Tuesday, May 20, 2014

THEATRE OF WAR: Russia Successfully Test-Fires ICBM - Russian PM Medvedev Warns Obama Is Bringing The World To The Brink Of "A Second Cold War That Nobody Needs"!

May 20, 2014 - RUSSIA - Russia today carried out a successful test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, news agencies reported citing the defence ministry, amid a standoff between Moscow and the West over Ukraine.




Interfax and ITAR-TASS quoted the defence ministry as saying a successful test of the RS-12M Topol ICBM had been carried out from Russia's Kapustin Yar rocket launch site near the Caspian Sea at 2238 (1708 GMT).

The missile hit its target in the Sary Shagan ballistic missile test range that Russia leases in Kazakhstan, it said.

"The purpose of the launch was to test a prospective warhead of intercontinental ballistic missiles," Interfax quoted defence ministry spokesman Igor Yegorov as saying, without providing further details.

Russia reportedly carried out previous tests in December and March of the RS-12M Topol, a road-mobile missile first put into service in the 1980s and then repeatedly modified.

It is referred to as the SS-25 Sickle by and has a reported maximum range of 10,000 kilometres.

Russia earlier this month test-launched several ballistic missions during military exercises overseen by President Vladimir Putin.

The tests have been conducted amid a continued standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine, where Moscow seized the Crimean peninsula in March and pro-Russian rebels have taken control of parts of the east of the country.

Tensions seem to have eased in recent days however, ahead of a presidential vote on Sunday aimed at bringing Ukraine out of crisis. - Business Standard.


Russian PM Medvedev Warns Obama Is Bringing The World To The Brink Of "A Second Cold WarThat Nobody Needs"
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev blasted the Obama administration -- with a smile! --
for bringing the world to the brink of 'a second Cold War that nobody needs'.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has blasted the Obama administration for bringing the world to the brink of 'a second Cold War that nobody needs.'

In a videotaped interview published Tuesday, he told Bloomberg Television that 'we are slowly but surely approaching a second cold war,' in part because President Barack Obama 'could be more tactful politically.'

Seated at his private residence outside Moscow and speaking through an English translator, Medvedev blasted Obama for leveling sanctions at the Russian government and its wealthiest oligarchs.

'Let's be honest: Those sanctions are a sharp knife for European business,' he claimed. 'And American business doesn't need them either. The only ones who want sanctions are politicians, who use them to reinforce their convictions and demonstrate their power.'

And in a mafia-like jab, the Russian legislative leader hinted that if he wanted to, he could push back against U.S. sanctions.

'You've probably noticed that we have not commented on them a great deal or responded to them harshly,' he told Bloomberg reporter Ryan Chilcote, 'although we probably could cause some unpleasantries for the country that imposes those sanctions.'

Asked about the now-infamous 'reset button' effort that he co-engineered with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in March 2009, Medvedev said the Obama administration has unraveled any Russian good will that may have existed five years ago.

'Yes, I believe that President Obama could be more tactful politically when discussing those issues,' he said. 'Some decisions taken by the U.S. administration are disappointing.'


Nerves fraying: Russia claims it has withdrawn troops from near the Ukrainian border,
but tank commanders at checkpoints are still standing guard.

'We have indeed done a lot for Russian-U.S. relations. I believe doing so was right. The agreements that we reached with America were useful. And I'm very sorry that everything that has been achieved is now being eliminated by those [U.S.] decisions.'

'Basically,' he claimed, 'we are slowly but surely approaching a second Cold War that nobody needs. Why am I saying this? Because a competent politician knows how to make reserved, careful, subtle, wise and intelligent decisions – which, I believe, Mr Obama succeeded at for a while.'

'But what is being done now, unfortunately, proves that the US Administration has run out of these resources. And the United States is one of the parties to suffer from this.'

Medvedev's interview came as the U.S. was still seeking 'firm evidence' to support Russia's claim that it has withdrawn soldiers from the borders of Ukraine.

Ukraine is gearing up for an election to replace former president Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia in February after months of street protests.

Russia's relations with the United States and European Union are at a post-Cold War low following Moscow's seizure of Crimea. - Daily Mail.



BIG BROTHER NOW: The Rise Of The Global Police State - Sweeping Federal "Biosurveillance" Plan Seeks Access To Private Medical Records!

May 20, 2014 - BIG BROTHER - The federal government is piecing together a sweeping national “biosurveillance” system that will give bureaucrats near real-time access to Americans’ private medical information in the name of national security, according to Twila Brase, a public health nurse and co-founder of the Citizens Council for Health Freedom.





The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response is currently seeking public comment on a 52-page draft of the proposed “National Health Security Strategy 2015-2018” (NHSS).

The deadline for comment is 5 pm EST on May 21st. (See Draft National Health Security Strategy 2015-2018.pdf)

“Health situational awareness includes biosurveillance and other health and non-health inputs (e.g., lab/diagnostics, health service utilization, active intelligence, and supply chain information), as well as systems and processes for effective communication among responders and critical health resource monitoring and allocation,” the draft states.

