Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Fukushima: Smoke pouring from reactor three captured on TBS-JNN camera feed


The Coming Crisis is continuing to investigate this situation and will post more information as it comes in. It is not certain whether this smoke is hazardous to anyone's health, but caution should be exercised if weather is indeed blowing this smoke and any radioactive materials it may contain towards Tokyo.

If you are in Japan and have more information on this situation, please email us at thecomingcrisis@gmail.com so that we can post an update.

3.1 Magnitude Earthquake UTAH - 29th Feb 2012

A magnitude 3.1 earthquake has struck Utah at a depth of just 0.1 km (0 miles Poorly Constrained), the quake hit at 22:36:22 UTC Wednesday 29th February 2012
The epicenter was 22 km (14 miles) NNW from Ivins, Utah
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

5.4 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 29th Feb 2012

A magnitude 5.4 earthquake has struck near the East Coast of Honshu, Japan at a depth of 54.3 km (33.7 miles), the quake hit at 22:32:33 UTC Wednesday 29th February 2012
The epicenter was 10 km (6.2 miles) North from Mito, Honshu, Japan
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

3.0 Magnitude Earthquake OKLAHOMA - 29th Feb 2012

A magnitude 3.0 earthquake has struck Oklahoma at a depth of 4.6 km (2.9 miles), the quake hit at 22:20:43 UTC Wednesday 29th February 2012
The epicenter was 37 km (22 miles) Southeast of Guthrie, Oklahoma
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake VANUATU - 29th Feb 2012

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck Vanuatu at a depth of 11.7 km (7.3 miles), the quake hit at 21:59:38 UTC Wednesday 29th February 2012
The epicenter was 102 km (63 miles) West of PORT-VILA, Vanuatu
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.4 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTHWESTERN SIBERIA, RUSSIA - 29th Feb 2012

A magnitude 4.4 earthquake has struck Southwestern Siberia, Russia at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles), the quake hit at 20:53:53 UTC Wednesday 29th February 2012
The epicenter was 33 km (20.4 miles) East of Saryg-sep, Siberia, Russia
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake BANDA SEA, INDONESIA - 29th Feb 2012

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck the Banda Sea, Indonesia at a depth of 40 km (24 miles), the quake hit at 20:44:35 UTC Wednesday 29th February 2012
The epicenter was 275 km (170.5 miles) West of Tual, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTHWESTERN SIBERIA, RUSSIA - 29th Feb 2012

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake has struck Southwestern Siberia, Russia at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles), the quake hit at 20:19:37 UTC Wednesday 29th February 2012
The epicenter was 44 km (26.4 miles) East of Saryg-sep, Siberia, Russia
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

7 killed as Tornado slashes central U.S.



(CNN) -- A storm system that produced a number of tornadoes in the Midwest was blamed for at least seven deaths in two states, officials said Wednesday.

At least three people were killed when a tornado touched down in Harrisburg, Illinois, early Wednesday, the Saline County Sheriff's Office said. About 100 others were injured.

The number of fatalities in Harrisburg could rise, the city's mayor said, in the wake of the twister that appeared to have been on the ground for several miles, said the city's mayor, Eric Gregg. The path of destruction was about three or four football fields wide, he said. Read More

U.S. military's plans for Syria

Helicopters fire on Syrians as attacks intensify: Activists



(CNN) -- Helicopter gunships fired on civilians Wednesday in the besieged neighborhood of Baba Amr as Syria's intensifying campaign triggered fears among residents that a full-fledged ground invasion could be imminent, opposition activists said.

Baba Amr, in the opposition stronghold of Homs, was also under its heaviest shelling yet and ground troops advanced in al Hakura, an old part of that neighborhood.

While helicopters had flown over the area in previous days, Wednesday marked the first time they fired at people on the ground, opposition activists in Baba Amr said.

Violent clashes between the regime's army and the opposition's Free Syrian Army lasted hours, opposition activists said. Read More

Putin vies to lead a changed Russia

Moscow (CNN) -- On December 10 last year a huge crowd rallied in Moscow. The people were fired up about alleged election fraud and fed up with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. It was unprecedented in the country's post-Soviet history. Unthinkable in Putin's Russia.

It inspired predictions of a Russian Winter to rival the Arab Spring. Now three months, and several huge opposition rallies later, Putin looks certain to be elected president again. So what happened?

The big protests were ultimately triggered by claims that widespread cheating boosted the results for Putin's United Russia party in December's parliamentary election -- claims the Kremlin denied. But there were other factors. Putin's announcement three months earlier that he would bump Dmitry Medvedev and seek the presidency again for himself was a key moment.

