Tuesday, March 1, 2016

FUK-U-SHIMA: "Ongoing Fish Famine" Along U.S. West Coast - "DEARTH OF FOOD Across Ocean"; Severe Fishery IMPLOSION; Supply Has Been Low SINCE 2011; Government Expert Says "Looks Very GRIM,... It Is Hard To Watch"!

The sea lion pup that wandered into the Marine Room in La Jolla is recovering at SeaWorld’s Animal Rescue Center. Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego

March 1, 2016 - UNITED STATES - Fewer sea lions have been stranded this year, but that’s a bad sign, scientists say… it’s a sign that the sea lion population is dwindling rather than recovering.

An ongoing fish famine is preventing mothers from producing enough milk, resulting in smaller and less hardy pups. As of Monday, there had been 375 sea lion strandings so far in 2016… about 160 sea lions are found stranded during the first two months of a typical year… [L]ess available prey are hurting newly born sea lions the most, potentially slowing down the species’ population growth, scientists say.

Hannah Bateman feeds rescued sea lion pups at the Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

“It’s going to decline,” said Sharon Melin, wildlife biologist at the NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center… During NOAA’s survey of the sea lion breeding grounds, Melin said, researchers saw more dead pups than usual. The increased mortality could cause fewer pups to become stranded because they’re dying before they can leave the islands, she said. The exact number of dead pups is not known… The pups… should have gained about 20 pounds in the last six months, Melin said, but they haven’t grown at all. “It still looks very grim this year,” Melin said… - L.A. Times.

Record sea lion strandings are tapering off; Scientists say the trend may indicate dwindling population, not a recovery… SeaWorld San Diego typically rescues 200 marine mammals in any given year. Already this year, there are 147 sea lions in SeaWorld’s care, according to David Koontz, theme park spokesman… The low birth weight suggests that there isn’t adequate prey“It’s a clear sign that there is a mismatch between supply and demand,” said Nate Manuta, a NOAA climate scientist…

This NOAA graph shows the fluctuations in the average weight of 3-month old sea lion pups at the two rookeries. In the past several years, sea lion pups have been
much smaller. Previous declines in weight have been tied to El Nino, as warming waters push available feed away. NOAA Fisheries

The dearth of food across the ocean isn’t harming the adult sea lions as much as the pups… Melin said more pups are leaving their mothers before they are ready, likely because of hunger…  Because food supplies have been low for five years, the habits of the species have to adjust. “We are seeing adaptation,” Melin said, “even though it is hard to watch.” - S.D. Union Tribune.

Sardines off the West Coast have continued on a steep decline, with populations this summer forecast to be down 93 percent from a 2007 peak, according to a draft assessment from the National Marine Fisheries Service…

 Sardine populations historically have had huge fluctuations. Here, a die-off in March 2011 at Redondo Beach, Calif., left a foot-thick raft of fish carcasses in the harbor.
(David McNew/Getty Images)

Last year, the sardine implosion was so severe that the Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to call off the season that was scheduled to start in July for West Coast fleets… The stocks of sardines aged one year or older are forecast to be 64,422 metric tons, about a third lower than the 2015 assessment

Albert Carter, of Ocean Gold Seafood… who serves on a Pacific Fishery Management Council advisory committee, said… if populations have continued to decline, he does not expect a 2016 season. - Seattle Times.

- ENE News.

MONUMENTAL SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: Ukraine Collapse Is Now Imminent - Ruthless Clan Of Oligarchs Create Atmosphere For New Wave Of VIOLENCE AND CHAOS, IMF And European Companies Are Leaving The Country, As Situation Becomes "UNMANAGEABLE"!

A view of a house destroyed in an air strike carried out by Ukrainian armed forces in the village of Stanitsa Luganskaya (AFP Photo)

March 1, 2016 - UKRAINE - Two years have passed since Yanukovich was deposed and, as it turns out, another ruthless clan of oligarchs has taken power. No wonder then that Ukraine is heading for a new wave of violence and chaos.

Oligarchs are fighting each other, the IMF is pulling out of the country, officials issue laws and regulations only to see them repealed within a day or two by others, and raided European companies are leaving the country after being robbed by the so-called pro-Brussels oligarchic elite.
It was evident from the beginning that the US and NATO-sponsored power transition was doomed to fail. Prime Minister Yatsenyuk made no secret on his personal website about his principal partners, NATO and Victor Pinchuk’s foundation. Victor Pinchuk is a link between the Ukraine corrupt oligarchic establishment and the Western political elite. In 2005, the BBC depicted him as a paragon of Ukraine’s kleptocracy:
“Ukraine’s largest steel mill has been bought by Mittal Steel for $4.8bn (£2.7bn) after an earlier sale was annulled amid corruption allegations.

The Kryvorizhstal mill was originally sold to the son-in-law (Mr. Pinchuck) of former President Leonid Kuchma for $800m.

It was one of the scandals that sparked the Orange Revolution and propelled President Viktor Yushchenko into power.")
Directly after the power transition, European leaders understood that the situation in the Ukraine was unmanageable, which we know from a confidential telephone conversation between Minister Paet (Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia) and Mrs. Ashton (High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy) that became public. Both politicians understood that the Maidan protesters had no trust in the politicians who formed the new coalition. Mr Paet said, “there is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovich, but it was somebody from the new coalition." Their conversation makes it clear that both European politicians understood that, contrary to the official statements coming from Brussels, Europe has no solution for Ukraine’s problems and no trust in its new leaders.

Petro Poroshenko, one of the oligarchs, became the fifth president. In line with his predecessors, he had amassed an astonishing personal wealth by mixing politics and business on behalf of the Ukraine population. He started his career under the notorious President Kuchma and served as a minister under deposed President Victor Yanukovich. One can hardly imagine a more troubled new president for a country that has to reform itself and get rid of corruption.

In 2014 Brian Bonner, the Kyivpost chief editor, wrote: “Allowing prosecution of Kuchma (concerning the murder of a journalist) is acid test for whether Poroshenko will put national interests above his own.". Asking Poroshenko to “kill” his close friend and crony, former President Kuchma and the father-in-law of the powerful Pinchuk is a dramatic plea by the chief editor aimed at forcing President Poroshenko to show whose side he takes. Poroshenko’s answer came quickly: he rewarded Kuchma with a top position in the Minsk negation team.

Within months after the power transition, investigative journalist Tetiana Chornovol, who lead an anti-graft body, quit, calling her time in the government “useless”
because there was no political will to conduct “a full-scale war" on corruption.

In the two years that followed rumour of ongoing corruption has not ceased.
For Poroshenko and his fellow oligarchs, the biggest threat is not Putin and the separatists in the East, but the pro-Ukraine militia that only on paper were merged with the Ukraine army.

The militia regards the Western-backed oligarchs as the second biggest threat to the Ukrainian nation.
We believe the oligarchs are the primary cause of the rot in Ukraine’s government.

Meanwhile, the Brussels elite is trying to sell the Ukraine 2014 power grab and the resultant association treaty as a way to help Ukraine to overcome its political corruption.

