Sunday, January 31, 2016

SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: Boko Haram Militants Attack Villages In Northeast Nigeria - Killing 86 People, Including Children!

A mother sits mourning the death of her husband after Boko Haram attacks at Dalori village on the outskirts of Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria on January 31, 2016.
© AFP Photo

January 31, 2016 - NIGERIA - Boko Haram militants killed 86 people, including children, in their recent attack on villages in northeastern Nigeria on Saturday. Horrifying details of the attacks emerged on Sunday.

The Saturday night assault on the outskirts of the Nigerian city of Maiduguri – the birthplace of Boko Haram – lasted for hours, targeting villages and camps housing some 25,000 refugees, AP has reported, citing survivors and soldiers at the scene. By Sunday afternoon, 86 bodies had collected, officials said, adding that another 62 victims were being treated for burns.

The Islamic extremists launched the attack on the village of Dalori, where scores of charred corpses and bodies with bullet wounds could be seen lying in the streets, AP reported. “During the incident, lives were lost while some people sustained injuries,” army spokesman Colonel Mustapha Anka confirmed, according to AFP.

Citing an eyewitness surviving the attack, AP reported that Boko Haram extremists firebombed huts. The survivor said that he had heard the screams of children burning to death from a hiding place in a tree.

The shooting and burning attack was carried out by three suicide bombers and continued for nearly four hours, eyewitness who lost several family members told AP.

WATCH: Boko Haram burned people alive in northeast Nigeria.


After scores of villagers had been murdered in Dalori, Boko Haram attackers targeted the neighboring village of Gamori, where three female suicide bombers blew themselves up among people who had managed to escape the first wave of violence, a soldier at the scene told AP. Survivors complained that it had taken too long for military help to arrive at the scene of the massacre from nearby Maiduguri, AP reported. The first troops to arrive in Dalori were unable to overcome the attackers, as the terrorists were better armed, soldiers told AP on condition of anonymity. The extremist aggressors retreated only after reinforcements with heavier weapons arrived.

The attack came just a day after Boko Haram carried out a twin bombing that claimed the lives of 15 people in Adamawa state, which is also in the northeast of Nigeria.The Boko Haram terrorist group, whose name is literally translated “Western education is forbidden,” is believed to be even more deadly than Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). Its extremists in Africa are said to have killed more people that IS, to which they pledged allegiance in 2015.“There is a real bias against media coverage of terrorist attacks in Africa, and especially in Nigeria,” Max Abrahms, assistant professor of political science at Northeastern University in Boston, told RT. “I think many people would be surprised to know how much killing power the main terrorist group Boko Haram has,” he said, adding that if such attacks were carried out against people in European or North American countries, “there would be much more media coverage.”

About 20,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million driven from their homes since the Nigeria-based terror group launched a military campaign in 2009, with the goal of establishing Islamist rule. The military managed to drive most of the extremists out of the towns and villages of northeastern Nigeria last year, and since then Boko Haram has been attacking soft targets, increasingly with suicide bombers.

“It’s still mostly a local operation, although, over social media in particular, Boko Haram likes to pretend as if it’s a very international group, highly connected to Islamic State,” Abrahms told RT.

“But the truth is that different affiliates have stronger or weaker relations with IS central, [and] the Boko Haram affiliation is relatively detached, unlike the one in Libya, which is actually directed by the IS leadership in Syria,” he said. - RT.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVALS: Massive Landslide On Mount Aconcagua, Argentina - Hikers Nearly Swept Away! [VIDEOS]

Rockslide surprised hikers on Mount Aconcagua, Argentina.

January 31, 2016 - ARGENTINA - This is the terrifying moment a spectacular rockslide surprised hikers on Mount Aconcagua, Argentina.

The creepy landslide video was captured on january 4, 2016, on the path linking Horcones park entrance) and Confluence (first base of the Aconcagua field).

WATCH: Landslide in Argentina.

His video makes clear that mountains can be unexpected. And that you often need qualified guides to overcome their dangers and save your life.

Guides were Julian Insarralde, Nico Aguero and Naco Choulet working for INOUT ADVENTURE.

Damn .... Luckily, the first guide screamed very early. - Strange Sounds.

SOCIETAL & INFRASTRUCTURE COLLAPSE: Boat Sinks Off Turkey - Up To 40 Migrants Killed, Including 5 Children!

