getting Smarter, Like It Or Not; Presidential Candidate Claims Technology To Transform Us Into IMMORTAL CYBORGS Is Within Reach!

© Colin Anderson / Blend Images / Corbis

January 1, 2016 - TECHNOLOGY - Here are several stories that richly illustrated the staggering pace in the development of robotics and artificial intelligence.


Erica, the 'most beautiful and intelligent' android, leads Japan's robot revolution

Hiroshi Ishiguro, a professor at Osaka University’s Intelligent Robotics Laboratory, with Erica, his latest humanoid robot. Photograph: Justin McCurry for the Guardian

Erica enjoys the theatre and animated films, would like to visit south-east Asia, and believes her ideal partner is a man with whom she can chat easily.

She is less forthcoming, however, when asked her age. “That’s a slightly rude question … I’d rather not say,” comes the answer. As her embarrassed questioner shifts sideways and struggles to put the conversation on a friendlier footing, Erica turns her head, her eyes following his every move.

It is all rather disconcerting, but if Japan’s new generation of intelligent robots are ever going to rival humans as conversation partners, perhaps that is as it should be.

Erica, who, it turns out, is 23, is the most advanced humanoid to have come out of a collaborative effort between Osaka and Kyoto universities, and the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR).

At its heart is the group’s leader, Hiroshi Ishiguro, a professor at Osaka University’s Intelligent Robotics Laboratory, perhaps best known for creating Geminoid HI-1, an android in his likeness, right down to his trademark black leather jacket and a Beatles mop-top made with his own hair.

Erica, however, looks and sounds far more realistic than Ishiguro’s silicone doppelganger, or his previous human-like robot, Geminoid F. Though she is unable to walk independently, she possesses improved speech and an ability to understand and respond to questions, her every utterance accompanied by uncannily humanlike changes in her facial expression.

Erica, Ishiguro insists, is the “most beautiful and intelligent” android in the world. “The principle of beauty is captured in the average face, so I used images of 30 beautiful women, mixed up their features and used the average for each to design the nose, eyes, and so on,” he says, pacing up and down his office at ATR’s robotics laboratory. “That means she should appeal to everyone.”

She is a more advanced version of Geminoid F, another Ishiguro creation which this year appeared in Sayonara, director Koji Fukada’s cinematic adaptation of a stage production of the same name.The movie, set in rural Japan in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster, made Geminoid F the world’s first humanoid film actor, co-starring opposite Bryerly Long. While robots in films are almost as old as cinema itself, Erica did not rely on human actors – think C-3PO – or the motion-capture technology behind, for example, Sonny from I, Robot.


Geminoid HI-1 - a humanoid made in Ishiguro’s likeness - and Geminoid F, the world’s first humanoid actor. Photograph: Justin McCurry for the Guardian


Although the day when every household has its own Erica is some way off, the Japanese have demonstrated a formidable acceptance of robots in their everyday lives over the past year.

From April, two branches of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group started employing androids to deal with customer enquiries. Pepper, a humanoid home robot, went on sale to individual consumers in June, with each shipment selling out in under a minute.

This year also saw the return to Earth of Kirobo, a companion robot, from a stay on the International Space Station, during which it became the first robot to hold a conversation with a human in space.

And this summer, a hotel staffed almost entirely by robots – including the receptionists, concierges and cloakroom staff – opened at the Huis Ten Bosch theme park near Nagasaki, albeit with human colleagues on hand to deal with any teething problems.But increasing daily interaction with robots has also thrown up ethical questions that have yet to be satisfactorily answered. SoftBank, the company behind Pepper, saw fit to include a clause in its user agreement stating that owners must not perform sexual acts or engage in “other indecent behaviour” with the android.

Ishiguro believes warnings of a dystopian future in which robots are exploited – or themselves become the abusers – are premature. “I don’t think there’s an ethical problem,” he says. “First we have to accept that robots are a part of our society and then develop a market for them. If we don’t manage to do that, then there will be no point in having a conversation about ethics.”

Nomura Research Institute offered a glimpse into the future with a recent report in which it predicted that nearly half of all jobs in Japan could be performed by robots by 2035.

“I think Nomura is on to something,” says Ishiguro. “The Japanese population is expected to fall dramatically over the coming decades, yet people will still expect to enjoy the same standard of living.” That, he believes, is where robots can step in.