But Brase warns that the NHSS proposal would allow the federal government to monitor an individual’s behavior before, during and after any government-defined health “incident” – which could be anything from a local outbreak of the flu to a terrorist anthrax attack.

“It’s very broad. It doesn’t seem to have any limits, except they say something about, you know, properly protecting the data. But from our perspective, if the government gets access to this kind of data, [and] is allowed to do research with the data…then our privacy has already been compromised. The government has already said that our data is their data for their purposes of national health security,” Brase told CNSNews.com.

“It’s very clear to us that really the government is moving toward real-time access, toward close collaboration of government and doctors for ready access to the electronic medical record and then to conduct research and analysis.”


LISTEN: Interview with Brase.


 



“I don’t think they ever mentioned the word merging, but this is a very close connection they want between public health, which is the government, and clinical health, which is your doctor’s office and the hospital, for whatever diseases they choose to have reported,” she added.

Brase noted that the information collected by the government will be “all-encompassing” and include “what our health status is, whether we exercise, how often we get a cold, or what kind of medications we’re taking. They’re also looking at the climate, and the economic condition of the country, as all being a party of this National Health Security Strategy.”

“In other words, anything and everything could become a health threat by the government’s standards,” she said.

According to the draft proposal, NHSS will create “health situational awareness” by “collecting, aggregating and processing data from both traditional and nontraditional sources (such as social media) and from various governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders….Decision-makers will have the capability to visualize and manipulate data from many sources to create an operational picture suited to the specific situation and the decisions before them.”

But Brase warns that the government’s biosurveillance plan is much more intrusive than the data collection currently being done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“We’re of the mind that the Fourth Amendment actually means something, so you can’t access everybody’s patient’s medical record just because you say there is a security threat or just because you say it’s good for the American public,” she told CNSNews.com.

“But the fact of the matter is that [the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] HIPPA already allows the federal government and the state government and the local government and anyone who is a public health agency to have access to our medical records - identifiable medical records - without our consent. It’s in the HIPPA Privacy Rule, which has the full force and effect of law. But that wasn’t actually put in by Congress. It was put in by the Department of Health and Human Services.” (See HIPAAPrivacyRegs_EconomicStimulusChanges.pdf)

One of the dangers, Brase pointed out, is that this vast amount of medical data warehoused in a giant electronic database will only be available to government-approved researchers.

“Now, it could be the entire electronic medical record, it could be that they just have ready access to the electronic medical records because it’s on a state health information exchange, for instance, and if they are one of the partners in the state health information exchange, they can start this data draw.

“One of the things we look at is how research can be done in a way to push policies that we disagree with. They come up with findings that nobody else can validate because nobody else has access to all that data the way the government has, and nobody can ever counter it,” Brase told CNSNews.com.

According to “National Biosurveillance Science and Technology Roadmap” written last June, “effectively, appropriately, and securely sharing health event data, including parts of electronic patient records and laboratory data, has significant potential to improve national awareness of incidents that could progress to impact national security.”

The NHSS is part of what President Obama called “the first-ever National Strategy for Biosurveillance” which was announced by the White House in July 2012 as “a top national security policy.” (See National_Strategy_for_Biosurveillance_July_2012.pdf)

Biosurveillance is defined as “the process of active data-gathering with appropriate analysis and interpretation of biosphere data that might relate to disease activity and threats to human or animal health – whether infectious, toxic, metabolic, or otherwise, and regardless of intentional or natural origin – in order to achieve early warning of health threats, early detection of health events, and overall situational awareness of disease activity.”

“Extending electronic reporting of health information, including laboratory results, to public health serves as an example of rapidly communicating useful information….Routine, daily use of such capabilities may be leveraged to address critical requirements in the context of an emergency,” the White House document said.

Brase pointed out that much of the architecture for the government’s biosurveillance plan is already in place.

“The Obama administration in the [American] Recovery and Reinvestment Act [of 2009] forces every doctor to have interoperable electronic medical records by January 1, 2015 or face penalties from Medicare, financial reductions in their payments. So that’s one thing that’s happening,” she told CNSNews.com.

“A second thing that’s happening is that the federal government has been funding the creation of state health information exchanges (HIEs) with the purpose of creating a national health information network. And they’re interoperable, which means they’re accessible to government and others, because they have to follow certain protocols and data standards that the government sets. So that’s another thing that’s happening.

“And the third thing that’s happening is that the health plans often require, may require with their contracts with doctors, that they submit their bills electronically. So all this is forcing everybody’s medical records online,” she explained.

“It’s not clear exactly how the federal government plans to get access” to these online records, Brase said, but it could include requiring health insurers to send all claims data to the government, forcing state insurance exchanges to open a special portal specifically for federal bureaucrats, or demanding that hospitals and clinics report directly to the feds.

