A tornado has just devastated a community on the border between the United States and Canada. Paramedics scramble to bring patients from over-crowded hospitals across the border. Communication blackouts and downed trees force ambulances to weave their way through blowing debris, fallen electrical lines, and car wrecks. The time for a routine trip from the injury site to the hospital has now tripled.
While this didn’t really happen, it was the focus in April when the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), the Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science (DRDC CSS) and Public Safety Canada collaborated on a cross-border experiment with a focus on preparing emergency responders for this type of scenario.
The fourth installment of the Canada-U.S. Enhanced Resiliency Experiment (CAUSE IV) unfolded in the aftermath of a fictional tornado along the Michigan-Ontario border—real first responders used real gear, vehicles, and standard operating procedures to ensure that citizens and communities remained safe and received necessary care during and after the “storm.”
CAUSE IV was designed to highlight critical aspects of an emergency of this magnitude: overarching situational awareness, reliable communications tools, public alerts and warning, and access to real time data for decision-making and resource allocation. The program consisted of two vignettes.
The first, led by DRDC CSS, focused on establishing a public safety broadband network (PSBN) for emergency responders crossing the U.S.-Canada border. The second vignette, led by S&T’s First Responders Group (FRG), examined the full disaster lifecycle, from resource planning to mutual aid, and tested how information from social media and 211 could provide situational awareness that could integrate with other data and effectively manage post-disaster response.
For example, during the experiment, information about a road obstruction was identified by digital volunteers on social media and a new route was relayed to the paramedics transporting a patient across the border.
S&T Program Manager Denis Gusty explained how each of the two vignettes were both critical components to achieving interoperability during the experiment, “You really couldn’t have one without the other. In the event of a large-scale natural disaster—in this case a simulated tornado—cross-border communication between hospitals, dispatchers and paramedics would be a central part of post-disaster management.”
The first vignette established a constant broadband connection between emergency responders as they shuttled “patients” across the border. Ambulances from St. Clair County (Michigan) and Lambton County (Ontario) tested voice, video and data applications and services.
“[The PSBN is] so critical for border towns, especially because we’re so close. If there is a disaster and we can’t communicate to each other—especially with our first responders and our ambulances—that can cause a detriment to our healthcare, ” said Betty Falecki, Lake Huron’s Director of Emergency Services and Preparedness.
When American ambulances cross over into Canada, the receiving Canadian hospitals are unable to communicate with them because each country currently operates on separate networks. Falecki explained, “They’re in a dead zone. Once [the ambulances] cross the borders they have no communication whatsoever with us. If we can establish that operability, we can become one.”
“CAUSE IV is really the first time we’ve built a stand-alone bridge between those two networks,” said Jeff Brooks, Deputy Manager of the County of Lambton EMS Department.
The public safety broadband network technology that was tested during the experiment operated in the 700 megahertz Band 14, which allowed CAUSE IV operators to seamlessly transmit data such as patient vital signs, electrocardiograms and live video in real time from hospital to hospital and ambulance to hospital.
The experiment consisted of two temporary public safety broadband networks. In order to accurately emulate both FirstNet in the United States and the future PSBN in Canada, the base stations were located in Port Huron, Michigan and Sarnia, Ontario but the evolved packed core networks (EPC) for both countries were located at the Communications Research Centre (CRC) in Ottawa, Canada. The entire vignette one system was designed and implemented by DRDC CSS, the Communications Research Centre Canada (CRC) and Texas A&M University.
“With this technology we’ll be able to maintain communication in the event that the patient deteriorates, there’s a problem with the vehicle, or the crew needs directions,” Brooks added. “Video conferencing with the physician that’s receiving the patient could potentially provide better managed patient care. Doctors will have more information and will be ready for the patients when they arrive.”
“Having all key stakeholders able to communicate via voice, data, or other situational awareness tools helped paramedics to perform time-critical medical interventions, which increased patient care,” said Doug Socha, DRDC CSS’s Paramedic Portfolio Manager.
The other element to CAUSE IV was the work S&T carried out in vignette two to test the use of social media and digital volunteers for enhanced situational awareness. This data was analyzed in real time to permit Emergency Operations Centers (EOC) to detect, evaluate, and plan improved response.
“Incident data collected from social media could inform the safest and fastest route for an ambulance crossing the border to take, saving time and ultimately, the lives of victims,” Gusty said.
This included various methods to utilize the ‘citizen as a sensor’ concept, including having trained weather spotters report current weather conditions using a GeoForm in the field, and digital volunteers submitting information to the EOC related to road blocks, downed trees, and flash floods observed in social media (on Twitter accounts created just for the CAUSE IV experiment). The data gained from the field reports was then automatically generated into a base map that included critical infrastructure and key information. EOC personnel could then make decisions on how to plan response efforts based on what the weather spotters reported in real time.
Jeff Friedland, Director of Homeland Security Emergency Management for St. Clair County, Michigan, noted how the experiment’s use of public participation digital volunteers could be essential for first responders moving forward. “CAUSE IV showed us how to mine social media and extract what is critical or what really pertains to us and apply it instantly to our maps.”
Another problem examined during vignette two was the struggle to allocate precious resources during post-disaster damage assessment.
Friedland said, “We’re also automating damage assessment that citizens fill out electronically. It tells us where we need to send our damage assessment personnel. It prioritizes all the damage in the county and records on a continuous basis, keeps track of the number of homes destroyed, along with major and minor damage.”
Illustrating what’s ahead for 211 call centers across Canada and the United States, Jennifer Tanner, Project Manager for 211 in Southwest Ontario, said, “We have all this information from callers that we’re able to share with municipalities and hopefully that information can help inform the decisions that are made in an EOC during an emergency.”
Experiment findings and lessons learned will be published in a CAUSE IV after-action report that will be posted in fall 2016 at www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/first-responders. For questions about CAUSE IV and the individual vignettes, email email@example.com.
Monday, 24 Oct 2016
ISIS may use drones as weapons. The terrorist group could be using conventional drones to deliver explosives.
The U.S. has been using a drone missile campaign to fight terrorists. Now, ISIS has turned the tables and scored success by using booby-trapped drones as its own weapons.
The terror group's ability to innovate and use small aircraft for nefarious purposes underscores how the off-the-shelf drone technology could supply extremists with a potent platform on our own soil to deliver explosives.
Moreover, there is evidence that international terrorists have looked at other ways to weaponize drones and "have been attracted to the high-lethality potential associated with the use of chemical and biological weapons," according to a report released Thursday by the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point
"It's an ongoing game of cat and mouse between the offense and defense like you see in a lot of military areas" -Andrew Hunter, Center for Strategic and International Studies
"We have to be poised and ready on the U.S. side to innovate whenever a new threat appears, and this is definitely a new threat," said Andrew Hunter, director of the defense-industrial initiatives group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a defense think tank.
Islamic State has increasingly been using drones for surveillance and for attempted attacks on the battlefield, particularly against Iraqi forces, according to experts. Earlier this month, a small drone killed two Kurdish soldiers fighting the terror group when an explosive-laden craft unexpectedly detonated after being downed.
"It's an ongoing game of cat and mouse between the offense and defense like you see in a lot of military areas," said Hunter. "People have seen this coming. It's sort of a natural extension of the whole IED [or improvised explosive device] threat."
Enemy drone swarms
In July, the U.S. Army issued a new handbook to raise troop awareness of the threat of multiple swarming drones.
"They can be preprogrammed or remotely piloted as an expendable asset at relatively low cost," it stated. "The swarm itself can be used to disrupt our own reconnaissance efforts or overwhelm an entry control point."
The military is taking the threat seriously and expects the use of hostile drones to continue.
"Coalition forces understand that ISIL is a determined, adaptive and unscrupulous adversary," said a Department of Defense spokesman in a statement. "There is a wide array of technology angles we are looking into — from blocking the electromagnetic spectrum and disrupting control of the device, to physically capturing or disabling the device."
Taking 'appropriate precautions'
Additionally, the DoD spokesman said they are taking "appropriate precautions to protect Coalition forces and our partners on the ground from the full spectrum of threats in the operating environment so that they can carry out their mission of training, advising and assisting indigenous forces in Iraq and Syria as they work to deliver ISIL a lasting defeat."
Closer to home, the threat of a domestic terrorist using an inexpensive hobby drone in an urban area remains real. It's not just for the use of deadly payloads but the Combating Terrorism Center report also discusses how drones could be used "as a diversionary device to channel a crowd to another location where attackers could be lying in wait."
"The Department of Homeland Security has ongoing research and development efforts focused on the detection, tracking and interdiction of small Unmanned Aerial Systems," Patrick Carrick, the director of the federal government's Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency within the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement.
Experts suggest that the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) pose a nuisance threat, too. Rogue drones have been detected around stadiums, nuclear plants, prisons and even interfered with fire emergencies. There also have been drone intrusions in sensitive government locations in the nation's capital, including on the White House lawn.
We have ways to deal with the UAV threat, and major U.S. defense companies already known for big-ticket defense systems are active participants in selling the newest anti-drone technology.
"There is a need to roll things out here in the U.S. while we're also protecting our soldiers internationally," said Doug Booth, Lockheed Martin's director of business development for cyber and electronic warfare.
Lockheed Martin has two anti-drone systems. One, a Star Wars-like laser weapon technology has not been field tested yet. Another is what's known as Icarus, a non-kinetic system that has been fielded and designed to detect, recognize and intercept drones.
According to Booth, Lockheed has "a classified customer" for the Icarus system and has conducted several other field exercises for additional customers who are "getting ready to obtain the system."
Meanwhile, Boeing shot down its first UAV during a 2007 test aboard a combat vehicle. The company has since made its new drone-killing technology — known as Compact Laser Weapons System — more portable and has demonstrated how it can track and disable UAVs.
"We've tried to reduce the size, weight and the footprint of these laser weapons to try to get them down into a size that is more applicable to a modern battlefield," said Rich Choppa, Boeing's director of global sales and marketing for strategic missiles and defense systems.
In April, Boeing mounted the anti-drone device on a Stryker armored vehicle made by General Dynamics and shot down over 20 UAVs. Choppa said the test included other targets, and pointed out that it was done at the request of the U.S. Army.
"We're on the cusp of the first purchase by the military of these types of systems," said Choppa. "I believe we'll see them on the battlefield."
Elsewhere, Raytheon demonstrated a laser weapon system in 2010 that destroyed four drones; it has shown missiles can do the job, too. In addition, there's a Phalanx rapid-fire weapon system capable of countering UAVs. The defense contractor declined comment for this story.
There also are several international companies at the forefront of new anti-drone tech. SkyWall, from U.K.-based OpenWorks Engineering, uses a shoulder-mounted weapon that fires a projectile with a net to capture drones. Then there's a "kamikaze" solution known as the Hero-30 from UVision, an Israeli company that uses a suicide drone to find UAV targets and rams into them.
Yet another anti-drone system is the Battelle DroneDefender, which uses a radio-jamming "rifle" that severs the link between the drone and controller.