In Erica, he senses an opportunity to challenge the common perception of robots as irrevocably alien. As a two-week experiment with android shop assistants at an Osaka department store suggested, people may soon come to trust them more than they do human beings.

“Robots are a mirror for better understanding ourselves,” he says. “We see humanlike qualities in robots and start to think about the true nature of the human heart, about desire, consciousness and intention.”

Coming face to face with Erica can be disconcerting. Her ability to express a range of emotions via dozens of pneumatic actuators embedded beneath her silicone skin – left this human momentarily lost for words when invited by Ishiguro to strike up a conversation in her native Japanese.

For the time being, a flawless chat with Erica must revolve around a certain number of subjects, yet experts believe that free-flowing verbal exchanges could be only a few years away.

For that to happen, developers will have to imbue robots with a more humanlike presence – what the Japanese call sonzaikan – rather than settle for the human, but not quite, qualities that can put people on edge in the presence of a moving, talking android.

By Ishiguro’s reckoning, the more they resemble humans – from their physical appearance to their capacity for natural conversation – the easier it will be for us to overcome our phobias, exploited to dramatic effect by countless sci-fi movies.

“They will have to be able to guess a human’s intentions and desires, then refer to an internal system in order to partly or wholly match those intentions and desires in their response,” he says.

He pauses, before asking how that could alter the dynamics of the robot-human relationship. It is a rhetorical question: “It means,” he says, “that one day, humans and robots will be able to love each other.” - The Guardian.



Meet Knightscope’s Crime-Fighting Robots

The robots might one day rise up and take over, but a Palo Alto startup called Knightscope has developed a fleet of crime-fighting machinery it hopes to keep us safe.

Knightscope’s K5 security bots resemble a mix between R2D2 and a Dalek from Doctor Who – and the system behind these bots is a bit Orwellian. The K5’s have broadcasting and sophisticated monitoring capabilities to keep public spaces in check as they rove through open areas, halls and corridors for suspicious activity.

The units upload what they see to a backend security network using 360-degree high-definition and low-light infrared cameras and a built-in microphone can be used to communicate with passersby. An audio event detection system can also pick up on activities like breaking glass and send an alert to the system as well.

Malls and office buildings are also starting to employ the K5 units as security assistants. Knightscope couldn’t name names, but tells TechCrunch the robots are being used at a number of tech companies and a mall in Silicon Valley at the moment.


 WATCH: Knightscope the Autonomous Data Machines.




CEO Stacey Dean Stephens, a former law enforcement agent, came up with the idea to build a predictive network to prevent crime using robots. He and his co-founder William Li have raised close to $12 million in funding so far from Konica Minolta and others to build on the idea.

While Knightscope doesn’t think its robots will replace mall cops or security guards in the near future, the company does see them as assistants to human security teams. The startup currently rents each five-foot, 300-pound K5 unit out for $6.25 per hour (or less than minimum wage). However, teenagers or others tempted to kick or push the robots over may be shocked to find the robots can talk back to them, capture their behavior on film and alert authorities behind the scenes as well.There’s more to these droids than becoming our future security forces, of course. Stephens invited me to Knightscope HQ for a behind the scenes look at an integrated security network the company is working on. This network is able to monitor and report suspicious activity in real time in public places based on robot observation and could possibly be used to predict and act quickly in tense and violent situations (possibly even mass shootings), according to Stephens.

Take a look at the video at the top for the behind the scenes interview with Stephens and to get a better sense of what these robots are capable of. - Tech Crunch.



Gadgets around us will keep getting smarter, like it or not

In this Feb. 14, 2015 file photo, Hello Barbie is displayed at the Mattel showroom during the North American International Toy Fair in New York. The toy records and stores
conversations between kids and their dolls to improve speech-recognition technology and help its makers create more relevant automated responses for kids. Parents
concerned about privacy can review and delete those conversations by visiting a website. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Our cars, our homes, our appliances and even our toys: Things around us are going to keep getting smarter. In 2016, we'll entrust even more of our lives and their intimate details to machines - not to mention the companies that run them.

Are we ready for that?

You might, for instance, like the idea of turning on your TV with a spoken command - no more fumbling for the remote! But for that to work, the TV needs to be listening all the time, even when you're not watching. And even when you're discussing something extremely personal, or engaged in some other activity to which you'd rather not invite eavesdroppers.

How much should you worry? Maybe your TV never records any of your casual conversations. Or maybe its manufacturer is recording all that, but just to find ways to make the TV better at understanding what you want it to do. Or maybe it retains everything it hears for some other hidden purpose.