The Dutch government wrote in its communique to its citizens: “This cooperation gives Ukraine a chance for a better future. The country wants to become a genuine democracy, without corruption and with a wealthy population. The European association treaty is the foundation for the national reforms.”

Maybe this is the intention of many naive European politicians, it is not the intention of the Ukrainian elite who under Poroshenko consolidate their power.
The Swiss-based company Swissport, a leading airport service company, and its French investors learned this the hard way.
In 2012 the UK-based logistic website the “theloadstar” wrote:
“Swissport, the Swiss ground handler stands to lose some $8m in assets in the Ukraine while other foreign investors could shun Ukraine, following an attempt to forcibly strip the company of its majority stake in Swissport Ukraine.

In a move alleged to be ‘corporate raiding’, an increasingly common phenomenon in the country, 30% shareholder of Swissport Ukraine, Ukraine International Airlines (UIA), has claimed that Swissport International (SPI) violated its minority rights – a “baseless” allegation, according to the handler. During interim court proceedings the judges were changed twice – at the very last minute – before the hearings.”
During the reign of Yanukovich, Kolomoisky (Poroshenko ally) try to strip Swissport from it assets. It did so by forcing the company to sell its multi-million majority stake for 400.000 Euro, using the corrupt Ukraine administration and the justice system. We cannot blame the company that it believed its problem was solved in 2014. The Washington and Brussels elite presented the new Kiev government as a tool in the fight against inherited Ukrainian corruption. During 2014 Swissport seems to have fought a successful battle against injustice. But at the end of 2014, the highest judicial body in Ukraine ruled that the company had to sell its multi-million investment to Kolomoisky for 400.000 dollars. The company said that it never received the 400.000 Euro from Mr. Kolomysky.

Ihor Kolomoiskyi is the oligarch President Poroshenko installed as governor of Dnepropetrovsk. That Kolomoisky enjoyed the full protection of Poroshenko became apparent as he was not prosecuted after he had orchestrated an armed raid on UkrTransNafta Ukraine state-owned oil firm. To spare President Poroshenko the embarrassment, Kolomoyskyi offered his resignation.

Ihor Kolomoiskyi is the founder of the Brussels-based European Jewish Parliament that served to increase his influence in Brussels. A worrisome sign that Ukraine’s political rot is spreading into the European Union.

Swissport raid and forceful eviction from Ukraine was an embarrassment for those who try to uphold the illusion Ukraine was in the process of becoming a genuine democracy free of corruption.

It could hardly be a surprise that a year after Kyivpost publication that Swissport had left Ukraine, Aivaras Abromavi?ius, Minister of Economics in Poroshenko’s cabinet and one of Washington’s principal allies in Kiev resigned.

After Abromavi?ius it was Deputy Prosecutor General that resigns due to unstoppable corruption. 15 February Deputy Prosecutor General Vitaliy Kasko wrote in his resignation letter:
“…This desire is based on the fact that the current leadership of the prosecutor’s office has once and for all turned it into a body where corruption dominates, and corrupt schemes are covered up. Any attempts to change this situation at the prosecutor’s office are immediately and demonstratively persecuted.

Lawlessness, not the law, rules here…..”
A day later General Prosecutor Victor Shokin, who analysts say, is an ally of President Poroshenko, has to quit. Viktor Shokin agrees to step down after President Poroshenko asked him to leave office Western leaders and reform-minded Ukrainian officials have long been calling for Shokin’s resignation.

At the same time, Ukraine headed for a standoff between its two most powerful politicians after Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk had defied President Petro Poroshenko’s call for his resignation and defeated a no-confidence motion in parliament.

The current chaos in Kiev makes it for the IMF extremely hard to keep Ukraine funded. Brazil’s IMF Director already in 2014 urged not to bend rules for Ukraine. Ukraine had failed the IMF twice before. There is now a sense of panic in Kiev, and so Ukraine leaders start to issue opposite orders. The Central Bank Governor’s ban on money exchange was repealed immediately by Yatsenyuk.

The situation of the population deteriorates rapidly as Ukraine’s currency devalues fast and bond yields spike.
Companies start to understand that direct investment can disappear overnight as raided foreign companies are forced to leave the country. Protesters take over Hotels in Kyiv and return to Maidan to demand the resignation of the Ukraine rulers who came to power with the support of Washington and Brussels. Yatsenyuk now becomes a liability for its partner NATO.

It is a just matter of time before the Ukraine nationalistic militias will take power, resulting in a definite split of the country.
Poroshenko can postpone the people final verdict by reviving the war in the east, but in the end, he can not escape the day of reckoning. - Zero Hedge.

POLE SHIFT: Hyperactive Magnetic Field May Have Led To One Of Earth's Major Extinctions - New Scientific Study!

March 1, 2016 - EARTH - Rapid reversals of Earth’s magnetic field 550 million years ago destroyed a large part of the ozone layer and let in a flood of ultraviolet radiation, devastating the unusual creatures of the so-called Ediacaran Period and triggering an evolutionary flight from light that led to the Cambrian explosion of animal groups. That’s the conclusion of a new study, which proposes a connection between hyperactive field reversals and this crucial moment in the evolution of life.

The Kotlinian Crisis, as it is known, saw widespread extinction and put an end to the Ediacaran Period. During this time, large (up to meter-sized) soft-bodied organisms, often shaped like discs or fronds, had lived on or in shallow horizontal burrows beneath thick mats of bacteria which, unlike today, coated the sea floor. The slimy mats acted as a barrier between the water above and the sediments below, preventing oxygen from reaching under the sea floor and making it largely uninhabitable.

The Ediacaran gave way to the Cambrian explosion, 542 million years ago: the rapid emergence of new species with complex body plans, hard parts for defense, and sophisticated eyes. Burrowing also became more common and varied, which broke down the once-widespread bacterial mats, allowing oxygen into the sea floor to form a newly hospitable space for living.

Scientists have long argued over what caused the Cambrian explosion in the first place. Potential explanations have included rising levels of atmospheric oxygen  because of photosynthesis, allowing for the development of more complex animals; the rise in carnivorous species and new predatory tactics, such as the flat and segmented, armor-crushing creatures known as anomalocaridids; and the breakup of the supercontinent Rodinia, which may have created new ecological niches and isolated populations as the continents drifted apart.

Death by UV? Did an increase in UV radiation kill off the soft-bodied creatures of the Ediacaran—pictured—paving the way for the Cambrian explosion? 
Chase Studio/Science Source

In their new study, however, geologist Joseph Meert of the University of Florida in Gainesville and his colleagues propose a different hypothesis: that these evolutionary changes might have been connected to rapid reversals in the direction of Earth’s magnetic field. During a reversal, magnetic north and south trade places—an event which, in geologically recent times, occurs about once every million years.

Yet in the Ediacaran, such reversals were a lot more common, the team proposes. Certain minerals in rocks can preserve a record of the direction of Earth’s magnetic field when the rock formed. While studying these magnetic records in 550-million-year-old, Ediacaran-aged sedimentary rocks in the Ural Mountains in western Russia, the team discovered evidence to suggest the reversal rate then was 20 times faster than it is today. “Earth’s magnetic field underwent a period of hyperactive reversals,” Meert says.

