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Monday, 1 December 2014

Largest stone block from antiquity found at Baalbek, Lebanon

Largest stone block

© Deutsches Archäologisches Institut

The largest stone block, partially buried. To the left is the Hajjar al-Hibla stone.

German archaeologists have discovered the largest stone ever carved by human hands, possibly dating to more than 2,000 years ago.

Still partially buried, the monolith measures 19.6 meters (64 feet) in length, 6 meters (19.6 feet) wide, and is at least 5.5 meters (18 feet) high. Its weight is estimated at a bulky 1,650 tons, making it biggest stone block from antiquity.

It was found by a team from the German Archaeological Institute in a stone quarry at Baalbek in Lebanon. Known as Heliopolis, "the city of the sun," during the Roman rule, Baalbek housed one of the grandest sanctuaries in the empire.

The limestone quarry was located about a quarter of a mile from the temple complex and houses other two massive building blocks - one weighting about 1,240 tons, the other, known as the "Hajjar al-Hibla," or The Stone of the Pregnant Woman, about 1000 tons.

Right next to the fully exposed Hajjar al-Hibla stone and underneath it, the archaeologists found a third block.

"The level of smoothness indicate the block was meant to be transported and used without being cut," the German Archaeological Institute said in a statement.

"Thus this is the biggest boulder known from antiquity," it added.

The team worked under the local supervision of Jeanine Abdul Massih, a long-term cooperation partner in the Baalbek project of the German Archaeological Institute's Orient Department. The main purpose was to find new information about the mining techniques and the transportation of the megaliths.

Archaeologists believe the limestone blocks date back to at least 27 B.C., when Baalbek was a Roman colony and construction on three major and several minor temples began, lasting until the 2nd century A.D.

"Massive stone blocks of a 64-foot length were used for the podium of the huge Temple of Jupiter in the sanctuary," the archaeologists said.

Only portions of the temple remain, including six massive columns and 27 gigantic limestone blocks at its base. Three of them, weighting about 1,000 tons each, are known as the "Trilithon."

How these monoliths were transported and precisely positioned during the temple construction remains a mystery. Some even argue the block was laid by an unknown earlier culture predating even Alexander the Great, who founded Heliopolis in 334 B.C.

The newly uncovered stone block was likely cut to be used in the temple, but was probably abandoned because it was unsuitable for transporting.

Indeed, the Hajjar al-Hibla block nearby provided some clues: it was probably left in the quarry because the stone quality at one edge proved to be poor.

"It would have probably cracked during transportation," the archaeologists said.

Further excavations will attempt to establish whether the bigger block suffered from the same problem.

USGS: Earthquake Magnitude 6.3 - 102km WSW of Sangay, Philippines

Sangay Quake_021214


Event Time

2014-12-02 05:11:31 UTC

2014-12-02 13:11:31 UTC+08:00 at epicenter


6.138°N 123.168°E depth=617.9km (384.0mi)

Nearby Cities

102km (63mi) WSW of Sangay, Philippines

107km (66mi) WSW of Kalamansig, Philippines

133km (83mi) SW of South Upi, Philippines

146km (91mi) ESE of Isabela, Philippines

920km (572mi) E of Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

Scientific Data

Total US Debt Rises Over $18 Trillion; Up 70% Under Barack Obama

Last week, total US debt was a meager $17,963,753,617,957.26. Two days later, as updated today, on Black Friday, total outstanding US public debt just hit a new historic level which probably would be better associated with a red color: as of the last work day of November, total US public debt just surpassed $18 trillion for the first time, or $18,005,549,328,561.45 to be precise, of which debt held by the public rose to $12,922,681,725,432.94, an increase of $32 billion in one day.

It also means that total US debt to nominal GDP as of Sept 30, which was $17.555 trillion, is now 103%. Keep in mind this GDP number was artificially increased by about half a trillion dollars a year ago thanks to the "benefit" of R&D and intangibles. Without said definitional change, debt/GDP would now be about 106%.

It also means that total US debt has increased by 70% under Obama, from $10.625 trillion on January 21, 2009 to $18.005 trillion most recently.

And now we wait for the US to become Spain, and add the estimated "contribution" from hookers and blow to GDP, once again pushing the total debt/GDP ratio below the psychological 100% level.

Western attacks on Russian media only prove that it is telling truth

The US media has a long and fine tradition of misrepresenting large events in order to justify the government's involvements in war.

Western attacks on Russian media vary from the abusive to the merely sarcastic, but what all of them have in common is the attempt to define the English language Russian media as a "propaganda instrument" of the Russian government.

LONDON, November 30 (Sputnik) - The Ukrainian crisis has triggered an extraordinary series of attacks on the English language Russian media by the Western media. Here in Britain, where I write, hardly a day has passed in the past few weeks without the Russian media coming in for some sort of attack.

These attacks vary from the abusive to the merely sarcastic, but what all of them have in common is the attempt to define the English language Russian media as a "propaganda instrument" of the Russian government (always portentously called "the Kremlin").

The primary target is the Russian media's coverage of the Ukrainian crisis. US Secretary of State John Kerry has even called RT a "propaganda bullhorn" because of it.

There are many ways to define "propaganda", but most people would agree that it involves disseminating information in a way that is misleading and biased so as to influence opinion in a particular way. Doing so can involve an element of outright lying, but in my experience the most common and effective way is to omit or minimise important facts so as to make a correct understanding of an issue or situation impossible.

When these criteria are applied to the Ukrainian crisis it becomes clear that the Western media have been far more guilty of what might be called "propaganda" than the Russian media they criticize.

To illustrate how, here is a list of what I consider nine important facts about the Ukrainian crisis, which the western media has either omitted reporting or has wrongly downplayed:

1. The involvement of neo-Nazi and far-right groups in the Maidan protests, the February coup and the subsequent civil war.

The Western media consistently tries to minimize the role of these groups, claiming that they are marginal and pointing to the low percentage of votes they win in elections. The latter point is however relevant to the level of their support in Ukrainian society, not to their role in the Maidan protests, in the coup and in the events that have happened in Ukraine since the coup.

More appropriate reporting of these groups and of their role in the conflict would have reported for example on the fact that the so-called "Maidan Commandant", Andrey Parubiy, who was responsible for security at the Maidan protests and who played a key role in the February coup, has a long, well-established history in far Right Ukrainian politics. It would also have reported that following the coup and during the civil war Parubiy actually headed Ukraine's National Security Council and was instrumental in setting up Ukraine's National Guard, which has played a key role (and very controversial role) in the civil war.

More appropriate reporting would also have reported on the far-right affiliations of the "volunteer battalions" (complete with their Nazi insignia) that have taken part in the civil war with the Ukrainian government's encouragement. It would also have reported the freedom given to the violent far-right group known as Right Sector (also heavily involved in the Maidan protests and in the coup) to carry out its activities throughout Ukraine and the alarming and frankly racist and on occasion even genocidal language used about Russia and Russians by various Ukrainian politicians, even when they are not formally aligned with violent far-right groups.

More appropriate reporting would also question why supposedly democratic protesters and political leaders in Ukraine have associated themselves so closely with such groups both during and after the Maidan protests and have even formed coalitions with them giving their leaders official posts in the new government.

2. The violence that happened in and around Maidan especially after January 19, 2014, and also in provincial towns and cities during the protests.

Whilst this was reported by the Western media it was done in a most incredible way, showing extreme sympathy for the protesters despite the extraordinary extent of the rioting and despite the repeated storming of public buildings and the violence used towards the police during the protests. Little attention was given to the use of firearms and other weapons by some of the protesters. To the extent that the violence was criticized at all, it was blamed on the previous government and on the police, despite the overwhelming evidence (seized buildings, deaths of police officers etc) that most of it was the work of the protesters.

3. The uncertainty about who was responsible for the killings by snipers in the last few days of the Maidan protests.

The Western media have largely failed to report the growing doubts about who was really responsible for these killings and has hardly reported the failure of the official inquiries into this question. The whole subject of these killings has now stopped being discussed in mainstream newspapers and on television.