You may never know for sure. At best, you can hope the company keeps its promises on privacy. More important, you have to trust that its computer systems are really secure, or those promises are suddenly worthless. That part is increasingly difficult to guarantee - or believe - as hacking becomes routine.

And here's the chief quandary: Every technological benefit comes with a cost in the form of a threat to privacy. Yet not paying that price has its own cost: an inability to participate in some of technology's greater achievements.

Because smart gadgets thrive on data - data about you and your habits, data about what large numbers of people do or say or appear to want in particular situations - it's difficult not to share pretty much everything with them. Doing otherwise would be like turning off your phone's location services, which disables many of its most useful features.

The consequences aren't restricted to phones and TVs:

- Kids will be able to talk to more toys and get personalized, computer-generated responses. Does the "don't talk to strangers" rule apply if the stranger is the Hello Barbie talking doll or Dino, the dinosaur powered by IBM's Watson artificial-intelligence system?

- Cars will work with GPS technology and sensors in parking meters, roads and home appliances to help route you around traffic and turn on your living-room lights as you approach the driveway. But that can also generate a detailed record of your whereabouts.

- Thermostats from Nest and others will get smarter at conserving energy when you're away. Potential burglars might find that information handy.

- Home security cameras are getting cheaper and more plentiful, but they're sometimes insecure themselves, especially if you set them up clumsily. There's already a website devoted to showing video from cameras with no passwords. Though they are mostly outdoor or business cameras, one was trained on a baby's crib, and another in a living room.

- Wearable health devices will track your heart rate, fitness levels and more - and share achievements with friends and family. But slacking off may carry a heavier cost than those extra holiday pounds, particularly if your insurance company yanks discounts for meeting fitness goals.

- Software from Google and Facebook will get even more refined to help you cut through the noise. That's great if Facebook is showing you posts from friends you already interact the most with, but will a long-lost friend's plea for help go unanswered because you don't see it?

The pending onslaught of privacy trade-offs might seem trivial when it comes to a talking - and listening - Barbie. But maybe it's less so when your phone knows enough about you to remind you it's time to leave for an important interview (if the alternative would be losing a shot at that job) or your smart home can really tell you if you turned off the oven before leaving for an international trip.

"The encroachments on our privacy are often self-inflicted in the sense that we will accept the trade-off one bit at a time," says John Palfrey, co-author of "Interop: The Promise and Perils of Highly Interconnected Systems.

And these trade-offs can be quite subtle. Technological advances typically offer immediate, tangible benefits that, once you've put enough of them together, can indeed revolutionize daily life. Can you imagine living your life without a smartphone? A few years from now, you might goggle at the thought of managing your day without constant advice from Siri or "OK Google."

As for the risks, they'll tend to be diffuse, abstract and often difficult to ascertain even if you're paying attention - and most people won't. In a study released Wednesday, the Pew Research Center says about half of American adults have no confidence that they understand what's being done with their data, and about a third are discouraged by the amount of effort needed to get that understanding.

In short, convenience usually wins. Shiny new things are inherently attractive, and it takes a while for some of us to get uneasy about the extent to which we may be enabling our own surveillance.

Humans have made this bargain with technology for some time. When cameras were invented, legal scholars debated how far you can go snapping pictures of people in public. That's no longer an issue - although the camera on a drone in your backyard is.

Over time, manufacturers will get better at putting in safeguards, and consumers will get better at setting boundaries and taking charge.

For instance, this holiday season's Hello Barbie talking toy won't listen in until your kid presses its belt buckle. Though it does store conversations between kids and their dolls to improve speech-recognition technology, its maker says there's little personal information tied to those conversations - no first or last names, no ages, no gender.

"We don't need that information," said Martin Reddy, co-founder and chief technical officer of ToyTalk, which developed Hello Barbie with Mattel. "We don't want that information. It just makes it more difficult on our end."

Of course, kids might simply tell their toys personal details about themselves. ToyTalk employees who review such conversations to improve the technology are trained to immediately delete anything sensitive, but they aren't charged with actively monitoring stored discussions.

Step One in managing interactions with our newly smart digital companions comes down to simple attentiveness. Parents, for instance, can be actively involved in what their kids are doing - in this case, by taking the time to review and delete conversations from ToyTalk's website.