“Is this a juggernaut that’s unstoppable at this point” CNSNews.com asked Brase.

“It is not unstoppable,” she replied. “HIPPA is a data-sharing law. It has noting to do with privacy. HIPPA and the HITECH Act (part of the 2009 stimulus bill) together already allow 2.2 million entities to have legal access to your private medical records without your consent, and that is a federal number in the 2010 federal regulation.”

Those entities include hospitals, pharmacies, physicians’ offices, diagnostic imaging centers, medical equipment suppliers, home health services, outpatient care centers, health insurers, third-party administrators and any of their business associates.

“But the one thing that HIPPA says is that if the states create a stronger privacy law, then everyone in that state must conform. Minnesota and Iowa are two of the states that have stronger privacy laws with more restrictions on access. And every state could do that and make it difficult for the federal government to implement this entire thing.

“For instance, they’d have to get your consent before they put you in a health information exchange. They could require consent for any kind of public health purpose, and therefore challenge the federal government to tell them exactly where the federal government thinks they have a right to gather all this information for public health purposes,” Brase told CNSNews.com. “There’s all sorts of things states could do if they had a mind to do it.”

“I think people are worried about things like HIV or something stigmatizing or embarrassing. But they should be very concerned about the fact that this is really a sweeping strategy to oversee your entire life with the intention of keeping you, and making you keep yourself, healthy,” she continued.

“And that is a government that is too big. That is a government that says you have no freedom, because if you are not free from surveillance, you are not free. - CNS News.



THE AGE OF PUTIN & CHILDHOOD'S END: Precursors To The End Of The Petrodollar And The Collapse Of The United States Corporation - Russia, China Plan To Expand Payments In National Currencies!

May 20, 2014 - RUSSIA/CHINA - Russia and China are planning to increase the volume of direct payments in mutual trade in their national currencies, according to a joint statement on a new stage of comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation signed during high-level talks in Shanghai on Tuesday.


Russia, China Plan to Expand Payments in National Currencies
© Fotolia/ selensergen

“The sides intend to take new steps to increase the level and expansion of spheres of Russian-Chinese practical cooperation, in particular to establish close cooperation in the financial sphere, including an increase in direct payments in the Russian and Chinese national currencies in trade, investments and loan services,” the statement said.

The two countries are also set to deepen dialogue on macroeconomic policy issues, as well as boost growth in mutual investment, including in transportation infrastructure, the development of mineral deposits, and the construction of budget housing within Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in China on Tuesday for high-level talks with President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping. A large package of documents, including bilateral, intergovernmental, inter-departmental and corporate agreements are expected to be signed during the two-day visit, aimed at cementing Russian-Chinese relations.

The decision to switch to the national currencies, thus reducing dependence on the US dollar was first announced in 2010 by then-Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. The announcement was followed by a deal struck by the central banks of the two countries that allowed bilateral trade in the ruble and renminbi, as well as in freely convertible currency. - RIA Novosti.



INFRASTRUCTURE & SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: Twin Explosions In The City Of Jos, Nigeria - 118 People Killed; Dozens Injured!

May 20, 2014 - NIGERIA - At least 118 people were killed in the central Nigerian city of Jos on Tuesday after two bombs ripped through a business district packed with commuters and traders.


No immediate claim of responsibility for twin city centre blasts, which bear hallmarks of Boko Haram

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the explosions, but the bombs bore the hallmarks of other attacks by Islamist sect Boko Haram, which has recently stepped up a bloody five-year battle campaign to establish a caliphate in northern Nigeria, and kidnapped more than 300 schoolgirls from a remote north-eastern school in April. In the past month, the group has set off two bomb blasts in the capital, Abuja, and another in the country's second city, Kano.

Abdulsalam Mohd, of Nigeria's national emergency management agency, said ambulances and volunteers were ferrying wounded and dead from Terminus, an area home to a teaching hospital, shops, offices and a market. He said the death toll was likely to climb as victims were still being pulled from smouldering rubble at the scene.


WATCH: Moment of deadly Nigeria explosion caught on tape.




"It happened very close to the market so most of the victims were people plying their trade. Some had children with them," he said by phone from the scene, above the wail of sirens.

"The casualty figure is likely to rise because the fire service wasn't able to clear all the rubble today. They will continue to remove the debris tomorrow and we are expecting to recover more bodies then," he added.

That could push the death toll close to Boko Haram's single biggest atrocity yet, a multiple-bomb attack in Kano which killed 170 in January 2012 . The attack suggests that the group, which started with hit-and-run home-made explosives thrown from motorbikes, is seeking to make a show of its capabilities before the elections scheduled in 2015.

Witnesses said soldiers had erected checkpoints around the area, and firefighters were still battling to put out flames that continued to rage almost two hours after the blasts.