4. The unconstitutional nature of the coup, which took place on February 22, 2014.

Western media have largely failed to report that Yanukovych's ouster from the Presidency was carried out unconstitutionally in a manner that clearly violated the Ukrainian constitution and law, which set out a clear set of circumstances and a clear sequence of steps needed to remove a President from office, which however were completely disregarded when the coup took place. As is the case with the snipers, as time has passed the western media has largely stopped mentioning the coup even though it is the central event of the whole conflict. Recent articles in the British media that discuss the situation in Ukraine no longer mention it, preferring instead to dwell on the supposed misdeeds of the Russian government.

5. The Ukrainian government's failure to engage its opponents in constitutional negotiations despite the repeated commitments it has made to do so including the agreement of February 21, 2014, the Geneva Statement of April 17, 2014, and the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014.

The Western media has completely ignored this issue, focusing instead on Russia, and ignoring the fact that the conflict is in reality an internal Ukrainian one caused by the refusal of the Maidan movement to negotiate with its opponents or to look for compromise.

6. The May 2, 2014, Odessa fire.

The Western media downplayed the tragedy of the Odessa fire from the outset. It has now stopped discussing it, despite the scale and horror of the tragedy and the key role it played in turning the people of the eastern Ukraine against the government and in causing the war there. The fact that the government's investigation into the fire has basically failed has gone almost completely unreported.

7. The encirclement and defeat of a large section of the Ukrainian army in the so-called "Southern Cauldron" in mid July 2014.

The Western media completely failed to report this key battle, which changed the entire course of the war. Instead it preferred to report a string of fictitious victories supposedly won by the Ukrainian army as claimed by the government in Kiev.

It was in fact extremely easy to prove the imaginary nature of these "victories" by checking on a map the places where these "victories" had supposedly taken place. Anyone who did so could see, as the weeks passed and the roll call of these "victories" mounted up, that in reality the Ukrainian military was making no progress at all.

Instead of doing this, throughout July and early August, the western media reported the war as if the Ukrainian government was winning it. The BBC, in a particularly shocking example of western media misreporting of the conflict, persisted in providing on its website a situation map that became more and more detached from reality as each week passed.

As a result, when the Ukrainian army eventually suffered its collapse in the final weeks of August, the only way the western media and the BBC could explain this fact was by claiming the existence of a Russian offensive that never in fact happened and of which there was no evidence that it ever took place.

8. The Ukrainian army's shelling and bombing of populated centres, its siege of populated centres and its use of ballistic missiles and of weapons like cluster bombs and phosphorus.

© Unknown

"Listen Ukies, what harm is there in dropping a little White Phosphorous on your civilian populations in Eastern Ukraine? Nobody will say a thing here, and the Russo-lovers will know you mean business. Does it really happen if Western media doesn't say it did? Leave the media coverage to us. You have our blessings."

All this has now been largely confirmed by agencies such as the OSCE, the UNHCR, the ICRC and, though very grudgingly, by some western human rights agencies.

The western media however has still largely failed to report this in a way that stands in striking contrast to the way it has reported the government's actions in (say) the Syrian conflict.

By failing to do so the western media is making it impossible for the western public to gain a true sense of the scale and character of the war and of the enormous physical devastation it has caused. It also makes it impossible to understand the bitterness that will be the abiding legacy of this war.

9. The presence in the conflict zone of several BUK missile launch systems controlled by the Ukrainian military on the day MH17 was shot down.

The western media has barely reported this fact of which most westerners in my experience are wholly unaware.

This is an extraordinary failure given the immense international outcry caused by the shooting down of MH17.

The presence of Ukrainian BUK missile systems has been conclusively proved by the publication of Russian satellite imagery. The Ukrainian government denied their presence and sought to refute the evidence provided by the imagery. Their attempts to do so however were so unconvincing that they served rather to prove the presence of these BUK missile systems rather than refute it.

Given the widespread claims the western media have made that MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile, proper reporting would have drawn attention to the presence of Ukrainian BUK missile systems in the area where MH17 was shot down and would have raised questions about their possible use. Not only has this not happened but whilst ignoring the presence of these Ukrainian BUK missile systems the western media launched a frenzy of speculation about the presence of a BUK missile system supposedly controlled by independence supporters of whose existence and presence in the conflict zone no compelling evidence in fact exists.

I would suggest that without knowledge of these nine facts a proper understanding of the Ukrainian conflict is simply impossible. By failing to report them, or by wrongly downplaying them, the western media is giving the western public an essentially false picture of the conflict.

In contrast, the Russian media has reported all of these nine facts. In doing so, and in reporting the Ukrainian conflict in general, the Russian media has also made mistakes, indulged in occasional exaggerations and made errors of interpretation. All media are however guilty of such things. They do not detract from the fact that the Russian media's reporting of the conflict, as shown by its full reporting and discussion of the nine facts, is essentially true.

It is in fact because the Russian media's account of the Ukrainian conflict is essentially true, whilst the western media account is essentially false, that the Russian media is coming under the attacks that it is. If the Russian media's account of the conflict was obviously untrue, and therefore "propaganda", it would be unconvincing and such attacks would be unnecessary.

Instead, for the first time in its long history, the Western media finds itself in a position where it is not only giving an account of a conflict which is false (that has happened many times), but also finds itself effectively challenged by a powerful alternative media, which is giving an account of the conflict which is true. Since in any conflict between truth and falsehood, it is truth that always has the advantage, the western media for the first time in its experience finds itself on the defensive, sensing that its own credibility is now on the line. It doesn't like this situation at all, which is why it is lashing out in the way it is doing.

That in Britain the media is failing to convince is shown by a single remarkable fact - the astonishing lack of published opinion polls showing the public's take on the conflict. Such evidence has always in the past been produced in great quantity during conflicts of this sort. Almost invariably it has shown wide acceptance of the account of the conflict provided by the British media and strong support for the official line taken by the British government and by other Western governments. That this evidence is not being provided on anything remotely like the same scale on this occasion, despite the way the conflict is being reported as a revival of the Cold War, is extremely telling. Arguments from silence should generally be avoided, but in this case the silence is so deafening that it speaks louder than a thousand words.

Putin says South Stream project impossible in current conditions, strengthens relationship with Turkey


© Sputnik / Mikhail Klementyev

Russia is unable to continue the South Stream gas pipeline project implementation in current conditions, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday.

"Taking into account the European Commission's position, which is not contributing to the realization of this project, taking into account the fact that we have only recently received permission from the respective organizations in the Netherlands... Taking into account the fact that we still have not received Bulgaria's permission, we think that Russia is unable to continue realization of this project in such conditions," Putin said at a press conference following talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"We cannot start the construction in the sea until we have Bulgaria's permission to begin construction in the sea. It would be absurd to reach the Bulgarian coast and to stop then," Russian leader added.

Due to the European Commission's non-constructive approach, Russia will redirect gas deliveries to other regions, Putin said.

"We think that the European Commission's position was non-constructive. It is not that the European Commission has not helped in realization of this project, we can see that the obstacles are being created in its implementation. So, if Europe does not want to implement it, it means that it will not be realized," the president explained.

"We will redirect the flow of our energy resources to other regions of the world, including by advanced and fast realization of liquefied natural gas projects," he said.

"We will advance to the other markets and Europe will not receive these volumes, at least from Russia. We think that this is not corresponding with Europe's economic interests and causes damage to our cooperation. But this is the choice of our European friends," Putin stated.

In 2012 Russian energy giant Gazprom announced the beginning of construction of a pipeline across the Black Sea to reduce the possibility of unreliable Russian natural gas passage to central and southern Europe through the territory of Ukraine. The pipeline is expected to be fully operational by 2018.

Brussels has repeatedly stated that the project violated the European Union's Third Energy Package, because under its charter it is an illegal conflict of interest to simultaneously own a pipeline and produce the natural gas that flows through it. Moscow insists that the construction of the pipeline does not contradict the regulations.

Russia Could Create Additional Gas Hub for Southern Europe

Russia could create an additional gas hub in Turkey, on the border with Greece, for gas consumers in Southern Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday.

"We are ready not only to increase [the capacity of] Blue Stream [pipeline] ... but also to build another pipeline system to meet the growing needs of the Turkish economy and, if deemed viable, to create an additional gas hub for the consumers in Southern Europe on the territory of Turkey on the border with Greece," Putin said after a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Russia, Turkey Agree to Increase Capacity of Blue Stream Pipeline

Russia and Turkey have agreed to increase the capacity of Russian energy giant Gazprom's Blue Stream gas pipeline, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday.