DroneDefender could be useful to local and state public safety agencies but the defense contractor said current U.S. law makes electronic jamming illegal to those groups, and only certain federal departments can purchase or use the system.
"We have a lot of interest from others, but currently we're not allowed to sell to those folks," said Dan Stamm, one of the inventors of the DroneDefender and manager of counter UAS programs for Battelle. About 100 of the jammer units have been sold to the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security, according to the Ohio-based contractor.
A newcomer in the anti-drone market is SkySafe, which is developing its own disruptive technology for taking down drones. In April, the startup raised $3 million in funding from an investor group led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. SkySafe's website says the California-based company is currently seeking testing partners.
But there's just one problem.
21 OCT 2016
A story has gone viral this morning claiming that experts have finally 'solved' the Bermuda Triangle mystery, with the discovery of strange, hexagonal-shaped clouds covering the region.
According to a new Science Channel documentary on the issue, these hexagonal clouds are creating winds of 106 kilometres per hour (65 mph) that act as "air bombs" to sink ships and bring down planes.
But there's one problem - the Bermuda Triangle actually doesn't exist, and there is no 'mystery' to solve. There are actually no extra unexplained plane crashes and shipwrecks in the area, despite what you might have heard.
The name Bermuda Triangle refers to a region of ocean bordered by Florida, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico, and it was first brought to public attention back in the 1950s by a journalist named Edward Van Winkle Jones, who wrote a story for the Associated Press about a large number of ships and planes that had disappeared in the region.
The idea really took off in the 1970s, when Charles Berlitz published the best-selling The Bermuda Triangle, and everyone started speculating about UFOs or rogue waves that were frequenting the region.
But the problem was, no one had actually fact-checked the claims of boats and planes going missing in the first place. And when journalist Larry Kusche actually did a few years later, he discovered there was actually no mystery to solve in the first place.
The 'mysterious disappearances' everyone was freaking out over were either reporting mistakes or outright fabrications.
As Benjamin Radford explains for Live Science:
"In some cases there's no record of the ships and planes claimed to have been lost in the aquatic triangular graveyard; they never existed outside of a writer's imagination. In other cases, the ships and planes were real enough – but Berlitz and others neglected to mention that they 'mysteriously disappeared' during bad storms. Other times the vessels sank far outside the Bermuda Triangle."
There are some real boats and ships that have gone missing in the region, but seeing as it's one that's frequented by tankers, cruise ships, charter planes, and small pleasure ships – as well as the location of hurricane alley and the notorious Gulf Stream, that's not all that surprising.
Kusche published a book on the subject, The Bermuda Triangle Mystery - Solved, in 1975, but despite converting a few former believers, the myth of the Bermuda Triangle remained.
Which brings us back to today, and this new 'breakthrough' in the Bermuda Triangle case.
Researchers have now analysed imagery from a NASA satellite and spotted hexagonal-shaped clouds ranging between 32 and 88 kilometres (20 and 54 miles) wide, roughly around 240 kilometres (149 miles) off the coast of Florida, over the Bahamas.
Steve Miller, a satellite meteorologist from Colorado State University, told the Science Channel that their straight-edged appearance is pretty unusual.
"You don’t typically see straight edges with clouds," said Miller. "Most of the time clouds are random in their distribution."
Although they can't be that uncommon, because the team also examined similar cloud shapes over the North Sea off the coast of the UK and found them associated with sea level winds of up to 160 kilometres per hour (99 miles per hour), which are powerful enough to create waves more than 14 metres (45 feet) high.
"These types of hexagonal shapes over the ocean are in essence air bombs," Randy Cerveny from the University of Arizona told the Science channel.
"They are formed by what are called microbursts and they’re blasts of air that come down out of the bottom of a cloud and then hit the ocean and then create waves that can sometimes be massive in size and they start to interact with each other."
None of this insight into the clouds has been published in a peer-reviewed journal as yet, so let's take it with a grain of salt.
But it's entirely possible that hexagonal clouds could be common over the region, and they could be associated with stronger-than-normal winds.
Still, that doesn't change the fact that there isn't a strange excess of disappearances in the region to solve in the first place. So the real news here isn't the solution to a long-standing myth, it's potential evidence of a new weather phenomenon, and that's pretty cool in itself.
While the US is pondering how to undo Duterte's dramatic reversal in policy, when last week the Philippines president announced he would align himself with China while abandoning his country's 60+ year strategic alliance with Washington, Beijing is already thinking one step ahead, specifically as pertain to China's claims over the South China Sea, where the Philippines had been one of the biggest hurdles to Beijing's territorial claims: claims which after last week have taken a far back seat as Duterte seeks to rebuild from scratch the country's new regional policy.
Which explains why overnight, in an op-ed in the official Chinese mouthpiece The People's Daily, China asserted it would never allow the US to run amok in South China Sea waters, after a US Navy guided-missile destroyer, the USS Decatur, sailed through the waters of the Xisha Islands on Friday without the Chinese approval.
What the US did, driven by its hegemonic mentality, cannot increase its influence in Asia-Pacific region, the article said, adding that such acts to stir up enmity and make troubles will only result in the accelerated decline of its global influence.
"The Chinese government resolutely opposes such provocative behavior and takes a series of effective counter-measures," said the commentary under the byline of Zhongsheng, adding that "Washington has to realize that it is rightly this hegemonic mentality that has resulted in its declining global influence and inability to provide public goods with positive energy. It also has to admit that the era when one country can dominate an alliance network by creating tensions with lies will never come back."
The attack on all things American continued:
Over the past years, in a bid to cement its maritime hegemony, the US has been destabilizing regional peace and stability by meddling in the South China Sea, challenging China and alienating ties between China and the Philippines.
Washington has not realized that those tricks cannot overturn the regional trend of peaceful development. As the Philippines once appealed, "We can't be US' 'little brown brother' forever." Its choice to adjust diplomatic policies and reinforce cooperation with China also proves that an unjust cause committed to by the US finds little support.
What's more, the US should not bear any fantasy in terms of the South China Sea issue as this is not its first head-to-head game with China. China has a rock-solid determination to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity. China will not ask for anything not belonging to itself, but it will fight for every inch of its territory within its sovereignty.
It appears that now that China has a newly-found ally in the face of the Philippines, its territorial ambitions in the South China Sea will only grow, even as the US has repeatedly stated it would not concede any of its own counteraspirations involving this critical for global trade region.
A US Navy guided-missile destroyer, the USS Decatur, sailed through Xisha Island waters, part of the South China Sea as Chinese territorial waters, on Friday without the approval of Chinese authorities. The Chinese government resolutely opposes such provocative behavior and will take a series of effective counter-measures.
In the statement of the Chinese government on the territorial sea baseline issued in May 1996, China clarified the baseline of the Xisha Islands. The Law of the People's Republic of China on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone and other international laws also stipulates that all foreign warships need to gain approval from the Chinese government before entering Chinese waters.
The illegal entry of US warships into Chinese waters without permission seriously violates China's sovereignty and security interests, breaches both Chinese and international laws as well, and poses threats to peace, security as well as order in the relevant waters.
What the US did aims to encroach upon the sovereignty, security and maritime interests of regional countries in the so-called name of a "freedom-of-navigation operation." But such provocative acts once again expose the negative energy of its "Rebalance to Asia" strategy, and at the same time verify the US' role as a real trouble-maker in the South China Sea.
The so-called patrol launched by the US this time came just as China and the Philippines, a country immediately concerned with the South China Sea issue, were restoring their ties. During Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's state visit to China, the two countries inked a series of cooperation agreements.
This US provocation in Chinese territorial waters, at a time when the improvement of ties between China and relevant countries is pulling the South China Sea issue to a encouraging solution, proves that the US has been destabilizing the South China Sea by playing up tensions.
By launching the so-called patrols, the superpower is telling the world that it can tolerate neither a tranquil South China Sea, nor a peaceful and stable Asia-Pacific. Since it cannot find a puppet troublemaker any longer, the exasperated Washington has to create a disturbance by itself.
President Duterte pointed out in a speech that "the US feels a little anxious over China's sound ties with the Philippines," and his remarks revealed the complicated psychology of the US. Its peremptory provocation, as a matter of fact, can be regarded as a way to release its depression and an inertia to maintain its hegemony.
Washington has to realize that it is rightly this hegemonic mentality that has resulted in its declining global influence and inability to provide public goods with positive energy. It also has to admit that the era when one country can dominate an alliance network by creating tensions with lies will never come back.
No one wants to weaken the US' influence in the Asia-Pacific region, but such influence must be based on a positive dedication to common development of the whole region. Its outdated hegemonic mentality is by no means accepted by regional countries who aspire for peace, cooperation and shared progress.
It is well-known that "freedom-of-navigation," often cited by the US as a pretext, is actually a falsehood to allow the country to pursue "absolute freedom" of its own security. But the US should bear in mind the ultimate consequences of seeking absolute security as the country has paid enough bitter prices for its arrogance and ignorance.
The arbitrary decision will certainly bring the country to deadlock, and such a stubborn country may obtain some hard power, but never soft power and smart power.
If the US really wants to be a world power, it can never resort to guns, firearms, separation or fishing in troubled waters. Efforts to expand interests can be shared by all countries. Highfalutin words but obstinate and aggressive deeds will win no respect and trust from other countries.
Over the past years, in a bid to cement its maritime hegemony, the US has been destabilizing regional peace and stability by meddling in the South China Sea, challenging China and alienating ties between China and the Philippines.
Washington has not realized that those tricks cannot overturn the regional trend of peaceful development. As the Philippines once appealed, "We can't be US' 'little brown brother' forever." Its choice to adjust diplomatic policies and reinforce cooperation with China also proves that an unjust cause committed to by the US finds little support.
What's more, the US should not bear any fantasy in terms of the South China Sea issue as this is not its first head-to-head game with China. China has a rock-solid determination to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity. China will not ask for anything not belonging to itself, but it will fight for every inch of its territory within its sovereignty.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, at the gathering commemorating the 80th anniversary of the conclusion of the Long March (1934-36), urged the entire military to remain vigilant and be aware of its responsibilities, stressing that the modernization of national defense and armed forces must advance in a bid to safeguard the country's national sovereignty, security and development interests.
The US' consolidation of hegemony with military actions will only highlight China's necessity to strengthen defense, and activate China's resolution to improve its capability to safeguard its own interests.
The Chinese army will definitely safeguard China's national sovereignty and security by stepping up patrols based on demand and optimizing its defensive capabilities. China will never allow the US to run amok in the South China Sea, an issue concerning principles.
Outbreak News Today
Posted by News Desk on October 20, 2016
Despite achieving elimination of leprosy as a public health problem ten years ago (a prevalence of < 1 case per 10 000 population), India still reports the highest number of leprosy cases on the globe by a long shot.
In 2015, there was more than 210,000 new leprosy cases reported worldwide and India accounted for some 60 percent of the global case count (127,326). The next closest country was Brazil with just over 26,000 cases.
