Wednesday, March 6, 2013

SHADOW WARS: Escalating Towards World War III - Iran Orders Terrorists To Prepare For War, Fearing Israel About To Attack Islamic Regime; And North Korea Prepares Public For Potential Conflict With South! UPDATE: North Korea Imposes 'No-Fly, No-Sail Zones Off Both Coasts'!

March 06, 2013 - MIDDLE EAST - Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has ordered all of the Islamic regime’s armed forces to prepare for war, WND learned Tuesday.  According to a source in the Revolutionary Guards intelligence unit, the regime believes Israel is on the verge of an attack, which could then draw America into the conflict. Hundreds of ballistic missiles are ready to be launched against Israel and U.S. military bases in the region, the source said, and all terror groups that have long been positioned in Europe and America are ready to act should war break out. While the regime has called last week’s negotiations held in Kazakhstan “a turning point” between Iran and the 5-plus-1 countries – the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany – it is stalling for time to complete its nuclear weapons development, at which point it believes Israel and the West will have no choice but to accept a nuclear-armed Iran, the source said. However, regime officials do not believe Israel will wait it out and hence the preparations for war, he added.

Iran's Revolution Guard.


Iran Orders Terrorists To Prepare For War, Fearing Israel About To Attack Islamic Regime.
WND reported exclusively on Feb. 28 about a warning by the regime’s armed forces deputy chief of staff, Brig. Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, that al-Qaida operatives will soon attack America and Europe, even as a second terror team sent by the Islamic regime is about to enter the U.S. The deputy chief of the Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Hossein Salami, recently warned that the regime’s ballistic missiles could devastate the enemy and reach beyond the region. “The range of our defensive capability expands thousands of kilometers beyond our borders,” he said. Also recently, Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi talked of the use of unmanned aerial vehicles armed with explosives to be used against the enemy.

With two of its closest allies out of the picture – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dead and Syrian President Bashar Assad fighting for his life – Iran fears Israel and the West could launch a war not only to stop its nuclear program but also effect regime change, knowing full well that millions of Iranians who are suffering under its policies would join in to topple their government, the source said. Regime officials have been talking of an imminent coming of the last messiah, advising loyalists to prepare the conditions for such an event. Shiites believe the 12th Imam, Mahdi, will descend to Earth at the time of Armageddon.

Recently, Ali Saidi, Khamenei’s representative to the Revolutionary Guards, told the forces that the Coming is close and that, “The fourth way (of bringing about the arrival of the Mahdi) is by preparing upheaval in the Middle East, and so long as there is not total upheaval in Middle East, then the Imam of the Era (Mahdi) will not arrive.” Ayatollah Khazali, a member of the Assembly of Experts, the body that chooses the supreme leader, told the regime’s magazine Pasdar Islam (the Guardian of Islam) that the Coming is close and that all enemies of Islam will be destroyed.

“Rest assured that Israel will be destroyed,” he said. “America is also getting weaker every day… our revolution was the preliminary step for the Coming.” The commander of the Basij forces, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, in a speech at Sharif University in Tehran, rejected bilateral talks with the U.S. and called any negotiations with America meaningless. “As long as the U.S. refuses to give up support for the Zionist regime and avoids leaving the Persian Gulf, relations with the U.S. will not be resumed,” Naqdi said, according to Fars News Agency, a media outlet run by the Revolutionary Guards. “The U.S. today is at the peak of its enmity toward Iran.”

In a sign that time was running out, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday warned that Iran’s nuclear program is reaching “the red line,” a reference to the time when Israel might take action. - WND.

WATCH: Netanyahu's Hawkish Squawk - 'Iran attack getting closer'.





North Korea Prepares Public For Potential Conflict With South.
North Korea appears to be preparing its people for a potential conflict with the U.S.-backed South, by taking steps to camouflage public transport and broadcasting messages from citizens in favor of war.  South Korean and Japanese media reported Wednesday that authorities in Pyongyang have begun to cover up buses and trains with camouflage netting, a precautionary measure that has not been seen in the North Korean capital for years. South Korea's Yonhap news agency said the situation in Pyongyang was similar to 1993 when it declared a quasi state of war shortly before withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.  North Korean state television also broadcast footage of Pyongyang residents, such as this man, expressing support for the government's threat to scrap a 1953 armistice with the United States in the coming days.  "North Korea cannot stand it any more," he said. "As long as the U.S. and South Korean puppets want war, I think we should form a strong army to take hold of this opportunity to reunify the Korean peninsula." 

A bus covered in a net-like object drives on a street in Pyongyang, North Korea,
in this photo taken by Kyodo, March 6, 2013.
South Korean media said Pyongyang also has started submarine training as part of a program of military exercises.  South Korean General Kim Yong-hyun reacted to the latest North Korean moves by vowing a "strong and decisive" response if Pyongyang follows through on Tuesday's threat to break the truce.  "If North Korea dares to undertake provocation and to threaten the lives and safety of our people, we make it clear that we have all preparations in place for a strong and decisive punishment, not only against the source of the aggression and its support forces, but also the commanding element," said General Yong-hyun.  North Korea said it plans to void the 1953 cease-fire that ended the Korean War because of a U.S.-led drive for sanctions against it and ongoing military exercises between Seoul and Washington.  It is not unusual for Pyongyang to issue such statements during times of heightened tension on the Korean peninsula. But, analysts said the latest threats may be more serious, because they were made by a high-ranking official, and came with a deadline. 

In a Tuesday appearance on state television, North Korean General Kim Yong Chol said Pyongyang will "completely nullify" the armistice beginning March 11, and cut off communications to U.S. and South Korean forces at the border village of Panmunjom.  The deadline coincides with the start of a second round of U.S.-South Korea military exercises. A first round began earlier this month. The U.S. has said the annual drills are defensive in nature, but North Korea views them as preparation to invade.  Meanwhile, United Nations diplomats said they hope to vote Thursday on a resolution punishing North Korea for its latest nuclear test last month. The Security Council held a closed-door meeting on the issue Tuesday.  U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the resolution would impose some of the toughest sanctions ever ordered by the United Nations. She said the sanctions would target illicit activities by the North's diplomats and Pyongyang's banking relationships. It also would tighten inspections on cargo headed to and from the country.  The resolution, which has the support of both the U.S. and China, may further anger an already isolated North Korea. But despite its latest threats, many analysts said Pyongyang is unlikely to carry out large-scale clashes in response to the sanctions. 