"In order to meet the Turkish economy's growing energy needs, we have agreed for Gazprom to increase the capacity of the Blue Stream pipeline," Putin said following a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Last week, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said that Russia and Turkey had confirmed their mutual interest in boosting gas deliveries through the Blue Stream pipeline from 16 to 19 billion cubic meters annually.

Blue Stream is a gas pipeline which delivers Russian gas to Turkey across the Black Sea, supplementing the gas transmission corridor from Russia to Turkey through the territories of Ukraine, Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria.

He also noted that construction of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant in Turkey was underway, with investments into the project estimated to be $20 billion. Many Turkish companies will manage to strike deals, creating numerous jobs.

Russia to Increase Gas Deliveries to Turkey by 3 Bln Cubic Meters Annually

Russia will soon increase gas deliveries to Turkey by three billion cubic meters annually, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday.

"At the request of our Turkish friends, in the near future we will increase supplies [of gas] to the Turkish market by additional three billion cubic meters of gas," Putin said following talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Ergodan.

Last week, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said that Russia and Turkey had confirmed their mutual interest in boosting gas deliveries through the Blue Stream pipeline from 16 to 19 billion cubic meters annually.

Blue Stream is a gas pipeline which delivers Russian gas to Turkey across the Black Sea, supplementing the gas transmission corridor from Russia to Turkey through the territories of Ukraine, Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria.

Russia to Cut Gas Price for Turkey by Six Percent in 2015

Russia has agreed to sell natural gas to Turkey at a six-percent discount, starting in 2015, Vladimir Putin said.

"In response to a request by our Turkish partners, we have agreed with President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, in light of our expanding cooperation in energy sector, to lower the price of natural gas deliveries for Turkish consumers by six percent," Putin said during an official visit to Turkey.

Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller said Monday that Turkey could pay for Russian gas in the future as low as Germany is paying now, which is one of the lowest prices in Europe.

The average price that Gazprom charged Germany last year was $366 per 1,000 cubic meters.

Russia, Turkey to Develop Proposals Aimed at Stimulating Trade, Investments

Russian, Turkish governments will develop proposals aimed at stimulating trade and investment, expanding cooperation in agriculture and hi-tech, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday.

"We have agreed with Mr. Erdogan that our countries' governments will work on particular measures to further stimulate trade and investment flow, expand cooperation, first of all in the high-tech area and in agriculture," Putin said at press-conference following his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Putin also said that there is great potential to increase cooperation between Russia and Turkey in the metallurgy, automotive industry and light industries.

"Russia and Turkey are interested in the establishment of prospective joint companies in the fields of transport and infrastructure," Putin stated, adding that he also hopes that Turkish builders will help to organize major sports events hosted in Russia shortly.

The Russian leader added that one of the major areas of bilateral cooperation between the countries is the energy industry.

"In this industry our relations have now reached a real strategic level," Putin stated.

Putin reminded that Russia is the major supplier of natural gas to Turkey, and covers over half of Turkey's gas consumption. In 2013, Russia delivered 26.7 billion cubic meters of gas to Turkey.

Russia, Turkey Stand Against Spread of Terrorism, Chaos in Syria

Russia and Turkey are against the strengthening of terrorist organization and the spread of chaos in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during an official visit to Turkey on Monday.

"We share an opinion that we do not want to allow the spread chaos on Syrian territory, and we do not want to allow the strengthening of terrorist organizations there... Nobody wants that," Putin said following a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Putin added that the solution for the Syrian conflict must be acceptable for all political forces in the country, while only the Syrian people has the right to decide the fate of the current regime of Bashar Assad.

Psychopathic doctor who sexually abused child cancer patients jailed for 22 years


© AFP Photo / Fred Dufour

A Cambridge doctor who admitted to serial sexual abuse of dozens of young cancer patients has been sentenced to 22 years in prison.

Myles Bradbury, who worked at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, admitted to 25 offences including sexual assault, voyeurism and possession of over 16,000 images of children.

The 41-year-old blood cancer specialist further admitted to the abuse of 18 young patients in his care between 2009 and 2013.

Bradbury was arrested in 2013 after Canadian Authorities informed the UK's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) that Bradbury had bought a DVD containing indecent images of children.

The judge told Bradbury that his behaviour was a "gross and grotesque breach of trust saying he had never before seen such a flagrant abuse of the trust placed in a medical figure.

Some of the doctor's victims suffered from rare and life-threatening diseases such as leukaemia and haemophilia.

Judge Gareth Hawkesworth said "in many years on the bench, I've never come across a more culpable or grave course of sexual criminality which has involved such a gross and grotesque breach and betrayal of your Hippocratic Oath and trust reposed in you by your patients."

Hawkesworth further said he was in no doubt that the doctor had caused severe psychological harm to his patients.

The doctor pleaded guilty in September to 13 counts of engaging in sexual activity with a child, and a further six of sexual assault. He also admitted to attempting to incite children to engage in sexual activity.

In November, the court heard that Bradbury was in possession of a spy pen which held over 170,000 images of partially clothed boys. It was later found that none of these particular images were deemed 'indecent'.

It further emerged that the doctor had travelled to Swaziland on a church mission to orphanages, after authorities had described him as a potential suspect.

There were no reports that he had committed sexual offences during the trip, but 10 days after he returned to the UK he abused two boys in one day.

Dr Keith McNeil, Addenbrooke Hospital's chief executive, called the abuse "shocking and cynical".

He said, "Our thoughts today are with our patients and families."

"Today's sentencing of Bradbury cannot undo the damage he caused but he is finally behind bars and is no longer a risk to vulnerable children," McNeil said.

Cambridgeshire Police Detective Superintendent Gary Ridgeway said the case had caused "distress to many people"

"Bradbury was highly respected and revered by the families of his victims who trusted him implicitly but he betrayed that trust in an appalling way, by carrying out examinations purely for his own sexual gratification," he said.

Families of the victims received news of the sentence with relief.

One parent said, "I'm very pleased - he's got what he deserved."

SOTT EXCLUSIVE: More fear mongering as ISIS terror threats increasing

© Getty

Two reports out today from the US and UK heightening the terror threat from ISIS.

First from the UK as reported by Express:

Terrorists are plotting to blow up five European passenger jets in a Christmas "spectacular", security experts say.

The threat has been taken so seriously it came close to leading to an outright ban on all hand luggage, a senior insider has revealed.

Mobile phones and electronic devices could still be banned from plane cabins, with the threat of a 9/11-style coordinated attack on London and other major cities feared imminent.

The warning comes as Whitehall officials admit that a terror strike on the UK is now "almost inevitable" particularly with British jihadis returning from fighting alongside the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

An airport security source told the Sunday Express: "We've been told that five planes are being targeted in a high profile hit before Christmas. They've been waiting for the big one.

"We have many scares but this one nearly got hand baggage pulled from all airlines. The threat is still alive and real."

The plot, which has been known about for the past two months, is thought to involve Islamists smuggling bombs on to planes bound for major European destinations before Christmas.

The well-placed security insider said talks had been held about how to deal with it, with suggestions made to ban hand luggage.

The source said: "High level negotiations are continuing at Governmental level but at the moment there has been little done to respond.

"There is paralysis because of the difficulty of banning hand luggage which is one of the strongest weapons we have against the new threats.

"All electronics may be banned from hand luggage and placed in the hold, that has been considered, and there has been behaviour analysis training at airports but while it's effective, it's difficult to roll out quickly and is not a sufficient safety net.

"The threat is aimed at Europe. The U.S has improved their security over the summer but we have not.

"Everyone is expecting something catastrophic very soon."

The Orwellian response to this alleged threat is to further clamp down on airport security to the extent of making travel extremely difficult for ordinary people.

And if the above wasn't enough, from Yahoo! News:

The FBI on Sunday issued the strongest warning to date about possible attacks by the ISIS terrorist group against the U.S. military inside the homeland, officials tell ABC News.

In a joint intelligence bulletin issued overnight by the FBI with the Department of Homeland Security, officials strongly urged those who serve in uniform to scrub their social media accounts of anything that might bring unwanted attention from "violent extremists" or would help the extremists learn individual service members' identities.