January 31, 2016 - TURKEY - Almost 40 people have drowned in the Aegean Sea near the Turkey’s western coast, as a migrant boat sank on its way to the Greek island of Lesbos, local media report.

A 17-meter boat was carrying at least 120 people before it sank off the coast of Ayvacik, a town across from the Greek island of Lesvos, according to the Dogan news agency. The agency says at least five of those dead are children while almost 40 dead bodies have been discovered.

"Local people woke up to the sound of screaming migrants and we have been carrying out rescue work since dawn. We have an 80-kilometre-long coast just across from Lesvos, which is very hard to keep under control", Mehmet Unal Sahin, the mayor of Ayvacik, told CNNTurk.

Turkish coast guards have managed to rescue 75 people so far near the resort of Ayvacik, located in the Marmara Region, popular with tourists.

The migrants were admitted to the hospital with hypothermia symptoms. The survivors allegedly came from Afghanistan, Syria and Myanmar.

However, the number of victims may be higher, as the rescue teams are still conducting search and rescue operation.

Over 210 people have died this year so far trying to make the dangerous sea crossing from Turkey to Greece, according to estimates by the International Organization for Migration. Last year more than 700 drowned or were reported as missing in the Aegean Sea. The organization called the Mediterranean Sea, which claimed the lives of 3,700 people attempting to reach Europe in 2015, the world’s “deadliest.”

Turkey is a primary destination for asylum seekers and migrants who want to cross to Europe. About 500,00 refugees from Syria fled the embattled country through Turkey since the beginning of the Syrian military conflict.

People, forced to abandon their homes by the perils of the war, often venture into Europe in overcrowded rubber boats, without any protection, as was in the case with Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy who drowned in September last year on his route to the Greek island of Kos. After the pictures of his body washed ashore in Turkish resort city of Bodrum, made global headlines, he became a symbol of the struggles the refugees have to endure trying to make it to Europe.

Turkey now hosts more than 3 million refugees, with about 2.5 million of them from Syria.Last November, Turkey pledged to curb the flow of migrants streaming through its territory to the EU in return for 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) of financial aid designed to provide better living conditions for the Syrian refugees already living in Turkey. - RT.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVALS: "Very Large, Significant Avalanche" Near McBride, British Columbia - 5 Snowmobilers Killed!

'Very large, significant avalanche event' reported in North Rockies.
© CBC News

January 31, 2016 - BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA - An avalanche near McBride, B.C., has killed five snowmobilers, say local authorities.

RCMP say they were notified of two separate GPS beacon activations in the Renshaw area east of McBride around 1:30 p.m. PT, at which point they activated the Robson Valley Search and Rescue Team. There were at least three separate groups of snowmobilers caught in the slide, say RCMP. Six to eight people lost their snowmobiles and had to be shuttled off the mountain.

"We are a small and mostly tight-knit community," McBride Coun. Sharon Reichert said. "We live in a rugged country where many in the community enjoy the outdoors. That comes with danger, and today, our worst fears have been realized." RCMP said search and rescue technicians were on the scene almost immediately, and a helicopter was deployed.

This photo taken near Fernie, B.C., on Dec. 30, 2008, shows the area where several avalanches killed eight snowmobilers. 
© Canadian Press

Donita Kuzma, the regional coroner with the BC Coroners Service, said police conducted interviews with people as they came down the mountain to see if there were any other snowmobilers still missing. "It's a very busy time of year with snowmobilers," said Kuzma, adding that there were many of them in the area for the weekend. BC Emergency Health Services said it also transported one person to hospital in stable condition.

Human-triggered avalanche

Avalanche Canada said it had received a report of what appears to be a "very large, significant avalanche event" in the North Rockies. "There are layers of concern in the snowpack in many parts of this region (and others) and a fairly significant weather event added rain and snow to the snowpack over the last few days," said Karl Klassen with Avalanche Canada.

"This may have produced stresses in the snowpack capable of producing large avalanches and this condition could take several days to settle and bond." Klassen said the avalanche was human-triggered. - CBC News.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong And Shallow Magnitude 6.0 Earthquake Hits Balleny Islands Region - USGS! [MAPS + TECTONIC SUMMARY]

USGS earthquake location.

January 31, 2016 - BALLENY ISLANDS  REGION - An earthquake measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale jolted Balleny Islands region at on Sunday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The epicenter, with a depth of 10.0 km, was initially determined to be at 63.2868 degrees south latitude and 169.1522 degrees east longitude.