Mike Chinoy, an Asia analyst at the University of Southern California, told VOA the real danger lies in the possibility of an accidental clash next week, when North Korea is due to stage competing military drills at the same time as the United States and South Korea.  "All it would take is one helicopter that has a mechanical problem and has to come down on the North Korean side of the demilitarized zone, or some firing exercises in which somebody puts in the wrong coordinates and an artillery shell goes in the other direction," said Chinoy. "These kinds of accidents, which have happened before, could in the current circumstances create a dynamic of escalation that would be harder to manage."  The waters outside North and South Korea have been the scene of several deadly incidents in the past decade. The South blames the North for a 2010 torpedo attack on one of its coastal naval vessels that killed 46 personnel. Later that year, North Korea shelled a frontier island where the South has a military base. That attack killed four people, including two civilians. - VOA News.



UPDATE: North Korea Imposes 'No-Fly, No-Sail Zones Off Both Coasts'.
This undated photo released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on February 26, 2013 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un inspecting an artillery firing drill of the Korean People's Army. (AFP Photo / KNS)
North Korea has imposed no-fly and no-sail zones off both its coasts, South Korean government sources tell Yonhap news agency.  The move indicates that Pyongyang intends to conduct major military drills and the test-firing of short-to-medium range missiles also remains a possibility, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said on Wednesday.  "The North's military ... is preparing large-scale combined military exercises so it may have blocked off the areas for nautical firing or fighter jet firing exercises," Yonhap quoted a South Korean government source as saying.  "But the firing of missiles cannot be ruled out."  The agency also reported that North Korea has already begun submarine drills as it steps up preparations for nationwide military exercises.  In February, Kim Min-seok, a South Korean ministry spokesman said a large-scale military drill was likely to be held in the North due to the unusually high levels of participation by the North's artillery, special forces and air force over the winter months.  The report follows Pyongyang's threat to scrap a ceasefire which ended the 1950-53 Korean War due to an ongoing military US-South Korean military drill. The North further said it will cut off a military phone line in the truce village of Panmunjom.  On Wednesday the South Korean military issued an uncharacteristically harsh warning, saying it would strike the North’s command leadership if provoked.    "If North Korea attempts a provocation that threatens the lives and security of our people, our military will forcefully and decisively strike not only the origin of provocation and its supporting forces, but also its command leadership," said Maj. Gen. Kim Yong-hyun, chief operations officer at the military’s Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff. "We make it clear that we are all prepared."  Building tensions on the Korean Peninsula come as the 15-nation UN Security Council prepares to ‘significantly expand’ sanctions on North Korea over a third nuclear test conducted in February.  Several UN envoys said on Tuesday that a vote on the draft sanctions resolution agreed upon by Washington and Beijing was expected on Thursday.  The sanctions would explicitly ban the sale of luxury goods which are a regular staple of North Korea’s ruling elite and make it more difficult for Pyongyang to transfer funds globally, a council diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity. - RT.



GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Volcano Activity Report For March 06, 2013 - New Mt. Etna Eruption, The Most Spectacular Lava Fountains Of 2013; Plus Updates On Sheveluch, Bezymianny, Kliuchevskoi, Karymsky, Tolbachik, Kizimen, Gorely, Iliamna, Colima, Machin, Fuego, Santiaguito, Pacaya, Concepcion, Nyiragongo, San Cristobal, Momotombo, San White Island, Miguel, Popocatepetl, Tungurahua, Reventador, And Nevado Del Ruiz!

March 06, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing report from geologist Rodger Wilson who specializes in volcano seismicity, and Armand Vervaeck.

Mount Etna spurts lava into the Sicilian night sky.
We did not want to withhold our readers this absolutely great video from KDEtna (Klaus Dorschfeldt). The images have been taken during the nightly Paroxysm from early this morning. Enjoy the greatest video of Etna in 2013 !

WATCH: Etna erupts spectacularly.

 
KVERT reports only a slight increase of volcanic tremor amplitude at Tolbachik volcano (Kamchatka Peninsula) overnight.  Seismicity remains at a moderate level at Kizimen and Gorely volcanoes and weak at Sheveluch, Bezymianny, Kliuchevskoi, and Karymsky volcanoes.

WATCH: Rare Video - Volcano Erupts In Russia's Far East.


Seismicity has risen again at Iliamna volcano (Alaska Range) (station INE) in the past day.  Events as large as M1.4 occur along a (ring?) fracture located south of the volcano’s summit.


Explosions and small volcanic earthquakes continue at a frequent pace at Colima volcano (Mexico).  An overflight yesterday by CENAPRED officials verified new lava extrusion (dome) is occurring within the summit crater of Popocatepetl volcano.  The Popo seismogram shows exhalation (explosion) signals early-on in the record and small local earthquakes later.  Exhalations occurred at an average rate of just under once per hour at Popocatepetl overnight (though note the seismogram which shows clustering of exhalations rather than periodic eruptive behavior).



Volcanic tremor appears to be on the increase at Fuego volcano (Guatemala) (station FG3) again this morning. INSIVUMEH reports that a hot avalanche descended the Rio Ceniza drainage overnight and that small strombolian explosions continue at the volcano’s summit.  Four moderate vulcanian explosions occurred through this morning at the Santiaguito Dome Complex (Santa Maria volcano).  Volcanic ash was propelled to 1.5 km height by the bursts and was deposited to the west over San Jose village and the Calahuache area.  Volcanic tremor has become sustained and stronger at Pacaya volcano (station PCG) overnight.

Periods of weak banded tremor and a few stronger volcanic earthquakes jiggle San Cristobal volcano (Nicaragua) (station CRIN) again today.  Local earthquakes continue at Momotombo volcano (station MOMN), now striking about once every 6 hours.  Volcanic earthquakes and periods of tremor are more frequent at Concepcion volcano (station CONN) the past few days.  Episodes of tiny volcano-tectonic events have been apparent on records from Concepcion during the same period.

Unrest (in the form of strong volcanic tremor, earthquakes and a satellite detected “hotspot”) has eased slightly, but continues at San Miguel volcano (El Salvador) (station VSM).  MODIS satellite data were not updated today, so I am unable to check the status of a strong thermal anomaly detected at San Miguel yesterday.