"The FBI and DHS recommend that current and former members of the military review their online social media accounts for any information that might serve to attract the attention of ISIL [ISIS] and its supporters," the federal bulletin sent to law enforcement agencies said, advising that troops "routinely exercise operational security in their interactions online."

Officials said they fear copycat attacks based on what happened in Canada last month, when two uniformed Canadian soldiers were killed in two separate incidents by young men who claimed they were ISIS followers.

It seems that online social networks are now a grave danger to security also.

Now all that is needed is an apparently 'real' terror attack to take place to justify the implementation of these pre-prepared police state policies. With the world economies teetering on collapse and conflicts going on in numerous places, the likelihood of some type of false flag attack is highly probable.


William Barbe (Profile)

William joined the SOTT news team in 2014. A 30-year veteran of the semiconductor industry, in 2007 he began being interested and paying more attention to world events and living a healthier lifestyle. Hobbies and interests include hiking, photography and reading non-fiction books on history, economics, psychology, science, unexplained anomalies and politics.

Putin: Since EU doesn't want our gas, we will redirect our resources

© RIA Novosti / Michael Klimentyev

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a meeting in the Presidential Palace in Ankara December 1, 2014.

Russia is forced to withdraw from the South Stream project due to the EU's unwillingness to support the pipeline, and gas flows will be redirected to other customers, Vladimir Putin said after talks with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

We believe that the stance of the European Commission was counterproductive. In fact, the European Commission not only provided no help in implementation of [the South Stream pipeline], but, as we see, obstacles were created to its implementation. Well, if Europe doesn't want it implemented, it won't be implemented, the Russian president said.

The South Stream project is at the stage when the construction of the pipeline system in the Black Sea must begin but Russia still hasn't received an approval for the project from Bulgaria, the Russian president said.

Investing hundreds of millions of dollars into the pipeline, which would have to stop when it reaches Bulgarian waters, is just absurd, I hope everybody understands that he said.

© RIA Novosti/Michael Klimentyev

Gazprom CEO Aleksey Miller said the energy giant will build a massive gas pipeline that will travel from Russia, transit through Turkey, and stop at the Greek border - giving Russia access to the Southern European market.

The pipeline will have an annual capacity of 63 billion cubic meters. A total of 14 bcm will be delivered to Turkey, which is Gazprom's second biggest customer in the region after Germany.

Russia's energy minister Aleksandr Novak said that the new project will include a specially-constructed hub on the Turkish-Greek border for customers in southern Europe.

While the pipeline will be registered as a Russian company, Miller said that Gazprom will consider offers from Turkish partners if they express an interest in buying into the project

For now, the supply of Russian gas to Turkey will be raised by 3 billion cubic meters via the already operating Blue Stream pipeline, Vladimir Putin said during a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Last year, 13.7 bcm of gas was supplied to Turkeyvia Blue Stream, according to Reuters.

© RIA Novosti/Michael Klimentyev

December 1, 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin at the concluding news conference in Ankara.

Moscow will also reduce the gas price for Turkish customers by 6 percent from January 1, 2015, Putin said. Later, Novak said the discount could reach 15 percent, subject to negotiations.

Novak later confirmed that Vladimir Putin personally ordered for the South Stream project to be mothballed, and its existing facilities to be repurposed for the new Turkish pipeline.

The much-delayed South Stream was supposed to connect underwater Black Sea pipelines with a network in Eastern Europe, with Bulgaria as the entry point.

The project had run into difficulties, as it violated EU regulations on the same company owning the pipelines and the gas they transported. While several previous governments in Bulgaria, which is wholly dependent on Russian gas lobbied Brussels to make an exception, the current government said it would not give Gazprom a building permit. The cost of the underwater and Eastern European segments of the project was estimated at €23,5 billion, by a senior Gazprom official last month.

[embedded content]

'Right now, it doesn't look good': WHO fails to meet its goal of containing the Ebola outbreak in West Africa

'The most dangerous thing would be if people now think Ebola is over and become complacent,' warns Ebola expert.

Ebola workers

© WHO/W. Romeril

Health care workers undergo infection control training in Sierra Leone

The World Health Organization has failed to meet their December 1 goal for isolating and containing the deadly Ebola outbreak in many regions of West Africa, the United Nations reports.

The targets, set in early October, aimed to get 70 per cent of the Ebola cases isolated and treated and to have 70 percent of the deceased safely buried by December 1. Of the hardest hit nations - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - only Guinea is on track to meet the deadline, WHO Spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said in a press briefing last week.

"In Liberia, only 23 per cent of cases are isolated and 26 per cent of the needed burial teams are in place. In Sierra Leone, about 40 per cent of cases are isolated while 27 per cent of burial teams are operational," the reports.

WHO Emergency Ebola committee member Oyewale Tomori, of Redeemer's University in Nigeria, said that in light of the failed goals, WHO now must "redouble our efforts to see what we can do to reduce the spread and catch up with the virus."

"Right now, it doesn't look good," Tomori added.

Further, the UN health body reported last week that two new cases have been confirmed in Mali, where the disease has spread across the border from northern Guinea. Since late October, there have been six Ebola related deaths in Mali. Both new cases are being treated.

The ultimate goal of WHO's plan is to isolate all Ebola patients and provide safe burials for all by January 1. "The most dangerous thing would be if people now think Ebola is over and become complacent," warned Ebola expert Dr. David Heymann. Earlier this month, the U.S. military announced they were scaling back their response to the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, dropping the number of troops and treatment facilities from their initial commitment.

This week, 150 health workers from the West African countries of Benin, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger and Nigeria will be training in Ghana on how to help tackle Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER).

Worldwide, there have been a total of 15,935 reported cases of Ebola with 5,689 reported deaths, as of November 26.

Wheat kill-off in the U.S. heartland from extreme cold during November

2015-2035 Mini Ice Age - Extreme cold in the U.S. heartland where farming takes place


[embedded content]


With 130-year cold sweeping across the USA, temperatures -50F below normal are bound to have an effect on winter wheat seedlings that are just a few inches tall.

Temperatures dropped to -26F/-32C, which caused an 8% increase in wheat futures.

Thanks to David DuByne, who created this video

"I think the cold will not be the regular interval of Dalton or Maunder Minimum type cold," says David. "I think we may be heading into a 5125-year cold cycle."

By way of deception: Bomb blast in Malmö Sweden

© Stig-Åke Jönsson/TT

Police in Malmö seal off the scene after an explosion at the justice centre on November 30th 2014.

The bomb exploded just before midnight and damaged the main entrance and front of the building. Such was the force of the blast that several nearby properties had its windows blown apart.

No one was seriously hurt but there was one person who had some minor injuries after being cut by shards of glass.

Police have been speaking to people in the area in the wake of the incident to try and determine what happened.

"There are some witnesses who said that someone was at the building and then ran away shortly before the detonation," said Stephan Söderholm, information officer with the Skåne police.

The justice centre has multiple departments including a courthouse, police offices, the region's prosecution authority and the economic crime authority for the area.

It also has secure hearing rooms and a remand centre.

In February the building was also attacked causing a similar amount of damage. On both occasions no known threats had been made in against the justice centre before the bombs went off.

Police have yet to confirm whether the two events are linked.

"It is too early to make any connections. As far as I know there is no extra threats against the building right now," said Fredrik Svensson of the local police to Sydsvenskan.

Malmö has been hit by a string of bombings this year including several car bomb attacks.

Wheat kill-off from extreme cold during November

2015-2035 Mini Ice Age - Extreme cold in the U.S. heartland where farming takes place


[embedded content]


With 130-year cold sweeping across the USA, temperatures -50F below normal are bound to have an effect on winter wheat seedlings that are just a few inches tall.

Temperatures dropped to -26F/-32C, which caused an 8% increase in wheat futures.

Thanks to David DuByne, who created this video

"I think the cold will not be the regular interval of Dalton or Maunder Minimum type cold," says David. "I think we may be heading into a 5125-year cold cycle."

Indian ISIL recruit goes home after he's assigned to toilet duty instead of holy war

toilet cleaning

© Shutterstock

Person cleaning toilet in rubber gloves

An Indian student who traveled to Iraq to join the Islamic State group has returned home disillusioned after jihadists made him clean toilets and do other menial jobs, according to media reports.