Previous research has suggested that Earth’s protective magnetic field would be weaker across such periods of frequent reversal, compromising its ability to shield life from harmful solar radiation and cosmic rays. On top of this, the duration of each individual reversal episode—thought to take an average of 7000–10,000 years—would likely see the field temporarily weakened even more before growing back in the opposite direction.

This weakened shielding would have allowed more energetic particles into the upper atmosphere, which would have begun to break down the ozone layer that protects Earth from harmful UV radiation, Meert says. Twenty to 40% of ozone coverage might have been lost—in turn, doubling the amount of UV radiation that reached Earth’s surface, the team reports in a paper in press in Gondwana Research. “Organisms with the ability to escape UV radiation would be favored in such an environment.”

This flight from dangerous levels of UV light, therefore, might explain many of the evolutionary changes that occurred during the Late Ediacaran and Early Cambrian, Meert says. Creatures with complex eyes to sense the light and the ability to seek shelter from the radiation—for example, by migrating into deeper waters during the daytime—would have been more successful. The growth of hard coatings and shells would afford additional UV protection, as would the capacity to burrow deeper into the sea floor.

In turn, these changes may have opened up new environments. The development of shells, for example, helps creatures colonize intertidal areas, protected not only from UV rays but also stronger waves and the risk of drying out. Similarly, the breakdown of the bacterial mats by early burrowing would have opened up the upper sea floor further for life.

Looking forward, the researchers are now hoping to examine other Ediacaran sediments from around the globe to verify the rapid reversals’ signal, along with hunting for biological or chemical evidence for high doses of UV radiation in the fossil record.

There are many factors that may explain why the Cambrian explosion occurred, but the researchers’ “escape from light” idea adds a novel possibility to the debate, says David Harper, a paleontologist at Durham University in the United Kingdom who was not involved in the study. “The authors have opened up yet another exciting and imaginative area of research within which to frame and test new hypotheses for the origin and early evolution of animal-based communities.”

Geobiologist Joseph Kirschvink of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, is skeptical, however. Although the idea that UV radiation increases without Earth’s magnetic field is long-established, its effect on the evolution of life at this time should be limited, he says, as the radiation would not be able to reach and damage the germ line, the cells of the body used in sexual reproduction to pass genetic information to offspring. The radiation “would affect the outer skin … but the germ cells are usually internal and protected.” As such, he argues, the idea that increased levels of UV radiation significantly affected the evolution of life in the Ediacaran is problematic. - Science Mag.

RATTLE & HUM: Mysterious Sounds Heard Across The Planet - Strange Unexplained Loud Booms Heard In Sioux Falls, South Dakota?!

March 1, 2016 - SOUTH DAKOTA, UNITED STATES - Police are investigating multiple reports of loud booms in Sioux Falls and the surrounding areas.

The National Weather Service said they had not seen any indications of an explosion or other events that would show up on radar, and that there are no storms in the area.

"There's nothing unusual on the radar that would suggest a meteor or a comet," meteorologist Matt Dux said.

However, NWS did offer a possible theory on what could be causing the booms:

"After thinking a bit..one thing could be happening is this. There is a very sharp temperature change not too far off the surface (about 500 ft) tonight due to the warmer air aloft and fast cooling here at the ground. It's possible that as some aircraft are landing that this sound is bouncing off this temperature 'inversion.' It's a theory," NWS said.

Scanner traffic indicated that multiple people had called in to report the booms. Police were investigating reports in Hartford and at 85th Street and Marion Road.

Sgt. Jon Thum said police were unable to find the source of the noises.

People have reported the booms in several areas around Sioux Falls and beyond. Here are a few of the reports we've had of the mysterious sounds:

Of course, there's always this theory:

- Argus Leader.

ICE AGE NOW: Global Cooling Continues Relentlessly - Kurilskoye Lake In Kamchatka, Russia Freezes For The FIRST TIME IN 10 YEARS; Massive Snowstorm In Japan Grounds 130 Flights, Leaves Thousands Without Power; Met Office Predicts Sudden Stratospheric Warming To Bring Snap Of Cold Weather Over UK; BLUE ICE STACKING Up On Lake Simcoe, Ontario, Canada; And Cold Cycles And Food Shocks, Seven Crops That Will Rise In Price! [VIDEOS]

Konstantin Lepsky, state inspector of the Kronotsky State Nature Reserve: 'When we patrolled the area, we walked along the lake in snowshoes for about 18 kilometres.' © Kronotsky State Nature Reserve

March 1, 2016 - EARTH - The following articles constitutes several of the latest reports on heavy snowfall, low temperatures and snow storms as global cooling continues across the Earth.

Kurilskoye Lake in Kamchatka, Russia freezes for first time in 10 years

With thermal waters, and the warming effect of the nearby Sea of Okhotsk, this unusual lake normally does not freeze over. But this year its famous Steller's sea eagles have been forced to relocate because the ice holes in which they catch fish have frozen over. Two weeks of calm weather and low temperatures in February - of minus 20C - shackled the surface of the lake with a thick layer of ice.

Konstantin Lepsky, state inspector of the Kronotsky State Nature Reserve, said: 'When we patrolled the area, we walked along the lake in snowshoes for about 18 kilometres.

'Only in the mouth of the River Hakytsin could we see a little ice hole, where ducks and swans were swimming,
and Steller's sea eagles were spotted.'
© Kronotsky State Nature Reserve

'From the observation tower at Travyanoy we looked around the horizon in all directions. The lake was completely frozen. Only in the mouth of the River Hakytsin could we see a little ice hole, where ducks and swans were swimming, and Steller's sea eagles were spotted.'

Most of the birds were forced to relocate to Avacha Bay, near Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. The lake formed in a caldera after two large volcanic explosions, one 41,500 radiocarbon years ago and the other around 6440 BC. It is the largest spawning ground for sockeye salmon in Eurasia, and a magnet for brown bears - as our pictures show.

The lake is a national wildlife preserve and a national monument. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site among the world famous volcanoes of Kamchatka, also known as Russia's Land of Fire and Ice. - Siberian Times.

Massive snowstorm in Japan grounds 130 flights, leaves thousands without power

© Flickr/Takeshi Kuboki

The Japan's meteorological agency reported Tuesday that the Japanese island of Hokkaido has been severed hit by snowstorm that left 4,000 households without power and grounded over 130 flights.

A powerful snowstorm that hit the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido grounded over 130 flights and led to power outages in approximately 4,000 households on Tuesday.

The country's meteorological agency recorded up to 20 inches of precipitation over the past 24 hours, with over 15 inches of snow expected by early Wednesday.

A snow cyclone is accompanied by winds reaching the speed of up to 115 feet per second. Wave heights on the island's shore exceeded 25 feet. - Japan Times.

Met Office predicts sudden stratospheric warming to bring snap of cold weather over UK

Meteorologists from the UK Met Office have predicted a sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) will occur in early March 2016. The phenomena could affect the surface weather, increasing the risk of prolonged wintry conditions over parts of northern Europe and the UK.

The sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) phenomenon is a rapid warming episode which takes place between 10 and 50 km (6.2 and 31 miles) of the Earth's atmosphere. During the warming, temperatures can climb for up to 50 °C in only a few days time.