The Balleny Islands (66°55′S 163°45′E) are a series of uninhabited islands in the Southern Ocean extending from 66°15' to 67°35'S and 162°30' to 165°00'E.

The group extends for about 160 km (99 mi) in a northwest-southeast direction. The islands are heavily glaciated and are of volcanic origin.

The islands were formed by the so-called Balleny hotspot. It is also the first land on Earth to have sunrise each day.The group includes three main islands: Young, Buckle and Sturge, which lie in a line from northwest to southeast, and several smaller islets and rocks.

USGS shakemap intensity.

The Buckle, Sturge and Young Islands are examples of stratovolcanoes. Strong earthquakes very close to the islands are rare, but tremors of moderate strength do occur over the Pacific–Antarctic Ridge, Macquarie Triple Junction and Pacific Rim between the Balleny Islands and Macquarie Island.

Other earthquakes occur near the Southeast Indian Ridge and Balleny Fracture Zone, including a magnitude 8.1 earthquake in 1998 that struck just over 700 km (430 mi) west-northwest of the Islands.

Seismotectonics of the Eastern Margin of the Australia Plate

The eastern margin of the Australia plate is one of the most sesimically active areas of the world due to high rates of convergence between the Australia and Pacific plates. In the region of New Zealand, the 3000 km long Australia-Pacific plate boundary extends from south of Macquarie Island to the southern Kermadec Island chain. It includes an oceanic transform (the Macquarie Ridge), two oppositely verging subduction zones (Puysegur and Hikurangi), and a transpressive continental transform, the Alpine Fault through South Island, New Zealand.

Since 1900 there have been 15 M7.5+ earthquakes recorded near New Zealand. Nine of these, and the four largest, occurred along or near the Macquarie Ridge, including the 1989 M8.2 event on the ridge itself, and the 2004 M8.1 event 200 km to the west of the plate boundary, reflecting intraplate deformation. The largest recorded earthquake in New Zealand itself was the 1931 M7.8 Hawke's Bay earthquake, which killed 256 people. The last M7.5+ earthquake along the Alpine Fault was 170 years ago; studies of the faults' strain accumulation suggest that similar events are likely to occur again.

USGS plate tectonics for the region.

North of New Zealand, the Australia-Pacific boundary stretches east of Tonga and Fiji to 250 km south of Samoa. For 2,200 km the trench is approximately linear, and includes two segments where old (greater than 120 Myr) Pacific oceanic lithosphere rapidly subducts westward (Kermadec and Tonga). At the northern end of the Tonga trench, the boundary curves sharply westward and changes along a 700 km-long segment from trench-normal subduction, to oblique subduction, to a left lateral transform-like structure.

Australia-Pacific convergence rates increase northward from 60 mm/yr at the southern Kermadec trench to 90 mm/yr at the northern Tonga trench; however, significant back arc extension (or equivalently, slab rollback) causes the consumption rate of subducting Pacific lithosphere to be much faster. The spreading rate in the Havre trough, west of the Kermadec trench, increases northward from 8 to 20 mm/yr. The southern tip of this spreading center is propagating into the North Island of New Zealand, rifting it apart. In the southern Lau Basin, west of the Tonga trench, the spreading rate increases northward from 60 to 90 mm/yr, and in the northern Lau Basin, multiple spreading centers result in an extension rate as high as 160 mm/yr. The overall subduction velocity of the Pacific plate is the vector sum of Australia-Pacific velocity and back arc spreading velocity: thus it increases northward along the Kermadec trench from 70 to 100 mm/yr, and along the Tonga trench from 150 to 240 mm/yr.

The Kermadec-Tonga subduction zone generates many large earthquakes on the interface between the descending Pacific and overriding Australia plates, within the two plates themselves and, less frequently, near the outer rise of the Pacific plate east of the trench. Since 1900, 40 M7.5+ earthquakes have been recorded, mostly north of 30°S. However, it is unclear whether any of the few historic M8+ events that have occurred close to the plate boundary were underthrusting events on the plate interface, or were intraplate earthquakes. On September 29, 2009, one of the largest normal fault (outer rise) earthquakes ever recorded (M8.1) occurred south of Samoa, 40 km east of the Tonga trench, generating a tsunami that killed at least 180 people.

Across the North Fiji Basin and to the west of the Vanuatu Islands, the Australia plate again subducts eastwards beneath the Pacific, at the North New Hebrides trench. At the southern end of this trench, east of the Loyalty Islands, the plate boundary curves east into an oceanic transform-like structure analogous to the one north of Tonga.