Small earthquakes remain frequent at Machin volcano (Colombia) (station CIMA).  Judging by P-S intervals on the larger events, the earthquakes are part of the southeastern “nest” of deep events (12 – 15 km depth) which has formed at the volcano over the past few years.

Volcanic tremor and earthquakes continue to intensify at Tungurahua volcano (Ecuador) (station RETU).  The clouds briefly parted this morning to allow a quick glimpse of also strengthening explosive activity at the volcano’s summit.  Volcanic tremor and earthquakes ebb and flow at Reventador volcano (station CONE).


A swarm of volcano-tectonic earthquakes rattled White Island (New Zealand) overnight, as tremor continues its slow climb in amplitude at the volcano.

Recent satellite imagery shows SO2-enriched plumes drifting from Popocatepetl, Nevado Del Ruiz, and Nyiragongo (DRC) volcanoes.  As mentioned above, MODIS satellite thermal imagery was not updated today. - Daily Volcano Report.

NATURE: Loving Mother Earth And Ending The Consumption Of Animals - The Deepening Scandal In Europe As "Faecal" Bacteria Has Been Found In Ikea Swedish Almond Cakes!

March 06, 2013 - SWEDEN - Ikea just can’t get a break. First, the international purveyor of self-assembled furniture and Scandanavian hors d’ouvres got roped into the horsemeat scandal when traces of horse DNA were found in meatballs and sausages it sold. Now, according to the Guardian, almond cakes from its restaurants in 23 countries are being pulled after bacteria usually found in fecal matter was discovered.

The Swedish retailer stopped sales of its almond cakes after Chinese customs authorities found two batches that fell short of the country’s hygiene standards, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The move comes soon after horse DNA was discovered in the store's meatballs.
Ikea said Chinese customs officials last December seized and destroyed a batch of 1,800 cakes imported from Sweden after tests revealed that the cakes contained a prohibitively high level of coliform bacteria – a type of bacteria that can be found in soil, vegetation, water and everyday human environments, as well as in the feces of humans and warm-blooded animals, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The coliform bacteria found do not normally cause serious illness, the Guardian noted. According to an Ikea spokeswoman, the almond cakes supplier tested the same batch and found no presence of the more dangerous E. coli or human intestinal bacteria.

The Tarta Chokladkrokant cakes – described as an almond cake layered with chocolate, butter cream and butterscotch – were headed for an Ikea store in Shanghai, and came from the same Swedish supplier, Almondy, which delivers all of the Ikea almond cakes served in majority of the retailer’s stores around the world, noted the Wall Street Journal.

Chinese authorities have stepped up food inspections in recent years after a series of scandals over fake or shoddy goods.

Ikea faces a new food scandal after coliform bacteria – a type of bacteria also found in feces – was discovered in its almond cakes by Chinese authorities. John Sciulli / Getty Images.
In addition to Ikea’s almond cakes, the Shanghai quarantine bureau said that Kraft cream cheese and 2.7 tons of Nestle chocolate bars also were among the dozens of imported products destroyed in its latest round of quality inspections, according to the Associated Press.

The Nestle chocolate contained too much of the sweetener sorbitol, which in large amounts, can cause bowel problems.

Kraft Foods China said the imported batch of cheese products from the U.S. were used only as internal samples, the Associated Press reported. - TIME.

WATCH:  Ikea Nixes Chocolate Cake After Fecal Bacteria Discovered.






PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: CDC Says "Nightmare Bacteria" Is A Growing Threat - Fears Over Wave Of Deadly Superbugs Invading U.S. Hospitals That Are Resistant To Antibiotics!

March 06, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Hospitals in the US have been hit by a wave of 'nightmare bacteria' that have become increasingly resistant to even the strongest antibiotics.

Public health officials have warned that in a growing number of cases existing antibiotics do not work against the superbug, Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE).

Patients became infected with the bacteria in nearly four per cent of US hospitals and in almost 18 per cent of specialist medical facilities in the first half of 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Fears: Scientists have raised the alarm over the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including E-coli (stock picture).
Dr Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said in a statement that the strongest antibiotics 'don't work and patients are left with potentially untreatable infections.'

Dr Frieden said doctors, hospitals and public health officials must work together to stop the bacteria from spreading, the Sun Sentinel reports.


Spread: The superbugs were present in just one US state in 2001, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) but are now found in 42 (stock picture).
He said scientists were 'raising the alarm' over the problem following increasing concern.

Increasing numbers of patients in US hospitals have become infected with CRE, which kills up to half of patients who get bloodstream infections from them, according to a new CDC report.


Some of the more than 70 types of Enterobacteriaceae bacteria - including E-coli - have become gradually resistant over a long period of time, even to so-called, 'last resort drugs' called carbapenem.


During the last ten year, the percentage of Enterobacteriaceae that are resistant to these last-ditch antibiotics rose by 400 percent. One type of CRE has increased by a factor of seven over the last decade, Fox News reports.

CRE infections usually affect patients being treated for serious conditions in hospitals, long-term acute-care facilities and nursing homes. Many of these people will use catheters or ventilators as part of their treatment - which are thought to be used by bacteria to enter deep into the patient's body.


Weakening: Many antibiotics are now unable to kill the resistant strains of bacteria (stock picture).
Only six states currently require that healthcare providers report cases of CRE. The CDC said the bugs spread from person to person, often on the hands of medical workers and that they are . able to pass on their antibiotic resistance to other kinds of germs.

The bacteria were present in just one US state in 2001,but have now spread to 42, Dr Frieden said at a news conference.


Seven people died, including a 16-year-old boy, in one serious outbreak of Klebsiella pneumoniae in 2011 at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, the Sun reports.


The CDC is trying to raise awareness of the antibiotic resistant germs, urging health centres to control them effectively by taking proper precautions such as washing hands and grouping patients with CRE together. - Daily Mail.


WATCH:
CDC Says "Nightmare Bacteria" Is A Growing Threat.





MONUMENTAL INCREASE IN METHANE: Disaster Precursors Of Shift In The Tectonic Plates - Foul Odor Reported Off Santa Monica Bay, Methane From Ocean Blamed; Mysterious Fumes Cause Panic And Chaos In Kingston, Jamaica; Three People Sickened By Odor At Trader Joe's In Annapolis; Natural Gas Odor Forces Brief Evacuation At Kansas City School; Hazmat Team Responds To Odor Of Gas In Chili; Bubbles Coming Up From The Centre Of The Giant Louisiana Sinkhole; Methane Leaks Next To Macondo Site Under The Gulf; Dramatic Increase In Methane In The Arctic In January 2013!