It wasn't a total surprise. Many had long suspected that Medvedev was just a seat warmer, helping the real boss work around the constitution and its limit of two consecutive presidential terms. But there was also hope Medvedev, who is considered a reformer, would find the fire in his belly to openly fight for the top job. It was a naive hope. Read More

Second Cheung Chau bird flu scare in days (a small island 10 km southwest of Hong Kong Island)

A dead oriental magpie robin, which was found in Cheung Chau, has tested positive for the H5 bird flu virus in preliminary checks, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said yesterday.
This is the second bird of the species found with the H5 virus on the island within two days this month.

In the latest incident, the robin, which is common to Hong Kong, was found and collected at Hok Loo Lane. The department is now conducting further confirmatory tests to check if the virus is the deadly H5N1.

A dead oriental magpie robin was found on the rooftop of a building on Hing Lung Back Street in Cheung Chau on Saturday.

Testing also revealed H5 and confirmatory test results are pending.

"It is not a huge surprise that the two birds of the same species were found dead in Cheung Chau within two days, especially in winter," said Billy Hau Chi-hang, University of Hong Kong assistant professor in biodiversity and conservation.

"One bird may come in contact with another which has already contracted the H5 avian influenza virus."

The department also announced on Tuesday that a crested goshawk, which is not common to Hong Kong, also tested positive for H5. Read More

Whale carcass left to rot on Digby beach

A whale continues to rot on a Nova Scotia beach as officials say it's best to let nature take its course with the giant carcass.

Paul Gidney found the whale at Sandy Cove Beach on Digby Neck two weeks ago.

"The whale is whitish brown," he said. "It's 19 feet, six inches long. The whale is well decomposed. It's obviously been floating around for a while."

He said birds continue to eat the whale, which is slowly rotting in the cold temperatures. He said on two previous occasions, crews have dug holes in the beach and buried dead whales.

"They need to do something with it," he said. Read More

Dead grey seals found on Hay Island

SYDNEY — An opponent of the Canadian seal hunt says she saw at least 100 dead young grey seals on Hay Island off the coast of Cape Breton.

Rebecca Aldworth of the Humane Society International/Canada said the anti-seal hunt group discovered the dead animals during a trip to the island seven days ago.

Aldworth said it is hard to give an exact number of dead animals because it is a large island and there was snow, but there were at least 100 and she estimates there were more.

She said Tuesday she couldn’t say what killed the animals and but she believes a virus is one possibility.

Aldworth said scientists should go to Hay Island to do an evaluation.

Pierre-Yves Daoust, a professor of anatomic pathology and wildlife pathology at the University of Prince Edward Island, said he saw some dead grey seals on a visit to Hay Island about three weeks ago but the number was more like 12 to 24.

Daoust said he was only on a small part of the island and there could have been more dead animals. Read More

Deep Snow Puts Alaska's Moose Population in Danger

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has authorized the Alaska Moose Federation to begin capturing and relocating problem moose in Southcentral Alaska. Deep snow is driving Alaska's moose population to areas where they can walk, like roads, snowmachine paths and train tracks.

"They've seen more moose probably in the last 20 years in the (Mat-Su) Valley that are reported either dead or dying," said Tony Kavalok, the assistant director of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's Division of Wildlife Conservation.

Over 400 moose have been hit in the Valley since October 2011, according to state statistics.

The Alaska Moose Federation is also using diversionary feeding in an effort to keep moose away from roads.

In addition, Fish and Game has cancelled next year's cow moose hunt in the Valley. Source

Daily Mail removes scaremongering article about German Super volcano (check out our piece on this back on 2nd Jan 2012)

At the start of this year the Daily Mail published a article with the headline "IS A SUPER-VOLCANO JUST 390 MILES FROM LONDON READY TO BLOW?" they were referring in the article to the Super Volcano Laacher in Germany.

I wrote an article which was posted on the same day relating to this article and refused to post the Daily Mail version.

My Headline "Laacher See, Germany's Super Volcano is NOT “Ready to Blow”, are the Press playing on 2012 for Fearmongering?" Article can be seen here >>>>

We enjoy many of the Daily Mail articles and they can't be faulted for their photography sources but in the case of the Super volcano article this would of been better suited to tabloids like the national inquirer and weekly world news.

It is good to see that this article was requested for removal and maybe teach the journalist to actual check some facts.

Erik Klemetti, an assistant professor of Geosciences at Denison University, wrote a response for Wired in which he described the Mail's story as 'tremendously terrible'. He pointed out:

The article in the Daily Mail is about as substance free as you can produce – it starts off with the usual doom claptrap: “a sleeping super-volcano in Germany is showing worrying signs of waking up.” Now, you have to look carefully for what their supposed signs are – all two of them.