The wreckage of a burnt vehicle and burning shops following a bomb blast at Terminus market
in the central Nigerian city of Jos. Photograph: Str/AFP/Getty Images

Far from Boko Haram's northern strongholds, Jos has been relatively free of attacks by the sect. The group hasn't struck there since it attempted to ignite sectarian tensions with a series of church bombs on Christmas Day 2011. Jos is at the heart of the Nigeria's volatile Middle Belt, where clashes over power and resources have often been cloaked in the guise of religious violence.

Religious leaders appealed for calm in the city, which is home to both Muslims and Christians. "A lot of youths risked their lives to go in and rescue people, some of them were people burning in their own homes. No one was asking if they were Muslim or Christians," said Kola, an eyewitness, who gave only his first name.

But there were glimmers of how frustration and anger at rising insecurity could take on a sectarian character. A group of Christian youths in one neighbourhood set up checkpoints, where they carried out stop-and-searches on vehicles. In another neighbourhood, Christian youths armed with clubs marched towards a Muslim neighbourhood before they were stopped by policemen. "They were very angry, and innocent people would have been their victims," said Ahmed Sittu, who escaped the crowd by ducking behind a wall.

At least one of the bombs appeared to have come from a car packed with explosives, which witnesses say tore a hole in the ground and caused surrounding vehicles to catch fire. Traders continued to crowd around the scene after the blast, trying to recover charred belongings. Bala Mohammed, a resident who was returning home from his office nearby, said the force of the first explosion threw him to the ground. "People started running to help the wounded, and 10 minutes later the second one went off. It took off the roof of the market building. Many were trapped inside, it was a terrible scene."


WATCH:  Explosions kill at least 118 in Nigeria.




Stung by recent criticism over sluggish responses to attacks, the government was quick to condemn the bombings. "President [Goodluck] Jonathan assures all Nigerians that government remains fully committed to winning the war against terror, and this administration will not be cowed by the atrocities of enemies of human progress and civilisation," a statement released from his office said.

More than 1,500 people died in attacks by Boko Haram in the first three months of this year after the group stepped up its campaign. At least 105 were then killed in twin bomb blasts in Abuja last month, while a suicide car bomber killed five people in Kano on Sunday evening.

Britain, the US and France have pledged to help rescue the schoolgirls snatched from north-eastern Borno state, marking a potential military escalation in a region already under a state of emergency. - Guardian.



MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Global Food/Water Crisis - A New Dust Bowl Forms In The Heartland Of The United States!

May 20, 2014 - OKLAHOMA, UNITED STATES - In Boise City, Oklahoma, over the catfish special at the Rockin' A Café, the old-timers in this tiny prairie town grouse about billowing dust clouds so thick they forced traffic off the highways and laid down a suffocating layer of topsoil over fields once green with young wheat.


A farmer walks in a dust storm on drought-stricken lands near Felt, Oklahoma, on August 1, 2013. Ed Kashi, VII

They talk not of the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, but of the duster that rolled through here on April 27, clocked at 62.3 miles per hour.

It was the tenth time this year that Boise City, at the western end of the Oklahoma panhandle, has endured a dust storm with gusts more than 50 miles per hour, part of a breezier weather trend in a region already known for high winds.

"When people ask me if we'll have a Dust Bowl again, I tell them we're having one now," says Millard Fowler, age 101, who lunches most days at the Rockin' A with his 72-year-old son, Gary. Back in 1935, Fowler was a newly married farmer when a blizzard of dirt, known as Black Sunday, swept the High Plains and turned day to night. Some 300,000 tons of dirt blew east on April 14, falling on Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., and, according to writer Timothy Egan in his book The Worst Hard Time, onto ships at sea in the Atlantic.

"It is just as dry now as it was then, maybe even drier," Fowler says. "There are going to be a lot of people out here going broke."

The climatologists who monitor the prairie states say he is right. Four years into a mean, hot drought that shows no sign of relenting, a new Dust Bowl is indeed engulfing the same region that was the geographic heart of the original. The undulating frontier where Kansas, Colorado, and the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma converge is as dry as toast. The National Weather Service, measuring rain over 42 months, reports that parts of all five states have had less rain than what fell during a similar period in the 1930s.


A gigantic dust cloud looms over a ranch in Boise City, Oklahoma, in this April 1935 file photo.
Associated Press

"If you have a long enough period without rain, there will be dust storms and they can be every bit as bad as they were in the Thirties," says Mary Knapp, the Kansas State assistant climatologist.

Cattle are being sold to market because there is not enough grass on rangeland for large herds to graze. Colorado's southeast Baca County is almost devoid of cattle - a change that Nolan Doesken, Colorado's state climatologist, calls "profound and dramatic."

Elsewhere, drifts of sand pile up along fence lines packed with tumbleweeds, and tens of thousands of acres of dry-land wheat have died beneath blankets of silt as fine as sifted flour. In the vocabulary of Plains weather, this is known as a "blowout." Blowouts often start as brown strips along the outer edges of fields, and then spread with each successive blowing wind like a cancer.