Areeb Majeed, 23, left for Iraq with three friends in late May amid fears by authorities that IS militants were attempting to recruit from India's large pool of young Muslim men.

The engineering student flew home Friday to Mumbai where he was arrested and charged by India's elite National Investigation Agency (NIA) with terror-related offences.

Majeed told NIA officers he was sidelined by the jihadists for whom he fetched water and performed other lowly tasks such as cleaning toilets, instead of taking part in the deadly offensive like he wanted, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

He phoned his family to say he wanted to come home after suffering an unexplained bullet wound for which he did not get proper medical attention, the agency said late Sunday.

"Only after I begged them, I was taken to a hospital," he was quoted as saying by NIA officers. "There was neither a holy war nor any of the preachings in the holy book were followed."

India's moderate population of 150 million Muslims have traditionally not been drawn into sectarian conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere, but the case of the four raised concerns about online recruitment.

Al-Qaeda announced in September a new chapter of its extremist movement charged with waging jihad in South Asia, prompting several Indian states to be placed on high alert.

Tanvir Sheikh, the father of one of Majeed's friends who was still missing in Iraq, said he felt betrayed by his son.

Sheikh said his son Fahad was offered a job in Kuwait but instead decided to travel to Iraq to join the extremists.

"He had got a job offer from Kuwait with a salary of three lakh rupees ($4,800) but he ignored that and instead took up arms. Now what happens to his future?" Sheikh told the newspaper on Monday.

"I feel let down by my son. He had a bright career ahead of him but he took advantage of our love and betrayed us."

Radicalized foreigners have been drawn to the IS group, which has conducted a series of mass executions and other atrocities since launching its offensive in Iraq and Syria in June.

Cracks are forming in central economic control

John Rubino

Last week saw the global financial system tip from delusion - where it had happily drifted for several years - into chaos. Consider the following more-or-less randomly chosen data points:

French unemployment hits record high

Italian unemployment hits record high

Oil's price falls by $10.36/bbl, or 13.5%, in a single day, to its lowest price since 2010.

Copper falls by 6% to $2.86/lb, 25% below its 2013 high.

European bond yields fall to record lows. Even Italy, with government debt exceeding 130% of GDP, can now borrow for around 2%. Japan, meanwhile, issues bonds with negative interest rates.

European inflation approaches zero, with several member states apparently already in deflation.

European bond yields fall to record lows. Even Italy, with government debt exceeding 130% of GDP, can now borrow for around 2%. Japan, meanwhile, issues bonds with negative interest rates.

European inflation approaches zero, with several member states apparently already in deflation.

Emerging markets see the opposite trend, as a soaring dollar causes their currencies to fall and inflation to spike. The Russian ruble falls by 7.3% to a record low, while the currencies of Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Chile drop by at least 1.9%. See Brazil's Rousseff vows immense effort to slow inflation.

Chinese malinvestment, a topic of conversation ever since those ghost city pictures started circulating, is pegged at $6.8 trillion, or about 70% of China's entire economy.

As Prudent Bear's Doug Noland put it his November 28 Credit Bubble Bulletin, "Collapse of the 'global reflation trade' runs unabated. Where might contagion strike next?"

The answer is in one final set of stats: Last week the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Transports hit record highs, while the Nasdaq 100 index of tech stocks rose to its highest level since March 2000, just before its epic crash.

If everything but equities is being sucked into a 2008-style deflationary vortex, how much longer can US stocks hold out? Probably not long.

Mice with half-human brains four times smarter than their peers

White lab mice

© Shutterstock

White lab mice

According to a paper published in the latest , scientists have successfully injected human glial cells - which support the communication between neurons - into mouse brains, creating hybrid mice four times smarter than their peers.

Steve Goldman and his team extracted glial cells from donated fetuses and injected them into mice. Within a year, the mouse glial cells had been significantly displaced by the human.

Glial cells - in this case, astrocytes - strengthen the synapses. The average human astrocyte is 10 to 20 times larger and has 100 times as many tendrils as a mouse astrocyte.

"We could see the human cells taking over the whole space," Goldman told . "It seemed like the mouse counterparts were fleeing to the margins." The human cells only stopped when they reached the physical limit of the mouse's cranial capacity.

In memory tests, the mice with humanized brains did four times better than their peers. "These are whopping effects," Goldman said. "We can say they were statistically and significantly smarter than control mice."

However, he noted, "it's still a mouse brain, not a human brain," because all the neurons are still mouse neurons.

"But all the non-neuronal cells are human. This does not provide the animals with additional capabilities that could in any way be ascribed or perceived as specifically human," Goldman continued. "Rather, the human cells are simply improving the efficiency of the mouse's own neural networks. It's still a mouse."

The team opted not to inject the cells into humanity's closer relatives, like chimpanzees.

"We briefly considered it but decided not to because of all the potential ethical issues," Goldman said

Lavrov and Mu'Allem: Syria-Russia diplomatic meeting in Sochi

lavrov mu'allim

The Foreign Minister and Minister for Expatriates of the Syrian Arab Republic, Mr. Waleed Al-Mu'allim, is in Sochi to meet with Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and Russian F.M., Sergei Lavrov. The meeting is face-to-face which required the Syrian top diplomat to fly to Russia. You can assume that the reasons for the trip have to do with secrecy, confidential exchanges of information and the need to prevent Western eavesdropping. This meeting could be the most important of the entire war in Syria.

Pay no attention to press conferences or summaries offered up by both sides to the talks at the end. This meeting is not about publicity or orotund denunciations of terrorism. Both countries have staked out clear positions on ISIS, American meddling and the incessant violations of international law by the West, its troglodyte Arabian allies, and the Zionist Apartheid State.

Russia remains mildly interested in a negotiated end to the fighting in Syria which will see Dr. Assad continue his stewardship for at least another 7 years but which might involve a reconfiguration of the Syrian governmental structure so as to accommodate new elements from the expatriate opposition. The Russians have to know with whom Damascus would negotiate and whom Damascus fiercely rejects. Neither the Syrians nor the Russians will brook any surprises.

The Syrian FM is there to give them a list of groups and personalities Damascus finds acceptable in order to have a realistic political framework in which to negotiate. My readers already appear to sense that Ahmad Mu'aadh Al-Khateeb (Al-Hasani), a former head of NACOSROF, will be on the short list especially in light of recent pronouncements he has made in support of the Assad Administration and its fight against terrorism. Al-Khateeb is important because of his religious affiliations; he hails from a wealthy clerical Damascene class whose Sunni credentials are impeccable and deeply rooted in the life of the capital.

There is also a hope that Dr. Haytham Al-Mannaa' will see his way to resolving his irrational differences with the Assad government and, at the very least, endorse the talks. His track record in condemning the use of violence and in criticizing the Saudis/Qataris has been quite laudable. His prestige rooted in pacifistic principles will gain him much gravity if the talks are ever held with him contributing. That he is a successful physician practicing in France is another plus since his personal financial situation has obviated the necessity of falling into the gilded cage of crude Wahhabist briberies.

Michel Kilo is another Syrian dissident who will be on the list. Kilo is a Kolakovskian-style communist who has written editorials mostly critical of the Ba'ath Party while playing a never-ending cat-and-mouse game with our security services. In general, he is a non-violent advocate for change and has played a critical role in keeping the expatriate opposition a good whiff away from the reeking stench of the Muslim Brotherhood. He represents a secular and progressive Weltanschauung acceptable to the Ba'ath. More than that, I cannot say, since I am not at liberty to do so. One particularly awful affiliation of his which would militate against his inclusion is the fact that SyrPer Liar of the Year Nominee and British catamite, Raami 'Abdul-Rahmaan of SOHR, counts himself a Kilo-watt, ahem, an admirer of Kilo.

Another might be Nizaar Nayyoof, an Alawite critic of his coreligionists' political role in Syria, who would also be acceptable if his health allowed him to participate in intense and serious negotiations. Suhayr Al-Ataasi, of a landed Syrian-Turkish family from Homs, might also be an acceptable addition if you can get her away from an hairdresser for more than an hour.

