Tuesday, February 1, 2011

2nd Coal Mine explosion in 6 DAYS - Colombia 2nd Feb. 2011

A gas explosion ripped through a mine in Colombia Tuesday, killing five workers and injuring a sixth, days after the government promised a safety overhaul following a string of similar tragedies. The methane blast occurred at around 1245 GMT at La Escondida coal mine in the central province of Cundinamarca, a spokesman from the state Institute of Geology and Mining said.

The sixth miner was being treated in hospital, the spokesman said, but the extent of his injuries was not immediately known. No other workers were in the mine at the time of the blast, the official added.

President Juan Manuel Santos cut short a trip to Europe last week to be at the side of the victims of an earlier blast last Wednesday that left 21 workers dead at a coal mine in the northeast of the country. Santos, before returning from the summit in Switzerland, described the accident as a tragedy that should never have happened. "We must massively reinforce mine safety measures," he told reporters. "For that reason, when I return, I am going to give instructions for a detailed review of all the regulations and their enforcement."

Mines Minister Carlos Rodado pointed to a glaring lack of resources and said the government must radically rethink its oversight of the industry. "We need to bolster human, technical and financial resources because we only have 16 people to monitor the 3,000 thousand mines currently being operated and the 3,000 others in exploration," Rodado said. Source..

Russia loses contact with newly launched satellite

Russia's top military and space official launched a search Tuesday for a missing military satellite that apparently was put into the wrong orbit shortly after its launch.

The Russian defence ministry confirmed that it had lost sight of the craft -- a dual-use vessel that can draw a three-dimensional map of the Earth and locate the precise positions of various targets. The incident came just a month after President Dmitry Medvedev sacked two top space officials for a similar setback and delivered another humiliating blow to Russia's much-maligned space industry.

The seriousness of the situation was underscored late Tuesday by reports that the defence ministry had set up an urgent joint task force with the Russia's space agency to look for the missing craft. The Geo-IK-2 satellite was created in Russia to help the military survey land and create a detailed three-dimensional map of the Earth. It was designed to spin in a circular orbit 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) above ground. But news reports said that the satellite had been put in an an elliptical orbit whose lowest point brought it to within 330 kilometres of Earth.

"We have still not been able to establish contact with the craft, and it looks like most likely, it will be declared lost," a Russian space source said. "The spacecraft will not be able to perform its intended functions at these orbit characteristics," another space official told the news agency.

Reports pointed the initial blame for the failure on the satellite's Briz-KM upper stage rocket. The satellite's launch had already been delayed from December because of technical malfunctions that were detected at its northern Russian launch site in Plesetsk. Tuesday's malfunction came less than five weeks after Medvedev fired two top space officials and reprimanded the space agency chief for a launch failure caused Russia to delay the deployment of its own navigation system.

Russia's Proton-M rocket had on that occasion proven too heavy to reach its initial orbit and had been forced to dump its three high-tech Glonass-M satellites near the Hawaii Islands. Investigators said that accident was caused by a basic fuel miscalculation that made the craft too heavy to reach its required height. The three Glonass satellites would have completed a system whose research had been started by the Soviet Union in 1976. Source...

Ice, snow wreaks havoc from Texas to New England

ST. LOUIS – Layers of dangerous ice and blowing snow closed roads and airports from Texas to Rhode Island on Tuesday as a monster storm began bearing down on the nation and those in its frigid path started to believe it would live up to its hype.

The storm's more than 2,000-mile reach threatened to leave about a third of the nation covered in a hodge-podge of harsh weather. Ice fell first and was expected to be followed by up to two feet of snow in some places. Storm-battered New England towns feared they wouldn't have anywhere to put it.

Making matters worse was the expectation of brutal cold and winds gusting to near 60 mph.

As truck driver David Peck waited outside to deliver food to a Missouri restaurant whose owners were nowhere to be seen, he implored his boss on the other end of the phone to shut down the route.

"By the time I go to Columbia, all hell broke loose," said Peck, 51.

"I've already fell once, right on my back," he said, stranding atop an ice- and snow-covered ramp propped on the back of his truck. "There was black ice underneath the snow."

Snow and ice fell to varying degrees from Colorado to Maine, tornadoes were possible in the South, and the weather disrupted the lives of millions. Multiple airports were at least temporarily shut down due to ice, including in Dallas — the destination for thousands trying to get to Sunday's Super Bowl. Read More...