In fact, India has recorded greater than 125,000 new cases annually since at least 2010.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says high numbers of new cases are detected in pockets of endemicity in India.
Earlier in September, the National Leprosy Elimination Programme led a leprosy case detection campaign in which 320 million people were screened for the bacterial disease in a door-to-door operation.
Every district reporting at least one case per 10 000 people over the past 3 years was targeted. The main objective was to detect all cases by visiting members of every household and following up with treatment of every member of the family diagnosed with the disease.
Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae. The disease mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, the mucosa of the upper respiratory tract and the eyes. Leprosy is curable and treatment provided in the early stages averts disability. Multidrug therapy, made available by WHO free of charge to all patients worldwide since 1995, provides a simple yet highly effective cure for all types of leprosy.
Control of leprosy has improved significantly as a result of national and subnational campaigns in most endemic countries. Integration of basic leprosy services into general health services has made diagnosis and treatment of the disease more accessible.
Published 18 October 2016
In a large-scale nuclear or radiological emergency, such as a nuclear detonation, hundreds of thousands of people may need medical care for injuries or illness caused by high doses of radiation. To help save as many people as possible and better prepare the nation for the health impacts of such catastrophic emergencies, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) will sponsor late-stage development of two tests, known as biodosimetry tests, which can determine how much radiation a person’s body has absorbed.
HHS says that in a large-scale emergency involving radiation, doctors would need information about how much radiation each survivor has absorbed to determine the type of treatment the person should receive to combat any radiation injuries to internal organs and blood cells.
Although devices are available to detect radiation externally, such as on skin, there are no biodosimetry tests approved to measure the amount of radiation absorbed into the body.
ASPR’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) will use authority granted under the Project BioShield Act of 2004 to support the tests’ late-stage development and potentially purchase tests from one or more of the companies for the Strategic National Stockpile. BARDA will provide more than $22.4 million over two years to DxTerity Diagnostics based near Los Angeles and more than $21.3 million over four years, three months to MRIGlobal of Kansas City, Missouri.
HHS notes that under Project BioShield, the U.S. government can support the late-stage development and procurement of new medical countermeasures — drugs, vaccines, diagnostics, and medical supplies — to mitigate the health impacts associated with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats. With these two biodosimetry tests, BARDA has sponsored development or purchased twenty products using Project BioShield.
The agreements with the two companies support the clinical studies required for the companies to apply for U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the biodosimetry tests. The work also allows the companies to seek Emergency Use Authorization from FDA if a nuclear or radiological incident occurs prior to full approval of the tests.
Both biodosimetry tests are being designed for use in clinical health care labs and analyze blood samples to measure how genes respond to different amounts of radiation and are expected to generate results in about eight hours and can be used up to seven days after exposure. Both are high throughput tests with the potential to process 400,000 or more tests a week.
Japan’s largest active volcano, Mount Aso, erupted recently sending a massive cloud of smoke and ash almost 7 miles into the air. The volcanic debris and ash column was large enough to cover surrounding cities and coat them in grey soot.
The 5,200 feet tall Mount Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture is on the southwestern Japanese island of Kyushu. Luckily, no injuries have been reported from the eruption, but damages mainly due to ash fallout are still being assessed. The Japan Meteorological Agency raised the threat to level three near Mount Aso, warning local residents to not approach the volcano. The agency predicted heavy ash fall within 16 miles northeast of the volcano due to dominant wind direction.
“It is extremely rare for an eruption column to exceed 10,000 meters,” said Makoto Saito, the director of the Japan Meteorological Agency’s Volcanology Division. There remains the potential for another eruption to occur due to the high activity of Mount Aso. Japan has witnessed several other Level 3 alerts this year alone coming from activity at Sakurajima and Kuchinoerabujima Volcanoes.
You can witness the eruption in the Associated Press video below containing raw footage during the eruption. The footage was originally played on Japan’s NHK public TV station and shows the eruption from a vantage point.
In the second video you can see the ash cloud from Mount Aso as it envelops hikers who look for cover.
Residents of the city of Aso, where much of the ash fell, spent the day after the eruption washing off buildings, plants and streets. Ash was reported as far away as western Japan and approximately 29,000 households temporarily lost power due to the eruption.
Mount Aso also erupted in September of 2015, sending an ash column ~6,300 feet into the air. The volcano is one of the largest active volcanoes in the world. The northernmost crater has been actively erupting for the last 70 years almost on a yearly basis. Mount Aso has a large caldera, which the city of Aso lies within, and is the remnants of massive eruptions 90,000 to 300,000 years ago. The caldera formed as the magma chamber collapsed after eruption, leaving a pockmark crater in the ground.
Even though the volcano will likely continue to erupt, regular eruptions limit the build up of pressure and magma within the chamber and lessen the likelihood of a major eruption.
HUNDREDS of oil tankers are being forced to turn back to their point of origin or simply park in the middle of the sea because of a shortage in fuel storage facilities across the US and Europe, creating a logjam of vessels in some of the world's busiest shipping channels.
Oct 10, 2016
A map of the water outside Galveston, Texas. The red squares are stationary tankers
Maritime tracking maps show concentrations of oil and chemical tankers effectively sitting stationary from the US to China.
Analysis by Express.co.uk of the Gulf of Mexico and the waters surrounding Singapore show dozens of vessels idling as they wait to unload their cargo.
It comes less than a year after three 37,000-tonne tankers made U-turns in the Atlantic ocean after the oil industry declared European storage nearly full.
One of the ships - Vendome Street - was more than three quarters of the way to Europe from the US when it turned around just 800 miles off the coast of Portugal.
Historically low oil prices have led to a glut in global oil stocks and contributed to a larger amount of at-sea oil.
Analysts say the amount of oil at sea at any one time is now double the level it was in 2014.
The total stock of oil estimated to be in tankers is equivalent to more than a day's worth of the world's total oil consumption.
Millions of barrels of crude oil are sitting in tankers around the world and experts believe the low price is encouraging traders to store the product at sea while they seek out a better price.
Some tankers are even being asked to travel at slower speeds to reduce the amount being offloaded each month.
Maritime tracking maps show concentrations of oil and chemical tankers
The issue of a global oil glut at sea rose to prominence late last year when analysts said more than 100million barrels of oil were languishing on tankers.
David Wech, managing director of JBC Energy, told the FT at the time: "Onshore storage is not quite full but it is at historically high levels globally.
"As we move closer to capacity that is creating more infrastructure hiccups and delays in the oil market, leading to more oil being backed out on to the water."
Astronauts bound for Mars could go insane and develop serious psychological problems due to cosmic radiation, according to new research published Monday.
Scientists tested the long term brain damage of similar radiation on rodents, which caused cognitive impairments and dementia. Six months after the rodents were exposed to the radiation, the scientists and the rats were still performing poorly on behavioral tasks designed to test learning and memory, a study conducted by the University of California, Irvine (UCI). NASA estimates that a manned Mars mission would take between one and three years to carry out.
“This is not positive news for astronauts deployed on a two-to-three-year round trip to Mars,” Dr. Charles Limoli, a professor of radiation oncology in UCI’s School of Medicine, said in a press statement. “The space environment poses unique hazards to astronauts. Exposure to these particles can lead to a range of potential central nervous system complications that can occur during and persist long after actual space travel – such as various performance decrements, memory deficits, anxiety, depression and impaired decision-making.”
Limoli noted that similar cognitive dysfunction is common in brain cancer patients who have received high-dose, radiation treatments. These dementia-like deficits in astronauts would take months of exposure to radiation to manifest, meaning that a lengthy mission to Mars could certainly put astronauts at risk. These developments could make it much more difficult for NASA to send a mission to Mars.
“Earth’s Moon needs to be a priority in our lead-up to long-term Martian habitation,” an aerospace engineer familiar with NASA Mars proposals who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “It’s a convenient lab to answer all of our questions about human endurance outside of Earth’s magnetosphere and in lower gravity. As the Moon is only ever about 2 to 3 days travel away (at worst), it gives us a test-bed that will pose greater challenges than a Mars mission at a location easily accessible for us to test and verify the numerous lingering hypotheses that are critical to human space flight to other planets.”
Mars-bound spacecraft could be designed to handled some of the radiation with increased shielding, but the highly energetic charged particles would still cause dementia to strike the astronauts nonetheless.
Other NASA research into the psychological problems with Mars missions were much more positive. A study where six scientists simulated living on Mars for a year in a dome to determine if a NASA crew of three men and three women could live in close quarters over an extended period of time without a psychological breakdown, and the results were favorable.
“I can give you my personal impression which is that a mission to Mars in the close future is realistic,” Cyprien Verseux, a French astrobiologist who participated in the study, said in a press statement. “I think the technological and psychological obstacles can be overcome.”
NASA spent $1.2 million on the dome study, but it was run through the University of Hawaii. Another 520-day-long study in Russia came to a similar conclusion. NASA plans to conduct three similar experiments in the near future.
NASA currently plans to send real astronauts to Mars in 2030. The total costs of current plans to send Americans to Mars comes out to roughly $35 billion for a target landing of 2030. America is currently better prepared to visit Mars than it was to visit the Moon in the 1960s, according to a study by NASA’s Johnson Space Center. The rocket intended to take American astronauts to Mars in 2030 passed its final full-scale tests in late June.
NASA already has plans to put a large manned space station in orbit above Mars by 2028. The station will remotely operate rovers, analyze samples off dirt and rock and even make short trips to Mars’s two moons.
7 October 2016
The candidates for president of the United States continue to discuss preventing nuclear proliferation and the threat of nuclear terrorism, yet we hear little about how well prepared the nation is to manage the aftermath of terrorist use of an improvised nuclear device. Some may think the notion of such an attack is apocryphal. So allow me to explain just how likely such a possibility is, how devastating the result of such a detonation would be, and—in particular—just how poorly prepared the United States is to respond.
In 2005, Kofi Annan, former secretary general of the United Nations, said, “Nuclear terrorism is still often treated as science fiction. I wish it were. But unfortunately we live in a world of excess hazardous materials and abundant technological know-how, in which some terrorists clearly state their intention to inflict catastrophic casualties. Were such an attack to occur, it would not only cause widespread death and destruction, but would stagger the world economy ... [creating] a second death toll throughout the developing world.
In 2007, US Sen. John McCain was quoted as saying, “My greatest fear is the Iranians acquire a nuclear weapon or North Korea and pass enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) to a terrorist organization. And there is a real threat of them doing that. Just 55 kilograms, roughly 122 pounds of HEU, can be used to make a 10 kiloton IND, similar to the bomb dropped over Hiroshima."
In 2005, Graham Allison, director of Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, asked, "Is nuclear mega-terrorism inevitable? Harvard professors are not known for being subtle or ambiguous, but I'll try to the clear. Is the worst yet to come? My answer: Bet on it. Yes.
Matthew Bunn, also at the Belfer Center, argued in 2007, “Theft of the essential ingredients of nuclear weapons is not just a hypothetical worry, it is an ongoing reality."