March 06, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Authorities say a foul odor that spurred calls to fire departments throughout the city on Sunday is possibly the result of the large release of methane in the Santa Monica Bay.  Santa Monica Fire said in a department statement that they believe the strong odor was caused by a naturally occurring methane leak below the ocean floor.  “This morning there was a large release of natural ocean floor methane released in the Santa Monica Bay,” the statement said. “This methane is not toxic and dissipates quickly.”  Sam Atwood, a spokesman for the Air Quality Management District (AQMD), said his agency has not confirmed that theory.  Brian Humphrey, a spokesman for the Los Angeles City Fire Department, said the odor was noted inland from the Santa Monica Bay.  Last September, a widespread sulfurous stench that blanketed parts of the Southland was apparently traced back to a biological occurrence on the landlocked Salton Sea. - CBS Los Angeles.

(Photo credit: Mark Mainz/Getty Images).

Foul Odor Reported Off Santa Monica Bay, Methane From Ocean Blamed.
Coastal residents near Santa Monica awoke to a foul odor Sunday that probably was caused by a large release of methane in the ocean, authorities said.  Fire departments in Los Angeles and Santa Monica began receiving calls shortly after dawn from residents as far north as Sunset Blvd. and south of Venice Beach reporting a rank smell blowing in off Santa Monica Bay.  A Santa Monica fire hazardous-materials team took readings off the coast near San Vicente Blvd. and found methane in the water, said communications officer Justin Walker.  The amounts, however, were too small to be hazardous to health, he said. No illnesses were reported.  Recent shifts in water temperature might have caused plankton and algae beds to bloom, releasing methane just under the surface, Walker said. The gas also might have been produced by a geologic event, such as a shift in tectonic plates, he said.  “We usually have this happen about twice a season,” Walker said. “There’s no special way of telling where or when it will happen. When we were getting south, southeast winds blowing into the city, we’d get the calls, when they shifted westerly, the calls would stop.”  As of midday, readings indicated the methane had dissipated, he said.  The South Coast Air Quality Management District reported no complaints of odors, according to a spokesman, but sent an inspector to investigate.  Last September, air quality officials traced malodorous fumes that besieged the L.A Basin to decaying matter in the Salton Sea, more than 150 miles from Los Angeles. - LA Times.

WATCH: Stench blamed on methane from ocean.




Gnarly Ocean Odor Prompts Swell Of Emergency Calls.
Photo by imjustcreative/Graham Smith via Flickr Creative Commons.
As L.A. and Santa Monica fire department officials fielded calls Sunday about a foul odor — a  smell they believed to be an ocean-based offender  making its way from Santa Monica Bay — the ripe reaction was being casually logged in the permanent record of social media.  " Specific information about the odor falls within the expertise of  regional air quality officials," said LAFD spokesman Brian Humphrey who said the South Coast Air Quality Control District determined that the odor was a natural occurrence. - SCPR.


Mystery Fumes Cause Panic And Chaos In Kingston, Jamaica.
The island's environmental management agency was last night still trying to determine the source of noxious fumes that resulted in more than 50 persons, some of whom collapsed, being rushed to hospital in Kingston.  The mystery fumes also caused discomfort to many more persons in the vicinity of the Central Sorting Office (CSO) on South Camp Road, plunging the area into chaos for a few hours.  Several businesses in the area were forced to close, classes were suspended at nearby schools, and persons were evacuated from the CSO building as the police restricted traffic movement from East Queen Street to South Camp Road in an effort to protect people from potential harm.  At the same time, firefighters, medical personnel and National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) officials tried to find the source of the fumes.  "The report that we received is that at about 10:00 am workers (from the CSO) raised an alarm after several of their colleagues started to complain that they were having difficulty breathing," Post Master General Michael Gentles said as police tried to restore calm and provide quick help for affected individuals. 

WATCH: Mystery fumes send dozens to hospital in Jamaica.


That, however, did not prevent people from panicking as CSO workers and curious onlookers began to collapse.  "Jesus Christ, what is happening? Somebody tell us what is going on, nuh!" screamed one woman as her colleague fainted.  The woman, who used a handkerchief to cover her nose, was one of several frightened-looking CSO employees seen running around as medical officials rushed several persons to ambulances.  Police at the scene said medical officials made at least six trips to the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH).  "The hospital ambulances were filled with people complaining that they were finding it difficult to breath," one policeman told the Jamaica Observer.  That was confirmed by a medical official at the KPH who asked not to be named, as he was not authorised to speak to the media.  He said a large group of persons suffering from dizzy spells and respiratory problems were taken to the hospital.  Yesterday, senior KPH officials declined to give more information on the issue, directing the Observer to the Ministry of Health. However, efforts to get a comment from ministry officials were unsuccessful. 

News of the incident also created concern among persons as far as Half-Way-Tree and Cross Roads as they were heard asking if it was safe to venture close to the area.  Several persons also used social media to tell family and friends to stay away from the area which was visited by Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell and his state minister Julian Robinson.  Amidst the chaos, medical personnel appealed to persons to leave the area.  "People, please leave the area, it is not safe," said one medical official who was wearing a dust mask.  The medical personnel soon got assistance from the police, who quickly cordoned off the area .  At about 4:00 pm, NEPA allowed workers limited access to the CSO building, even as the agency said it was unable to determine the source of the fumes.  "I have spoken to the post master general and I have spoken to my team on the ground but they have not been able to ascertain the source of the fumes," said Peter Knight, chief executive officer of NEPA.  Assistant Commissioner of Police for Area Four, George Quallo yesterday said based on information from NEPA the CSO would resume activities today with limited access being allowed to the building.  The police also said schools that suspended classes because of the incident were being asked to assess the situation and make a decision as to the resumption of classes today. - Jamaica Observer.



Hazmat Team Responds To Odor Of Gas In Chili.
The scene on Andony Lane Wednesday afternoon. / JOHN SPAULDING.
The Chili Fire Department responded to a report of an odor of gasoline in the basement of 56 Andony Lane late Wednesday afternoon. Homeowner Mary Vail noticed the odor while babysitting her grandchild.  Chief Don Johnson said about two dozen homes were checked, but only seven or eight homes were affected and no homes were evacuated.  Vail noticed a car parked in the street near the storm drain and believes the car leaked gas. She then called 911.  The Monroe County Hazardous Materials Team was called to the scene. They flushed the sewers with thousands of gallons of water and self-ventilated the affected homes.  It was determined that there were no long-term health hazards. Andony Lane was closed for an hour during the investigation. - Democrat and Chronicle.