Australia-Pacific convergence rates increase northward from 80 to 90 mm/yr along the North New Hebrides trench, but the Australia plate consumption rate is increased by extension in the back arc and in the North Fiji Basin. Back arc spreading occurs at a rate of 50 mm/yr along most of the subduction zone, except near ~15°S, where the D'Entrecasteaux ridge intersects the trench and causes localized compression of 50 mm/yr in the back arc. Therefore, the Australia plate subduction velocity ranges from 120 mm/yr at the southern end of the North New Hebrides trench, to 40 mm/yr at the D'Entrecasteaux ridge-trench intersection, to 170 mm/yr at the northern end of the trench.

Large earthquakes are common along the North New Hebrides trench and have mechanisms associated with subduction tectonics, though occasional strike slip earthquakes occur near the subduction of the D'Entrecasteaux ridge. Within the subduction zone 34 M7.5+ earthquakes have been recorded since 1900. On October 7, 2009, a large interplate thrust fault earthquake (M7.6) in the northern North New Hebrides subduction zone was followed 15 minutes later by an even larger interplate event (M7.8) 60 km to the north. It is likely that the first event triggered the second of the so-called earthquake "doublet".

More information on regional seismicity and tectonics


GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Fire Volcano - Mexico's Colima Volcano Erupts, Spewing Smoke And Ash 7,900 Feet High! [VIDEO]

Credit: YouTube/webcamsdemexico

January 31, 2016 - MEXICO - Mexico’s Colima volcano capped off a week of activity with an eruption on January 29 at 4pm.

WATCH: Spectacular eruption at the Colima volcano.

In this time-lapse video, taken by Nicola Rustichelli, the volcano is seen to fill the air with smoke and ash.

The uploader said in a tweet that the video had been taken from 2,400 metres, or about 7,900 feet.

- Yahoo.

ICE AGE NOW: Global Cooling Continues Relentlessly - Mexico Hit By POLAR AIR MASS; Civil Protection Office Declares "EXTRAORDINARY EMERGENCY" In 446 Municipalities In 23 States! [VIDEO]

Galeana, Nuevo León, where roofs have been collapsing under the snow.

January 31, 2016 - MEXICO - Residents in many parts of Mexico might decide to remain in their homes for this long weekend as heavy rains, strong winds, some snow and cold temperatures are forecast for many regions.

In fact, the national Civil Protection office has declared an "extraordinary emergency" in 446 municipalities in 23 states, brought on by cold front No. 34 and the eighth winter storm of the season.

The declaration will make resources available for the emergency supply of food and blankets to an estimated half a million people from Chihuahua in the north to Chiapas in the south.

The cold front´s mass of polar air is covering much of the country, guaranteeing cold to very cold weather for the weekend. Sleet or wet snow are forecast for areas 3,500 meters above sea level in the State of México, Tlaxcala, Puebla, Hidalgo and Veracruz and winds gusting to 70 km/h in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

WATCH: Snow  in Mexico.

Mountain regions of Chihuahua, Durango, Zacatecas and Nuevo León can expect temperatures to plunge lower than -5 C.

The weather in both Mexico and California has been having adverse effects on fresh produce supplies in the U.S. and Canada. The second-largest food retailer in Canada said last week there would be shortages for three weeks due in part to weather conditions.

Sobey´s said it is struggling to deal with the worst situation in 30 years.

One of the coldest places in Mexico this week was La Rosilla, a community in the Durango municipality of Guaneceví. The temperature dropped two days ago to -17 C.

In Nuevo León, meanwhile, the roofs of many homes in the community of Galeana, located in the south of the state, collapsed under the weight of the heaviest snowfall in 20 years.

- Mexico News Daily.

COSMIC CATASTROPHISM: Violent, Head-To-Head Crash Between Earth And Another Planet Created The Moon - UCLA Researchers!

January 31, 2016 - SPACE - New clues suggest the moon resulted from a head-on collision between Earth and another forming planet, according to scientists.

Researchers from a team lead by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) analyzed lunar and volcanic rocks before concluding the moon was formed during a violent head-on collision between an early Earth and another forming planet called Theia.

Scientists knew Earth had been involved in a high-speed crash almost 4.5 billion years ago, but they thought the crash with Theia had been a 45-degree angle sideswipe.