Personalities like George Sabra, an avowed communist atheist, whom the Arabian apes thought would assuage the anxieties of minorities is absolutely unacceptable. His tirades against the government, his mercenary style, his praise of terroristic atrocities in Syria make him . He will have to sit this one out in some squalid hotel in a hardscrabble quarter of Istanbul. Others who are unacceptable are the MB favorite, Ghassan Hitto; the bloated hog francophile, Burhaan "Le Pipe" Ghalyoon; Kamaal Labwaani (who promised the Zionists recognition and the whole Golan if they would help to unseat Dr. Assad); 'Abdul-Baasit Seedaa (his sleep-inducing style of oratory is absolutely unacceptable); Haytham Al-Maalih who will face a death sentence if he ever sets foot in Syria. Al-Maalih actually described how he would torture the Assads if they ever fell into his old, ugly, wrinkled paws. Another reject is Ahmad Jarbaa, the former and present pimp, embezzler and extortionist who sleeps in Saudi beds with Eastern European boys.

George Sabra (a/k/a Captain Kangaroo) stares at another pipe-dream in which he has no role. This criminal actually fought to have Nusra treated as a non-terroristic liberation movement.

Mr. Mu'allim is also in Russia to find out how things are playing out in the Ukraine and how that might impact on Russia's posture on Syria. SyrPer has the opinion of an astute political analyst in Moscow who has asked that his name not be used in this article. While I shy away from such treatments of sources, I also have to acknowledge that both my sources in Syria, Wael and Monzer, are also using false monikers. So, let's call my Muscovite source, Anatoly.

Anatoly says that Putin is going to make it clear to Mr. Mu'allim that Russia not only stands behind Dr. Assad's government, but will view Syria, for the foreseeable future, as a state with a "mutual defense pact" binding it to Moscow. Anatoly also thinks that Russia does not share the Syrian state's acquiescent, "wishy-washy" view of U.S. air attacks on ISIS. Russia does not believe the attacks are effective and, moreover, sees them as contributing to a western-inspired depiction of the government in Damascus as illegitimate. (Readers might note that some Syrian publications have hinted at a renewal of U.S.-Syrian diplomatic ties in the near future).

Moscow has tried in vain to coerce Washington into coordinating air strikes over Syria with Damascus. Failing that, Russia employed a slick ruse that would take the matter up at the U.N.S.C. where American violations of Syrian air space could be used to further embarrass the Obama regime internationally. With the Syrians balking at the idea - their view being that any strikes against ISIS can't be all bad - the Russians feel they have no standing to raise the rebuke. That Dr. Al-Ja'afari has not railed against American trespasses is proof of the Russian position.

Russia wants the U.S. out of Syria unless joint action authorized by the U.N., in consultation with Damascus, is taken. Any resolution for such action has to be very language-precise to avoid the catastrophe of the Libyan Affair. SyrPer believes that a new diplomatic strategy is part of the agenda in Sochi. This is because the Russians have read correctly that a new Republican-dominated Congress in Washington will pressure the American president into greater adventurism in the Near and Middle East. With a valid Chapter 7 resolution on the table (which the West will veto) Russia will be prepared to participate militarily, a fact that will kibosh France's ludicrous dream of a no-fly or buffer zone. Actually, the Russians are analyzing this very brilliantly. We only hope Damascus catches on.

SyrPer has learned that Russian companies are being given the priority in both exploration and drilling for natural gas off the coast of Syria in territorial waters. These agreements, which will be of immense importance to Moscow in the way it maneuvers economically around the limp-wristed sanctions promoted by Germany and France, lie at the heart of the profitable line of credit Moscow has extended to Damascus. Mr. Mu'allim has been reminded that the line of credit and the good will have yet to be exhausted.

With the Syrian Army verging on the liberation of all Aleppo City - an eventuality calculated to diminish Western machinations in the area - an eventuality seen as unacceptable by the Saudi vermin and the Turk sociopaths - Russia is consulting with Mr. Mua'llim about a renewed Western push to establish an Islamist rump state abutting Turkey which the West hopes to use as a bargaining chip against Dr. Assad - the same bargaining chip they are trying to create in Der'ah with much difficulty and failure. This rump state would figure favorably in France's calculations for a security zone.

In order to deal with terrorist redeployments at the Turk border, with most frontier entryways in the hands of the terrorist allies of the U.S., Moscow is warning Damascus to expect an intensified American campaign targeting the Syrian Army as soon as Chuck Hagel is replaced by a more aggressive Defense Secretary more acceptable to the maniacal and blood-thirsty Republican war criminals in Congress. The Russians will tell Mr. Mua'llim that Russia will not object if the SAA deploys and uses its S-300 anti-aircraft missile defense system especially when the U.S. and Britain or France target the SAA in an effort to relieve pressure on their Jihadist/Takfeeri allies like Nusra or Harakat Hazm in both Aleppo and Idlib.

Syria knows it must listen carefully to what Putin says. With the Saudis and Qataris enjoying a new rapprochement after a failed Saudi-inspired coup d'etat in Doha and Saud Al-Faysal's unproductive visit to Moscow, Mr. Putin is expecting a ramping up of pressure with greater investments by both culturally stagnant Arabian states in newly formed terrorist groups to be stationed in Turkey and Jordan. Putin has told Mr. Mua'llem that he can count on Russia to continue building up the Syrian army, providing diplomatic support with an air umbrella (if necessary) to block any NATO assault on Syria. Mr. Mua'llem could not expect any rosier confab.

The future of negotiations with the opposition appears to be distant and improbable. While Russia wants to pursue a resolution consistent with the U.N. Charter, Syria has told Mr. Lavrov that sources inside the opposition are indicating nobody has any stomach for more failed conferences and that many in the opposition are looking for a way back to Damascus. This means that Saudi Arabia has read the situation similarly based on its own stooges inside the enemy camp and that Riyadh sees no solution outside the scope of the battlefield.

This gets us now to the core of this essay. Russia and Syria, with Iran, of course, are going to embark on a more combative approach to the war in Syria. Expect more aggressive Russian moves at the U.N. in light of France's volte-face on the contract for the Mistral helicopter carrier. Russia is aware of how unpopular Hollande is in France. All the French people need now is a crisis in the delivery of natural gas during winter time. Remember, alcohol reduces body temperature. The Russians, no novices when it comes to slurping vodka, know this very well.

Expect, also, action in the Arabian Peninsula. I believe Iran will be pulling out all the stops, especially, if the Saudis make the mistake of executing Al-Shaykh Nimr Al-Nimr, the Shi'i cleric who was tried in a Saudi security court and found guilty of fomenting anti-monarchical violence. Once Iran has made the decision in consultation with Russia and Syria (and Iraq), Saudi Arabia will get a taste of an insurgency which will spread from Bahrain to the Dhahraan oil fields all the way to Qatar. Arabian monkeys will get a taste of what anti-Wahhabists do with serrated bread knives.

You are watching the collapse of the Arabian oil and gas empire. We believe that Mr. Putin has told Mr. Mu'allem that a new multi-polar world order has no place for pre-Iron Age apes like the Saudis and the Qataris. We think Mr. Putin is going to start kicking them to the curb.

Rare ice storm strikes Waldviertel in Austria


Firefighters preventing a tree from damaging a power line.

Firefighters have been busy clearing away hundreds of trees from the vicinity of homes and power lines. The trees' branches had been bent almost double by the weight of the ice.

The area near Ottenschlag has particularly been hit hard. A combination of very low temperatures and high humidity caused many layers of thick frost to form into heavy ice.

Motorists in the region have been asked to exercise extreme caution due to icy conditions on the roads.

Northeast Fire Department spokesman Franz Resperger described on Sunday how many trees were destroyed by the ice, including some with trunks more than a meter in diameter.

[embedded content]

Traffic chaos

The fire departments around Ottenschlag, Kirchschlag and Kottes were especially busy removing the broken giant trees from roads, roofs and garages.

On Sunday, the B36 state highway had to be temporarily closed because dozens of trees were criss-crossing the street.

Such weather phenomenon is not entirely unknown in the Waldviertel, however few in the fire service could recall so many ice-damaged trees.

Fortunately, no one was injured, but the financial losses have yet to be quantified.

Two Near Earth Asteroids to whiz pass Earth this week

© The Virtual Telescope Project

The live webcast starts tonite!