Natural Gas Odor Forces Brief Evacuation At Kansas City School.
Micheal Mahoney/KMBC.
Students were briefly evacuated from a school Tuesday morning after a natural gas odor was detected in the building. Kansas City firefighters were called to Our Lady of The Angels school at 4232 Mercier St.  about 10:25 a.m.  Authorities said a natural gas odor was reported in the kitchen area.  Students were evacuated as a precaution. - KMBC.


3 People Sickened By Odor At Trader Joe's In Annapolis.
Officials said a Freon leak caused the strange odor that sickened three people at Trader Joe's in Anne Arundel County. Fire officials said the smell was reported at the Trader Joe's at 160 Jennifer in Annapolis around 10:45 a.m. Tuesday.  Hazmat crews responded to the store and determined a Freon leak in the refrigerant line caused the strange odor.  Officials said two people were taken to Ann Arundel Medical Center with minor injuries. The third person refused medical treatment.  The building was evacuated. There was no immediate word on when the business would reopen.  Officials said hazmat continues to evaluate the situation. - WBAL


Bubbles Coming Up From The Centre Of The Giant Louisiana Sinkhole, As Methane Leaks Next To Macondo Site Under The Gulf.
Response operations at the 8.6-acre sinkhole in Assumption Parish were halted Tuesday after seismic monitors noted an increase in underground tremors that have been linked with “burps” and edge collapses in the yawning slurry hole, state regulators and parish officials said. John Boudreaux, director of the parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said about five to six trees that had been leaning over for the past week along the northeast side of the sinkhole fell in Tuesday morning and that small bubbling spots also have re-emerged in the sinkhole.  “They do have a section in the center of the sinkhole that has that bubbling,” he said...  Boudreaux said Tuesday sharp tremors were being detected, but the more significant activity is related to the long-period tremors... - The Advocate.

WATCH: Methane Leak Next To Macondo Site Under The Gulf.



Dramatic Increase In Methane In The Arctic In January 2013.
Below a combination of images produced by Dr. Leonid Yurganov, showing methane levels January 1-10, 2013 (below left), January 11-20, 2013 (below center) and January 21-31, 2013 (below right).


Why are these high levels of methane showing up there? To further examine this, let's have a look at where the highest sea ice concentrations are. The image below shows sea ice concentrations for January 2013, from the National Snow and Ice data Center (NSIDC).


Overlaying methane measurements with sea ice concentrations shows that the highest levels of methane coincide with areas in the Arctic Ocean without sea ice. This is shown on the animation below, which is a 1.84 MB file that may take some time to fully load.

Strong correlation between Methane and Ocean/Land/Sea ice
Where methane levels above the Arctic Ocean are relatively low, there still may be very high levels of methane underneath the sea ice that are still broken down by bacteria, as discussed in the post Further feedbacks of sea ice decline in the Arctic. As that post concludes, much of this methane is likely to enter the atmosphere without getting broken down by bacteria as the sea ice retreats further. Sea ice is declining at exponential pace. The big danger is that a huge rise of temperatures in the Arctic will destabilize huge amounts of methane currently held in the seabed. Comprehensive and effective action is needed now to avoid catastrophe. - Arctic News.


ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Plague Of Biblical Proportions - Swarm Of Millions Of Locusts Invade Israel's Negev, After Plaguing Egypt; 3 Weeks Before The Jewish Passover That Recalls 10 Biblical Plagues, One Of Them Locusts?!

March 06, 2013 - ISRAEL - Israel on Wednesday began battling a swarm of locusts from Egypt on Wednesday to prevent crop damage in the south of the country.

Locust clouds darkened skies some three weeks before the Jewish Passover holiday that recalls 10 Biblical plagues, one of them locusts, that struck Egypt during the exodus of Israelite slaves.


The insects covered nearly 2,000 acres of desert overnight, officials said. Israel sprayed pesticides from the air and land to try to kill them in the early morning before dew on their wings dried and they could take off again.

Miriam Freund, director of plant protection in the Agriculture Ministry, called it a "medium-sized swarm" and her office set up a hotline for farmers to call in case they see it advance.

"We hope our actions are effective," one of the pilots of a plane spraying the fields said on Army Radio. "Let's hope the damage will be minimal."


Locusts, which wreak havoc by eating crops, last invaded southern Israel in 2004, said the pilot, who gave only his first name, Shai.

Potato farmer Pavel Rosenfeld, who lives about 3 km (2 miles) from the Egyptian border, said 30 to 40 percent of his land had already been damaged.

"Everything depends on the wind ... and we are praying that the wind doesn't bring us more," he said on Army Radio. - Townhall.


Locusts rest on a branch near Kmehin in Israel's Negev desert March 5, 2013. (REUTERS/Amir Cohen).
Israeli Agricultural Ministry personnel resumed spraying millions of locusts with pesticides in southern Israel Wednesday, officials said. A large swarm of locusts darkened the skies over southern Israel Tuesday afternoon as the insects landed in fields across the Negev, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars damage, Israel Radio reported.   

After nightfall, the Ministry of Agriculture sprayed about 4 square miles where the locusts settled for the night. Officials said they would resume spraying the area Wednesday.  The swarms of locusts were described as the largest infestation in decades, The Times of Israel said. Residents were instructed to remain indoors and close windows and shutters.

The locusts aren't expected to reach central Israel's populated areas due to a cold front that should force the insects south, The Times of Israel said. However Israel Radio said preparations should be made in the event the locusts head north. Additional swarms of locusts crossed into Egypt from Sudan Tuesday heading toward Aswan, al-Masry al-Youm said.

In the Gaza Strip, farmers were instructed to close hothouses and residents told to shut windows and doors of their homes. The Israeli Agricultural Ministry issued a locust alert Tuesday after the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization reported large swarms of locusts in Egypt. - Breitbart.


EXTREME MONUMENTAL WEATHER: The Biggest Storm Of The Season - Massive Snowstorm Saturn Set To Slam The Eastern American States; Threatens Widespread Power Outages, Strong Winds, Soil Erosion, Coastal Flooding And Major Travel Delays! UPDATE: Miracle - Woman Survives Tornado Car Toss In Alabama!