After studying seven lunar rocks brought back by the Apollo 12, 15 and 17 missions, as well as six volcanic rocks from the Earth’s mantle, they found that Theia and Earth had had a head-on collision, rather than just a fender-bender.

The scientists said the clue lay in the chemical signature of the rocks’ oxygen atoms. Oxygen makes up 90 percent of rocks’ volume and 50 percent of their weight.

More than 99.9 percent of Earth’s oxygen is 0-16, meaning each atom contains eight protons and eight neutrons. There are small quantities of heavier oxygen isotopes, such as 0-17, which has an extra neutron, and 0-18, which has two extra neutrons.

All of the planetary bodies in our solar system have a distinct “fingerprint” of 0-17 to 0-16 isotopes.

WATCH: The formation of the Moon.

A team of German scientists ventured in a 2014 issue of Science that the moon had its own unique ratio of oxygen isotopes, which is different from Earth’s, but UCLA scientists found “that is not the case.”

“We don’t see any difference between the Earth’s and the moon’s oxygen isotopes; they’re indistinguishable,” said Edward Young, lead author of the new study and a UCLA professor of geochemistry and cosmochemistry, in a statement.

Using UCLA’s new mass spectrometer, the team performed ultra-high precision oxygen isotope analyses of the lunar samples and were able to deduce that if Theia had sideswiped Earth, the moon would have been made mainly of Theia, and would have different isotypes than Earth.

The fact that the Earth and the moon share the same chemical signatures contradicted the theory.

“Theia was thoroughly mixed into both the Earth and the moon, and evenly dispersed between them,” Young said. “This explains why we don’t see a different signature of Theia in the moon versus the Earth.”

The crash with Theia happened approximately 100 million years after the Earth formed, almost 4.5 billion years ago. The merging of the two planets also suggests why the moon is less dense than the Earth.

Young and other scientists think Theia was approximately the same size as the Earth, while others believe it was more similar in size to Mars.

This is not the first time the theory of a head-on collision has been proposed. In 2012, the theory was proposed by Matija Cuk, now a researcher with SETI Institute; Sarah Stewart, now a professor at UC Davis; and Robin Canup of the Southwest Research Institute.

The paper, called Oxygen isotopic evidence for vigorous mixing during the Moon-forming giant impact, by Edward Young, Issaku Kohl, and Paul Warren, was published in Friday’s edition of Science.

- RT.

ICE AGE NOW: Global Cooling Continues Relentlessly - Cold Weather Resultes In Rare Snowfalls For Tropical Laos! [PHOTOS + VIDEO]

White-dusted tropical foliage is seen at the Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park in Laos. – Picture courtesy of, January 28, 2016.

January 31, 2016 - LAOS - Public schools across the country already closed for a week long break awaiting a decision on whether to reopen on schedule Monday depending on the weather.

The scope of the socio-economic impact of the cold snap upon the least developed country of some six and a half million remains as yet unknown, with livestock and poultry deaths in the affected areas continuing to be reported to the authorities.
Meanwhile, images of the rare sprinkling of white have been shared by locals and visitors alike on social media.



Snow was also recorded at popular tourist destination Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park, a 4,229sqkm nature reserve incorporating parts of the provinces of Luang Prabang, Huaphan and Xiengkhouan boasting a peak elevation of 2,257m above sea level.

WATCH: Rare snowfall in Laos.

Images of white-dusted tropical foliage were shared on the website of the park and its award-winning Night Safari, an ethical tourism venture that provides visitors with views of the area's rare and endangered fauna while sustaining local employment. - The Malaysian Insider.

SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: Civilizations Unraveling In The Middle East - 16 More People Starve To Death In Syria's Besieged Madaya And Several Dozens More Are In "DANGER OF DEATH" Due To SEVERE Malnutrition Says Humanitarian Group; Iraq Needs $1.5 BILLION In Humanitarian Aid Amid ISIS Onslaught; At Least 30 Killed And 40 Wounded In Damascus Suburb Bombings, ISIS Claims Responsibility!

A handout picture released by UNICEF and taken on January 14, 2016 shows a UNICEF employee measuring the arm of a malnourished child in the besieged
Syrian town of Madaya, as they assess the health situation of residents of the famine-stricken town (AFP Photo/)

January 31, 2016 - MIDDLE EAST - At least 16 more people have died of starvation in the besieged Syrian town of Madaya since an aid convoy entered earlier this month, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF). Iraq says it needs $1.56 billion in 2016 to alleviate the humanitarian crisis caused by the war against Islamic State, a government report states. Baghdad has been affected by falling oil revenues and has called on the international community for help. Two bomb blasts have struck the outskirts of Syria's capital, Damascus. Meanwhile, at least 30 people were killed and 40 wounded in twin blasts in the mainly Shi'ite neighbourhood, Syria's Interior Ministry reported.