"Once your neighbor's fields starts to blow, it puts your own fields at risk," says Gary McManus, Oklahoma's state climatologist, who toured the blown-out wheat fields outside Boise City last week.


High winds and a record-breaking heat wave led to damaging erosion in this unplanted cotton field. ROBB KENDRICK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE



Hotter and Drier

McManus, 47, grew up in the panhandle town of Buffalo, where his grandparents gave up farming during the drought of the 1950s and moved to town. He has a special affinity for the panhandle, which he says is often ignored by state officials and is in worse shape as a result of the present drought than any other part of Oklahoma. Part of his job involves traveling Oklahoma's back roads to speak to farm groups. In the past three years, as the drought settled in, he has given 100 talks to farmers, 40 of them about the drought.

"They want to know what's going to happen," he says. "Are we going to get moisture for my wheat? My answer, generally, has been probably not. Unfortunately, I'm right more often than I'm wrong."

The farmers also ask for a long-term forecast, which takes McManus into the politically perilous realm of climate change, a touchy subject in a state where Republican Senator Jim Inhofe is known as one of the leading congressional voices denying global warming and where, as one man put it, what farmers believe depends on "whether they listen to FOX or CNN."

"It's not a subject I like to speak about. It's nerve-wracking," McManus says. "I am often met with skepticism, and I tell them I am just presenting the science."

According to the National Climate Assessment, the government's interagency report detailing the impact of climate change, the science shows that the region is trending toward hotter and drier. The longer the current drought lasts, the harder it will be to recover. A quarter of Oklahoma, including the panhandle, and neighboring counties in Kansas and Texas are rated as being in "exceptional drought," the driest category on the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor - a status so dry that farmers express relief whenever their standing moves incrementally up a notch to "extreme drought."

As of the end of March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture ranked 42 percent of Oklahoma's winter wheat crop as "poor" to "very poor," and categorized almost three-quarters of the state's topsoil as "short" of moisture and 80 percent of the subsoil as "very short" of moisture.


A man stoops over a row of scraggly corn in an open field in June 1938 in Colorado.
The corn in the field behind him, protected by trees, is much healthier.
Associated Press



The Best Bad Option

Nathan Crabtree, vice president of First State Bank on Main Street, says high commodity prices, together with the federal crop insurance program, which pays 70 percent on averages of annual yield, has saved more wheat farmers from going under than he can count. "If we had $4-a-bushel wheat, instead of $8-a-bushel wheat, we'd be in serious trouble," he says. "Crop adjusters are out here every day, looking at fields," he says. "Most of them are going to be zeroed out."

There is no drought insurance for cattlemen. Herds with strong bloodlines built up over generations are being liquidated. "It's like they're selling their own kids," he says.

Hal Clark, 82, a rancher, is trying to kill non-native, water-gorging weeds on his grazing land, so there will be more for the grass to absorb. Kenneth Rose, 68, a dry-land wheat farmer and cattleman, has sold off half his herd and is trying to salvage his wheat crop. He has two options, both bad.

The best bad option, he says, seems to be plowing deep furrows, as was done in the 1930s. This churns up big clods, which weighs down the soil and creates ridgelines to break up the wind. He calls it a "desperate measure," because if it doesn't rain this year, the field will be drier than ever next year and unsuitable for planting.

The other option is to let his fields lie and blow now.

"What are you gonna do?" he says. "It's discouraging at times, but part of living here. I've got too much invested to quit now."


Workers drill for water in Felt, Oklahoma, on July 28, 2013. Because of ongoing drought,
over drilling for water is depleting the Ogallala Aquifer.
Ed Kashi, VII


"One Day Closer to Rain"

Boise City is the county seat of Cimarron County, Oklahoma's westernmost county, and a remote area still known as No Man's Land. The moniker refers to the panhandle's status in the mid-1800s as an unclaimed territory that became an enclave for outlaws and thieves. Today, the name refers more to its isolation: Boise (pronounced BOYCE) City is closer to the capitals of Colorado and New Mexico than it is to its own statehouse in Oklahoma City, 326 miles to the east.

In a bit of geographical irony, the town's name derives from the French le bois, meaning "the trees." At its turn-of-the-century founding, land hustlers sold lots to homesteaders on the promise of paved streets lined with elms, ample water, and a railroad stop connecting the lonely outpost to civilization in the East. When the new arrivals discovered the sales pitch was fiction, the hustlers ended up in prison for fraud. But the town endured, as the newcomers eagerly joined what became known as the great plow-up that transformed millions of acres of native grassland into farmland, setting the stage for the worst ecological disaster in the nation's history.

Today, the only elms are those planted as wind breaks, and they are dying by the thousands.