Step Two might be learning to say no. Many services ask for birth dates, phone numbers and even income levels just because they can - and few people resist. If enough people rise up, companies will stop. There's precedent: Enough people fed up with online ads have turned to ad blockers, such that websites are taking steps to make ads less annoying.

There will always be a trade-off, but the balance can always shift. - AP.


Presidential candidate claims technology to transform us into immortal cyborgs is within reach 

We could all soon witness a day when man and machine combine to make humans immortal. That’s the firm belief of Zoltan Istvan, a third-party presidential candidate who
wants to not only beat Trump at the polls, but also cheat death itself. ‘I’m hoping I will live indefinitely, that’s a major priority,' he told DailyMail.com

We could all soon witness a day when man and machine combine to make humans immortal.

That’s the firm belief of Zoltan Istvan, a third-party presidential candidate who wants to not only beat Trump at the polls, but also cheat death itself.

‘I’m hoping I will live indefinitely, that’s a major priority,’ the 42-year-old tells DailyMail.com. ‘Even if don’t, I would freeze myself or use some other type of mechanism.’

Istvan says one possibility is uploading parts of his personality to a machine so that future generations can reconstruct a realistic avatar that recreates his being.

‘What happens is you take a complete scan of the brain with incredible detail using technology that is already available to some extent,’ he said.

‘Then in 20 or 30 years when the technology arrives, we upload these detailed scans to a machine, which reconfigures the brain circuitry using sophisticated algorithms.’

If all goes well, it may be possible to have an uploaded consciousness that exactly resembles someone’s personality.

From this point, he says, people could transform themselves as an avatar and live in virtual reality.

By then, robotics would be so advanced that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell the difference between who is a real human and who is a machine.

‘In the next 20 years we're going to become cyborgs, we're going to become healthier, and probably a lot more interesting.’

This promise is at the heart of Istvan's presidential campaign, which he is running for the Transhumanist Party.

The movement describes a belief that technology has the power to achieve immortality and physical perfection.

Transhumanists believe we can do this through technologies such as mind uploading, cyborg body augmentation, and genetic manipulation.

While these technologies might sound far-fetched, various companies are already making huge strides in achieving transhumanist goals.

Istvan mentions Crispr gene editing, a controversial technique that was invented three years ago.

Unlike other gene-silencing tools, the Crispr system targets the genome's source material and permanently turns off genes at the DNA level.

It has the potential to treat several thousand inherited disorders such as Huntington's disease and cystic fibrosis.

IS THE WORLD HEADING TOWARDS A POST-HUMAN FUTURE?

Artificial intelligence is progressing at a frightening pace leading humanity towards its ultimate destruction.

This is according to British theoretical astrophysicist, Sir Martin Rees, who believes we are facing an 'inorganic post-human era'.

By some estimates, he says, the process will begin in the next 25 years as robots begin to achieve intelligence rivalling that of humans.

Sir Martin, who is one of the world's most eminent astronomers, says that while Earth has existed for 45 million centuries, this century is special.

Over nearly all of Earth's history, threats have come from nature, but from now on, the worst dangers come from us – and specifically artificial intelligence.

He says that by any definition of 'thinking', the amount and intensity that's done by organic human-type brains will, in the far future, be swamped by the intelligence of AI.

'There are chemical and metabolic limits to the size and processing power of organic brains,' wrote Sir Rees, in an opinion piece for the Telegraph.

'Maybe humans are close to these limits already. But there are no such constraints on silicon-based computers.'


In a more far-fetched application, it could even give humans new features such as tails.

That may not be needed, however, if cyborg body augmentation delivers on its promises.

‘I believe within 10 years, a quadriplegic is going to be able to put on an exoskeleton suit, tie it to his skeleton, and run faster than the fastest sprinter on planet Earth,’ he says.

‘In the 20 year window, I'm almost positive that artificial intelligence will be here, that will be such a crisis and potential benefit of human kind.

‘People will electively start taking out one eyeball and putting in a robotic eye. It will allow us to see germs on each other and poisonous gases.’

Some of Istvan’s statements are shocking, and he says this is needed to grab people’s attention.

The California-native said he decided to become a Transhumanist while he was working as a journalist for National Geographic.

While travelling in Vietnam, he almost stood on a land mine. Luckily, his guide saved his life by throwing him to the ground.

‘That’s the moment I decided I would dedicate my life to preventing death for me and my loved ones,’ Istvan explained.