1. "This monster erupts every 10 to 12,000 years and last went off 12,900 years ago, so it could blow at any time.” No source for this recurrence interval and we all know that using poorly constrained recurrence intervals like we have at Laacher See is no way to say a volcano is (ugh) “due for an eruption”

2. “Volcanologists believe that the Laacher See volcano is still active as carbon dioxide is bubbling up to the lake’s surface, which indicates that the magma chamber below is ‘degassing’.” Which, of course, Laacher See has been doing for centuries. There are stories of monks dying from asphyxiation due to carbon dioxide hundreds of years ago. I personally saw carbon dioxide bubbling when I was at the Laacher See 5 years ago.

He added:

This is the volcanic equivalent of the Daily Mail going out and saying “Massive hurricane to hit London?” because they looked out the window and saw a cloud. Irresponsible, lazy journalism at its finest. Read More

Eruptions at Rincon de la Vieja in Costa Rica

It has been almost exactly 14 years since the last eruptive period for Rincón de la Vieja in Costa Rica, but it looks like the volcano might be awakening from its break. Last Thursday (Feb. 22), the volcano experienced two small explosions in the early morning.

Seismic records suggest the volcano also had small explosions on Feb. 19 and 20, according to the OVSICORI report for Feb. 25 (PDF). None of the explosions caused any daLinkmage to anything near the volcano and there are no reports of ash fall other than in the crater itself. These explosions are very similar in style to the September 2011 explosions that were like phreatic in nature — that is, not new magma but superheated water generated the explosions.

Of course, it is likely that new magma intruding the volcano is the heat source for the water, but these explosions could precede a new magmatic eruption by months or years (or lead to nothing at all). The volcano sits within a national park in Costa Rica and after these explosions, the National Emergency Commission has declared the crater area off-limits to visitors.

The last major eruption from Rincón de la Vieja was in 1966, when it produced at VEI 3 event that generated pyroclastic flows. Read More

Signs of Earth life are on the Moon

Astronomers have spotted signs of life after pointing the world's largest telescope at the Moon.

But ET has not been hiding next door. The biological fingerprints discovered in moonlight were left by life on Earth.

The scientists were analysing the faint "earthshine" caused by reflected light from the Earth bouncing off the lunar surface.
Encoded within the light waves are tell-tale "biosignatures" - specific combinations of oxygen, ozone, methane and carbon dioxide that betray the presence of organic life.

The researchers also pioneered a super-sensitive method of identifying biosignatures by studying light polarisation.

Similar techniques may in future be used to confirm the existence of life on "exoplanets" orbiting distant stars.

Dr Stefano Bagnulo, one of the astronomers from the Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland, said: "The light from a distant exoplanet is overwhelmed by the glare of the host star, so it's very difficult to analyse - a bit like trying to study a grain of dust beside a powerful light bulb. But the light reflected by a planet is polarised, while the light from the host star is not. So polarimetric techniques help us to pick out the faint reflected light of an exoplanet from the dazzling starlight."

When light is polarised, its waves have a specific orientation instead of vibrating in all directions. Read More

Giant Jurassic fleas drank the blood of dinosaurs and pterosaurs

Fossils unearthed in China reveal that the insects were up to 10 times as large as modern fleas.

Fossil hunters have uncovered the remains of giant Jurassic fleas that sucked the blood of ancient beasts more than 100m years ago.

The oversized insects had long, serrated sucking tubes for piercing dinosaur hides, and used spines on their bodies and sharp claws on their legs to cling to the fur and feathers of their prey.

The insects resemble modern fleas in many respects, but grew to between five and ten times their size, with some females reaching more than 2cm long. Unlike modern fleas, they had yet to evolve specialised legs for jumping.

"They were not jumping insects, their biology is very different. They were probably creeping between the feathers or the fur of the animals they came across," said André Nel, a palaeontologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. Read More

Belarus left isolated as EU nations withdraw ambassadors

The regime of Alexander Lukashenko is looking increasingly isolated today after European Union nations took the extraordinary step of jointly withdrawing all their ambassadors from Belarus.

The surprise diplomatic move came in response to yesterday's expulsion of the EU and Polish ambassadors in Minsk. They were thrown out of the country after Brussels placed a further 21 Belarusian officials on its ever expanding sanctions list which forbids key regime leaders from travelling to Europe.

Belarus attacked the mass pull out describing it as a “path into deadlock” amid concerns that Minsk will now be pushed further towards its uneasy ally Russia which is keen to reassert influence on its western neighbour and buy up Belarusian state assets on the cheap.