March 06, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Snow will reach the New York City metropolitan area to Boston as well as part of northern New England and upstate New York with the midweek storm. It has been a nail-biting time for meteorologists as to how a storm that is currently tracking in from the Midwest will behave once it reaches the coast. While most coastal storms are complicated, the fact that it is March and that this storm will under go multiple strengthening and weakening phases that cause the precipitation area to wobble around only adds to the challenge.

The storm as it will not have a uniform precipitation area where you might expect to see it. There will be a mosaic of heavy and light precipitation, compounded by marginal temperatures due to elevation, proximity to the coast and the March sun-effect.



In short, the region has one sloppy mess on the way.

The storm will track northeastward enough and pause long enough, before turning out to sea to throw precipitation farther north. This track favors snow reaching New York City, Hartford, Boston, Providence, R.I., Portsmouth, N.H., and Portland, Maine.

The wet, clinging nature of the snow will bring a risk of downed trees and sporadic power outages. Road conditions will vary from neighborhood to neighborhood and different times of the day.

Rain will fall during part of the storm. Some of the snow will melt as it falls on the roads. However, when and where the precipitation comes down hard, it can switch over to snow and quickly accumulate even on paved and concrete surfaces during the middle of the day.



A general 2- to 6-inch swath of wet snow will reach from around New York City to Boston, part of northern New England and Long Island with locally higher amounts. The heaviest snow, up to a foot, may bury portions of Connecticut, western Massachusetts and southernmost portions of Vermont and New Hampshire. The greatest accumulations will be on non-paved, elevated surfaces.



The worst travel conditions will be Wednesday night and Thursday. This is when the precipitation rates will generally be the heaviest and overcome warm road surface temperatures. However, localized problems due to additional pockets of snow are possible Thursday night into Friday.

At this time, the consensus among AccuWeather.com meteorologists is for the immobilizing snow, 1-2 feet of it, to stay in part of the central Appalachians centered on northwestern Virginia, eastern West Virginia and western Maryland.

Heavy, disruptive snow is likely in Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia with flight delays and other travel issues. The storm will begin as rain in these areas, but a switch to heavy wet snow is forecast during part of the storm. In these areas, the storm may switch back and forth between rain and wet snow.

The same storm brought heavy snow from Minneapolis to Chicago and other major cities in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio Tuesday, which is also cause its share of flight cancellations and roadway delays.

In terms of wind and coastal flooding problems with the storm from northern New Jersey to southern New England, the magnitude also depends on the track and redevelopment of the storm near the coast.

A storm looping farther north enough to bring a few inches of snow could also be strong enough to cause moderate beach erosion and minor to moderate coastal flooding around times of high tide Wednesday and Thursday.

However, just as AccuWeather.com has been stating farther south in the mid-Atlantic, the storm will not hit during a period of high astronomical tides. The middle of this week is approximately halfway between the new and full moon.

One thing, though, since the storm will be exiting slowly to the east, a few days of slowly diminishing northeasterly winds may follow the storm.


This flow could be at a favorable angle to keep water levels running above normal into the weekend with minor beach erosion. The pattern would break down several days before the new moon next week. - AccuWeather.




Snowstorm Threatens Power Outages DC to Philly.
Impacts from a storm targeting millions of people in the Eastern states will range from travel disruptions and power outages caused by heavy snow to coastal flooding from storm surge.  For information on snow farther north, consult "Snow New York City to Boston and New England."  A major storm that began Tuesday night will bring heavy snow from parts of North Carolina to parts of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey into Thursday.  The storm will be moving through the central Appalachians toward the mid-Atlantic coast during the middle of the week, after blasting portions of the Plains and Midwest Monday into Tuesday.


Based on the latest information, the area that has a significant chance of immobilizing snow of over a foot lies across the higher elevations of eastern West Virginia into western parts of Virginia and western Maryland.  Charlottesville, Harrisonburg and Winchester, Va.; Frederick, Cumberland and Hagerstown, Md.; and Elkins, W.Va.; are in the area that has the greatest snow potential. The weight of heavy snow is likely to bring down many trees and power lines. The weather will be dangerous, disruptive and travel-halting.



However, many other locations in the region ranging from major metropolitan areas to small towns and rural areas in between could receive anywhere from a couple of inches of slush to a foot or more of back-breaking snow and power outages. These include Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, Dover, Del., and Vineland, N.J. These areas are likely to receive rain during part of the storm and a larger percentage of the snow that falls is more likely to melt for a time. The potential in these areas is for sudden, intense snowfall, which can overcome marginal temperatures enhanced by the March sun-effect, even in the biggest coastal cities.

As the rate of snow becomes heavy, roads can quickly become clogged with snow, potentially stranding motorists. Deicing time will increase at area airports in the path of the storm. Flight delays and cancellations from heavy snow were hitting Minneapolis and Chicago first, but they will spread to multiple airports in the I-95 mid-Atlantic with the possibility of delayed aircraft and crews elsewhere across the nation. Even in parts of the South, including Atlanta, the storm will have direct impact from downpours and gusty thunderstorms.

Along the coast, the storm will also cause strong winds, as well as water rise issues and beach erosion.
- AccuWeather.

WATCH: Massive storm set to slam American East Wednesday and Thursday.


WATCH: Tracking Winter Storm Saturn.




Woman Survives Tornado Car Toss In Alabama.
Cullman, Alabama, resident, Lauren Meneau was on her way to work when her vehicle was picked up and tossed into a building in Cullman, Alabama. The EF-4 tornado struck April 27, 2011 with 175 mph winds.

WATCH: Woman Survives Tornado Car Toss.




SHADOW WARS: Escalating Towards World War III - John Kerry Concedes Iran Is Moving Closer to Possessing Nuclear Weapon; North Korea Vows To Cancel Korean War Ceasefire; Biden Tells AIPAC That Obama Is 'Not Bluffing' Over Iranian Military Threat; Netanyahu Says Iran Is Closer To Nuclear 'Red Line'; Henry Kissinger Warns That A Major Nuclear Crisis With Iran Is Close; Top U.S. General Warns That At Least One Arab State Would Go Nuclear If Iran Does; Russia Conducts Largest Nuclear Drill In 20 Years!