For the past few months, Istvan has been touring the country in a coffin-shaped bus as part of his campaign trail.

Istvan admits he doesn’t think he’ll win the presidency his own, but he is hoping to get Hilary Clinton’s attention and run as vice president – and perhaps raise the profile of transhumanism along the way.

‘When you think about yourself just bear in mind that we’re dealing with a universe that almost 14 billion years old.

‘We’re also dealing with the fact that there is probably 20 billion habitable planets out there. We’ve got to see ourselves in a very long form of evolution happening.

‘Just remember, we’re only now getting started as a species.’ - Daily Mail.





MONUMENTAL DELUGE: Floods Swamp Missouri, Illinois - Towns South Of St. Louis Brace For Rain-Swollen Rivers; NINE MILLION PEOPLE In Risk Areas; At Least 28 People Killed So Far In Midwest's Extreme Weather! [PHOTOS + VIDEO]

People move some of their belongings to higher ground on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, as the Meramec River continues to rise next to the
Gravois Road bridge in old town Fenton, Mo.J.B. Forbes /St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP

January 1, 2016 - UNITED STATES - Record flooding from rain-swollen rivers has washed out hundreds of structures in Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma, forcing thousands to flee their homes, and 9.3 million Americans still face flood warnings.

At least 28 people have died in the U.S. Midwest's extreme weather since the weekend, mostly from driving into flooded areas after storms dropped up to 12 inches (30 cm) of rain, officials said.

The days of downpours have pushed the mighty Mississippi and its tributaries to record highs or levels not seen in decades, the National Weather Service and local officials said.

Southern states like Louisiana will be the next to lose homes and businesses to flooding as overflowing rivers push downstream toward the Gulf of Mexico, the National Weather Service said.

The floodwaters have closed sections of Interstate 44 and Interstate 55, both major trucking routes, along with many smaller roads near rivers, Illinois and Missouri officials said on Thursday.

Freezing temperatures in the area in the coming days will cause some flooded areas to turn icy, adding to challenges, forecasters said.

Significant river flooding is expected for the lower Mississippi River, the second-longest river in the United States, into mid-January, the NWS said.

As of Thursday morning, some 9.3 million people nationwide were in areas with flood warnings. That was down from 12.1 million on Wednesday and 17.7 million on Tuesday.

Workers in Tennessee were preparing on Thursday for the Mississippi River in Memphis to reach flood stage over the weekend.

"We're moving things up high and we've got our generators out and got some extra water," said Dotty Kirkendoll, a clerk at Riverside Park Marina on McKellar Lake, which feeds off the Mississippi River.The U.S. Coast Guard issued a high water safety advisory on Thursday for more than 560 miles of the Lower Mississippi River from Caruthersville, Missouri, to near Natchez, Mississippi. It is expected to stay in effect for several weeks, based on NWS forecasts, the Coast Guard said.


Neighbors prepare to check out the damage after floods waters entered their business in Elba, Alabama, December 26, 2015. REUTERS/Marvin Gentry

After deluge, rare winter floods on Mississippi River threaten towns

Heavy rain has brought flooding to towns along the Mississippi River with Missouri and Illinois facing near record winter water levels. Credit: Alan Piel

Towns south of St. Louis brace for Mississippi River floods

Submerged roads and houses are seen after several days of heavy rain led to flooding, in Arnold, Missouri, December 30, 2015. REUTERS/Kate Munsch

Scott Southern (L) and Aaron Walsh, hydro technicians with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), measure flood waters with an Acoustic Doppler
Current Profiler in Eureka, Missouri December 31, 2015. REUTERS/Kate Munsch

Rain-swollen rivers rise across Missouri with widespread flooding forcing the evacuation of hundreds of people and threatening to wash out scores of structures. 

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has declared a state of emergency to prepare for flooding, and levee systems are being monitored daily.

"All that water's coming south and we have to be ready for it," Lieutenant Governor-Elect Billy Nungesser told CNN. "It's a serious concern. It's early in the season. We usually don't see this until much later."

RIVER DAMAGE

Water rose to the rooftops of some structures in Missouri towns and two rivers west of St. Louis crested at historic levels, flooding towns, disabling sewer plants and forcing hundreds of residents from their homes.

Eureka, Missouri, Mayor Kevin Coffey said his town had not seen such bad flooding in 150 years and some of its oldest businesses have been damaged. The Mississippi is expected to crest in the small town of Thebes, Illinois, at 47.5 feet on Sunday, more than a foot and a half (46 cm) above the 1995 record, the National Weather Service said.