16 more starve to death in Syria's besieged Madaya: MSF

Several dozen more residents of the town are in "danger of death" because of severe malnutrition, the humanitarian group warned.

The latest deaths were reported as the Syrian Red Crescent told AFP it had gained rare access on Saturday to Madaya and two other besieged towns to assess humanitarian needs.

MSF said the additional deaths in Madaya brought to 46 the number of people reported to have died of starvation in the town since December.

It said real toll could be worse.

"The real number is almost certainly higher, as MSF is aware of reports of people dying of starvation in their homes."Located in Damascus province, Madaya is under government siege, and its fate has been one of the sticking points for fresh peace talks on the Syrian conflict that opened on Friday in Geneva after delays.

Residents of the besieged rebel-held Syrian town of Madaya wait for a convoy of aid from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent on January 14, 2016
(AFP Photo/Louai Beshara)

Syria's opposition wants to see the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions demanding an end to sieges before committing to new negotiations.

Madaya is one of four towns included in a rare deal last year that was intended to halt fighting and allow the entry of humanitarian aid.

But despite the deal, the UN and other aid groups have had only limited access to Madaya, along with rebel-held Zabadani, and the government-held towns of Fuaa and Kafraya, which are under opposition siege.

Conditions in Madaya have reportedly been among the worst, with about 42,000 civilians there surrounded by government troops who have laid mines around the town to prevent people leaving.

While the government has some ability to airdrop supplies to Fuaa and Kafraya, the opposition has no similar capacity.

Aid groups have regularly urged continuous aid access to all four towns, as well as the evacuation of those with malnutrition or other illnesses.

- 'Unhindered medical access' -

Citing medics it supports in the town, MSF said there were at least 320 cases of malnutrition in Madaya, including 33 that were so severe that the individuals could die without prompt treatment.

A convoy of aid from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent heads to the besieged rebel-held Syrian town of Madaya, on January 14, 2016 (AFP Photo/Louai Beshara)

"It is totally unacceptable that people continue to die from starvation, and that critical medical cases remain in the town when they should have been evacuated weeks ago," said MSF's director of operations Brice de le Vingne.

"The warring parties responsible for these besiegement strategies need to allow unhindered medical and humanitarian access immediately," he added.

After the September deal for the four towns, an initial aid delivery was made, but no subsequent assistance was allowed in until January 11, after reports of deaths in Madaya.

Additional convoys of food and medicine entered Madaya, Fuaa and Kafraya on January 14, and then all four towns on January 19,

On Saturday, the Syrian Red Crescent's operations chief Tamam Mehrez told AFP it had been able to enter Madaya, Fuaa and Kafraya to carry out humanitarian assessments.

"Our teams today entered Madaya in Damascus province, and Kafraya and Fuaa in Idlib province, as part of periodic access to check on the sick and review critical situations," he said.

He said he could not provide further details until the visits were finished, but added that the teams were not delivering aid.

A UNICEF employee measures the arm of a malnourished child in the besieged Syrian town of Madaya, on January 14, 2016 (AFP Photo/)

The UN estimates around 486,700 Syrians are living under sieges imposed by the regime, rebels or the Islamic State group.

The UN's aid chief said this week that 75 percent of its requests for aid deliveries in Syria went unanswered by the government.

Stephen O'Brien told the UN Security Council that access to hard-to-reach areas was "simply not happening" and that the Syrian government had yet to give approval to most planned relief convoys. - Yahoo.

Iraq needs $1.5bn in humanitarian aid amid ISIS onslaught & funding gap

The Iraqi government stated in its report, which was released Sunday, that it will only be able to provide less than 43 percent of the necessary humanitarian aid from its state budget.

"The international community is necessary for bridging the deficit or financing gap," it added, as cited by Reuters.

On Sunday, the UN issued an appeal for $861 million in order to help Iraq meet its funding gap, as it presses to help those displaced.

"With the expanding needs, the allocation through the federal budget will not be sufficient. We expect that the highly prioritised (UN) Humanitarian Response Plan will help cover part of the gap," Iraqi Minister of Migration and Displacement Jassim Mohammed al-Jaff said in a statement, according to Reuters.