Nuclear physicist Frank Barnaby has been quoted as saying “The really frightening thing about HEU is that it is so easy to make an atom bomb out of it. You only need a couple of PhD students and a small amount of material. I think we should be very frightened about the possibility of nuclear terrorism; I'm surprised it hasn't happened yet."
The aftermath of a detonation of a relatively small improvised nuclear device—one that is roughly the yield of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima—in a US city would be almost unimaginably gruesome. In New York City, for example, most buildings within one quarter of a mile would be destroyed. Some 300,000 to 400,000 people would be killed instantly, with several hundred thousand more requiring various levels of medical care. Electrical and communications systems would be severely damaged, at best. And medical and other responders would face radiation dangers and a host of other problems.
In a search of both media and scholarly literature, however, I was able to find only one mention of US preparedness for nuclear terror. “The United States is unprepared to mitigate the consequences of a nuclear attack," Pentagon analyst John Brinkerhoff wrote in a July 2005 confidential memo to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "We were unable to find any group or office with a coherent approach to this very important aspect of homeland security."
Several federal agencies have been aggressively working to address this deficit. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response has made significant strides in medical and public health preparedness. But much more work needs to be done across the federal behemoth.
After spending untold millions of dollars since its establishment, the Department of Homeland Security—the umbrella agency in which the Federal Emergency Management Agency resides—still does not have adequate radiation detection technology for use in the aftermath of a nuclear detonation and confuses local responders with inconsistent units of measure for radiation emitted by various nuclear isotopes. In Homeland Security advisories to first responders, the terms REM, rad, Sieverts and Gray are thrown about as if interchangeable. They’re not, and knowing the difference is important if responders are to feel and be safe in the aftermath of a nuclear blast.
Because there is such a clear history of concern about the threat of nuclear terrorism, the presidential candidates must cross the bridge from merely accepting the possibility of an attack with an improvised nuclear device, to planning an effective response that reduces the mass morbidity and mortality such an attack inevitably will cause—and then leads beyond the attack, toward recovery.
The road to preparedness. The detonation of a Hiroshima-yield improvised nuclear device in New York would level or significantly damage a significant portion of the city and instantaneously kill and maim hundreds of thousands of people. Trauma, burns, and radiation damage to organ systems are just some of the injuries that would place extraordinary demands on health care systems. In most multi-casualty incidents, there are one or two triage points where victims are taken for assessment and routing to treatment. Following a nuclear detonation in a major city, there could be need of 25 to 75 such triage points—or more—because of the vast geographical footprint of the detonation and the number of victims involved. Coordination will be difficult; much of the communication infrastructure will be demolished or rendered unusable. Moving patients to definitive care will be a monumental task and deciding which patients are triaged for medical care and which are triaged to receive end-of-life services will vary by triage point.
C. Norman Coleman and colleagues at the Department of Health and Human Services have developed criteria for establishing a triage network in the event of a nuclear explosion, but training for emergency physicians and pre-hospital care providers has not been integrated into the fabric of primary or continuing education for those responders.
Finally, studies—including research I conducted in 2012— have shown that between 30 and 50 percent of critical personnel will not be present at or be unable to travel to work in the aftermath of a nuclear detonation. Many of those non-responding responders will want to be with their families; others will fear the personal health threat of radiation.
This dismal picture of US preparation for an incident of nuclear terrorism could be improved with strong leadership at the White House, particularly from the homeland security advisor to the president. The following areas need support, both in terms of funding and in developing uniform plans for managing a nuclear incident in a major city:
October 7, 2016
TIJUANA, Mexico A crowd of about 1,000 Haitians shouted and shoved at the door of Mexico’s immigration agency at the U.S. border, which has found itself an unhappy gateway for thousands of would-be migrants in recent months hoping to cross into the United States.
They wrapped their arms around the waists of people in front of them to prevent anyone from cutting in line in their desperation for one of just a few dozen slots granted daily with U.S. immigration authorities about a half-mile away.
Several thousand Haitians have traveled to Tijuana in recent months, overflowing migrant shelters and often sleeping outside next to their backpacks on sheets of cardboard, many after traveling 7,000 miles by foot, taxi and bus from Brazil through eight nations to the threshold of the United States. There have been so many that in August, Mexican authorities imposed a system of appointments in order to keep the Haitians away from the flow of other visitors at one of the world’s busiest border crossings.
Most of the Haitians appear unaware that the trip, and the desperate scramble at the border, has been in vain.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Sept. 21 began putting Haitians in detention facilities before attempting to send them back to the homeland they fled, a departure from previous practice of freeing them on humanitarian parole. The U.S. softened its posture after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake but now treats them like people from other countries.
Many of the Haitians continuing to arrive in Tijuana have said they were unaware of the change, while those who knew about it said turning back was not an option. Brazil opened its doors to the Haitians after the earthquake devastated their impoverished country, but the South American country later developed its own economic problems, recently prompting many to seek work in the United States.
Antonio Juneiro, 40, is typical. He lived in Sao Paolo for four years until factory work dried up and he decided to join family in Miami. After spending $4,000 to reach Tijuana, the prospect of a job in the United States was worth the risk of getting deported to Haiti.
In this Oct. 3, 2016 photo, Haitian migrants receive food and drinks from volunteers as they wait in line at a Mexican immigration agency in Tijuana with the hope of gaining an appointment to cross to the U.S. side of the border. Many Haitians arriving at the Mexico-U.S. border are unaware of a new U.S. policy of putting them in deportation proceedings and detaining them while making efforts to fly them home.
Gregory Bull, AP
“When you have money, you have hope. You have health,” Juniero said at the Padre Chava migrant shelter in Tijuana, where he lived for a month while awaiting his appointment at San Diego’s San Ysntry.
The exodus from Brazil accelerated in May and has shown no sign of slowing. U.S. officials say about 5,000 Haitians showed up at San Ysidro from October 2015 through late last month, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah Saldana said at a recent congressional hearing that officials told her on a trip to Central America that 40,000 more were on their way. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission said this week that an average of 300 Haitians and Africans were crossing Mexico’s southern border daily.
On Thursday, Nicaraguan authorities captured smugglers driving two trucks containing 98 migrants from Haiti and a variety of African nations. Authorities said they planned to return them to the border with Costa Rica where hundreds of others are stranded.
With hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Haitian men, women and young children regularly spending the night just outside the busiest United States border crossing, Mexican officials have moved to bring some order to the unruly scene by granting 20-day permits to stay in Mexico while also helping schedule their slots with the Americans on the other side.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection can only handle up to about 75 people a day at San Ysidro, and Tijuana authorities were unhappy about large crowds assembled on the Mexican side of the border crossing. So Mexican officials began distributing paper slips with dates to appear at San Ysidro but the documents were often copied. Now, three days a week, officials stamp dates to appear at San Ysidro on 20-day permits that Haitians receive to stay in Mexico.
Mexico also extends the 20-day permits to smaller numbers of U.S.-bound immigrants from Ghana, Senegal and other African countries.
One morning last week, 50 people who had dates to enter the U.S. quietly lined up at the border crossing. A Mexican official emerged from his trailer to say there was room for five more and was mobbed by about 100 people looking to cross. The official led the group across a bridge to a U.S. inspector, who directed them through a turnstile to an area inside the U.S. border station for questioning.
Once inside the United States, the Haitians cannot be turned back to Mexico. With the previous earthquake-related protections now dropped, they are held in U.S. detention centers pending repatriation.
Mexico’s National Migration Institute in Tijuana on Monday made appointments in the coming weeks for 766 people to enter at San Ysidro, making it one of its busiest days since the influx began. All people in line got a date, with the last ones getting appointments for Nov. 10, stranding them in Tijuana for more than five weeks.
Padre Chava, one of 10 Tijuana shelters that house Haitians, turned away hundreds over the weekend, leading many to sleep outside on cardboard sheets. The shelter accommodated 271 people Saturday, about half of them women - some pregnant - and 34 children. Many slept on floors without mattresses. Shouting matches erupted.
“We are exhausted, completely exhausted,” said shelter administrator Margarita Andonaegui. “When we have more than 200 people, we lose control.”
Rosario Lozada, the city’s director of migrant affairs, was exasperated after the latest arrivals raised her estimate of Haitians stuck in Tijuana to 2,000, half of them in shelters and the rest in hotels or on the streets.
“We’ve been going nonstop for almost five months, 24 hours a day,” she said.
It’s early to say if the U.S. policy shift is deterring Haitians from coming, but challenges lie ahead.
Haiti took back just 433 deportees in the 2015 fiscal year - before the influx, the recent policy shift and damage inflicted this week by Hurricane Matthew - and it’s unclear how many the impoverished nation is willing or able to absorb. The United States has a limited number of beds at its immigration detention facilities to accommodate people while flights and travel documents are arranged.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that it was monitoring the hurricane and “will assess its impact on current policies as appropriate.” The U.S. State Department said in a statement that it was working with other governments on how to address the Haitian immigrants.
Wilfred Jean-Luis, who moved to Brazil in 2014 and left when construction work dried up, was optimistic that he would eventually join cousins in Miami after a grueling journey that included getting robbed in Nicaragua, a common experience among the Haitians.
“How is Haiti going to able to take us back as deportees?” he asked after a night on Tijuana’s streets. “They don’t have the capacity.”
6 October 2016
The consequences of climate change paint a bleak picture for the Southwest and much of America’s breadbasket, the Great Plains. A “megadrought” likely will occur late in this century, and it could last for three decades, according to a new report by Cornell and NASA researchers in the journal Science Advances, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
“The results were striking. As a society, we’ve weighted the dice toward megadrought. Data clearly point to a high risk in the Southwest and Great Plains, as we continue to add carbon dioxide into our atmosphere,” said Toby Ault, Cornell associate professor of earth and atmospheric sciences. “However, if we manage to get serious about lowering greenhouse gases within the next 10 years, we could face a lower risk.”
With a drier future and higher regional temperatures amplifying possible late-century droughts, the situation presents a major adaptation challenge for managing the region’s water needs, explains Ault, who, along with lead author Benjamin Cook and Jason Smerdon, both of NASA, published their new study, “Unprecedented 21st Century Drought Risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains Drought Risk in Western North America.”
Cornell University says that previous research, by examining tree rings and other physical clues, had identified a period of time called Medieval Climate Anomaly (A.D. 1100-1300) when megadroughts were more common. By analyzing data from seventeen state-of-the-art global climate models, Cook, Ault, and Smerdon learned that western North America’s future drought risk exceeded even the driest centuries of the Medieval Climate Anomaly.
The role of climate change in causing extreme heat waves, drastic rainfall, negative impacts on human health, and threatened food security have received more attention recently than megadrought. However, Ault views prolonged drought risk as yet another natural hazard that becomes more likely from human activity.
“Hurricanes and tornadoes are natural hazards and they strike fast. A megadrought is a natural hazard, but it unfolds slowly – over a period of decades,” said Ault. “It’s just another natural hazard and one we can manage.”