March 06, 2013 - MIDDLE EAST - At the end of his first overseas trip as Secretary of State, John Kerry acknowledged that despite the continued diplomacy and tough sanctions being leveled against Iran, the regime continues to get closer to possessing a nuclear weapon.  "Lines have been drawn before and they've been passed," Kerry said. "That's why the president has been so definitive this time. This is a very challenging moment with great risks and stakes for everybody because the region will be far less stable and far more threatened if Iran were to have a nuclear weapon."  Kerry sat down with ABC News' Martha Raddatz in Qatar as his first overseas trip as President Obama's secretary of state wound down.  Kerry said the threat extends beyond the possibility that Iran could actually use the weapon on its enemies, specifically Israel. Iran simply having a nuclear weapon would "spur a nuclear arms race" in the region and could be used to support terrorists groups like Hezbollah, he said.  The secretary warned that despite last week's negotiations in Almaty between the United States, it's allies and Iran, which he called "useful," time for Iran to cooperate is running out.


John Kerry Concedes Iran Is Moving Closer to Possessing Nuclear Weapon.
 "If they keep pushing the limits and not coming with a serious set of proposals or prepared to actually resolve this, obviously the risks get higher and confrontation becomes more possible," he said.  On Syria, the other major focus of this trip, Kerry reiterated that the status quo in the conflict-ridden country is not acceptable. With more than 70,000 people killed over the last two years and recent reports of President Assad al-Bashir using Scud missiles to attack civilian areas, the secretary acknowledged that America must do more.  At a Friends of Syria Meeting in Rome last week Kerry announced the United States would give an additional $60 million in non-lethal aid to Syria's political opposition. The money will be used for communications equipment, training advocates and local governing councils, and to help the opposition deliver services and food to Syrians living in opposition-held areas.  But Kerry also announced that for the first time the United States will be providing non-lethal aid to Syria's military opposition too. For now the help will consist of food and medical supplies, but ABC News learned last week that the aid could eventually include body armor, military training and even tanks.  Kerry would not specifically comment on whether the United States is considering additional aid to the rebel fighters, or on the timing of that decision, but said that it is clear Assad needs to go – and quickly.  "There is a holistic, united effort now that is focused on trying to save lives in Syria, and make it clear to President Assad that we are determined and that he needs to think hard about his calculation in raining Scuds down on his population," said Kerry.  Syria's opposition also has its own problems with extremists elements increasingly playing a role, including carrying out a suicide bombing attack, which killed more than 50 people in Damascus earlier this month. Kerry said that the international community has to be careful about making sure a post-Assad Syria is not substituting one oppressive situation for another.  "I want to emphasize for all of the Alawites who are fearing for their future, for the Christians, or the Druze, or any group there, Sunni, Shiite – they all need to know that the vision of the Syrian opposition, the promise of the Syrian opposition is to have a Syria in which all votes are represented and protected," he said. - ABC News.

WATCH: John Kerry Tackles Nuclear Hot Spots in First Overseas Trip.



North Korea Vows To Cancel Korean War Ceasefire.
North Korea vowed Tuesday to cancel the 1953 cease-fire that ended the Korean War, citing a U.S.-led push for punishing U.N. sanctions over its recent nuclear test and ongoing U.S.-South Korean joint military drills.  North Korea's Korean People's Army Supreme Command warned of stronger additional countermeasures in a statement that came amid reports that Washington and North Korean ally Beijing have approved a draft of punishing sanctions for a U.N. Security Council resolution responding to North Korea's Feb. 12 nuclear test. The draft is expected to be circulated at the U.N. this week.  The United States and others worry that North Korea's third nuclear test pushes it a step closer toward its goal of having nuclear-armed missiles that can reach America, and condemn its rocket launches and nuclear tests as a dangerous threat to regional security.  North Korea says its nuclear program is a response to U.S. hostility that dates back to the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula still technically in a state of war.  North Korea warned it will cancel the Korean War cease-fire agreement on March 11, citing U.S.-South Korean military drills that began March 1.  North Korea said Washington and others are going beyond mere economic sanctions and expanding into blunt aggression and military acts. North Korea also warned that it will block a communications line between it and the United States at the border village separating the two Koreas. - AP News.

WATCH: North Korea fights back South-US drills with ceasefire scrap.




Biden Tells AIPAC That Obama Is 'Not Bluffing' Over Iranian Military Threat.
Barack Obama's threats to use military force to prevent Iran securing a nuclear weapon are more than idle bluffs, vice-president Joe Biden told the biggest pro-Israeli lobbying group Aipac on Monday.  Biden said that while the US preferred a diplomatic solution to the standoff with Iran, a military option remained on the table.  "The president of the United States cannot, and does not, bluff. President Barack Obama is not bluffing," Biden told the audience in Washington.  Israel is seeking assurances of support from the US, should it decide to launch air strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities.  There has been scepticism about Obama's commitment to a military option against Iran, given the administration's general unwillingness to be drawn into new conflicts after the experience of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Some observers feel that Obama's threat is aimed purely at putting pressure on Iran to resolve the standoff diplomatically and not embark on another conflict.  Pro-Israel supporters of the military option, speaking at Aipac's annual conference, attempted to counter Obama's reticence by insisting the military option would only require an overnight air strike, rather than a prolonged conflict.  In contrast with the run-up to the Iraq war, the US is determined to show that it is pursuing all alternatives to conflict. Biden said that if the US had to take military action, it was critical that the world knew it had tried everything in its power to prevent such an eventuality.  Obama, in an interview last year, insisted he was not bluffing. But his public pronouncements contrasted with behind-the-scenes US pressure on Israel to hold back from an air strike, particularly in the White House election year. The White House views Iran as the top foreign policy priority of Obama's second term.  The US and other governments held inconclusive talks with Iran recently, and further talks are planned. The new US secretary of state John Kerry, at a press conference in Saudi Arabia on Monday, said there was a "finite" time for conclusion of the talks.  Iran denies it is pursuing a nuclear weapon, and insists it only wants nuclear power to meet domestic energy needs.  Addressing the conference via satellite link from Israel, prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Iran had not yet crossed the red line on the nuclear issue but it was getting closer. He expressed scepticism about the value of sanctions and called for a more credible military threat. - Guardian.

WATCH: America Issues New Warning to Iran About Nuclear Weapons.