SSW begins with a wave-like disturbance which travels into the high-altitude jet stream system, and can grow to a point to breaking, exhibiting similar behavior like the breaking beach waves. The jet stream usually flows in the west-to-east direction with some north and south oscillation. The disturbance can cause the winds to turn in the opposite direction. When that happens, the air falls into the Arctic and gets compressed, causing the rapid warming.

"Sudden stratospheric warming events occur high up in the atmosphere and involve a complete reversal of the high-altitude polar jet stream - they can even affect weather at the surface, and for the UK, a sudden stratospheric warming increases the risk of wintry weather," Professor Adam Scaife, Head of Monthly to Decadal Prediction explained.

WATCH: What is a Sudden Stratospheric Warming.

"This reversal of high altitude winds can also burrow down into the lower stratosphere. Once it is within reach of weather systems in the lower atmosphere the Atlantic jet stream often weakens and moves south. This allows cold air from the east into northern Europe and the UK."

Such stratospheric warming last time occurred in early 2013 when the winter had a strong and cold ending. SSW occurs every few years, although the impact of the current event should not be so dramatic.

Under normal weather conditions, the UK region is under the influence of a mild Atlantic air inflow. However, an SSW episode causes the low pressure areas to weaken and the prevailing jet stream shifts south which causes the high-pressure area over the North Atlantic to block the mild air flow, and drags in the cold continental air to the east. Stratosphere warming doesn't always produce such synoptical situations, however, a cold snap does occur quite frequently, which means the outbreak increases a risk of cold north easterlies and wintry weather over UK in the coming weeks. - The Watchers.

Blue ice stacking up on Lake Simcoe, Southern Ontario, Canada

WATCH: Stunning images of Lake Simcoe.

- EarthSky.

Cold cycles and food shocks, seven crops that will rise in price

Following patterns of drought and cold cycles along with La Nina intensification forecast, there will be a drive on oranges, rice, maize, almonds, walnuts, tropical fruit and vegetables starting 2017.

WATCH: Global Food Shocks 2017.

- Adapt 2030.

TERMINATOR NOW: The Rise Of The Machines And A Post-Human Future - Google Unleashes Robot Dog; Watch It Play With A Real Dog! [VIDEOS]

Photo: Google's robot dog "Spot" plays with a real dog.

March 1, 2016 - TECHNOLOGY - To be perfectly frank, we have very mixed emotions about the video you’re about to watch. Is this how it begins?

The robots trick us into letting our guard down by acting all cute and playful. Then the next thing you know, bam! Skynet becomes sentient and we’re battling real-life Terminators.

OK, maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves a bit. Instead of panicking, let’s all just sit back, relax, and watch this adorable video of Google’s robot dog “Spot” playing with a real dog.

Isn’t it cute? Aren’t they having so much fun together? Yup, this is exactly what the robots want…

All joking aside, this video is as incredible as it is adorable. Google’s “Spot” is a robotic dog that we’ve seen appear in a number of videos before.

This, however, is by far the greatest video we’ve ever seen of Spot. In fact, it might just be the greatest video of all time.

In the video, we can see Spot prancing around, doing what Spot does. But all the while, a real dog — a terrier who belongs to Android cofounder Andy Rubin — runs around barking and playing with Spot.

The flesh and blood pup is a bit tentative at times, but ultimately we think the two could end up being best friends.

Also, aside from the cuteness factor, watching a dog play with a robot is far more enjoyable than watching a bunch of humans abuse a robot.

WATCH: Fido vs Spot - Animal vs Robot.

WATCH: And here’s another new video of Spot walking around, checking out the parking lot.

- Yahoo.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - The Big Drop, The Most EX-BILLIONAIRES Since 2009!

March 1, 2016 - GLOBAL ECONOMY - THE COMMODITIES ROUT, equity-market mayhem and global economic uncertainty have all dented the wealth of a number of the world’s richest people. This past year, 221 billionaires got knocked off the FORBES Billionaires list; not since 2009—when the credit crisis exiled 355 from the three-comma club—have so many gone down in one year.

China tops the list with 42 dropoffs. The U.S. ranked second, with 25 new ex-billionaires. The other three members of the once-vaunted “BRICS” economies didn’t fare well, either: Brazil lost 23 billionaires, while 19 Russians and 15 from India got the boot.

Some well-known names among the 2016 drop-offs include J. Michael Pearson, the Canadian CEO of troubled drugmaker Valent Pharmaceuticals, who now has an estimated fortune of $480 million, less than half of what it was in 2015. Restated earnings and negative PR have hurt the market cap and reputation of pharmaceutical firm Valeant. But the real downward spiral started more recently, when the company admitted that the federal government has been investigating the company’s strategy of acquiring pharma companies and then drastically raising drug prices. In 2015, there were inquiries from the US Attorney’s Offices for Massachusetts and the Southern District of New York and also a budding investigation from Congress. This week the company admitted that the Securities and Exchange Commission is also investigating it. “The Company confirmed that it received a subpoena from the SEC in the fourth quarter of 2015 and, in the normal course, would have included this disclosure in its 2015 10-K. We do not have further detail to provide at this time,” a company spokesperson said this week. Pearson had been on medical leave with pneumonia from December until this week.

In the US, fashion designer Tory Burch slips from the billionaire ranks and now has an estimated fortune of $800 million. The value of top fashion labels like hers have taken a hit in the markets, in part due to dwindling demand from China, Russia and elsewhere. Still, her empire is in expansion mode, after having launched Tory Sport, a true-to-brand activewear line for the country club set, and a rebound in markets could return her in the ranks. Meanwhile, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, previously India’s only self-made female billionaire, is among the most notable casualties from January and February’s market turbulence. Shaw founded India’s largest publicly traded pharma firm, Biocon. Despite strong third quarter earnings and approval to sell its first generic drug in the European Union in February, the company’s stock price has followed the markets. It’s down 17% since January 2016.

Marc, Oliver and Alexander Samwer, the German brothers’ known for ripping off startup ideas with company Rocket Internet, have also fallen from the billionaire ranks. Each now has an estimated net worth of $870 million after the stock has dipped 53% since Rocket Internet’s 2014 IPO.

And for Jim Koch, the hangover is here: As beer’s booze-market share declines, the father of the American craft-suds movement—his Boston Beer makes Samuel Adams— sees his wealth decline by nearly 40% to $840 million.

Finally, in Brazil, Rubens Ometto Silveira Mello, who debuted on the FORBES Billionaires list in 2011 as the world’s first ethanol billionaire, is now merely a centimillionaire. His shareholdings in publicly traded Cosan, one of the world’s biggest sugar cane and ethanol producers, has not escaped the oil glut, which affected alternative fuels and additives, too: shares are down 62% from a year ago. He is one of many former and current billionaires whose pockets took big hits as commodity prices collapsed around the globe. - Forbes.

WORLD WAR Z: Plagues And Pestilences - Zika Virus Linked To Outbreak Of Deadly Guillain-Barré Neurological Disorder, New Study Reveals!