Ault, a faculty fellow with the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, wants to lower carbon dioxide emissions quickly. “The time to act is now. The time to start planning for adaptation is now,” he said. “We need to assess what the rest of this century will look like for our children and grandchildren.”
THE US could be edging ever closer to nuclear war with Russia after upgrading its attack defence readiness, it has been claimed.
Oct 16, 2016
DEFCON is an alert system used by the US military to indicate the current threat of nuclear war.
The system has five states of alert, increasing in severity from DEFCON 5 - the least severe - to DEFCON 1 - the highest level.
Currently, the levels is understood to be at 5.
But conspiracy theorists have warned the threat has secretly been upgraded two levels to DEFCON 3 - meaning the US could mobilise troops in as little as 15 minutes.
Tensions between Russia and the US have continued to break down
The level was last upgraded to 3 in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 - with standby ordered for a potential rise to DEFCON 2.
Now website DEFCON warning system claim it has been upgraded again in a terrifying revelation.
While there are currently no imminent threats to the US, it claimed the situation is “fluid and can change rapidly.”
This week Russia tested out the capabilities of its Topol ballistic missiles
Russian citizens have been encouraged to find bomb shelters and gas masks
It is recommended that all citizens learn the steps to be taken in the event of nuclear war.
Conspiracy theory website DEFCON warning system
However, it also highlighted the dying relationship between the US and Russia, citing concerns of all-out warfare between the bitter rivals.
A statement posted on its website read: “Tensions between Russia and the United States have reached levels beyond the cold war in the recent week.
“The situation between Russia and the United States is extremely fluid at the moment. In all likelihood as dynamic as at times during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
“At this time, the DEFCON Warning System feels that an increase to DEFCON 3 would be a prudent move.”
Now world leaders fear Putin's moves are being carried out in preparation for war
Russian citizens have been encouraged to find bomb shelters and gas masks today, as state-sponsored infomercials on television gave out guidelines on how people should prepare for a nuclear attack.
President Vladimir Putin meanwhile has ordered the evacuation of 40 million people in a military drill.
He also transferred nuclear-capable Iskander ballistic missiles to one of its strategic Baltic regions last week, in what officials claim was part of regular military manoeuvres.
However, many world leaders fear the moves are being carried out in preparation for war.
Vladimir Putin ordered the evacuation of 40 million people in a military drill
The conspiracy theory site warned citizens to prepare for any potential conflict, saying: “This is a very sensitive situation which has the potential to spiral out of control.
“It is recommended that all citizens learn the steps to be taken in the event of nuclear war.”
Theorists have even claimed a move to DEFCON 2 is being muted, based on Putin’s call for Russians to return home.
Though the threat of war seems to be rising, the DEFCON level indication reported by the website is only speculation.
The US military do not share the actual DEFCON status with the public for obvious security reasons.
Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian Military General Staff talks to reporters in September. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/Assocaited Press)
October 15, 2016
Some activities going on in Russia these days might make it seem like the country is genuinely preparing for war. Talk of bunkers and rations; missiles moving around; politicians uttering dire warnings — are these harbingers of a Russian-U.S. conflict?
The Washington Post's Moscow bureau decided to rank the signs to see how likely they suggest that Russia is getting ready to fight.
1. New bomb shelters
A poster appeared in a Moscow neighborhood asking residents to pony up 500 rubles (about $8) for the construction of a new bomb shelter because of "the expected nuclear attack on [Russia] from unfriendly countries (the USA and its satellites.)"
Does this mean war? Most definitely not. It turned out to be a hoax, probably aimed at bilking pensioners.
2. Emergency bread rations
The governor of St. Petersburg, Russia, has approved a plan to ensure emergency rations of 300 grams of bread for 20 days for each of the city's 5 million residents.
Does this mean war? No. It's more of a publicity stunt. Russian commentators quickly seized on the echo from World War II, when a German army held the city — then called Leningrad — in a stranglehold for 900 days. "That is more than twice as much as the ration during the Siege [of Leningrad]," wrote military analyst Alexander Golts in Yezhednevny Zhurnal. "It is also clear why they are reckoning just on 20 days: Given modern weapons, no one will need more."
3. Warmongering politicians
Ultranationalist lawmaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky warned that if America elects Hillary Clinton president, "it's war."
Does this mean war? No. Zhirinovksy, who has vowed to annex Alaska, flatten Poland and the Baltics, and enslave Georgia, made headlines. But his ridiculously misnamed Liberal Democratic Party of Russia controls 39 of the 450 seats in the Russian parliament, and he always votes with the Kremlin. He is a fan of Donald Trump but he's very far from the nuclear button.
4. Hiring a new army
The Russian government approved amendments to a law that allows it to augment its draft army by signing reservists and veterans to six-month paid contracts.
Does this mean war? Most likely not. Golts said that the provision only kicks in "in a period of extraordinary circumstances," such as responding to natural disasters or domestic disturbances. But one circumstance — "to maintain or restore peace and security" — could be interpreted to mean doing it somewhere outside of Russia. "The possibility cannot be ruled out that Moscow is contemplating a major ground operation in Syria," Golts concluded. His logic: The Kremlin has repeatedly promised not to send draftees to fight wars in other countries. That promise wouldn't apply to professional soldiers. For sure, sending troops to Syria, where Russia has already threatened to shoot down U.S. aircraft, could lead to a shooting war. But amending that law is a long way from signing up the soldiers.
5. Missile movements
Russia has moved nuclear-capable missiles to Kaliningrad, a region that borders the Baltic states.
Does this mean war? Not really. The news has stirred fears among some commentators that we are on the brink of nuclear war, and definitely caused concern in the Baltics and Poland, which would be within range of the Iskander missile. Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, said that one of the missiles was deliberately exposed to a U.S. spy satellite and that the deployment was part of regular training. The foreign minister of Lithuania, which borders Kaliningrad, described the move as a negotiating tactic, albeit an unpleasant one.
6 October 2016
Fifty-five years ago, on 6 October 1961, President John F. Kennedy advised Americans to build an underground protective room, commonly known as a “fallout shelter,” in their homes.
At that time – the middle of the Cold War – the United States feared that a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union was imminent. Kennedy said, “in the event of an attack, the lives of those families which are not hit in a nuclear blast and fire can still be saved if they can be warned to take shelter and if that shelter is available.”
He proposed spending $207.6 million for a civil defense plan “to identify and mark space in existing structures – public and private – that could be used for fallout shelters.”
The American people heeded his advice and began an enormous grassroots effort to construct fallout shelters in every private residence and public building. Today, those shelters in the basements of 1960s-era homes are largely used for storage. The only reminder of the public shelters is the occasional yellow fallout shelter sign that still remains affixed to the outside wall of some buildings. Now, no one builds fallout shelters.
But, why not? The nuclear weapons are still around.
As a radiation protection expert and a professor of radiation medicine, I am sometimes asked this question. The answer is an interesting story that should give us all pause, especially as we now face new nuclear weapon threats.
The Cold War
The main reason we no longer build fallout shelters is that as nuclear bombs have grown in size and number, the prospects of surviving a nuclear war – even in a shelter – have decreased. A study by the RAND Corporation in 1966 determined that as many as 62 percent of all Americans would die in a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union, and painted a pretty grim picture of the lives of the survivors.
As a result, fallout shelters became seen as an ineffective way to protect the lives of the vast majority of the population. Gradually, civil defense efforts moved away from nuclear bombs and concentrated on everyday threats that could be more easily defended against, such as tornadoes, earthquakes and hurricanes.
How, then, could Americans protect themselves from the threat of nuclear holocaust if a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union was not survivable?
Mutually assured destruction, commonly known as “MAD,” became the cornerstone of our nuclear defense strategy. Since no sane leader would initiate a suicidal war, an arms race began in order to produce so many nuclear weapons on both sides that only a deranged person would think it wise to launch a nuclear attack. The basic defense strategy, using the MAD approach, was to make nuclear war such an unthinkable option that nuclear weapons would never be used offensively by either side.
But the nuclear arms race became a huge financial burden, and each country soon had excess capacity to annihilate the other many times over. Talks were initiated between the United States and the Soviet Union (now Russia) to limit the production of new nuclear weapons and even reduce the existing stockpiles. Beginning with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) of 1991, and culminating with the New START agreement that entered into effect in 2011, stockpiles of nuclear weapons have been reduced from a peak of about 35,000 strategic nuclear warheads held by each country in the mid-1980s to about 7,000 each today. With regard to deployed strategic nuclear weapons, the goal is to limit each side to just 1,550 by 5 February 2018.
Whether this reduction in nuclear warheads has made us any safer is debatable. Both sides still retain enough to maintain a defense strategy of mutually assured destruction. Certainly, the societal costs of feeding the massive nuclear war machine have been reduced to the benefit of all.
But, a war between superpowers is not the only nuclear weapon threat Americans currently face.
Today, smaller nations and terrorist groups, such as al-Qaeda, are seeking nuclear weapons. Some nations, like North Korea, already have them. Others may be a decade away.
It is not unreasonable to believe that the use of a single nuclear weapon by a rogue nation or a terrorist group now poses a more likely scenario for a nuclear confrontation than a nuclear war between Russia and the United States. Nevertheless, some downplay the threat of a nuclear attack to the U.S. mainland by these new nuclear adversaries. They argue that adversaries not only need nuclear weapons, but must also be able to deliver them to their targets.
Since missile technology is not a strength of small nations and terrorists, the lack of launch capacity is often cited as a major obstacle to such would-be nuclear attackers. But recently, North Korea’s successful missile launch tests seriously challenge this assumption about limited missile capabilities. Regardless, missiles aren’t essential to deliver a nuclear weapon. A bomb in a cargo ship in New York harbor is just as much a threat as one launched by missile from overseas. And, as bombs are miniaturized, the prospects of detecting and stopping nuclear weapons coming across our borders and through our ports is greatly reduced.
We are entering an era in which multiple small countries or terrorist organizations may acquire a few “small” nuclear weapons in hidden locations around the world. Such small weapons could be used to inflict a considerable amount of damage, but nothing on the scale what we envisioned during the Cold War. These small bombs are probably survivable with fallout shelters that would be useless during a full nuclear war. In fact, these relatively small nuclear weapons – if you consider Hiroshima-sized bombs to be small – are precisely the size that were envisioned when fallout shelters were first proposed for civil defense.
Old solution, new problem
Is it time to resurrect nuclear civil defense in response to the increasing threat from terrorists?
Although experts think it unlikely that terrorists are currently technologically sophisticated enough to make their own nuclear weapons from scratch, even if they had access to enriched uranium (the required fuel), there is no question that they could steal one from some small (or large) nuclear nation, particularly during the chaotic aftermath of a coup. Turkey had nuclear weapons at the time of its recent coup attempt, for example. Alternatively, terrorists could obtain them by discretely purchasing them from renegade nuclear nations, or clandestinely by bribing military officials.
One nuclear bomb, on one ship, in one harbor is all it takes to get into the nuclear terrorism business.