Girls cover their faces during a swirling dust storm while trying to pump water in
Springfield, Colorado, in this March 1935 file photo.
Associated Press

The drought of the Thirties lasted a decade. Despite the great exodus of "Okies" to California, mythologized in John Steinbeck's masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath, most people in the Southern Plains stayed. They were tough and resilient, and still are. They adapted to the harsh, unyielding land they farmed, devising new farm techniques to help the soil recover.

Since 1985, the National Resources Conservation Service, run by the USDA, has been paying farmers with badly eroded land to take it out of production and grow native grasses instead.

"You have to be an optimist to be a farmer," says Iris Imler, programs coordinator of the Cimarron County Conservation District, which partners with the USDA to assist farmers and ranchers. "You know the saying in a drought - we're one day closer to rain."


A rancher herds his cows on horseback from the pasture to the barn in Felt, Oklahoma, on July 30, 2013.Ed Kashi, VII



A Hard Pull

Still, life on the Plains remains a hard pull. Towns across the prairie continue to lose population. Boise City has declined by 18 percent since the 2000 Census. The population hovers today around 1,216. Kids grow up and go off to the city because, as nearly everyone will tell you, the only jobs in the area are those in agriculture and those are few and getting fewer.

There has been talk, Imler says, of harnessing the panhandle's most reliable resource - the wind, as energy companies in Boise City's neighboring counties in Texas and Kansas have done. But Oklahoma's electrical transmission line ends 60 miles short of Boise City, creating an obstacle that only the state legislature can resolve. Which isn't likely to happen any time soon.


People use a towel as a dust mask for their horse in this file photo taken in eastern Colorado.Associated Press

Meanwhile, a new agricultural industry has materialized. The water-consumptive hog business moved into the Oklahoma panhandle in the 1990s, drawn in part by Oklahoma's lack of regulations and restrictions on water taken from the Ogallala Aquifer, the vast underground reservoir that underlies the Great Plains and provides 80 percent of its drinking water as well as irrigation for thirsty crops like corn. Texas and Kansas both limit draws on the aquifer. At the time, farmers in Boise City expressed concerns about the impact on water supply, but the Seaboard Food plant revived the dying town of Guymon, in next-door Texas County.

Bart Camilli, who farms 2,400 acres of dry-land wheat, thinks the dropping water table in the Ogallala is a far more significant threat than global warming. "I put no stock in climate change, but I worry every day about the Ogallala," he says. "That will be the biggest factor affecting this county. What happens to the Ogallala makes this drought pale by comparison."


Tumbleweeds pile up around an abandoned farm in Haswell, Colorado, on April 1, 2014. RJ SANGOSTI, THE DENVER POST/GETTY


"Dwindling Communities"

Another glimpse of the future can be seen at Oklahoma Panhandle State University, on the outskirts of Goodwell, an hour's drive east. For most of its history, the school, founded in 1909 as a small, agricultural college, drew students from a 250-mile radius.

The shrinking prairie population has changed all that, forcing administrators to hunt for students farther afield. "It has been very difficult to maintain enrollment because of dwindling communities and competition from other schools," says Larry Peters, a college vice president who worked on his family's farm.

As insurance, OPSU has also added new disciplines, including computer technology, business, and nursing, now the fastest-growing program of study.


This abandoned farm in Haswell, Colorado, is pictured on April 1, 2014.PHALFRED EINSENSTAEDT, TIME AND LIFE PICTURES/GETTY

Curtis Bensch, who heads the agronomy department, says the small family farm is all but a thing of the past. Jobs that await his graduates include positions in corporate farming, the hog industry, and the fertilizer business.

The college also is home to a research station for Oklahoma State University, which develops new drought-tolerant strains of wheat such as one called "Duster" and is experimenting with the development of a subsurface irrigation system to cut down on evaporation.

"Hog operations do have high water demands, but so does irrigating cropland," Bensch says. "I think the consensus is that agricultural enterprises are going to continue to use water as efficiently as they can, but realistically, there will probably come a day when they just don't have the water to do what they used to do."

Brad Duren, a history professor, says many of his students are preparing to become teachers, but are concerned about finding teaching jobs as tiny school districts that dot the Plains disappear.

Most of the students on campus are children of the 1990s, a wetter-than-usual decade. Unnerved by the dust storms, they retreat into the sensibility of youthful inexperience and the belief that technology has a solution for every problem.

"Students all too often regard history as that was then, and because this is 2014, and because we have iPhones, we're smarter than the people who lived in the 1930s," Duren says. "They have this faith in science and technology that everything is going to be okay. But we live in a harsh environment. The problem is, when you run out of water, there are only so many ways to get more." - National Geographic.



CYBER WARS: The New Cold War - China Halts Cybersecurity Cooperation With The United States; Confronts U.S. Envoy Over Spying Accusations!

May 20, 2014 - THE INTERNET - China’s decision to suspend its involvement in a cybersecurity working group with the U.S. after being accused of commercial spying threatens to undo efforts aimed at finding common ground to tackle hacking.