French scientists say they have proved a link between the Zika virus and a nerve syndrome called Guillain-Barre, suggesting countries hit by
the Zika epidemic will see a rise in cases of the serious neurological condition.

March 1, 2016 - HEALTH - A new study shows Zika may not only be to blame for birth defects leading to microcephaly, but may also trigger a dangerous neurological disorder, Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS).

The French study, published in The Lancet medical journal on Monday, follows Zika’s potential role in an outbreak of GBS in French Polynesia.

Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the nervous system in control of muscle strength. More than a quarter of patients require intensive care and assisted breathing, while the outcome is lethal in about five percent of cases.

The Zika outbreak in French Polynesia was at its height between October 2013 and April 2014, coinciding with an increase in reports of GBS cases. This prompted scientists to investigate a correlation between the two diseases.

“This is the first study providing evidence for Zika virus infection causing Guillain-Barré syndrome,” the research says.

With Zika virus warnings in place in 35 countries and territories around the world, according to the latest CDC data, scientists warn that healthcare facilities should prepare for a possible GBS outbreak as well.

"In areas that will be hit by the Zika epidemic, we need to think about reinforcing intensive care capacity," Arnaud Fontanet, co-author of the study and a professor at the Emerging Diseases Epidemiology Unit of the Institut Pasteur in Paris, told AFP.

Earlier this week France confirmed the first European case of the Zika virus transmitted through sexual contact.

Previously, Zika was seen as a mosquito-borne virus. It is suspected to be the cause of a sudden increase in cases of neonatal microcephaly, a severe deformation of the brain and skull among newborns that prevents full development of babies’ heads and, in some cases, can lead to mental development problems.

Almost 4,000 infants in Brazil have been born with microcephaly since October 2015, compared to 147 for the whole of 2014.

On February 1, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a public health emergency due to rising cases of microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome, even though the link to Zika remained circumstantial.

Last Friday the WHO once again drew attention to a link between Zika and GBS – a connection that now seems almost certain to exist.

“Evidence that neurological disorders, including microcephaly and GBS, are linked to Zika virus infection remains circumstantial, but a growing body of clinical and epidemiological data points towards a causal role for Zika virus.” - RT.

MONUMENTAL DISASTER ALERT: "Toxic Trespass" - Over 180 Infrared Videos Show Extent Of Methane Pollution Across The United States! [VIDEOS]

Infrared exposes invisible air pollution, Porter Ranch, CA© www.dailykos.com

March 1, 2016 - UNITED STATES - Just as the worst methane leak in California's history is sealed and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acknowledged that America pollutes much more methane than previously estimated, Earthworks—the group that filmed the videos revealing the scope of the methane disaster in Los Angeles County—released a map of 180+ infrared videos of oil and gas methane pollution events across the country.

The map, created with the help of FracTracker Alliance, includes two new videos that epitomize the national methane pollution problem. "In November of 2012, the voters in Longmont banned fracking to protect our health, safety and wellbeing, especially because of air pollution," said Kaye Fissinger, president of Our Longmont.

"The air we breathe in Longmont is still subject to 'toxic trespass' from extreme extraction in communities nearby. It's long past time for government to stop tinkering around the edges and genuinely address the ever-growing damage that fracking and drilling inflict."

WATCH: The first is of a well near Longmont, Colorado.

WATCH: The second one is of a massive pipeline blowdown in North Dakota's Bakken shale region.

"For the past eight years I have witnessed the rapid increase of oil and gas industrialization and the environmental destruction that comes with it," said Lisa DeVille of Dakota Resource Council and the Three Affiliated Tribes. "Finally we can see the air pollution that's all around us. We are concerned about the harmful health and environmental impacts of methane and other air pollutants released from well sites. This is an unmeasurable cost to tribal members on Ft. Berthold and those downwind. We value our health and our lands."

With more being added every month, the 180+ infrared videos—filmed starting in September 2014—expose otherwise invisible air pollution from oil and gas development. Earthworks uses a FLIR (Forward Looking InfraRed) GasFinder 320 camera that is specially calibrated to detect approximately 20 pollutants associated with oil and gas development including methane (a climate pollutant more than 80 times as powerful as carbon dioxide over 20 years), benzene (a known carcinogen) and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Earthworks ITC-certified thermographers have documented air pollution from wells, compressor stations, transmission infrastructure and storage facilities.

"After crisscrossing the country for more than a year collecting these videos, we've learned oil and gas air pollution is inevitably associated with oil and gas development," said Bruce Baizel, Earthworks energy program director. "These videos show we need strong state and federal rules for all new and and existing sources of this pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency in particular needs to propose rules covering existing pollution sources to accompany their proposal to cut pollution from new oil and gas facilities."

The map comes on the heels of the Bureau of Land Management's proposal to cut methane pollution from oil and gas development on public lands from new and existing sources. Late last year the U.S. EPA proposed rules to cut methane pollution from new and modified oil and gas facilities. If the EPA does not begin a new rulemaking to address existing sources of air pollution, communities living next to this invisible oil and gas pollution will be left to breathe dirty air. Earlier this week in a draft, the EPA revised its estimate of U.S. oil and gas methane pollution upward by more than 25 percent.

"Infrared videos allow us to see the magnitude of EPA's draft Greenhouse Gas Inventory revision in black and white. Oil and gas methane pollution is more severe than previously thought, and more widespread," said Lauren Pagel, Earthworks' policy director. "We need EPA to step up and set standards for oil and gas climate pollution from all facilities. But frankly the best way to eliminate this pollution is to keep dirty fossil fuels in the ground." - Ecowatch.

WORLD WAR Z: Plagues And Pestilences - The Zika Virus Is Expected To Infect 1 In 5 Puerto Ricans, Raising Threat To The Rest Of The United States!

Cases of the virus are expected to rise on the island in coming months. And that raises the likelihood of transfer to the mainland.

March 1, 2016 - PUERTO RICO - Zika has landed forcefully in America, in one of its poorest and most vulnerable corners, a debt-ridden territory lacking a functioning health-care system, window screens and even a spray that works against the mosquitoes spreading the virus in homes, workplaces, schools and parks.

There are 117 confirmed cases of the virus in Puerto Rico, four times the number at the end of January. The island territory, which has a population of 3.5 million people, is “by far the most affected area” in the United States, Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said Friday. The number will almost certainly rise sharply in coming weeks, making it ever more likely that the virus will spread to the continental United States.

Dozens of flights move daily between San Juan and Orlando, Washington, New York and other major cities on the mainland. Cruise ships stop here as part of their Caribbean tours. College students will soon head here on spring break.

The growing outbreak has laid bare how deeply Puerto Rico’s debt crisis has cut public programs, including basic health and environmental control services needed to fight the virus. Most homes and public schools — and even some medical facilities — don’t have window screens. A specialist in birth defects at Puerto Rico’s top hospital has trouble obtaining basic supplies, such as toner for his office printer. There are hundreds of abandoned houses — not only in low- and middle-income neighborhoods but also in gated communities — because owners have fled to the mainland as a result of the economic crisis.