Iraq has been ravaged by the conflict with Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), after the terrorist group seized large areas of territory in the summer of 2014. The war has seen more than 3.3 million people displaced as they have tried to flee the fighting, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Meanwhile, at least 18,800 civilians were killed and 36,240 wounded in violence in Iraq from January 2014 to October 2015, according to the United Nations.

The Iraqi government allocated around $850 million in 2015 to help with the humanitarian effort. However, they were only able to find less than 60 percent of the sum, the report stated, according to Reuters.

The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) highlighted the humanitarian problem by stating that the international community may be too focused on the threat posed by IS and was ignoring the plight of millions of refugees.

The organization added that the amount of humanitarian aid should be scaled up in proportion to the escalation of military operations. MSF says that if this is not done, then the gap between the needs and the aid that is actually being provided will only widen.

Iraq’s position has been hampered by falling oil prices, but also because IS have seized some of the country’s oil wells. In October, a spokesman for the Iraq Oil Ministry said that Baghdad was losing up to 400,000 barrels of oil a day.

According to the OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report, Iraq produced 4.14 million barrels per day in September. The country is the cartel's second biggest crude producer after Saudi Arabia. However, IS has been using the oil reserves under its control, which it is selling on the black market, to help finance its reign of terror.

In December, Russia accused Turkey of helping IS in the illegal oil trade, which helps finance the terrorist group.

In October 2014, the US Under-Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said Islamic State was earning $1 million a day from oil sales. - RT

At least 30 killed, 40 wounded in Damascus suburb bombings, ISIS claims responsibility 

The Islamic State terrorist group has taken responsibility for the attacks.

According to the television station of Lebanon's militant Shiite Hezbollah group, the attacks took place in the Sayeda Zeinab district, where Syria's major Shiite shrine is located.

Syrian state television reported that "two terrorist blasts, one of them a car bomb, followed by a suicide bomber," took place in the Sayyida Zeinab area.

It said there was "information about deaths and injuries," but gave no further details.

The Sayyida Zeinab mosque, which contains the grave of a granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammed, is revered as a pilgrimage site by Shiite Muslims.

The site has been targeted before, including in February 2015, when a blast ripped through a bus carrying Lebanese Shiite pilgrims headed to Sayyida Zeinab, killing at least nine people, in an attack claimed by Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, AFP reported.

Also last year in February, two suicide attacks killed four people and wounded 13 at a checkpoint near the shrine.

State television showed footage of burning buildings and wrecked cars in the heavily populated area in the south of the city.

The explosions took place as representatives of Syria's government and the opposition began gathering in Geneva for the first UN-mediated peace talks in two years. The United Nations says the challenge could be six months of talks, seeking a ceasefire and finding a political settlement to a war that has killed over 250,000 people and left over 1 million injured. - RT.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Zika Virus Has Infected 2,100 PREGNANT Colombians Health Officials Say!

The Zika virus, which has rampaged through the Americas, has been linked to the devastating birth defect microcephaly,
which prevents fetus' brains from developing properly. (Jose Cabezas/Reuters)

January 31, 2016 - COLOMBIA - More than 2,100 pregnant Colombians are infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus, the country's national health institute said on Saturday, as the disease continues its spread across the Americas.

The virus has been linked to the devastating birth defect microcephaly, which prevents fetus' brains from developing properly. There is no vaccine or treatment. There are 20,297 confirmed cases of the virus in Colombia, the national health institute said in a epidemiology bulletin, with 2,116 pregnant women among them.

There are so far no reported cases of microcephaly or deaths from the virus in Colombia. The institute said 37.2 per cent of pregnant women with Zika live in Norte de Santander province, along the eastern border with Venezuela.

Earlier figures from the health ministry showed 560 pregnant women had the virus, out of more than 13,500 infections.

Zika cases have been confirmed in 23 countries and territories in the Americas and scientists are racing to develop a vaccine for the virus.

Dejailson Arruda holds his daughter Luiza at their house in Santa Cruz do Capibaribe, Pernambuco state, Brazil in December. Luiza was born in October
with microcephaly and her mother was infected with the Zika virus after a mosquito bite. (Felipe Dana/Associated Press)

Nearly half of Colombia's Zika cases have been reported in the country's Caribbean region, the bulletin said. More than 60 per cent of those infected are women.