China halted the dialogue and threatened further retaliation after the U.S. indicted five Chinese military officials yesterday for allegedly stealing trade secrets. China’s Foreign Ministry called the U.S. move a “serious violation of the basic norms of international relations,” while China’s State Internet Information Office likened the U.S. actions to “a thief yelling ‘Catch the thief.’”

The group was established last year when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Beijing and the two sides tried to patch up ties that have long been dogged by accusations of cyber espionage. It met in Washington in July, even after former U.S. National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden began making revelations about Amercia’s cyber-spying that included hacking into computers in China since 2009.


Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei speaks during a daily briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Beijing
on May 20, 2014. China on Tuesday warned the United States was jeopardizing military ties by charging five Chinese
officers with cyberspying and tried to turn the tables on Washington by calling it "the biggest
attacker of China's cyberspace." Photographer: Andy Wong/AP Photo

Beijing and Washington had reached a certain consensus that both sides don’t point the finger at each other regarding cyber-hacking,” said Shi Yinghong, director of U.S. Studies at Renmin University in Beijing. “Now this hard-won dialogue channel in this strategic area has been damaged.”

The charges follow a campaign by the Obama administration dating back at least three years to escalate public pressure on China to stop economic spying. By bringing the indictment, the U.S. draws a distinction between government surveillance for national security and the theft of commercial secrets of private companies to boost Chinese competitors.

Job Losses

While hundreds of U.S. entities have been penetrated by Chinese military hackers since 2002, the Justice Department focused on five companies specializing in solar panels, metals and next-generation nuclear power plants. David Hickton, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania where four of companies are headquartered or have main offices, blamed the hacking for job losses, plant closures and billions of dollars to companies in lost research and development costs.

“The FBI action paints China as a threat to commercial interests above all else, and this will probably have traction in the U.S. domestically where there is a feeling that China is waging a form of economic warfare,” said Kerry Brown, director of the China Studies Center and professor of Chinese politics at the University of Sydney. “Beijing might decide to take some punitive actions against U.S. companies, but I think it more likely they will not do this explicitly.”

The working group established a mechanism for dialogue on cybersecurity that may resume once the current furor has died down, Brown said.

‘PLA’ Hackers

Assistant Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang summoned
United States Ambassador Max Baucus yesterday to
lodge a formal protest, the ministry said today.
Photographer: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
China urged the U.S. to “revoke the so-called prosecution,” according to Qin’s statement. Assistant Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang summoned U.S. Ambassador Max Baucus yesterday to lodge a formal protest.

China-based hackers with links to the People’s Liberation Army have been conducting commercial espionage on western companies despite the Chinese government’s denial of the accusation last year, Mandiant Corp., the information security firm, said in a report posted April 10 on its website. Mandiant has since been acquired by FireEye Inc.

Those indicted were officers in Unit 61398 of the Third Department of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. The Justice Department identified them as Wang Dong, Sun Kailiang, Wen Xinyu, Huang Zhenyu and Gu Chunhui. The move by the Justice Department was almost certainly symbolic since there is virtually no chance that China would turn over the five People’s Liberation Army members named in the indictment.

‘U.S. Hypocrisy’

China is a staunch defender of network security and China’s government and army have never been engaged in or were involved in cyber-theft of trade secrets, the Defense Ministry said in a statement today.

“From Wikileaks to the Snowden incident, the U.S. hypocrisy and double standards on the issue of network security have long been obvious,” the ministry said. “China’s military forces have suffered severely from such U.S. actions.”


While cybersecurity tops Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s list of global threats for the second
consecutive year, spying concerns were elevated to the No. 2 issue, a reflection of the impact on national security
agencies from fugitive contractor Edward Snowden, who exposed secret intelligence collection programs.
Photographer: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The U.S. is the biggest attacker of China’s cyberspace, with U.S. servers taking control of 1.18 million Chinese host computers between March 19 and May 18, according to the Internet information office.

“China has repeatedly asked the U.S. to stop, but it never makes any statement on its wiretaps, nor does it desist, not to mention make an apology to the Chinese people,” Xinhua News Agency reported, citing citing a spokesperson for the office.

Confront China

The Obama administration decided last year to publicly confront China with claims that it is behind a campaign to hack into U.S. agencies and corporations to steal trade secrets and potentially disrupt computer networks operating banks, power grids and telecommunications networks.

“Success in the global marketplace should be based solely on a company’s ability to innovate and compete, not on a sponsor government’s ability to spy and steal business secrets,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said yesterday, emphasizing that U.S. surveillance and spying is not used for commercial purposes. - Bloomberg.



PLANETARY TREMORS: San Francisco Bay Area's Future Quakes - Region Could Face A Deadly Seismic Cluster That Could Deliver A Knockout Blow Or Combination Punch?!