European officials were already exasperated by the Mr Lukashenko’s ongoing persecution of opposition politicians but the expulsion of the Polish and EU ambassador was the final straw. Read More

Tornado hits Southern Illinois Killing at least 6 people

Image: Tornado damage
( Paul Newton, The Southern Illinoisan / February 29, 2012 )
Damage to a strip mall on the south side of Harrisburg near a Walmart.

At least 6 people were killed in downstate Harrisburg when a tornado hit the city of 9,000 this morning and left the medical center scrambling to treat dozens of injured, authorities said.

Officials initially reported that as many as 10 people had died in the city of 9,000, but later revised the figure. Another 100 people were injured from the tornado, which hit at 4:56 a.m., authorities said. Between 250 to 300 houses were damaged or destroyed and about 25 businesses were badly hit, authorities said.

The Harrisburg Medical Center sustained damage in the storm, but remained open and was treating some of the injured, according to Vince Ashley, CEO of the 78-bed hospital. No one was injured at the medical center, he said.

“It's been quite a rush. They're still coming in, but we've been able to keep up with the flow of injured coming in,” Ashley told The Associated Press more than three hours after the storm passed. “Helicopters have been coming in and out here all morning.”

Three deaths were also reported in Missouri, and dozens of people were injured in the country music resort city of Branson.

The worst hit was Harrisburg. Whole blocks appeared flattened, and WSIL-TV reported that power lines were down throughout the city and gas lines were leaking. Read More

Mount Marapi in Indonesia’s West Sumatra briefly erupts

BUKITTINGGI, Indonesia (BNO NEWS) -- Mount Marapi, a volcano located in the Indonesian province of West Sumatra, briefly erupted on early Wednesday morning, officials said. It comes after activity was also reported at the volcano in August 2011.

The 2,891-meter (9,485 feet) tall volcano, which is located near the cities and town of Bukittinggi, Padang Panjang and Batusangkar in West Sumatra, began erupting at around 7:30 a.m. local time on Wednesday, according to the Antara news agency.

Marapi's initial eruption lasted around fifteen minutes and spewed out volcanic ashes which reached some 200 meters (656 feet) to the south from its crater. A second eruption took place moments later, lasting about ten minutes and bringing thick white smoke about 100 meters (328 feet) up.

Suparmo of the Volcanological and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG) in Bukittinggi told the Antara news agency that Mount Marapi will remain at a Level II alert status as it is still prone to eruptions and other kinds of activity. In addition, he called on locals to remain alert. Read More

Sand Storm Hits the Negev as Snow Smacks the North, Israel

A massive sand storm hit the Negev Desert Wednesday, prompting a health warning from the Environmental Protection Ministry.

A massive dust storm hit the Negev Desert Wednesday afternoon, prompting a health warning from Israel's Environmental Protection Ministry, as a cold front moves in ahead of the next few days of stormy winter weather. Snow fell in the northern Golan Heights and is expected to spread to the center.

Strong winds sent camel-colored sand and dust swirling across the hills of the northern Negev by early afternoon, narrowing visibility to near zero.

The ministry has warned residents in the area, particularly those with heart trouble and breathing-related illnesses such as asthma to stay indoors. Children, the elderly and pregnant women were also warned to avoid physical exertion during the day, officials said.

Pets were brought inside, and residents rushed to close any stray windows or shutters that might have been left open to allow "fresh air" to enter homes or offices during the day.

Earlier in the day, forecasters were predicting that Israel would see its first nationwide snowstorm in years by the end of the week. Read More

Tornado hits Harveyville, Kansas, Significant damage

A tornado reportedly caused significant damage to homes and several injuries in Harveyville, Kan., about 30 miles southwest of Topeka.

The small Wabaunsee County town of about 230 residents was hit about 9 p.m. as a severe storm system swept across central Kansas.

The Topeka Capital Journal website reported at midnight that there were nine injuries. One person was in critical condition and eight others suffered minor injuries.

Dave Sterbenz, Shawnee County’s director of emergency management, said the person in critical condition was still trapped within a structure.

Severe weather also struck in Missouri, with 70 mph winds reported in Clay County at 10:43 p.m. and pea-to-nickel-sized hail across the area. Two mobile homes reportedly were blown over along with downed power lines, trapping two people, in Daviess County in northwestern Missouri. A 30-foot-by-50-foot barn reportedly was blown over in DeKalb County. Read More

Tremors Eastern North Carolina: Cause unknown for Tuesday shakes‎

Area residents reported doors shaking and windows rattling Tuesday morning but the source of the tremors felt across parts of Eastern North Carolina may remain a mystery.