It is clear that mutually assured destruction is a defense strategy that only works between stable nations with sane leaders. Mutually assured destruction is not a strategy that works against nations with unstable rulers, such as in North Korea, or enemies with no known address to which you can deliver a retaliatory strike, such as terrorists.
For these adversaries, we need an alternative strategy to protect ourselves. Right now we don’t have one, other than screening cargo for nuclear weapons and weapons-grade uranium. And, as I describe in my book, Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation, mock tests of this screening program have revealed significant weaknesses.
I believe we need to better address this new and growing threat of nuclear terrorism right now, and devote as many resources as necessary toward dealing with it. If we don’t find a more effective strategy to thwart nuclear terrorism soon, we may be forced to go back to fallout shelters as our only protective option, whether we like it or not.
October 6, 2016
Officials Warn of Return of Virus Linked to Devastating Paralysis in Kids
Little Carter Roberts, of Chesterfield, Virginia, was a typical 3-year-old — playful, healthy, and active. But over the course of a weekend Carter went from his happy-go-lucky self to a paralyzed patient unable to move his arms or legs.
"He needed a tube to help him breath," says his mother Robin Roberts. "Doctors were working really hard to try and figure out what was going on."
At the hospital, the Roberts family was left with more questions than answers. Doctors considered a list of diagnoses from Guillain-Barré Syndrome to various other auto-immune diseases. Finally, after an MRI scan and hours of waiting, Carter was diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) — a mysterious muscle weakness, similar to polio — that appears to be on the rise this year.
On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that, as of August 2016, there have been 50 cases of confirmed AFM across 24 states. That's nearly double over 2015, when 21 cases for the whole year were reported.
AFM has been linked to a strain of enterovirus that's now circulating again. Some doctors are warning this could be the same mysterious, polio-like illness detected in 2014 that paralyzed 120 children.
Enteroviruses are common and typically cause milder illnesses in children, such as respiratory infections or even summer colds. However, when enteroviruses get into the central nervous system they can cause more serious illnesses like inflammation of the brain.
"August to October is typically when enteroviruses circulate," says Dr. Kevin Messacar, pediatric infectious disease physician at Children's Hospital Colorado. "We see more acute flaccid myelitis during that season and we do seem to be seeing an increase in the cases that have been reported."
"Acute flaccid myelitis is a very rare complication of an illness," says Messacar. "I think it's important that we take it seriously because the effects of this condition appear to be long term and are disabling.
There are no vaccines for this strain of enterovirus, so doctors urge good hygiene as the best defense:
"I got to hear him talk and he said just a handful of words and as a mom, it was the sweetest sound ever," says Robin. "I wake up and am hopeful every day that he's going to make some progress. It's hard not a feel a little bit robbed because this happened so quickly, but it was just a virus."
NUCLEAR war could be imminent as Russia told its citizens to urgently prepare for a devastating radioactive conflict as relations with the West stoop to their lowest since the Cold War.
Oct 14, 2016
Russia told its citizens to find their nearest nuclear bunker amid WW3 fears
A terrifying Russian television broadcast explicitly told civilians to find out where their nearest bomb shelter is and repeatedly asked viewers if they were ready for nuclear war.
One apocalyptic broadcast told viewers on Moscow's state-owned TV channel NTV: "If it should one day happen, every one of you should know where the nearest bomb shelter is. It’s best to find out now."
The enraged host, Evgeny Kiselyov, blasted America's "impudent behaviour" and spent two hours warning that a conflict could take "nuclear dimensions".
Aggressive posturing from Russia in recent weeks has seen the state force 40 million of its citizens to take part in a massive defence drill to prepare them for a nuclear holocaust.
Russia’s military announced it would run the country-wide drill in preparation of a large-scale war.
Tensions are mounting between Putin and Obama over the Syrian conflict
The governor of St Petersburg clarified what bread rations people could expect should Russia come under attack – 300 grams for 20 days.
The Kremlin also ordered nuclear capable missiles to be rolled into a base in mainland Europe, on an enclave near Poland called Kaliningrad.
It comes as Russia vowed to shoot down any American fighter planes that attack President Bashar al-Assad's forces in Syria.
Bombs have been raining down on Syrian civilians as Russia continues its bombardment
Verbal jousting between the US, Britain and Russia over the issue of the ongoing bombardment of civilians in Syria are reaching a peak, with the very real possibility of genuine armed conflict between the nations taking place over the city of Aleppo.
But one expert believes Putin's latest ramping-up of tensions is simply a tactic to prevent the US from interfering in Syria and to put the incoming American President on the back foot when they take office next year.
Aleksander Baunov, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Centre, said the civil defence drills and the heated programming on television were a ploy to deter the US from interfering with Russia’s military campaign in Syria or responding too strongly to suspected Russian efforts to interfere with the US elections.
He said: "They want to touch bottom and then to try to go up.
“Any responsible politician…if you are responsible and experienced, it cannot start with further downgrading already bad relations if they are already at bottom.”
The Disease Daily
Sep 30, 2016
In 2012, an estimated 122 of the 223 global cases of polio occurred in Nigeria, more than half of the cases worldwide. Worldwide efforts to eradicate the poliovirus have come a long way since 2012. Nigeria had not reported any polio cases since 2014, and was removed from the polio-endemic list by the World Health Organization in September of 2015. However, in August 2016, two cases of polio emerged in the Borno state of Nigeria. These two children were paralyzed as a result of contracting the wild poliovirus, which is polio occurring naturally and not due to complications of vaccination. On September 6th, 2016 a third case of the poliovirus in a 24-month old boy was detected. This recent emergence of polio cases highlights a substantial setback to the progress of the eradication program in Nigeria over the past several years.
Background on Polio
Polio is a communicable disease caused by poliovirus, of the genus Enterovirus (6). It is transmissible from person-to-person through contact with feces or droplets from a sneeze or cough from an infected person. Polio primarily affects children under the age of three, but can potentially infect anyone. About 72 out of 100 people infected with poliovirus do not exhibit any symptoms. One out of four people infected with the virus will experience flu-like symptoms including fever, sore throat, upset stomach, headache, and fatigue. Less than 1% of people infected with the virus experience paralysis, which can cause death if the paralysis affects muscles that are necessary to help them breathe.
Poliovirus is preventable through vaccination. The two types of vaccination that exist are inactivated polio vaccine and modified-live, oral polio vaccine. As a result of these prevention measures, all countries in the world have been deemed “polio-free” from wild poliovirus except for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and most recently, Nigeria.
Nigeria was on the brink of polio eradication. The last reported case before the summer of 2016 was two years ago in July of 2014. Yet, unfortunately, the recent cases of polio in Nigeria occurred just short of when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was going to announce Nigeria as polio-free in 2017, which occurs when there are no polio cases for at least three years. Now, with the recent outbreak, Nigeria will not be certified as polio-free until at least 2019.
There have been two significant barriers to the eradication of poliovirus in Nigeria. The first major obstacle to eradicating the disease has been the instability and insecurity of the Northern regions under the control of Boko Haram, a Nigerian Islamist terrorist group. The terrorist group has publicly advocated against the usage of vaccinations claiming that it is a “Western plot” against Nigerian children. They have continuously made it extremely difficult for vaccination teams or government health officials to enter into their territories to vaccinate their hard-to-reach child populations over the past few years. As a result of Boko Haram’s efforts, half a million children did not receive the polio vaccination in the Northern regions. Not surprisingly, the most recent 2016 polio cases have been children from the Borno region and the border of Chad, two of the Northern regions, previously controlled by the terrorist group.
The insecurity of the Northern regions of Nigeria has also interrupted adequate surveillance of the disease, the second major impediment to eradicating polio. The insufficient surveillance of polio has enabled the disease to go undetected. According to the United States Center for Disease Control, two of the most recent cases were of a viral strain similar to one last seen in 2011, indicating that the virus had likely been circulating undetected for years. This new information sheds critical light on the ability of polio to remain undetected rather than to re-emerge. It is essential that governing bodies of the polio eradication efforts take this into consideration for future control endeavors. Some polio experts are rethinking labeling a country as “polio-free” after only three years given this recent discovery. Respectively, polio eradication workers are hoping to use this current situation in Nigeria as a “wake-up call” to ensure that future polio eradication campaigns be executed with better long-term surveillance plans.
What is Being Done Now
The government of Nigeria is addressing this outbreak with plans of vaccination campaigns. The government plans to vaccinate about five million children in the next few weeks. With recent military action, many communities in the Northern territories of Nigeria are now liberated from Boko Haram’s control. This enables vaccinators to enter these previously inaccessible territories and making it easier to reach the government’s vaccination goal. However, Nigeria still plans on vaccinating children under five who remain in unstable, terrorist-controlled, areas. The campaigns are airlifting vaccinators via helicopter to these unstable areas to avoid usage of unsafe roads. To help Nigeria accomplish its goal of five million vaccinated children, the World Health Organization is deploying some of its staff and polio eradication resources. Additionally, the GPEI is providing Nigeria with significant support as a result of this recent outbreak.
Nigeria is doing everything that it can to contain and prevent further spread of the wild poliovirus. One can only hope that these vaccination campaigns will be enough to see the last of the poliovirus in all of Africa.
PAKISTAN has threatened to DESTROY India in a terrifying war of words between the two nuclear powers
Sep 30, 2016
The arch enemies - who both possess a formidable nuclear arsenal - threaten the safety of the world as Pakistan ramped up the threats against its neighbour.
Pakistan’s defence minister, Minister Khawaja Asif, has threatened to “destroy” India, after it confirmed it had launched a series of “surgical strikes” against suspected militants sneaking across the border.
The two countries have observed a ceasefire since 2003, but the peace is fragile and the latest escalation between both parties could lead to all-out warfare.
Four heavily armed militants infiltrated an Indian military base in Kashmir earlier this month, managing to break through the disputed Himalayan border, where they opened fire, killing 18 soldiers and injuring scores more.
In response to the killings, Prime Minister Modi said: "I want to tell the Pakistani people: India is ready to fight you.
“If you have strength, come forward and fight against poverty.
“Let's see who wins, who is able to defeat poverty and illiteracy first, Pakistan or India?"
Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir as their own sovereign land, and have fought three wars over the territory since gaining independence from the British in 1947.
In response to India’s latest strike, Minister Asif said: “We will destroy India if it dares to impose war on us.
“Pakistan’s army is fully prepared to answer any misadventure of India.
“We have not made atomic device to display in a showcase.
“If a such a situation arises we will use it and eliminate India.”
And Prime Minister Modi recently announced the suspension of meetings overseeing how water is shared between the two.
He said: “Blood and water cannot flow at the same time.”
Commenting on the situation, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter: “Pakistan nuclear weapons are entangled in a history of tension, and while they are not a threat to the United States directly, we work with Pakistan to ensure stability.”
RUSSIA’S Vladimir Putin has issued an emergency decree that all officials urgently repatriate any family members living abroad amid fears the world is about to be plunged into a new global conflict.
Oct 12, 2016
President Vladimir Putin cancelled an upcoming visit to France
According to reports, the Russian leader has told diplomats of all ranks to “bring relatives home to the Motherland”.