The health ministry has said Zika infection falls within the health requirements women must meet to get abortions in the country, which restricts the procedure unless patients are victims of rape, have significant medical problems or the fetus is fatally deformed.

Many women, especially those living far from large cities, struggle to find abortion providers even when they meet the legal requirements and illegal abortions are widespread.

The government has urged women to delay pregnancy for six to eight months to avoid potential infection. Officials expect up to 700,000 cases.

Brazil is the country hit hardest by the disease. It has reported around 3,700 cases of microcephaly strongly suspected to be related to Zika. The World Health Organization has said as many as four million people in the Americas may become infected. - CBC.

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: Weather Phenomenon - Glowing "Mother Of Pearl" Clouds Color Scotland's Skies!

© Paul via Meteo Europe

January 31, 2016 - SCOTLAND - These glowing polar stratospheric clouds were spotted floating over the UK on January 29, 2016.

That's the second sighting in two days after those spotted over Murmansk on Wednesday morning.

These nacreous clouds were captured from Aberdeen to Stoneheaven, Scotland, UK by lucky stargazers.

© Martin via Meteo Europe

© Martin via Meteo Europe

© Lindsay via Biserka Anderson

The mother-of-pearl clouds appeared in the sky before sunrise and were highly glowing and reflective.

Polar stratospheric clouds form in the winter polar stratosphere between altitudes of 15000-25000 meters.

They are best observed during twilight and form at very low temperatures, below -78°C.

And here some more from Twitter: So intense.

They are also called nacreous clouds in relation to the colours seen on the inside of an oyster shell. - Strange Sounds.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVALS: Sinkholes Keep Popping Up Across The United States - Spectacular Drone Footage Shows "MONSTER" Sinkhole Along Oregon Highway!

January 31, 2016 - OREGON, UNITED STATES - A massive sinkhole and a nearby landslide swallowed up part of the road in Harbor, southwest Oregon, shutting down Highway 101 there. The ominous-looking scene was captured in an aerial video.

The initial sinkhole developed in mid-December after a culvert under the road failed and following a series of storms and heavy downpours of rain, the hole continued to widen, resulting in the road's closure on Thursday evening, The Curry Coastal Pilot reported.

"It's a monster," Jared Castle, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation told NBC News.

A smaller sinkhole also opened up four lanes across from the larger hole while a landslide located a mere 50 feet from the sinkhole collapsed two lanes of the parallel road, sinking into the ravine beside it.

Spectacular drone footage from YouTube user Kyle Rice shows the sheer size of the hole and landslide, dwarfing the workers standing nearby.

WATCH: Massive sinkhole in Oregon.

No vehicles were swallowed by the hole and no injuries have been reported, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Sinkholes and landslides are a frequent occurrence in the region due to its geography. "It's just part of the battle of having the Oregon Coast Highway located where it's at," Castle said."It's a road built in a place where Mother Nature never intended for there to be a road."

Officials say it could be eight weeks before the road is fully repaired. - RT.

FIRE IN THE SKY: "The Brightest Shooting Star I Have Ever Seen" - Fireball Sizzles And Then Fizzles Over Northeast U.S. Saturday Evening!

Fireball captured by dashcam of Alex Salvador at 6:17 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016. (Alex Salvador via Twitter)

January 31, 2016 - UNITED STATES - Scores of witnesses in northern Virginia, Maryland, and the District spotted a brilliant fireball dashing through the sky around 6:17 p.m. Saturday evening.

The fireball, defined as a very bright meteor, entered the region from the north according to reports.

Fireball captured by dashcam of Alex Salvador at 6:17 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016. (Alex Salvador via Twitter)

It was seen all over the Northeast U.S. and even southeast Canada. Specifically, Capital Weather Gang obtained reports from Baltimore, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, and Ontario via Twitter.

Observers described it as “huge” and “very bright” but then noted it fizzled, disintegrating into fragments.

“Saw a very bright white fireball streaking down in the night sky with a tail trailing behind it,” wrote Stephanie Rallins on Capital Weather Gang’s Facebook page.“

It looked like the closest and brightest shooting star I have ever seen,” added Michelle Calabro in Centreville, Va.

Alex Salvador caught the fireball on his dashcam while driving through Skyline area on Rt. 7 in Alexandria, Va. The camera was facing west. “This looks like something burning up, falling down around the D.C.,” he posted to Twitter.

The American Meteor Society, which tracks fireballs, encourages eyewitnesses to log a report with a description on its website. - The Washington Post.