1 Month later, more dead Drum Fish in Arkansas

(Ozark, AR) -- Another freshwater drum kill has been reported on the Arkansas River near Ozark Lock and Dam.

The latest was reported January 28th, the state Game and Fish Commission confirmed today.

Unlike a kill in late December -- where more than 83,000 dead and dying fish were spotted on the river's surface -- the latest amounted to fewer than 500 fish, officials say.

After numerous tests were performed on fish from the December kill, no cause could be found.

Although the recent kill was much smaller, the commission said it's conducting further testing on fish from the latest kill to pinpoint the source.

Officials say histology and bacterial culture results should be available by the end of the week.
Source..

'Monster' Storm Bears Down On Australia

A large area of northern Australia is preparing for what could be one the of the biggest cyclones ever to hit the country.

Cyclone Yasi is 500km wide and bearing down on the state of Queensland, which has already suffered from devastating floods.

The state premier, Anna Bligh, has described it as a "monster, killer storm" and she predicted deadly surges inland.

It is likely to cross the coast sometime late on Wednesday local time - and could hit anywhere along a 400-mile stretch between Cairns and Bowen.

It already is a Category 3 cyclone, and is likely to intensify to a Category 4, with gusts of wind expected to reach 160mph.

Airlines are laying on extra flights to get people out of the area, especially tourists with nowhere else to go.

But the storm is so wide that finding somewhere safe to move to will be difficult for tens of thousands of people. Read More...

America planning Internet "kill switch" like what was used in Egypt

Legislation granting the president internet-killing powers is to be re-introduced soon to a Senate committee, the proposal’s chief sponsor told Wired.com on Friday.

The resurgence of the so-called “kill switch” legislation came the same day Egyptians faced an internet blackout designed to counter massive demonstrations in that country.

The bill, which has bipartisan support, is being floated by Sen. Susan Collins, the Republican ranking member on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The proposed legislation, which Collins said would not give the president the same power Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak is exercising to quell dissent, sailed through the Homeland Security Committee in December but expired with the new Congress weeks later.

The bill is designed to protect against “significant” cyber threats before they cause damage, Collins said.

Source

"Egyptian financial crisis looms" - Possible bank runs

Economists are warning that if Egypt's turmoil continues much longer, the country will not have enough currency reserves to avoid a long term financial crisis.

Currency traders said on Monday that investors have transferred hundreds of millions of dollars out of the country since the start of the protests six days ago.

Banks are still closed throughout Egypt and markets are suspended. Many fear that once they open, millions of dollars will be withdrawn additionally.

The government had $36bn in foreign reserves at the end of December, central bank figures showed, which suggest there is no immediate danger of a balance of payments crisis, however; scenes of chaos at Cairo's main airport, as both foreigners and Egyptians try to get flights out of the country, indicated outflows of money could reach damaging levels over the medium term.

Source

Bio-robots: The spy weapons you haven't heard about

WikiLeaks: Britain secretly advised Libya how to secure release of Lockerbie bomber


A Foreign Office minister sent Libyan officials detailed legal advice on how to use Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s cancer diagnosis to ensure he was released from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds.

The Duke of York is also said to have played a behind-the-scenes role in encouraging the terrorist’s release.

The Libyans closely followed the advice which led to the controversial release of Megrahi – who was convicted of the murder of 270 passengers on Pan Am Flight 103 – within months of the Foreign Office’s secret intervention.

The disclosure seriously undermines British Government claims that is was not complicit in the release of al-Megrahi, and that the decision to free the convicted terrorist was taken by the Scottish Executive alone.

Source

Liam Fox: Iran could have nuclear weapons next year

In the House of Commons, Dr Fox was asked about the assessment of Meir Dagan, the former Israeli intelligence chief, that Iran will be unable to develop a working nuclear weapon until 2015.

Dr Fox, a hawk who has repeatedly raised public concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme, told MPs that he thought Mr Dagan’s assessment could be too optimistic.

Instead, the West should plan on the basis that Tehran is much closer to developing a working nuclear weapon, he said.

“We know from previous experience, not least from what happened in North Korea, that the international community can be caught out, assuming that things are more rosy than they are,” Dr Fox said.

Source