At dusk, health department workers spray permethrin in the middle-class neighborhood of Riveras de Cupey in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The government is beefing
up anti-mosquito measures as the Zika virus spreads through the island. (Allison Shelley for The Washington Post)

Experts say urgent action is needed before mosquitoes reach their peak with the start of the rainy season in April. Experts from the CDC estimate that 700,000 people — about 20 percent of the population — could be infected across the island by the end of the year, based on previous outbreaks of dengue and chikungunya, related viral diseases.

In response, the CDC has sent 30 experts from its Atlanta headquarters and elsewhere to Puerto Rico, adding to the 70 CDC staff members based here who usually work on dengue fever but now are focusing on Zika. Frieden is expected to visit soon. President Obama’s $1.9 billion emergency Zika request to Congress includes $250 million for Puerto Rico.

“I don’t think we’re going to be able to stop the Zika outbreak,” said Steve Waterman, chief of the CDC’s dengue branch, located on the city’s west side. “There will be a substantial Zika outbreak that will peak in the summer and fall. It’s likely that thousands of pregnant women will be exposed and infected, so that’s why our efforts are focused on protecting as many pregnant women as possible.”
Five of the 117 confirmed cases involve pregnant women. And unlike in the continental United

States, where cases are the result of infected travelers to Latin America and elsewhere bringing the virus back home, almost all the cases in Puerto Rico involve people bitten here by infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which also spreads dengue fever and chikungunya.
Because of the suspected link between Zika and potentially devastating birth defects, authorities are focusing on protecting as many pregnant women as possible. That includes 4,000 expectant mothers living in parts of the island where mosquitoes are spreading the virus. That’s more than one-third of Puerto Rico — primarily San Juan, the northeast and the southern coast.

Only the CDC and Puerto Rico’s health department labs can perform the special Zika testing. The labs expect to run 100,000 tests over the year for pregnant women, five times as many as they handle now, Waterman said. Determining whether someone is infected is complicated because most people don’t show symptoms. It’s also hard for tests to easily differentiate between dengue and Zika infections.

On Monday, authorities in Puerto Rico began distributing free Zika prevention kits to pregnant women that were created by the CDC and the CDC Foundation. The kits include information and tools to help them reduce risk of infection and include repellent, products that kill mosquito larvae, and condoms.

Mosquitoes have ample breeding grounds here. In the Villa Palmeras cemetery in barrio Obrero, a low-income neighborhood in northeastern San Juan, virtually all of the thousands of graves have built-in flower stands where water, and mosquito larvae, collect. There are 109 cemeteries across Puerto Rico and thousands of flower holders.

Mosquito larvae also flourish underground, in water meters and vent pipes of septic tanks, which contain more water than elsewhere in the United States, said Roberto Barrera, a CDC entomologist.

And then there are the mountains of used tires, which mosquitoes flock to, said Johnny Rullan, a former health secretary who is helping the government eliminate breeding sites. Puerto Rico has accumulated more used tires than anywhere else in the United States, experts said. In the past three weeks, temporary collection centers have received more than 561,000 tires.

Elwin Moran, 26, helps pile used tires at a former shoe factory in Humacao, Puerto Rico. The Humacao environmental board is
collecting abandoned tires from neighborhoods. (Allison Shelley for The Washington Post)

‘Part of living on the island’
Perhaps the most difficult challenge is changing people’s attitudes and behavior about an ever-present pest that is as much a part of life here as steamy weather and graceful old banyan trees.
“What can I say, it’s part of living on the island,” said José Fernandez, a supervisor at a tire collection center in Humacao, in the southeast.

Emeris Canales Morales, 27, a single mother who is 23 weeks pregnant, lives in a home that overlooks a small cemetery on one side and a fetid canal on the other. Plastic bottles and other trash collect along the banks of the canal. Her windows have no screens. In December, the mosquitoes were biting so hard that she woke up with red welts covering her arms.

At a prenatal clinic for high-risk pregnancies at San Juan’s University Hospital at the Puerto Rico Medical Center, she was among the first to sign up for free Zika screening for women in their first and second trimesters.

Tourists visit two of Puerto Rico’s most famous landmarks — Fort San Felipe del Morro fortress and Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis cemetery.
Mosquitoes thrive in wet conditions, such as cemeteries. (Allison Shelley for The Washington Post)

She won’t know the results for at least another week. Her first two pregnancies ended in miscarriages because of complications from diabetes. She is hoping for the best this time.

“I haven’t had the fever or the red eyes or the rash,” said Canales, who lives in Loiza, a northeast community that is one of the island’s poorest areas.

But even for pregnant women, it’s hard to stay vigilant against the mosquito.

“When there was chikungunya, we joked about it until everyone had it,” she said. “Until people have the sickness, nobody in Loiza will take it seriously.”

Said Brenda Rivera, chief epidemiologist for Puerto Rico’s health department: “Controlling Zika is going to be a daunting task.” The department is coordinating the island’s response to the public health emergency.

Entomologist Roberto Barrea examines materials at a lab where his team breeds thousands of mosquitoes for research at the CDC’s dengue branch in San Juan.
(Allison Shelley for The Washington Post)

Poor and unprepared
Women in Puerto Rico give birth to about 33,000 babies a year. The island has one of the highest teenage birth rates in the United States, and many public high schools have no window screens. The government is estimating how much it would cost to add screens, said Grace Santana, chief of staff to Gov. Alejandro Javier García Padilla.

Nearly half of Puerto Rico lives below the poverty line. The thousands of pastel-hued public housing projects that dot the island don’t have air conditioning. Residents don’t have window screens, in part because they can’t afford them, but also because they don’t want to block the breeze. Adding screens to those homes would cost about $70 million, said Santana.

At dusk on a recent day, a maroon pickup truck drove through the streets in the middle-class neighborhood of Riveras de Cupey, in San Juan’s south, spraying permethrin, a commonly used insecticide, from a machine mounted on the back.

But Aedes aegypti mosquitoes already have developed resistance to permethrin in some parts of Puerto Rico, said Audrey Lenhart, a CDC research entomologist. She is testing which insecticides are most effective, something that was never done before.

“The Puerto Rican government doesn’t really have a well-developed vector control and surveillance program,” she said, referring to basic programs to eliminate insects, birds and other vectors that transmit disease.

CDC teams are helping authorities rebuild mosquito control programs, expand testing, and monitor and track thousands of pregnant women and their babies. They also are working with U.S. companies to provide window screens for women’s homes, and to bring to market a CDC-invented trap that could be a potent and cheap way to snare and kill adult mosquitoes.

For doctors such as Alberto De La Vega, an expert in high-risk pregnancies at the University Hospital in San Juan, Zika is one of many serious concerns. He worries that additional Zika testing will create huge demands on an already burdened health system.

“We’re having problems getting supplies, but we have to uphold U.S. standards,” he said. He has modern ultrasound equipment, but he pays out of his own pocket for the paper sheets that cover exam room beds.

He tells his patients they need to remove standing water and wear repellent.

“What we can do as physicians is very little,” he said. “By the time we identify problems with the fetus, it’s usually well into the second trimester, and by then it’s too late.”