Military training came to mind for many and an earthquake wasn’t out of the realm of possibility after feeling one in the area last year, but neither could be confirmed.

The National Earthquake Information Center, a part of the U.S. Geological Survey, received more than 300 reports shaking being felt from Brunswick County to Craven County but ruled out the possibility of an earthquake impacting the area.

“We have had a lot of reports from that area and looked for any earthquakes and have not had any,” said Julie Dutton, who works at the NEIC.

The USGS Earthquake Hazards Program website includes a link called “Did You Feel It?” that allows the public to report any shaking incidents they may feel.

The reports that came in around 10 a.m. Tuesday from Eastern North Carolina are listed as an unknown event rather than an earthquake. Read More

Avalanche hits 3 Villages in Tulail Valley, 11 houses damaged‎, India

Srinagar, Feb 28: A massive avalanche has hit three villages in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district, damaging 11 houses and two school buildings, police said today.

The fresh avalanche hit Abdulan, Chakwali and Malangam villages of Tulail near Line of Control in Bandipora district last night.

Though no one was hurt in the incident, the avalanche damaged 11 houses and two school buildings in the area, police said.

The hilly regions of the Kashmir Valley have been hit by a spate of avalanches over the last fortnight, including two massive avalanches which swept over army camps in central Kashmir’s Sonamarg and north Kashmir Gurez region, killing 19 soldiers.

The avalanches have also extensively damaged the fence on the Line of Control, which was meant to deter infiltration of militants into the Valley.

Meanwhile, a medium danger avalanche warning has been issued for snow bound areas of Gurez.

People living above the height of 8,000 feet in Gurez have been advised not to venture in avalanche prone areas and to take precautionary measures. The warning is valid for the next 24 hours, an official spokesman said. Source

Anthrax outbreak (Dogs) / Zimbabwe

AT LEAST 20 dogs are being shot daily in Masvingo in a controversial operation by the town council, police and veterinary services to curb the spread of anthrax, it emerged on Monday. Since February 13, police sharp shooters accompanied by municipal security guards have been mowing down unaccompanied dogs.

But some residents complain that their dogs have been shot indiscriminately during the exercise which will run until March 14. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has admitted that it was on board with the operation.

The organisation, which traditionally offers refuge to stray animals, says lack of funding has curtailed its work. John Chikomo, the SPCA’S regional manager for Masvingo, said they were against “indiscriminate shooting of stray dogs”, but said they were powerless to stop the exercise because they lacked an alternative strategy to the one pursed by local authorities owing to “resource challenges”. Ernest Chadamana, a resident of the Rhodene neighbourhood, told how his dog was shot after it strayed meters from his yard.

“That is cruelty of the highest order, and I wonder what SPCA is doing in that taskforce,” he said. One resident from Mucheke suburb told how his dog jumped a perimeter wall to mate with a bitch which was on heat next door. Read More

Flash flood hits Chiltern, Australia

CHILTERN’S Lesley and Bruce Mackie are facing another mammoth clean-up effort after a torrential downpour flooded the town’s main street yesterday evening.

Residents say heavy rain turned the street into a river within minutes as the storm struck Chiltern about 6pm.

The Mackies’ Grantees Takeway and Newsagency store has now been hit by flooding twice in 15 months.

A total of 94 millimetres of rain was recorded at the Chiltern post office yesterday, most of it coming in the storm.

Grantees employee and Chiltern resident Jen Nightingale said the street was flooded within 10 minutes of the downpour.

“By the time it reached the gutter it was probably about two minutes until it came to the door, it came up really quick,” she said.

“I think the drains just couldn’t handle the rain we had.” Read More

5.5 Magnitude Earthquake VANUATU - 29th Feb 2012

A magnitude 5.5 earthquake has struck Vanuatu at a depth of 43.9 km (27.3 miles), the quake hit at 16:03:57 UTC Wednesday 29th February 2012
The epicenter was 34 km (21 miles) WNW from PORT-VILA, Vanuatu
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Late snow disrupts Tokyo

Unusually late snowfall takes Tokyo by surprise, wreaking havoc to the city's transport system. Nick Rowlands reports

Gary Allen Bursts Into Flames After Accidentally Drinking Gasoline, Lighting Cigarette

A North Carolina man is dead after police say he accidentally drank from a jar of gasoline and then smoked a cigarette.

Havelock police received a 911 call about 9:55 p.m. Monday after 43-year-old Gary Allen Banning set himself on fire. Banning was transported to UNC Burn Center in Chapel Hill, where he died early Tuesday morning.

City spokeswoman Diane Miller said investigators believe Banning was at a friend’s apartment when he apparently mistook a jar of gasoline sitting by the kitchen sink for a beverage. After taking a gulp, he spit the gas out and got some on his clothes.