It's a dangerous universe out there, for a budding young space-faring species.

Killer comets, planet sterilizing gamma ray bursts, and death rocks from above are all potential hazards that an adolescent civilization has to watch out for.

This week offers two close shaves, as newly discovered Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) 2014 WC201 and 2014 WX202 pass by the Earth-Moon system.

The passage of 2014 WC201 is coming right up tonight, as the 27-metre space rock passes about 570,000 kilometres from the Earth. That's 1.4 times farther than the distance from the Earth to the Moon.

Orbit of 2014 WC201


The orbit of 2014 WC201.

And the good news is, the Virtual Telescope Project will be bringing the passage of 2014 WC201 live tonight starting at 23:00 Universal Time/6:00 PM EST.

Shining at an absolute magnitude of +26, 2014 WC201 will be visible as a +13 apparent magnitude "star" at closest approach at 4:51 UT (December 2nd)/11:51 PM EST (December 1st) moving through the constellation Ursa Major. This puts it within range of a large backyard telescope, though the 80% illuminated waxing gibbous Moon will definitely be a mitigating factor for observation.

The JPL Horizons ephemerides generator is an excellent place to start for crafting accurate coordinates for the asteroid for your location.

At an estimated 27 metres/81 feet in size, 2014 WC201 will no doubt draw "house-sized" or "building-sized" comparisons in the press. Larger than an F-15 jet fighter, asteroids such as WC201 cry out for some fresh new descriptive comparisons. Perhaps, as we near a "Star Wars year" in 2015, we could refer to 2014 WC201 as X-wing sized?

Another Apollo NEO also makes a close pass by the Earth this week, as 6-metre 2014 WX202 passes 400,000 kilometres (about the same average distance as the Earth to the Moon) from us at 19:56 UT/2:56 PM EST on December 7th. Though closer than WC201, WX202 is much smaller and won't be a good target for backyard scopes. Gianluca Masi over at the Virtual Telescope Project also notes that WX202 will also be a difficult target due to the nearly Full Moon later this week.

NEO asteroid 2014 WX202


The orbital path of NEO asteroid 2014 WX202.

The last Full Moon of 2014 occurs on December 6th at 6:26 AM EST/11:26 Universal Time.

2014 WX202 has also generated some interest in the minor planet community due to its low velocity approach relative to the Earth. This, coupled with its Earth-like orbit, is suggestive of something that may have escaped the Earth-Moon system. Could WX202 be returning space junk or lunar ejecta? It's happened before, as old Apollo hardware and boosters from China's Chang'e missions have been initially identified as Near Earth Asteroids.

The Earth also occasionally hosts a temporary "quasi-moon," as last occurred in 2006 with the capture of RH120. 2014 WX202 makes a series of more distant passes in the 2030s, and perhaps it will make the short list of near Earth asteroids for humans to explore in the coming decades.

And speaking of which, humanity is making two steps in this direction this week, with two high profile space launches.

First up is the launch of JAXA's Hayabusa 2 from the Tanegashima Space Center on December 3rd at 4:22 UT/11:22 PM EST. The follow up to the Hayabusa asteroid sample return mission, Hayabusa 2 will rendezvous with asteroid 1999 JU3 in 2018 and return samples to Earth in late 2020. The vidcast for the launch of Hayabusa 2 goes live at 3:00 UT/10:00 PM EST on Tuesday, December 2nd.

And the next mission paving the way towards first boot prints on an asteroid is the launch of a Delta 4 Heavy rocket with EFT-1 from Cape Canaveral this Thursday morning on December 4th near sunrise at 7:05 AM EST/12:05 UT. EFT-1 is uncrewed, and will test key technologies including reentry on its two orbit flight. Expect to see crewed missions of Orion to begin around 2020, with a mission to an Earth crossing asteroid sometime in the decade after that.

Future asteroid capture.


NASA gotchu: An artist’s rendition of a future asteroid capture.

And there are some decent prospects to catch sight of EFT-1 on its first pass prior to its orbit raising burn over the Atlantic. Assuming EFT-1 lifts off at the beginning of its launch window, western Australia may see a good dusk pass 55 minutes after liftoff, and the southwestern U.S. may see a visible pass at dawn about 95 minutes after EFT-1 leaves the pad.

Footprint of EFT-1

© Orbitron

The footprint of EFT-1 on its first North American pass.

We'll be tracking these prospects as the mission evolves on launch day via Twitter, and NASA TV will carry the launch live starting at 4:30 AM EST/9:30 UT.

The Orion capsule will come in hot on reentry at a blistering 32,000 kilometres per hour over four hours after liftoff in a reentry reminiscent of the early Apollo era.

Of course, if an asteroid the size of WC201 on a collision course with the Earth it could spell a very bad day, at least in local terms. For comparison, the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor was estimated to be 18 metres in size, and the 1908 Tunguska impactor was estimated to be 60 metres across. And about 50,000 years ago, a 50 metre in diameter space rock came blazing in over the ponderosa pine trees near what would one day be the city of Flagstaff, Arizona to create the 1,200 metre diameter Barringer Meteor Crater you can visit today.

Barringer meteorite

© Photo by author

A fragment of the Barringer meteorite on display at the Lowell Observatory.

All the more reason to study hazardous space rocks and the technology needed to reach one in the event that we one day need to move one out of the way!

Ottawa investigates reports ISIS captured Canadian-Israeli woman

Gill Rosenberg

© http://ift.tt/1e7zV6O

Gillian Rosenberg

The Canadian government said on Sunday it was investigating reports that a Canadian-Israeli woman who joined Kurdish militias fighting in northern Syria has been captured by Islamic State (Isis) fighters.

According to a blog linked to Isis, several female fighters who fought alongside the Kurds have been taken prisoner, including Gill Rosenberg, a Canadian-born resident of Tel Aviv. Israel Radio reported Kurdish sources denying the claims, saying Rosenberg was not in the area when it was attacked.

A Canadian government spokesman said in a statement his country was "pursuing all appropriate channels" as it sought further information and was in touch with local authorities.

Asked by an Israeli television station about the reports, the Israeli defense minister, Moshe Ya'alon, said: "I cannot confirm that and I hope that it isn't true." The Shin Bet, Israel's general security service, told the Jerusalem Post: "There are no further details at this stage".

Rosenberg, 31, joined Kurdish troops fighting Isis earlier this month. A former pilot who served in the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), she reportedly contacted Kurdish fighters over the internet before travelling through Iraq to train at one of their camps on the Syrian border.

[embedded content]

In an interview with Israel Radio aired in November, Rosenberg said she was training with Kurdish guerrillas with the intention of fighting in Syria. "They are our brothers. They are good people. They love life, a lot like us, really," she said.

On 20 November, a message posted to a Facebook page in Rosenberg's name said: "My Facebook account and friend requests are being managed by someone else until I have access again in apx [sic] 2 weeks time on or around week of [8 December]. Please do not message as this is not me. Thank you."

Messages of concern were being posted on the Facebook page this weekend.

Isis, which has killed five western hostages, is believed to be holding 39 Indian construction workers captive. Last week the group was reported to have executed two Iraqi women who were former parliamentary candidates.

Comment: There were few details on the alleged kidnapping, only that it occurred after three suicide attacks on sites where Kurdish fighters were holed up. Posts on Rosenberg's Facebook timeline indicate she arrived in Erbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdistan region, on Nov. 2 and then traveled through Turkey and into northern Syria sometime before Nov. 9. A source linked to the YPG (Kurdish Militia), said earlier this month that she was their first female foreign recruit and had crossed into Syria to fight Islamic State militants.

Israel has maintained discreet military, intelligence and business ties with the Kurds since the 1960s, making use of this buffer against shared Arab adversaries. The Kurds are spread through Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran.

Worried about spillover from the Syrian war, Israel has been cracking down on members of its 20-per cent Arab minority who return after volunteering to fight with ISIS or other rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's rule. Israel bans its citizens from traveling to enemy states, among them Syria and Iraq. It is possible Rosenberg could face prosecution if she returns to Israel.