‘I’m going to have the baby’
The new mystery disease has infected Zulmarys Molina Paredes, 29. She’s one of the five pregnant women with a confirmed Zika diagnosis. But at 16 weeks in her pregnancy, an ultrasound shows her baby developing normally.

Molina and her 2-year-old son, Marco, live in Humacao in a peach-colored public housing project with her mother, aunt and brother. She is the sole breadwinner. She thinks she became infected at the private university where she works as an admissions officer, during tours of the campus. The campus has an artificial lake surrounded by trees full of mosquitoes.

Her headaches began Feb. 5. The following Monday, she looked in the mirror and was stunned.

“I was starting to put on my makeup and realized I was covered in a rash,” she said. “I got really scared.”

The emergency room doctor sent Molina’s blood to be tested. Nine days later, she was told her test was positive for Zika. But the doctor also said scientists didn’t know how often women with Zika infections have babies with birth defects such as microcephaly, where they are born with abnormally small heads.

Given the uncertainty, she is choosing to believe — and to pray — that everything will be fine. An amniocentesis is scheduled for next week. More ultrasounds will follow.

“I don’t care what happens. I’m going to have the baby,” Molina said. “I have faith that she’s going to be fine.” Her due date is Aug. 6. She will name her daughter Michaela. - Washington Post.

ICE AGE NOW: Global Cooling Continues Relentlessly - Winter Storm Quo Brings a Snowy Start To March In The Midwest And Northeast!

Tire tracks blaze the trail on an empty, snow-covered street in St. Louis, Mo., on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016. Winter weather warnings from the National Weather Service
stretched southwest through all of Illinois and into Missouri, where several inches of snow had fallen by early morning, leading to school closures and downing power lines.
(Cristina Fletes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

March 1, 2016 - UNITED STATES - Winter Storm Quo is welcoming the month of March with fresh snow, and even some ice, from the Upper Midwest to northern New England.

Winter storm warnings are in effect in parts of Lower Michigan, far upstate New York and northern Maine, where the heaviest additional snow will fall.

As of early Tuesday morning, snowfall totals have been less than 6 inches from eastern South Dakota to Michigan. Luverne, Minnesota, reported 5 inches of snow, while Kalamazoo, Michigan, picked up 3 inches. A mix of freezing rain, sleet and snow fell in Chicago.

Current Radar

Winter weather alerts from the National Weather Service.

Winter weather advisories stretch from parts of Iowa to central Massachusetts to coastal Maine not only for lighter snowfall, but also for a potential mix with sleet or freezing rain.
The warm side of Winter Storm Quo will bring a threat of thunderstorms, some of which could be severe, to parts of the South. For more on that story, click here.

Below is a look at the timing for Winter Storm Quo and the snowfall forecast.

Winter Storm Quo Timing

Low pressure at the surface of the earth will organize along an arctic frontal boundary while strengthening, as it sweeps from Missouri Tuesday morning to northern New England Wednesday.

Moisture from the Gulf of Mexico will be pumped in and over the cold air at the surface, wringing out some snow and even, potentially, a little freezing rain or sleet along the path of that low.

Winter Storm Quo does not appear to be a major snowstorm with the potential to dump over a foot of snow over a widespread area. That said, the combination of snow and ice will impact travel in the Great Lakes and interior Northeast the next couple of days.

  • Snow will taper off in the Upper Mississippi Valley by midday, but continue Michigan and develop in northern Indiana and northwest Ohio. 
  • Increasing winds in the Great Lakes may lead to areas of blowing snow and reduced visibility.
  • Air and road travel will be affected in the region, with flight delays likely at Chicago O'Hare
  • A narrow zone of mixed precipitation, including some ice, may affect parts of eastern Iowa, northern Illinois, northern Indiana, southern Michigan and northern Ohio, leading to slippery travel conditions.

Forecast high temperatures and weather conditions for Tuesday, March 1, 2016.

Tuesday Night - Wednesday
  • Tuesday Night: Accumulating snow and a wintry mix spreads across portions of western and upstate New York into northern New England, including Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Precipitation may start as sleet or freezing rain, before changing to rain farther south in parts of Massachusetts. Rain may change to snow in the Ohio Valley and the Appalachians. Snow also continues in Lower Michigan, northern Ohio and parts of Indiana before ending from west to east before sunrise.
  • Wednesday: Snow and a wintry mix continue in parts of northern New England, particularly in Maine, ending by evening. Snow may continue in the Appalachians, western, central and upstate New York.

Forecast low temperatures and weather conditions for Tuesday night.

Forecast high temperatures and weather conditions for Wednesday.

Winter Storm Quo Snowfall Forecast

  • Snowfall Forecast: The heaviest snowfall accumulations, in excess of 6 inches, are expected across an east-west swath of Lower Michigan, far upstate New York in the St. Lawrence Valley, and far northern Maine. Most other locations along the path of Quo will generally see snowfall totals of 6 inches or less from the Upper Mississippi Valley to northern New England.
  • Ice Accumulation Forecast: Light ice accumulations are possible from northern Illinois to northern New England. Though the amount of ice accumulation is expected to remain low in most areas, we will still see slippery travel conditions, particularly on bridges and overpasses. No widespread areas of tree limb damage or power outages is expected.

Forecast snowfall through Wednesday from the early week storm.

A narrow strip from the Midwest to New England will see light icing.

- Weather.

GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS: Vietnam Hit By The Worst Drought In 90 YEARS - Scientists Blame The Ongoing 2015-2016 El Nino Weather Phenomenon!

Drought in Vietnam

March 1, 2016 - VIETNAM - Vietnam is suffering its worst drought in nearly a century with salinisation hitting farmers especially hard in the crucial southern Mekong delta, experts said Monday (Mar 1).

"The water level of the Mekong River has gone down to its lowest level since 1926, leading to the worst drought and salinisation there," Nguyen Van Tinh, deputy head of the hydraulics department under the Ministry of Agriculture, told AFP.

The low-lying and heavily cultivated Mekong region is home to more than 20 million people and is the country's rice basket. Intensive cultivation and rising sea levels already make it one of the world's most ecologically sensitive regions.

Scientists blame the ongoing 2015-2016 El Nino weather phenomenon, one of the most powerful on record, for the current drought.

Water shortages have also hampered agriculture in nearby Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.

Le Anh Tuan, a professor of climate change at the University of Can Tho in the heart of the Mekong region, said as much as 40-50 percent of the 2.2 million hectares (5.4 million acres) of arable land in the delta had been hit by salinisation.

"We do not have any specific measures to mitigate the situation," Tuan told AFP, adding that residents had been urged to save water for domestic rather than agricultural use.

Vietnam's communist rulers have announced US$3.8 million of financial assistance for affected areas.

The nation is the world's second largest exporter of rice and coffee, two crops that are particularly vulnerable to drought. Severe cold and drought hit Vietnam's lucrative coffee industry in 2013 and 2014.

Vietnam's rice yields have nearly quadrupled since the 1970s, official figures show, thanks to high-yield strains and the construction of a network of dykes that today allow farmers to grow up to three crops per year. - Channel News Asia.

MONUMENTAL DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Major Emergency Drills In The United States And Europe - 6,000 Emergency And Military Personnel To Conduct Pacific Northwest Mega-Quake Exercise; And Over 1,000 Actors Participate In Europe's Biggest Emergency Response Drill!