Sometime later, investigators say Banning went outside to smoke a cigarette and burst into flames.

Havelock police and the city fire marshal are continuing their investigation into the accident. source

Sara Barnes arrested for burning down "The Senator", the oldest pond cypress tree in the world

A 26-year-old Seminole County woman was arrested Tuesday in the fire that destroyed the oldest pond cypress tree in the world -- The Senator -- at Big Tree Park in Longwood.

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services arrested Sara Barnes on charges of intentional burning of land, a third-degree felony.

Barnes also faces drug charges from Seminole County Sheriff's Office based on what was found during a search of her home. She is being charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The Senator, a historic, 3,500-year-old cypress tree, burned and collapsed in mid-January.

Two tips from Crimeline led the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to arrest Barnes, authorities said. Tipsters said Barnes had taken cellphone pictures of the fire in the progress and uploaded them to her laptop, officials said. more

4.0 Magnitude Earthquake EASTERN TURKEY - 29th Feb 2012

A magnitude 4.0 earthquake has struck Eastern Turkey at a depth of 4 km (2.4 miles), the quake hit at 15:18:47 UTC Wednesday 29th February 2012
The epicenter was 34 km (21 miles) Northwest of Van, Turkey
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Sea Shepherd Activists intensify whaling campaign

Anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd release new footage of clashes at sea with Japanese whalers. Simon Hanna reports.

Attacks persist as U.N. builds Syria resolution

(Reuters) - Syrian troops launched a ground attack in Homs on Wednesday in an apparent attempt to overrun the rebel-held Baba Amro neighborhood that has endured 25 days of siege and fierce bombardment, opposition sources said.

"The army is trying to go in with infantry from the direction of al-Bassel football field and fierce confrontations with automatic rifles and heavy machineguns are taking place there," activist Mohammad al-Homsi told Reuters from Homs.

He said the military had shelled Baba Amro heavily on Tuesday and overnight before the ground attack started.

Another opposition source said hundreds of Free Syrian Army rebels were holding out in the area, situated between Baba Amro and al-Inshaat district, which is also under army siege. Read More

U.S. investigating banks in criminal Libor probe

(Reuters) - The Justice Department is conducting a criminal probe into whether the world's biggest banks manipulated a global benchmark rate that is at the heart of a wide range of loans and derivatives, from trillions of dollars of mortgages and bonds to interest rate swaps, a person familiar with the matter said.
Link
While the Justice Department's inquiry into the setting of the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, was known, the criminal aspect of the probe was not.

A criminal inquiry underscores the serious nature of a worldwide investigation that includes regulators and law-enforcement agencies in the United States, Japan, Canada and the UK.

Several major global banks, including Citigroup Inc, HSBC Holdings Plc, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and UBS AG, have disclosed that they have been approached by authorities investigating how Libor is set.

No bank or trader has been criminally charged in the Libor probes. It wasn't clear which banks or traders the Justice Department is targeting in its criminal probe. Read More

North Korea agrees to nuclear moratorium

(Reuters) - The United States said on Wednesday that North Korea had agreed to a moratorium on nuclear tests and long-range missile launches and to allow nuclear inspectors to visit its Yongbyon nuclear complex to verify a halt to all nuclear activities including uranium enrichment.

The U.S. announcement paves the way for the possible resumption of six-party disarmament negotiations with Pyongyang and follows talks between U.S. and North Korean diplomats in Beijing last week.

"To improve the atmosphere for dialogue and demonstrate its commitment to denuclearization, the DPRK has agreed to implement a moratorium on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests, and nuclear activities at Yongbyon, including uranium enrichment activities," the State Department said in a statement.

"The DPRK has also agreed to the return of IAEA inspectors to verify and monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment activities at Yongbyon and confirm the disablement of the 5-MW reactor and associated facilities," it said. Read More

Knife-wielding assailants attacked people in a market in Yecheng county, China - 12 Dead

(CNN) -- Rioting near the northwestern Chinese city of Kashgar on Tuesday left 12 people dead, according to China's official Xinhua news agency.

The news agency said that 10 people were killed in riots in the restive Xinjiang province and police shot dead a further two people in the disturbance.

The report, which could not be independently verified, gave no details about what could have sparked the violence. It said a group of knife-wielding assailants attacked people in a market in Yecheng county.

Chinese authorities have blamed militants of Uighur descent for outbreaks of violence in Xinjiang in recent years. Uighurs are ethnic Turks who are linguistically, culturally and religiously distinct from China's majority Han population.