Just like Israel to have volunteers to do the dirty work and then not let them back into the country! Another consideration: The U.S. and Canada "do not negotiate" with terrorists (even if they are more or less "home grown"). The fight in Syria and other Middle East locations seems to attract a number of idealistic young recruits, fascinated by barbarity and savagery, or perhaps disillusioned by the posturing and agendas of their home countries, willing to be pawns-at-risk in the most dangerous game on earth. One can hope that the reports of Rosenberg's kidnapping are merely propaganda. Any other result could be horrifically short, tragic and brutal.

Sickening hypocrisy: Human rights violations ignored in NATO's war in Ukraine


Grad rockets fired indiscriminately into populated areas by Kiev regime - a war crime NATO has condemned before, but only when politically convenient.

"The Grad rocket cannot be targeted, so shooting it into a town full of civilians, with no specific military objective, violates the laws of war." These words were found in a 2011 Human Rights Watch (HRW) document titled, "Libya: Rocket Attacks on Western Mountain Towns - Grads Striking Civilian Areas," one of many reports ceaselessly cited by the United Nations and in turn, NATO as part of justifying a military intervention in the North African nation.

At the time, accusations of indiscriminate bombardment of populated areas by air and artillery, and the use of punitive squads to detain, beat, torture, and/or arbitrary arrest citizens served as the rhetorical and legal foundation of NATO's "humanitarian war."

In fact, the text of UN Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973 sound like in fiction, what is taking place verbatim before the eyes of the world in Ukraine today:

Deploring the gross and systematic violation of human rights, including the repression of peaceful demonstrators, expressing deep concern at the deaths of civilians, and rejecting unequivocally the incitement to hostility and violence against the civilian population made from the highest level of the Libyan government.


Stressing the need to hold to account those responsible for attacks, including by forces under their control, on civilians.

Yet even in 2011, after NATO succeeded in passing its resolutions, it itself promptly violated them both by arming terrorists and targeting the Libyan government in what was clearly not the mere implementation of a "no-fly-zone" but rather a proxy war waged by NATO in the air and its terrorist forces on the ground fought to carry out regime change in favor of Western interests. So flagrantly did the West abuse the cause of human rights to advance its own insidious political agenda that it permanently undermined the West's ability to again cite "human rights" to likewise invade and overthrow the government of Syria next.

It is no surprise then, that even with the same international organizations like Human Rights Watch meticulously documenting, almost verbatim the same crimes against humanity NATO cited in its intervention in Libya, now taking place in Ukraine perpetrated by the regime in Kiev, NATO is not only disinterested in "intervening" to stop them, but is in fact, the principle sponsor facilitating Kiev's war upon the Ukrainian people.

Indeed, in HRW's report titled, "Ukraine: Unguided Rockets Killing Civilians - Stop Use of Grads in Populated Areas," it is stated explicitly that (emphasis added):

The use of indiscriminate rockets in populated areas violates international humanitarian law, or the laws of war, and may amount to war crimes.

Grads are unguided rockets that cannot be targeted accurately, and are often fired in salvos from multi-barrel rocket launchers to saturate a wide area. Human Rights Watch called on all parties to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, particularly Ukrainian government forces, to stop using Grad rockets in or near populated areas because of the likelihood of killing and wounding civilians. Insurgent forces should minimize the risk to civilians under their control by avoiding deploying forces and weapons in densely populated areas.

HRW the goes on to document its investigation into several incidents in which Kiev and its indiscriminate use of grad rockets on populated areas left scores of dead civilians in their wake. HRW also notes that the Kiev regime has denied both specific attacks and the general tactic of using grad rockets despite HRW monitors observing otherwise.

To make matters worse, HRW's conclusions in Libya generally were predicated upon interviews of "witnesses" and even second-hand reports from dubious anti-government political groups. In Ukraine, HRW is observing first hand the use of this weapon system on Ukraine's population - to which NATO has responded with only additional, stalwart support for the perpetrators.

In addition to grad rockets, the regime in Kiev has also deployed immense ballistic missiles topped with 1,000 pound (450kg) warheads against its own population. CNN had reported not only Kiev's use of OTR-21 Tochka ballistic missiles, but also the fact that Kiev's NATO backers had refused to disclose additional information about the atrocity amid a blatant cover up. Several analysts interviewed by CNN noted the bias the West was exhibiting by neither exposing the atrocity nor condemning the Kiev regime for it.

In sharp contrast, many may remember the feigned indignation of the West when allegedly the Libyan government fired Scud missiles during the closing days of the Libyan conflict. According to the in its article, "Col Gaddafi fires scud missile at rebel territory as Nato braces itself for final violent showdown," one Western official claimed:

That it didn't hit anything or kill anyone is not the point. It's a weapon of mass destruction that Col Gaddafi is willing to train on his own people.

For NATO and its stable of media outfits and politicians, Libya's use of ballistic missiles was considered the use of "weapons of mass destruction" against Libya's "own people," while Ukraine's use of ballistic missiles is a matter to be covered up and spun.

Such a revelation regarding NATO's response to blatant war crimes by its proxy regime in Kiev from CNN - a Western corporate media outlet - illustrates that not only is Kiev committing in reality the atrocities NATO cited in fiction to justify its intervention in Libya, but also that NATO itself is helping Kiev continue committing these war crimes. By providing Kiev with both political impunity and direct material support that has incrementally expanded since the conflict began earlier this year, such atrocities will only escalate as hostilities grind on.

The West's constant deferral to "international norms" when condemning the actions it provokes of other nations through its own belligerence reveals the depths of hypocrisy and depravity within which Western foreign policy dwells. If what the West practices, including the selective enforcement and violation of human rights whenever it suits its political agenda constitutes "international norms," then perhaps it is time for new "norms."

Biocide! Abandoned fishing nets trapping the ocean's turtles, seals, sharks and birds

Experts say up to 14,000 turtles could have died at the Gulf of Carpentaria, northern Australia in the last nine years

These appalling photos reveal the largely unknown damage that abandoned fishing gear dubbed 'ghost nets' in a new campaign is doing to animals in the ocean surrounding Australia.

Turtles are the main victims that get trapped in abandoned nets in the Gulf of Carpentaria in northern Australia and experts estimate there could have been 14,000 that have died over the last nine years, large numbers of seals are also getting caught up in the nets across the country's waters.

World Animal Protection has launched the Sea Change campaign with the aim to make fishermen, fisheries and the general public more aware of this problem and they want to save one million animals by 2018.

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A global campaign has started to raise awareness about abandoned fishing gear in the oceans which kill animals

Large numbers of seals are also getting caught in abandoned nets across Australian waters

World Animal Protection says it wants to save one million animals by 2018 with the global campaign it has launched

Nicola Beynon, campaigns manager for the Australian branch of World Animal Protection, told Australia said that due to sea currents some of the largest numbers of ghost nets wash up at the Gulf of Carpentaria in northern Australia.

She said: 'Fishermen lose their nets for a number of reasons and it might not be deliberate but rough seas can mean the nets get damaged and the fisherman has trouble and may think 'I might as well cut it free'.

'These abandoned nets are death traps for sea animals. Ms Beynon said scientists estimate globally 136,000 seals, sea lions and whales have died due to the ghost nets after getting entangled in them.

She said: 'This is a huge problem and it's not just sea turtles which are the main victims, these nets are also killing stingrays, sharks and sea birds. 'They endure awful suffering and there are high fatalities.

A large aquatic reptile is tragically shown caught up in one of the ghost nets washed up on a beach

'People just don't know about it and that is why we have started this campaign.'

The Gulf of Carpentaria sees the highest number of ghost nets wash up than any other place in Oceania, according to Ms Beynon.

She said: 'This is because of the intense fishing in Indonesia because of the currents in the Tirmor and Arafura Seas.

'Reports we have done show that 500 turtles have been recorded dead on the coastline, this is just the tip of the iceberg, the estimates by scientists are much larger.'

One of the initiatives of the campaign in the Philippines has seen fishermen take old nets to shore and get paid to do it, World Animal Protection is hoping to roll this out further.

Ms Beynon said that at a recent meeting in Slovenia stakeholders from all over the world including the UK, US and Indonesia came together to start raising awareness and she is planning a meeting in Australia for next year.

She said: 'It was a platform to get people talking.,

Slovenian company Aquafill, which co-sponsored the recent meeting, recycle the nets and turn them into swimming costumes and carpet tiles.