Administration staff, politicians and public sector workers have been ordered to take their children out of foreign schools immediately.
Russian political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky told the Daily Star: “This is all part of the package of measures to prepare elites to some 'big war’.”
The worrying development – which follows after President Putin suddenly cancelled a visit to France – applies to all state employees.
Workers were reportedly told to pull their children out of school immediately, even if it was in the middle of term.
Anyone who fails to act will put their chances of promotion at risk, local media reported.
Putin's cancellation is the latest deterioration in ties between Moscow and the West.
Among the recommendations is for students in foreign universities to shift to Russian institutions.
Older citizens should also return to Russia, the diktat seen by Znak.com apparently states.
Sources said Russian officials were irritated by the fact that the children of Russia’s political elite were being educated abroad, while their parents were seen “talking about patriotism but surrounded by Russia’s enemies”.
Earlier, the Russian strongman said the United States would have to compromise in the war in Syria.
Mr Putin said: "There is a need to behave like partners and take each other's interests into account. We are ready for that."
He also launched a stinging attack on France, accusing President Francois Hollande of deliberately luring Moscow into vetoing a United Nations resolution on Syria and questioned whether Paris was doing the bidding of the US.
Is the big one about to hit? Fears rise amid 'quake swarm' of more than 35 mini earthquakes less than four miles from the San Andreas fault
30 September 2016
California is on high alert after a series of 'mini quakes' this week raised fears a 'megaquake' on the San Andreas fault could be coming.
A series of more than 35 temblors struck a rural area of Southern California near the U.S.-Mexico border in what seismologists call a 'swarm' of quakes.
The swarm dramatically increases the likelihood of a much more major quake in Southern California, at least temporarily, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
For the seven-day period following Tuesday, the chances of a magnitude-7 or greater earthquake being triggered on the southern San Andreas fault are as high as 1 in 100 and as low as 1 in 3,000.
'This is close enough to be in that worry zone,' seismologist Lucy Jones told the LA Times of the location of the earthquake swarm.
'It's a part of California that the seismologists all watch.'
The largest earthquake recorded by the U.S. Geological Survey was magnitude 4.3 at 7:31 a.m. and was centered 35 miles (58 kilometers) northwest of El Centro.
According to the Southern California Seismic Network, more than 35 small earthquakes were recorded Monday in the area over a short period.
It marked only the third time since earthquake sensors were installed there in 1932 that the area had seen such a swarm, and this one had more earthquakes than the events of 2001 and 2009.
The region of large farms in the desert near the Salton Sea is known for extensive seismicity.
The San Andreas fault is even closer to where Monday's earthquake swarm hit — less than four miles away.
'When there's significant seismicity in this area of the fault, we kind of wonder if it is somehow going to go active,' said Caltech seismologist Egill Hauksson told the LA Times.
'So maybe one of those small earthquakes that's happening in the neighborhood of the fault is going to trigger it, and set off the big event.'
An earthquake scientist has added to claims the dreaded event is overdue, warning the San Andreas fault is 'locked, loaded and ready to roll'.
The fault is the longest in California and one of the state's most dangerous.
Thomas Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Centre, said the fault has been 'too quiet' since 1857.
This is when the last big quake to strike a southern section rippled from Monterey County to the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles with a magnitude of 7.9 on the Richter scale.
CALIFORNIA IS 'NOT READY' FOR THE BIG ONE
Beyond the sunshine, the palm trees and Hollywood, if there is one certainty in California, it's that a massive earthquake will strike at some point.
But when the Big One hits, a recent report says, the western state is ill-prepared and local officials as well as major businesses need to face that reality to 'prevent the inevitable disaster from becoming a catastrophe.'
Drafted by a group of business and policy leaders, the report identifies several key areas that need to be addressed before a quake as strong as a magnitude 8 happens, notably aging infrastructure, water supplies and the risk of catastrophic fires.
One of the biggest vulnerabilities, the report states, relates to the Cajon Pass, a narrow mountain pass where the mighty San Andreas Fault intersects with key lifelines, including freeways, railway lines, gas and petroleum pipelines as well as electric lines.
A major earthquake on the San Andreas, one of California's most dangerous faults, would cut most lifelines in and out of southern California, preventing critical aid from reaching some 20 million people and hampering recovery efforts, experts say.
It is commonly referred to as the 'Big One' a hypothetical earthquake of magnitude 8 or greater that is expected to happen along the San Andreas fault.
Such a quake is expected to produce devastation to human civilization within about 50-100 miles of the quake zone, especially in urban areas like Palm Springs, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Speaking at the National Earthquake Conference in Long Beach, Mr Jordan said: 'The springs on the San Andreas system have been wound very, very tight and the southern San Andreas fault, in particular, looks like it's locked, loaded and ready to go.'
He also said other sections of the 810 mile-long (1,304km) fault are overdue for a quake too, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In San Bernardino Cunty, the fault hasn't moved much since an earthquake in 1812, with a southeast section near Salton Sea has been quiet since around 1690.
While scientists say the Pacific plate moving northwest of the North American plate should move 16ft (4.8 metres) every 100 years to relieve stress, this hasn't happened at San Andreas so stress has been building at points along the fault for more than a century.
He said it is important the state prepares to be rocked by a quake as strong as 8 on the Richter scale and praised Los Angles' plans to reinforce older concrete buildings and the city's aqueduct and telecommunications networks.
While the fault doesn't run under the city, a mega quake is expected to rock it, according to simulations.
A report by the US Geological Survey in 2008 warned a magnitude 7.8 earthquake could result in 1,800 deaths, 50,000 injuries and $200 billion (£138 billion) of damage.
Such devastation could be brought about by a strong quake in just two minutes, striking in the Coachella Valley, for example, which could also shake areas where sediments trap waves, such as east Los Angeles.
PLANS FOR THE 'BIG ONE'
Federal, state and military officials have been working together to draft plans to be followed when the 'Big One' happens.
These contingency plans reflect deep anxiety about the potential gravity of the looming disaster: upward of 14,000 people dead in the worst-case scenarios, 30,000 injured, thousands left homeless and the region's economy setback for years, if not decades.
As a response, what planners envision is a deployment of civilian and military personnel and equipment that would eclipse the response to any natural disaster that has occurred so far in the US.
There would be waves of cargo planes, helicopters and ships, as well as tens of thousands of soldiers, emergency officials, mortuary teams, police officers, firefighters, engineers, medical personnel and other specialists.
'The response will be orders of magnitude larger than Hurricane Katrina or Super Storm Sandy,' said Lt. Col. Clayton Braun of the Washington State Army National Guard.
The damage caused by a similar strength quake was last seen in 1857, when an earthquake originating in Parkfield in Monterey County travelled south along the fault for 185 miles (300km), and then east from LA.
It was so powerful, lasting between one and three minutes, that it liquefied soil, as well as destroying buildings.
Experts at the Southern California Earthquake Centre used a supercomputer in 2010 to simulate a magnitude 8 quake also starting in Monterey County.
It matched reports of devastation more than a century ago, heading to the Mexican border.
It predicted such a large quake would hit LA and the San Fernando Valley hard because of soft soil in these valleys trapping waves.
In March, a geophysicist warned the long-overdue earthquake set to hit southern California could be far worse than expected.
Julian Lozos, an assistant geophysics professor at California State University, claimed there is a strong chance this quake will coincide with one along the adjacent San Jacinto fault line, which runs through more heavily-populated cities.
If true, it would mean
authorities have dramatically underestimated how many people will be affected by the natural disaster.
Evidence uncovered by the expert suggests the terrifying scenario occurred in 1812, devastating the region between San Diego and San Buenvaventura.
If that happened once, Dr Lozos said, there is a strong chance it can happen again.
'Looking at old earthquakes in general is really a good way to figure out what faults are capable of doing,' Dr Lozos wrote in his paper published on Saturday in the journal Science Advances.
Previously, geologists thought a quake shook San Jacinto shortly before the devastating San Andreas quake on 8 December, 1812.
However, Dr Lozos concluded the rupture along the San Jacinto fault line was in fact the starting point.
He analysed historical data on the 1812 San Andreas rupture, testing four different scenarios of where it could have started.
He believes it started in Mystic Lake, ripping north up the San Jacinto fault line until it jumped up into the dry creek that runs parallel.
Though the findings cannot be proved definitively, it presents a new element for scientists to acknowledge as they attempt to advise the West Coast on how to brace for the quake.
Indeed, University of California professor Lisa Grant Ludwig said the region is not prepared for such a situation.
'In southern California, much of our infrastructure was built to withstand a rupture of either the San Andreas or San Jacinto faults, but not both at the same time,' she explained.
September 28, 2016
Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin made his fortune in the country's real estate market -- and now he's warning that it's spiraling out of control.
It's the "biggest bubble in history," he told CNNMoney in an exclusive interview Wednesday.
Bubble is a sensitive word in China after the dramatic rise and spectacular crash in the country's stock market last year, which wiped out the savings of millions of small investors who thought Beijing wouldn't allow the market to drop.
After struggling to contain the fallout from the stock market debacle, China's leaders could face a similar headache in the real estate sector.
The big problem, according to Wang, is that prices keep rising in major Chinese metropolises like Shanghai but are falling in thousands of smaller cities where huge numbers of properties lie empty.
"I don't see a good solution to this problem," he said. "The government has come up with all sorts of measures -- limiting purchase or credit -- but none have worked."
It's a serious worry in China, where the economy is slowing at the same time as high debt levels continue to increase rapidly. There are massive sums at stake in the real estate market: direct loans to the sector stood at roughly 24 trillion yuan ($3.6 trillion) at the end of June, according to Capital Economics.
"The problem is the economy hasn't bottomed out," Wang said. "If we remove leverage too fast, the economy may suffer further. So we'll have to wait until the economy is back on the track of rebounding -- that's when we gradually reduce leverage and debts."
He says, though, that he's not worried about the prospect of a "hard landing" -- a sudden and catastrophic collapse in economic growth.
Wang's comments carry weight. He is the richest man in China, according to Forbes and Hurun Report data from 2015, and his real estate and entertainment empire brought in revenue of about $44 billion last year.
Wang has been warning of trouble in the Chinese property market for a while. His Dalian Wanda Group, which has developed huge malls and office complexes across China, has been gradually cutting back on its real estate business.
Instead, it's pouring resources into entertainment, sports and tourism -- areas where it sees potential for growth.
Wang has been on an overseas shopping spree lately, with a particular focus on the U.S. movie industry. And he's on the hunt for more juicy targets.
In January, he bought the Hollywood studio Legendary Entertainment, which made blockbuster movies like "Jurassic World" and "Godzilla." Less than two months later, his movie theater business AMC snapped up Carmike Cinemas, forming the biggest cinema chain in the world. And Wanda's in talks to buy Dick Clark Productions, which produces shows like the American Music Awards and the Golden Globe awards.