Beijing claims overseas-based militant Uighur groups linked to the East Turkistan Islamic Movement that allegedly trains in Pakistan have been fomenting trouble in the region. Read More

Israel shuts down Palestinian TV in raid

Jerusalem (CNN) -- Israeli security forces and intelligence officers raided a Palestinian television station overnight and took computers, tapes, transmitters and paperwork, the director of the station said Wednesday.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called it "piracy."

The raid began at 2 a.m., Wattan TV director Muamar Orabi said.

"Four night-shift employees were detained for more than three hours inside the offices after their mobile phones were taken," he added.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed the raid had taken place.

Israeli Ministry of Communications spokesman Yehiel Shavi said Wattan broadcasts "were interfering with the signals of Israeli broadcasters" and said the interference had been stopped "with the assistance of the IDF."

The IDF said repeated requests had been made to Wattan to stop its broadcasts because they interfered with Israeli broadcasters and flight communications at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv.

But Orabi said his station had never received a complaint about transmission frequencies, and said the response was disproportionate even if that was the reason for the raid.

"Why destroy the TV station when they could have just confiscated the two transmitters?" he asked.

"This is not the first time this has happened. Wattan TV was destroyed 10 years ago, in March 2002," he said. Read More

European Central Bank loans out €529.5 billion to European banks

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The European Central Bank announced Wednesday that banks borrowed €529.5 billion, or $712.4 billion, under a highly-anticipated lending program aimed at preventing a credit crunch in Europe.

In its second long-term refinancing operation (LTRO), the ECB offered banks unlimited three-year loans at interest rates as low as 1%. The ECB allotted nearly €500 billion in the first round of the operation in December.

The borrowing was a bit more than expected, as banks were expected to have taken up roughly €500 billion, although estimates ranged from €300 billion to €1 trillion.

"It was exactly the right amount," said Tobias Blattner, eurozone economist for Daiwa Capital Markets. "It was not too high so as to raise concern about the health of banks' balance sheets, but at the same time it was not too low to raise concerns about the ability of banks to continue to purchase the bonds of fiscally stressed countries." Read More

Why Syria's Christians are angry

(CNN) -- In Syria, the Christians are angry. For eleven months, many of their leaders have stood firmly behind the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. However, Syria's new constitution explicitly says in Article 3 that the president of the country has to be a Muslim, thereby barring Christians from the right to run for the top post.

On Sunday, pro-government Syrians went to the polls to approve the new constitution. In protest of Article 3, Christians voted with a "no," while the opposition movement boycotted the election altogether, saying that it was inconceivable for it to take place while the country is up in flames. Nevertheless, the new constitution passed.

The controversial clause in Article 3 has been around for a long time, ever since Syria established its first constitution in 1920. Both secular and Christian Syrians have over the years tried to amend the clause but to no avail. In 1973, President Hafez al-Assad released a constitutional draft that omitted reference to Islam as the official religion of the state, which enraged conservative Muslims. Faced with pressure, Assad eventually restored Article 3 to its original form. Read More

Ambush hits Homs activist lifeline

Tripoli, Lebanon (CNN) -- Syrian troops inflicted heavy losses on a band of opposition activists who were trying to smuggle Western journalists and seriously wounded residents of Homs out of the country, survivors said Tuesday.

Government troops moved in as the group tried to make its way to neighboring Lebanon, leaving 23 of the 50 dead, said Ricken Patel, executive director of the activist group Avaaz. Others were unable to continue toward Lebanon under heavy fire. But Patel said the journalists who escaped are "witnesses to a gigantic crime" who had to be protected from the four-week bombardment of Homs, Syria's third-largest city.

Among those who made it out was British photographer Paul Conroy, who had been wounded in an attack on the Homs neighborhood of Baba Amr. Read More

Why Fukushima will remain a threat



(CNN) -- Twisted metal beams still jut from the top of Japan's Fukushima Daiichi stricken reactors, almost one year after a massive tsunami triggered nuclear meltdown.

They remain as an eerie monument to the country's worst ever nuclear disaster, frozen in time by the dangers that surround the reactors and what's inside.

The reactors at the northern Japanese plant were declared last December to be in cold shutdown, a term used to indicate that operations are under control and pose no immediate threat.

Michael Friedlander, a former senior operator at U.S. nuclear power plants, said in this instance the words "cold shutdown" are "completely inappropriate" to describe the situation at the Fukushima plant. Read More

How Irish threw wrench in euro-works

So what was originally agreed in the treaty negotiations?

The "fiscal compact" outlines the closer integration of the national budgets of the 17 eurozone countries. A new legal framework and greater fiscal scrutiny will be imposed to avoid a repetition of the dubious financial practices that triggered the crisis. The treaty also agrees to strengthen mechanisms that guarantee short-term stability to euro economies in hot water.