Netanyahu Says Iran Is Closer To Nuclear 'Red Line'.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu points to a red line he drew on a graphic of a bomb while addressing the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2012 in New York City. Netanyahu said Monday that diplomacy has so far failed to deter Iran from pursuing its nuclear program, warning it was getting closer to crossing a crucial "red line."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that diplomacy has so far failed to deter Iran from pursuing its nuclear program, warning it was getting closer to crossing a crucial "red line."  "Iran is getting closer to that red line, and it is putting itself in that position to cross it," Netanyahu told the largest American pro-Israel lobby via satellite, referring to the point at which Israel believes Iran would be able to build a nuclear weapon. - France24.




Henry Kissinger Warns That A Major Nuclear Crisis With Iran Is Close.
A nuclear war in the Middle East would be a "turning
point in human history," says Mr Kissinger.
Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has warned that a crisis involving a nuclear Iran is in the "foreseeable future".  The Nobel Peace laureate, 89, was speaking about prospects in the Middle East at the World Economic Forum.  He said nuclear proliferation in the region triggered by an armed Iran would increase the chances of an atomic war - "a turning point in human history".  He also urged the US and Russia to co-operate in resolving Syria's conflict.  "There has emerged in the region, the current and most urgent issue of nuclear proliferation. For 15 years, the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have declared that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable, but it has been approaching," he said.  "In a few years, people will have to come to a determination of how to react, or the consequences of non-reaction.  "I believe this point will be reached in a very foreseeable future," he added.

'Nuclear war' 
In his assessment of the stand-off between Iran and Western powers over its nuclear programme - which Tehran argues is for peaceful and civilian purposes - Mr Kissinger called for "serious" negotiations on both sides to look for solutions.  "Unilateral intervention by Israel would be a desperate last resort, but the Iranians have to understand that if they keep using the negotiations to gain time to complete a nuclear programme then the situation will become extremely dangerous."  The consequences of Tehran's programme, he said, would be that other countries in the region would also want nuclear arms.  "The danger is that we could be reaching a point where nuclear weapons would become almost conventional, and there will be the possibility of a nuclear conflict at some point... that would be a turning point in human history," he said.  "If Iran acts as a nation and not as a revolutionary cause, there is no reason for America or other permanent members of the UNSC to be in conflict with it, nor any countries in the region. On that basis I would hope that a negotiated solution would be found in a measurable time."  Meanwhile, Mr Kissinger advocated a US-Russia understanding over the conflict in Syria, while opposing military intervention.  "The Syrian problem would best be dealt internationally by Russia and America not making it a contest of national interests," he said.  "I would hope that the undertaking of the US foreign policy will not be be characterised by the divisions that we see in [its] domestic policy." - BBC.

Top U.S. General Warns That At Least One Arab State Would Go Nuclear If Iran Does.
Commander of U.S. Central Command Gen. James Mattis said Tuesday that ”at least one other nation” has told him “at the leadership level” they will seek nuclear weapons if Iran goes nuclear:
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R., S.C.): If the Iranians develop a nuclear capability, how certain are you that other nations in the region would acquire an equal capability?
MATTIS: At least one other nation has told me they would do that, at a leadership level, they have assured me they would not stay without a nuclear weapon if Iran armed.
GRAHAM: Was that a Sunni-Arab state?
MATTIS: Yes, sir.
GRAHAM: So the likelihood of Sunni-Arab states acquiring nuclear capability to counter the Shia Persians is great, would you not agree with that?
MATTIS: I agree, and also other non-Sunni-Arab states in the general region.
The statements by Mattis contradict the findings of a recent report drafted by former Obama Pentagon official Colin Kahl and produced for the Center for New American Security. That report argues that Saudi Arabia–as well as other states–would be unlikely to develop nuclear weapons if Iran acquired nuclear weapons. - Free Beacon.

WATCH: Top General - At Least One Arab State to Go Nuclear If Iran Does.




Russia Conducts Largest Nuclear Drill In 20 Years.
Russia military parade / AP.
Russian nuclear forces conducted a major exercise last month that tested the transport of both strategic and tactical nuclear weapons near Europe, according to United States officials.  The exercise raised concerns inside the Pentagon and with the U.S. European Command because it was the largest exercise of its kind in 20 years and involved heightened alert status of Russian nuclear forces.  The nuclear drills were part of other military maneuvers in Russia carried out between Feb. 17 and Feb. 21.  The exercises followed a recent surge in Russian strategic bomber flights that include a recent circling of the U.S. Pacific island of Guam by two Tu-95 Bear bomber and simulated bombing runs by Tu-95s against Alaska and California in June and July.  Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Wesley P. Miller sought to play down the nuclear exercise but declined to comment on the movement of nuclear weapons and whether nuclear forces went on a heightened state of alert. “We don’t comment on intelligence matters,” he said.  Miller said the nuclear forces maneuvers were “nothing to be concerned about because the Russians, like us, have routine exercises and inspections.”  However, a U.S. official said the exercise was a concern within the U.S. national security community because of the scale of the exercise and the number of weapons being moved. “Certainly it’s a concern when you have this kind of exercise going on,” this official said. 

The official said another worry is that Russia appears to be increasing the readiness of its nuclear forces at a time when the U.S. nuclear complex is in urgent need of upgrading and the military is facing sharp automatic defense cuts that could affect U.S. nuclear forces readiness in the future.  Contractors and employees of the National Nuclear Security Administration, which runs the nuclear weapons complex, were notified of possible furloughs under automatic spending cuts that went into effect March 1, the Hill reported Thursday.  Miller said the administration remains committed to a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent. “The administration will ensure continued focus on maintaining a strong nuclear deterrent as part of the president’s comprehensive approach to nuclear security,” under sequester, as the automatic spending cuts are called.  He quoted past Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as saying that no decisions on how cuts will be made but that “nothing will be off the table in our review of how best to proceed.”  According to the officials, the exercise involved Russia’s secretive 12th Main Directorate of the Defense Ministry, known by its acronym as 12th GUMO, the main military unit in charge of all nuclear weapons.  Details of the nuclear exercise are classified, but officials said the 12th GUMO transported a large number of nuclear arms from some of its nuclear munitions depots to storage sites during the exercises.  It could not be learned if the Russians provided advance notification of the strategic exercises.  Declassified U.S. intelligence reports have identified three large nuclear storage facilities near Europe, including one that is located miles from the intersection of the Rusisan, Latvian, and Belarusian borders. Two other nuclear storage complexes close to Europe are located at Zhukovka, near Belarus, and at Golovchino, near the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. - Free Beacon.