Thebes village worker Bobby White said some sewage pumps were shut down to avoid overloading and portable toilets had been supplied to affected areas. Most homes in the town, including his own, are on a hill and should be fine, he said.


WATCH: State of emergency issued in Missouri.




"Most of the people at the bottom of the hill moved out years ago," White said. "If [flooding] comes on the hill, all of Alexander County will be wiped out."

Illinois officials have provided 800,000 sandbags to communities endangered by the Illinois, Sangamon, Iroquois and Mississippi rivers, said Patti Thompson, spokeswoman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

Some evacuees stayed with family or friends or went to hotels, while others found refuge in Red Cross shelters set up in the area.

Rick Miller, U.S. property practice leader for Aon Risk Solutions, said it was too early to comment on possible damage costs. He said the majority of the impact will be to the National Flood Insurance Program.

Miller does not expect the flooding, as bad as it has been, to be a "significant insurance industry event" and said the insurance impact of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 was far greater. - Yahoo.






PLANETARY TREMORS: Very Strong Magnitude 6.3 Earthquake Hits Western Indian-Antarctic Ridge - USGS! [MAPS]

USGS earthquake location.

January 1, 2016 - INDIAN OCEAN - A magnitude-6.3 earthquake jolted Western Indian-Antarctic Ridge at 0200 GMT on Friday (10:00 Beijing time), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said.

The epicenter, with a depth of 10.0 km, was initially determined to be at 50.5751 degrees south latitude and 139.4469 degrees east longitude.


USGS shakemap intensity.

There is no tsunami threat from this earthquake, according to NOAA’s Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii and the Japan Meteorological Advisory.

According to the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS), the earthquake can have a no humanitarian impact based on the magnitude and the affected population and their vulnerability.




MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Major Seismic Uptick - Oklahoma Has More Earthquakes In 2015 Than All Of Continental United States COMBINED!


January 1, 2016 - UNITED STATES - Oklahoma had more earthquakes in 2015 than every state combined, including Hawaii but excluding massive Alaska.

Forty-nine U.S. states recorded a total of 1,586 earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater.

Oklahoma recorded 857 quakes. That leaves the other 48 U.S. states with a combined total of 729.




Oklahoma had a record year in 2014 with 585 quakes, after a record year in 2013 of 106.

The Sooner State also had set a record for 4.0 or greater quakes this year with a total of 30.

Earthquake numbers are from USGS data. - KOCO.



Tectonic Summary - Earthquakes in the Stable Continental Region

Natural Occurring Earthquake Activity
Most of North America east of the Rocky Mountains has infrequent earthquakes. Here and there earthquakes are more numerous, for example in the New Madrid seismic zone centered on southeastern Missouri, in the Charlevoix-Kamouraska seismic zone of eastern Quebec, in New England, in the New York - Philadelphia - Wilmington urban corridor, and elsewhere. However, most of the enormous region from the Rockies to the Atlantic can go years without an earthquake large enough to be felt, and several U.S. states have never reported a damaging earthquake.

Earthquakes east of the Rocky Mountains, although less frequent than in the West, are typically felt over a much broader region than earthquakes of similar magnitude in the west. East of the Rockies, an earthquake can be felt over an area more than ten times larger than a similar magnitude earthquake on the west coast. It would not be unusual for a magnitude 4.0 earthquake in eastern or central North America to be felt by a significant percentage of the population in many communities more than 100 km (60 mi) from its source. A magnitude 5.5 earthquake in eastern or central North America might be felt by much of the population out to more than 500 km (300 mi) from its source. Earthquakes east of the Rockies that are centered in populated areas and large enough to cause damage are, similarly, likely to cause damage out to greater distances than earthquakes of the same magnitude centered in western North America.

Most earthquakes in North America east of the Rockies occur as faulting within bedrock, usually miles deep. Few earthquakes east of the Rockies, however, have been definitely linked to mapped geologic faults, in contrast to the situation at plate boundaries such as California's San Andreas fault system, where scientists can commonly use geologic evidence to identify a fault that has produced a large earthquake and that is likely to produce large future earthquakes. Scientists who study eastern and central North America earthquakes often work from the hypothesis that modern earthquakes occur as the result of slip on preexisting faults that were formed in earlier geologic eras and that have been reactivated under the current stress conditions. The bedrock of Eastern North America is, however, laced with faults that were active in earlier geologic eras, and few of these faults are known to have been active in the current geologic era. In most areas east of the Rockies, the likelihood of future damaging earthquakes is currently estimated from the frequencies and sizes of instrumentally recorded earthquakes or earthquakes documented in historical records.