So who is in and who is out?

All 17 eurozone nations and six other EU states outside the euro area have signed up. Initially, four countries cast doubt on the deal, complaining that it sweeps away some of the away hard-fought foundations of the European Union.

Sweden's Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt told CNN that he had no mandate for treaty change. But, alongside Hungary and the Czech Republic, he said his country would leave the door open.

This leaves Britain, under Prime Minister David Cameron, alone among the 27 European Union nations to point-blank refuse to sign. Cameron said the treaty failed to safeguard Britain's voice in crucial policy decisions over the European single market and financial services sector. He said he had effectively vetoed an original deal, forcing German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy to forge ahead with a treaty that will be subservient to EU regulations.

Ireland has decided to hold a referendum on the fiscal pact because under the Irish constitution the people have to vote to ratify any significant transfer of sovereignty to Europe. It is likely to take at least three months to organize the referendum. The Irish have twice rejected EU treaties, only to approve them in second referendums.

Is this the beginning of the end for the European Union as we know it?

The treaty has exposed deep divisions between European Union members -- chiefly Britain and the rest of the bloc.

This sets the stage for a series of legal challenges as Britain strives to ensure the treaty does not result in a wholesale restructuring of the EU. Read Full Article

Govt 'Drops Sanctions Against Jobseekers'

The Government has dropped all its sanctions against jobseekers who drop out of a work experience scheme early, the charity Barnado's has claimed.

The organisation's intervention comes as employment minister Chris Grayling meets employers who have offered placements to jobless youngsters.

The talks are intended to give firms a chance to discuss any concerns and clear up "confusion" over the scheme.

Earlier, the Prime Minister announced 200 small and medium-sized firms had expressed interest in taking part.

The Government has been accused of "imposing" unpaid work placements on the unemployed. Read More

5.7 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 29th Feb 2012



A magnitude 5.7 earthquake has struck near the East Coast of Honshu, Japan at a depth of 9.8 km (6.1 miles), the quake hit at 14:32:45 UTC Wednesday 29th February 2012
The epicenter was 124 km (77 miles) ESE from TOKYO, Japan
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

5.0 Magnitude Earthquake JAVA, INDONESIA - 29th Feb 2012

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake has struck Java, Indonesia at a depth of 58 km (36 miles), the quake hit at 13:28:15 UTC Wednesday 29th February 2012
The epicenter was 70 km (43.4 miles) South Palabuhanratu, Java, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.1 Magnitude Earthquake NORTHERN IRAN - 29th Feb 2012

A magnitude 4.1 earthquake has struck Northern Iran at a depth of 13.7 km (8.5 miles), the quake hit at 13:22:54 UTC Wednesday 29th February 2012
The epicenter was 30 km (18 miles) NNE of Gorgan, Iran
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Rioters kill at least 10 in China's Xinjiang region: Xinhua

BEIJING (Kyodo) -- A few rioters killed at least 10 people Tuesday evening and injured some others in Kashgar in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwestern China, Xinhua News Agency said.

Police has shot to death at least two of the rioters, the report said, adding that they were chasing others who fled.

Citing witnesses, the report said the rioters slashed local residents on a street in Yecheng County at about 6 p.m.

Public safety officials and armed police have been boosting security in the restive region which has seen riots tied to independence movements among Uyghurs, an ethnic minority, ahead of the opening next Monday of the National People's Congress in Beijing.

In the region, rioters broke into a police station in Hotan city on July 18 last year. This was followed by indiscriminate attacks on people on a street in Kashgar city on July 30-31 that left many dead or injured. Source

U.S. officer: North Korea nuclear halt needed for food aid

WASHINGTON (AP) -- North Korea needs to halt its nuclear program and ballistic missile tests to receive American food aid, the top military officer in the Asia-Pacific said Tuesday.

The comments by Adm. Robert Willard contradict stated U.S. policy that the two issues are separate, and raise questions on whether food has become a bargaining chip in Washington's efforts to contain Pyongyang's drive for nuclear weapons.

Willard, chief of U.S. Pacific Command, said that U.S. conditions for providing food aid also could include North Korea allowing inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, into its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon.

Willard told a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee that the conditions under discussion now include "cessation of nuclearization and ballistic missile testing, and the allowance of the IAEA perhaps back into Yongbyon."

North Korea suffers perennial food shortages, and requested aid from the U.S. and other nations in January 2011. The U.N. and other humanitarian agencies have said millions of North Koreans need help and have reported rising child malnutrition. A group of U.S. charities last fall reported children suffering "slow starvation." Read More