But the major prize he's seeking is control of one of Hollywood's "Big Six" movie studios: 20th Century Fox, Columbia, Paramount, Universal Pictures, Warner Brothers and Walt Disney.
"We are waiting for the opportunity," he said. "It could come in a year or two, or longer, but we have patience."
His relations with Disney (DIS) came into the spotlight in May when he said the U.S. company "really shouldn't have come to China" with its giant new Shanghai resort. Wanda is also investing heavily in theme parks in the country.
Wang said Wednesday that his beef with the House of Mouse was "not personal."
"When it comes to movies, Disney is our biggest partner," he said. "But when it comes to entertainment tourism, we are archrivals. So of course we want to smash them."
SEP 8, 2016
A 62-year-old man recently died in Madrid of Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF), infecting an ICU nurse in the process and exposing many other health care workers to the dangerous virus. Two people are isolated and 200 are under observation. The death rate from infection is up to 40%, per WHO.
We are likely to see many more similar outbreaks in the near future, due to climate change and environmental destruction, as I’ll explain below.
Although seen most commonly in North Africa and Asia, the host hard tick, Hyalomma marginatum, and CCHF disease are endemic in southern and Eastern Europe as well. This is the first locally acquired case in Western Europe, reportedly followed a tick bite while the man was walking in the countryside outside the town of Ávila, in the Castilla-Léon region of Spain.
Distribution of Crimean–Congo hemorrhagic fever – CDC
More commonly, the infection is transmitted to herders or slaughterhouse workers, passed through bites from tick-infested cattle or by contact with inflected blood or tissue. Risk is high now in Pakistan, where 150,000 large and 70,000 small animals (sheep, goats) are transported through the country to a large market, to be sacrificed to celebrate the Muslim festival of Eid al-adha next week. CCHF has already killed at least 20 in Pakistan this year. Workers need to protect themselves both from ticks and from blood and body fluids from the infected animals.
Other hemorrhagic fevers
CCHF and Rift Valley fever are caused by a virus in the Bunyaviridae family, rather than a Filovirus, which causes Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fevers. Ebola can be transmitted by contact with or eating infected fruit bats, as well as the devastating person-to-person spread via infected blood or body fluids. They are not transmitted via air. In contrast, Lassa fever, from an Arenavirus, is transmitted from eating multimammate rats, or from aerosolization of infected rat feces or urine. Hantavirus, also rodent transmitted, is the most common hemorrhagic fever virus found in the U.S.
The more familiar dengue and yellow fever belong to the Flaviviridae family, are transmitted by mosquito bites, and are a growing threat in the Americas.
Illness, treatment and prevention
Initial symptoms of CCHF are non-specific, including fever, aching and headache, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea; more severe cases can progress to liver and kidney damage, and bleeding.
Tick-borne infections are widespread throughout Europe.
As with preventing Lyme and rickettsial (spotted fever) infections, use of protective clothing and insect repellents is critical.
Interestingly, one Pakistani report chides animal owners for not vaccinating their herds, but WHO indicates there is no approved vaccine for animals or people. Animals can be infective for about 14 days after being bitten by an infected tick, although remaining asymptomatic, increasing the likelihood of workers not using adequate protective efforts.
Use of Ribavirin for CCHF is mixed, with some reports suggesting benefit, and others not. Treatment is primarily supportive.
Climate change and environmental destruction
Predictions are for increasing spread of tick-borne diseases like CCHF throughout Europe. The increase is likely for several reasons. First, the ticks are common parasites on passerine (perching) birds, which include finches, sparrows and song birds, and are brought to Europe by migrating birds.
Importing livestock is a risk, since animals are commonly found to have up to 100 Hyalommaticks on them. Livestock are rarely examined or treated for tick control.
Most notably, degradation of agricultural land has been found to be a risk for increasing theHyalomma tick populations. Also, warmer autumns are allowing for spread of the ticks into new areas. Modeling of climate warming suggests that some areas of Italy, the Balkans, southern Russia, among other, might be particularly affected.
This is the same pattern seen in the U.S., with the range of ticks (and mosquitoes) expanding as the climate warms, spreading previously unseen infections to new regions as they go.
Other infections are also expanding, given human activity. For example, Ebola was fueled by deforestation, bringing people in closer contact with displaced jungle animals. Similardeforestation likely spurred the spillover of SARS from bats to civets that were captured and sold in urban markets. Chagas disease and leishmaniasis in Latin America are two more examples where human changes to the environment have opened new exposures to disease.
Health care worker infection
One of the striking things about this case is the reminder that health care workers are at particular risk of inadvertent infection. While this outbreak in Spain is so far limited, many cases are likely in Pakistan and neighboring areas with the upcoming holiday.
As we saw with SARS, and then with Ebola, and MERS, health care workers put their lives on the line. Particularly disturbing is how these people — and even more so, humanitarian volunteers going to staunch epidemics, are being vilified. This is happening now with Scottish nurse Pauline Cafferkey, who has been facing misconduct charges for the past 18 months for allegedly “allowing an incorrect temperature to be recorded.”
In the U.S., we had the malicious abuse that nurse Kaci Hickox faced from politically pandering Governors Chris Christie and Paul LePage, forcing an Ebola quarantine that defied rational public health needs. Then there was Dr. Craig Spencer, who faced similar, but perhaps less vicious scrutiny and criticism. He wrote an impassioned perspective noting, “Instead of being welcomed as respected humanitarians, my U.S. colleagues who have returned home from battling Ebola have been treated as pariahs…We all lose when we allow irrational fear, fueled in part by prime-time ratings and political expediency, to supersede pragmatic public health preparedness.”
The expansion of Congo-Crimean hemorrhagic fever to Western Europe is but the latest example of how climate change and our destruction of the environment put us at risk of emerging infections. For the short term, visitors to endemic areas anywhere should use effective insect repellents, do daily tick checks, and if becoming ill, alert their physician to details of recent travel. In the longer view, this is another warning to step back and try to live more harmoniously with our environment.
Finally, we need to support health care workers and not vilify them, or there will be no one willing to take the risks to stop epidemics from emerging, often fatal infections.
Imminent Defeat Of ISIS Will Create "Terrorist Diaspora Sometime In The Next Two To Five Years": Comey
Published 28 September 2016
FBI director James Comey on Tuesday warned that the increasing success of the military campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq carries an ominous downside: a wave of terrorist fighters who will spread across the globe as the group loses control of its territory on the ground.
“The so-called caliphate will be crushed. The challenge will be: through the fingers of that crush are going to come hundreds of very, very dangerous people,” Comey said at a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on the global terror threat. “They will not all die on the battlefield in Syria and Iraq. There will be a terrorist diaspora sometime in the next two to five years like we’ve never seen before.”
“We must prepare ourselves and our allies particularly in Western Europe to confront that threat because when ISIL is reduced to an insurgency and those killers flow out they will try to come to Western Europe and try to come here to kill innocent people,” the FBI director said.
He said the wave of fighters will be larger than the one that came out of Afghanistan after the war there in the 1980s.
National Counterterrorism Center director Nicholas Rasmussen said intelligence officials had long predicted the threat would metastasize as ISIL was squeezed.
“It’s not surprising. It puts us in a period of sustained vulnerability that I don’t think any of us are comfortable with. But I think it’s a reality,” he said.
September 27, 2016
Cryptococcus – There are over 30 different species of Cryptococcus -- here's an example of a skin lesion caused by the fungus
What do you think of when you hear the word fungi? Mushrooms? Athlete's foot? General mold?
Whatever comes to mind, the fact is that when most of us think of fungal infections, we think of something mild and unpleasant at best.
But these tiny organisms can be fatal and kill an estimated 1.5 million people globally each year. It's a shockingly high figure and is greater than the number of people who die from malaria, more than twice the number of women who die from breast cancer, and an equivalent number to those who die from tuberculosis, or HIV, each year, according to professor Neil Gow, President of the Microbiology Society.
Of course, it's not the superficial infections like athlete's foot that are killing millions. There are certain kinds of fungal infections that can invade our blood, lungs and other organs within the body -- and there are a lot of them out there.
Matching the number of deaths each year, there are around 1.5 million species of fungi -- tiny microbes found in soil, air and water -- and we interact with them every day. Three hundred of these are known to make people sick, with some proving to be fatal.
"Almost nobody has heard of Cryptococcus, Candida, or Aspergillus, but the three of those probably account for more than a million deaths every year," says Gow.
He estimates that the fungus Cryptococcus, which mainly affects people with HIV in sub Saharan Africa, is killing between 200-600,000 people every year.
When Pneumocystis is added to the mix, these four fungi account for more than 90% of fatal fungal infections worldwide, says Gow.
And importantly, they aren't rare. In fact, most of us are in contact with them regularly.
"Somewhere between 100 to 300 spores of a fungus called Aspergillus get in our lungs every day," says Gow, "We deal with it perfectly well because our lungs are full of immune cells, which patrol around looking for these spores, and they swallow them up and kill them."
But for people with weakened immune systems, Aspergillus can cause lung disease and can kill after as little as 10-14 days, according to David Denning, professor of Infectious Diseases in Global Health from the University of Manchester. "It's fairly uncommon, but still life-threatening," he says.
People with asthma and cystic fibrosis -- a genetic condition that can lead to excess mucous in the lungs -- are also more susceptible to lung disease from Aspergillus, which can cause pneumonia-like symptoms for them, such as coughing up mucus and wheezing.
These fungi are also some of the most misdiagnosed infections in intensive care units in the UK according to Denning, which, when coupled with late diagnosis and the presence of severe underlying diseases, is what makes them deadly.
From mild to deadly
Not all infections are fatal. Treatable skin infections, or dermaticites, could be considered the most common fungal infection of all, affecting as many as 1-2 billion people, and resulting in ringworm, athlete's foot and even dandruff, says Gow.
Many healthy people also naturally carry the species of yeast-like Candida fungi in, and on, their bodies, without it being harmful. Candida can also cause superficial infections like vaginal thrush and while this is treatable, it remains a burden for many, with 100 million women suffering four or more episodes annually.
But even seemingly mild fungi like candida can prove deadly when immune systems are weakened. People living with HIV/AIDS, organ transfer patients, or cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy are vulnerable to this range of fungal infections that would normally be harmless or treatable.
The burden on healthcare systems is equally huge, with hospitalization costs estimated to range from $11,000 to $57,000 for a patient with an invasive fungal infection -- and experts are warning that the issue needs more attention.
"Prevention is better than a cure," says Gow. "One of the things about fungi is that they're quite difficult to dislodge once they start to grow.
"There's not a single vaccine against any fungus at the moment."
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Without the option of a vaccine, hospitals have to work hard to avoid exposure: patients can be given drugs to help prevent infection, some hospital wards may not allow flowers because of the risk of fungal spores spreading, and they can also use air filtration barriers to protect patients. But the public also need to be informed to avoid exposure.
"It's still the case that this information is not really even understood, and not fully appreciated by all members of even the professional community of microbiologists, and certainly not by the general public," says Gow.
The hope is that these little known infections will gain more recognition for what they really are -- global killers.