Induced Seismicity
As is the case elsewhere in the world, there is evidence that some central and eastern North America earthquakes have been triggered or caused by human activities that have altered the stress conditions in earth's crust sufficiently to induce faulting. Activities that have induced felt earthquakes in some geologic environments have included impoundment of water behind dams, injection of fluid into the earth's crust, extraction of fluid or gas, and removal of rock in mining or quarrying operations. In much of eastern and central North America, the number of earthquakes suspected of having been induced is much smaller than the number of natural earthquakes, but in some regions, such as the south-central states of the U.S., a significant majority of recent earthquakes are thought by many seismologists to have been human-induced.

Even within areas with many human-induced earthquakes, however, the activity that seems to induce seismicity at one location may be taking place at many other locations without inducing felt earthquakes. In addition, regions with frequent induced earthquakes may also be subject to damaging earthquakes that would have occurred independently of human activity. Making a strong scientific case for a causative link between a particular human activity and a particular sequence of earthquakes typically involves special studies devoted specifically to the question. Such investigations usually address the process by which the suspected triggering activity might have significantly altered stresses in the bedrock at the earthquake source, and they commonly address the ways in which the characteristics of the suspected human-triggered earthquakes differ from the characteristics of natural earthquakes in the region.

- USGS.








ICE AGE NOW: "Waves Of Snowballs" - Ice Balls Form On Lake Michigan Along The Shoreline Near Traverse City; And "Snowball Waves" Filmed On Sebago Lake, Maine! [PHOTOS + VIDEOS]

Ice balls on Lake Michigan

January 1, 2016 - UNITED STATES - Ice balls on Lake Michigan are currently forming along the shoreline near Traverse City.  A New England man also captured video of "waves of snowballs" lapping against the shore in Maine's Sebago Lake.



Ice balls form on Lake Michigan along the shoreline near Traverse City

In this video, shot on December 29, 2015, ice boulders are seen clanking against one another along the shores of Lake Michigan.

What are they? Where did they come from?

This curious ice phenomenon doesn't happen often, so when it does, it's something to celebrate and take note of.




Ice balls start out life as a small chunk of ice in the water. The small chunk of ice grows by thin measures as it tumbles in the waves.

Ice boulders can only form when the air is cold enough for the water to instantly freeze and the lake is cold, but not too cold. A stiff breeze helps to churn things up.


WATCH: Lake Michigan ice balls.




When a face of the ice boulder is hit with the water from a wave, it freezes in the cold air, getting just a bit larger in size.

After hours of tumbling, what started out as a small chunk of ice can grow to the big balls you see in the video above. - Strange Sounds.


'Snowball waves' filmed on Sebago Lake, Maine

"Snowballs" cover Sebago Lake in Maine. © Weather Channel

A New England man captured video of "waves of snowballs" lapping against the shore in Maine's Sebago Lake.

David Allen of Stone Point Studio posted a video to Facebook showing the unusual state of the Sebago Lake waves Tuesday, just after the first winter weather hit the area.

"This was one of the most awesome natural events I have ever seen!" Allen wrote in his Facebook post.

He offered some speculation as to how the snowball waves might have formed:
"I cannot say for sure, but here are the conditions leading to this. There was NO ice on the lake, so it isn't lake ice. In fact it has been very warm, right up until we got this snow/sleet/freezing rain storm. It was very cold when I shot this, maybe around 20 degrees. I fished out a couple of the balls, and sure enough, they broke apart and were very slushy, definitely not ice. The area where this was shot had a small stone jetty that acted as a catch and prevented the balls from continuing on down the shoreline. It seems to me, that this had a lot to do with the snow from the storm somehow accumulating in this way, in this very particular spot. My best guess, was that it was SO cold and windy, that when the snow hit the water, it didn't melt, but instead, remained as slush on the surface. This slush then got stuck in this area, and through wave and wind action, turned into these very uniform

WATCH: 'Snowball waves' filmed on Sebago Lake, Maine





- UPI.







GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Ukraine Officially Defaults On $3 BILLION DEBT To Russia - Moscow To Sue Kiev In London Court!