March 1, 2016 - UNITED STATES / EUROPE - Derailed trains, screaming passengers and a collapsed building – all elaborate props in Europe’s largest emergency simulation exercise held in Kent on Monday, and Sunday's 15th anniversary of the Nisqually quake finds FEMA preparing for a June exercise to simulate a much more powerful megaquake and tsunami.

‘Chillingly realistic!’ 1,000 actors participate in Europe’s biggest emergency response drill

The staged scenario was carried out to prepare Britain’s emergency services for a potential large-scale operation.

The £800,000, four-day Exercise Unified Response was coordinated by the London Fire Brigade and funded by the European Union.
Some 4,000 people took part in the exercise, including 1,000 actors who played injured or killed rail users.

WATCH: #Unified Response.

Although the exercise was made up to look like Waterloo Station in London, the staged catastrophe actually took place near Dartford.

An entire tube station was recreated for the drill and then “destroyed” in a disused power station to recreate a tower block collapsing into a station.

Emergency services worked alongside more than 70 partner agencies for the exercise, including local councils, utility companies and specialist search and rescue teams. Disaster victim identification (DVI) teams from around the UK also joined the operation alongside forensic specialists.

London Fire Brigade commissioner Ron Dobson said the scenario had to be “realistic.”

“We needed to create a realistic scenario, there’s hundreds of thousands of tons of rubble.

“The idea is there’s been the collapse of a high-rise building above Waterloo station that’s gone down into the station itself [and] caused some collapse in the tunnels, there are some Underground trains caught up in it and people trapped.

“There’s lot of other hazards down there we need to be careful of,” he added.

Participants in the exercise, which continues until Thursday, said the drill was a success on social media.

Chief Constable Debbie Simpson, of the National Police Chiefs, said it’s rare to test emergency services on such a large scale.

“Victim identification is never a pleasant subject to discuss but it is unfortunately a reality. When disaster strikes families need to be confident that the authorities are doing everything they can to identify their loved ones in a dignified and respectful way, whilst supporting any criminal investigation,” she said.

WATCH: UK holds largest 'train crash' drill, 2k people involved.

“Importantly this process cannot be hurried. As frustrating as this can sometimes be, especially in a world of fast paced mainstream and social media, we have to be meticulous in our approach to ensure we achieve reliable scientific identification.

“It’s not often we get to test working practices on such a scale and it’s really positive to see so many of our European colleagues involved. Effective evaluation and debriefing will help highlight good practice and any areas for development.” - RT.

6,000 emergency and military personnel to conduct Pacific North West megaquake exercise

The last damaging earthquake in Washington struck 15 years ago, on Feb. 28, 2001.

The next one is scheduled for June 7.

The ground isn't expected to actually shake this spring. But nearly 6,000 emergency and military personnel will pretend it is during a four-day exercise to test response to a seismic event that will dwarf the 2001 Nisqually quake: A Cascadia megaquake and tsunami.

Called "Cascadia Rising," the exercise will be the biggest ever conducted in the Pacific Northwest. Which is fitting, because a rupture on the offshore fault called the Cascadia Subduction Zone could be the biggest natural disaster in U.S. history.

"It's really going to require the entire nation to respond to an event like this," said Kenneth Murphy, regional director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is coordinating the exercise.

While the Nisqually earthquake measured magnitude 6.8, a Cascadia megaquake is likely to hit magnitude 9 — which is nearly 2,000 times more powerful. It will affect the entire West Coast from British Columbia to Northern California, including Seattle, Portland, Tacoma and Vancouver, B.C. The quake will be closely followed by tsunamis 30 feet high — or bigger — that will slam into oceanfront communities.

The damage and casualty estimates in FEMA's quake scenario are sobering:

- More than 10,000 fatalities, mostly due to the tsunami

- 30,000 injuries

- 7,000 highway bridges and 16,000 miles of highway with high to moderate levels of damage

- 90 percent of port facilities destroyed or damaged

- Natural-gas and refined-fuel pipelines out of service

- 70 percent of electrical power systems damaged

- Serious damage to water-treatment and sewage plants

"For this scenario, we felt we really had to get all the experts in the room and use the best modeling and research that exists," said Scott Zaffram, FEMA training and exercises branch chief. But the estimates are just that, he cautioned. The number of deaths, for example, would be much lower if the quake struck at 2 a.m. in January than at noon on a summer's day when beaches are crowded.

During the Cascadia Rising exercise, emergency managers will do their best to deal with the theoretical catastrophe, with the goal of identifying problems and improving response when the real thing happens.

"We're going to learn something at every level of government ... that will help us figure out better ways to plan for this," Murphy said.

The drill will be conducted mostly at the tabletop level. Workers will staff their posts at emergency-operations centers across Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia, fielding simulated damage reports, responding to calls for help, coping with power outages and tracking down resources and rescuers.

Phone and Internet services are expected to be knocked out, so teams will practice communicating via satellite phone and emergency radio frequencies.

In Grays Harbor County on the Washington coast, where many towns are in the tsunami inundation zone and ground shaking is expected to be fierce, emergency manager Chuck Wallace has recruited local ham-radio operators to participate.

"They have radios in their trucks," he said. "They can hook up to a car battery and they're rolling, so we should be able to get reconnaissance information from them."

Wallace encouraged organizers to add aftershocks and multiple tsunami surges to the exercise scenario, to make it as realistic as possible. He and his staff are also prepared to consider some grim possibilities, such as a tsunami that completely overtops the cities of Ocean Shores and Westport, killing all public officials.

At the state level, Murphy is challenging elected officials and emergency managers to ask similarly tough questions. "If you have every county in Washington damaged, who gets what first?" he asked.

Several military units will conduct field exercises in conjunction with Cascadia Rising. More than 1,500 members of Washington's National Guard will set up tactical operations centers, dispatch search and rescue teams, and move supplies, said spokeswoman Karina Shagren.

At least one naval vessel will respond as if to a real disaster, establishing an emergency dock and transporting cargo, equipment and personnel.

The participation of so many state and local governments, agencies and military units is important because the quake and tsunami will affect such a large area, said Jim Mullen, former director of the Washington State Emergency Management Division.

Eastern Washington and Idaho won't experience much, if any quake damage, but they will be key for relocating refugees, treating victims, and transporting supplies.

Mullen cautioned against the tendency of agencies and organizations to "paper over" their failings in exercises like these. "Identifying gaps is good," he said. "That means you found something we're not good at — but now we can fix it."

And even though the Cascadia Rising exercise is focused on the immediate response to the disaster, officials should also use it as a springboard for discussions about long-term recovery and efforts to get the region's economy back on track, Mullen said.

The last Cascadia megaquake and tsunami occurred in the year 1700. Estimates of average recurrence intervals vary from 250 to 500 years — but geologists say there's no doubt the fault will rupture again some day.

Those who weathered the Nisqually quake shouldn't count on such a mild ride the next time around, Wallace said.

"A Cascadia quake is very different," he said. "We can't afford to become complacent." - Seattle Times.