January 1, 2016 - UKRAINE - Russia’s Finance Ministry is filing a lawsuit against Ukraine for failing to pay off its $3 billion debt to Russia before the December 31 deadline. This means that Ukraine is now officially in a state of default, the ministry added.

“Ukraine has not made the payment of $3.075 billion in repayment and servicing of external bonds owned by Russia during the grace period, which expired on December 31, 2015. Thus, Ukraine is in a state of default now,” the ministry said in a statement.

The lawsuit will be filed in the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA).

“The Finance Ministry contacted ‘The Law Debenture Corporation plc’ [which acts as the principal creditor to bond issue documents] and initiated legal procedures that are required for an immediate lawsuit against Ukraine. The lawsuit will be filed in the British court [London Court of International Arbitration],” the statement said.

Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov stressed that Russian will still be willing to work with Ukraine to solve the problem, even after the lawsuit is filed.

“Russia has always been willing to consider options to assist Ukraine in line with the IMF [International Monetary Fund] program. Russia intends to carefully examine any significant offer from Ukraine, but also believes that the court proceedings do not preclude a constructive dialogue in order to reach an acceptable settlement of the debt,” the statement read.

Ukraine’s sovereign debt to Russia dates back to a deal between President Vladimir Putin and former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich that was struck in 2013 and envisaged Moscow buying $15 billion worth of Ukrainian bonds. Russia bought $3 billion worth on December 20, 2013, and the debt was supposed to be repaid by December 20, 2015.

Earlier in December, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Finance Ministry to file a lawsuit against Ukraine if Kiev failed to repay Russia’s $3 billion Eurobond loan within the 10-day grace period following the December 20 deadline.

Back in August, Ukraine agreed to a restructuring deal with a creditor committee led by Franklin Templeton (which owns about $7 billion worth of Ukrainian bonds) providing a 20 percent write-down on about $18 billion worth of Eurobonds.

Russia refused to participate in the debt restructuring, claiming its bond purchase was a state loan, not a commercial one.

In November, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered a three-year restructuring plan for Kiev’s debt, provided that loan guarantees were made by the US, the EU or the International Monetary Fund. Under that offer, Russia would have forgone payment in 2015 and Kiev would have repaid $1 billion a year for the next three years.

The deal fell through, however, as Ukraine’s Western backers were unwilling to provide such guarantees. - RT.






MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFFS: Ice Age Now - Snow Blizzard Kills MORE THAN 30,000 Dairy Cows In Texas, New Mexico; Number Could Climber Higher, "Once-In-A-Lifetime Storm"!

A snow-covered steer in South Dakota after a blizzard in 1966. NOAA

January 1, 2015 - TEXAS/NEW MEXICO, UNITED STATES - Dairy producers in West Texas and eastern New Mexico are continuing to assess how many animals died in the winter storm last weekend, but the number will probably climb to more than 30,000, an official with a dairy group said Thursday.

Texas Association of Dairymen executive director Darren Turley said an estimated 15,000 mature dairy cows died in the storm's primary impact area — from Lubbock west to Muleshoe and north to Friona which is home to half of the state's top-10 milk producing counties and produces 40 per cent of the state's milk.

An agent with New Mexico State University's extension service told Turley the area around Clovis, New Mexico, lost an estimated 20,000 dairy cows.

The number of younger animals killed by Winter Storm Goliath in each state could be just as high as the mature cows, he said.

There will be less milk coming from the region for a while, Turley said,

The snow was just one part of Goliath. It was the wind that led to drifts as high as 14 feet, where many animals died. Wind will push animals into a fenced corner where they can suffocate in snow drifts.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime (storm)," Turley said. "It's a bad deal for producers."

The losses will affect production for about year, he said.

During the storm dairy employees and tanker trucks from reaching farms. Hundreds of loads of milk ready for processing were wasted. Some cows normally milked twice a day went almost two days without being milked, which dries up the cows' milk supply, Turley said.

"The ripples from that are going to depend on how fast those animals' milk production comes back," Turley said.

The Texas producers are working with state environmental officials to find ways to dispose of the carcasses. Some counties are allowing producers to put carcasses in their landfills.

Andle van der Ploeg, owner of Mid-Frisian Dairy near Clovis, said Thursday that he lost just 10 animals, but feels great sympathy for producers he knows who lost hundreds of milk cows.

"It was unbelievable," he said. - Winnipeg Free Press.