May 20, 2014 - CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - California's San Francisco Bay Area grew into a metropolis during the eerily quiet earthquake gap following its devastating 1906 temblor. Scientists predict a 63 percent chance of another big quake before 2032, but when the shaking starts, it may not be a single "Big One" as in 1906, according to a new study.


The threat of future earthquakes across the Bay Area, from the U.S. Geological Survey.
Credit: USGS

Instead, the Bay Area could face a cluster of deadly earthquakes that deliver a series of rapid punches, researchers report today (May 19) in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.

The report is another nail in the coffin for the idea that earthquake faults repeat their behaviors in the same way every time. "The historical record is not sacrosanct," said lead study author David Schwartz, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). "It's really clear that the frequency of different earthquake sizes varies over time."

Schwartz and his co-authors have pieced together a detailed record of Bay earthquakes back to 1600. The bygone earthquakes come from several sources, such as paleoseismology (digging up evidence of shaking), and historic records from Spanish missions.

Between 1690 and 1776, the Bay Area's most dangerous faults unleashed a series of earthquakes between magnitude 6.6 and 7.8, Schwartz and his co-authors report. (The 1906 San Francisco quake was probably a magnitude 7.9, using modern estimates.) These include the Hayward fault, the San Andreas Fault, the northern Calaveras fault, the Rodgers Creek fault and the San Gregorio fault.

An earthquake lull followed this quake cluster, though it was not as quiet in the Bay Area as post-1906, the study reports. Then the 1906 earthquake struck, and a life free from big earthquakes returned again.

Schwartz (and the USGS) thinks it won't be long before San Francisco starts to shake again. The big question is whether it will be the feared "Big One" or a cluster of earthquakes, and which would be worst.

"We haven't had to face a series of relatively closely timed earthquakes in a modern, urban city," Schwartz said. "It would be bad news."

Forecasts unchanged
However, the discovery doesn't immediately change the USGS official earthquake forecast for the Bay Area, which projects a 62 percent chance of a magnitude-6.7 earthquake by 2032, Schwartz said.

New probability forecasts for the region, currently in development, also take into account the possibility of scenarios outside the massive San Andreas Fault quake, such as several faults rupturing at once, said Tom Parsons, a USGS research seismologist who was not involved in the study.

"I think that 1906 is only one of many different options," Parsons said. "We don't know what's going to happen next, but this study provides an answer and it's also broadening our uncertainty."


San Francisco Bay photographed from the International Space Station in 2002.
Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

Schwartz thinks the earthquake cycles suggest these Bay Area faults need to build up a critical stress level before they begin to break. "It takes a while for the crust to reload," he said.

The bad news? The Earth's tectonic plates have probably shifted far enough since 1906 to reach that threshold, he said.

The Bay Area sprawls across the boundary of two massive tectonic plates. The North America plate is sliding south relative to the Pacific plate at about 2 inches (5 centimeters) per year. The plates build up friction that is released as earthquakes. Most of the stress is relieved on the San Andreas Fault, but a zone of faults about 125 miles (200 kilometers) wide lets off the rest.

"Maybe the next sequence won't be exactly the same, but we really could have a series of earthquakes on all or most of these faults over a relatively short period of time," Schwartz said. - Live Science.



GLOBAL VOLCANISM: San Miguel (Chaparrastique) Volcano In El Salvador Erupts - Alert Declared For The Region; At Least 1,000 Evacuated!

May 20, 2014 - EL SALVADOR - El Salvador's San Miguel volcano, also known as Chaparrastique, erupted Monday, spewing reddish ash and prompting authorities to evacuate at least 1,000 as a precautionary measure.


Chaparrastique volcano spews ashes and smoke in San Miguel, El Salvador, on Dec. 29, 2013. (Getty Images)

The volcano is 90 miles from the country's capital of San Salvador.

The Civil Protection Department said in a statement that an alert had been declared for the municipality of San Miguel, where the volcano is located.

The city of San Miguel is 30 miles from the volcano. It is one of the largest cities in the Central American country.

The volcano erupted twice in December. Recently it has been experiencing higher levels of activity than those previous eruptions, El Salvador Environment Minister Hernan Rosa Chavez told Reuters.

The 7,025-foot volcano's last significant eruption was in 1976. - The Weather Channel.



SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: Weather Phenomenon - Massive Supercell Thunderstorm Creates Phenomenally Wild Cloud Over Wyoming! [VIDEO]

May 20, 2014 - WYOMING, UNITED STATES - A phenomenal shot of a massive cloud Sunday near Clareton, Wyo., has been making the rounds on social media today.


Basehunters tweeted this photo of an "epic" cloud near Clareton, Wyoming. (Photo: Basehunters)

The photo was taken by the Basehunters storm chasers group, who are "committed to capturing the most unique and close-up tornado footage on the market," according to their Facebook page.


WATCH:  Viral Time-lapse Video Captures 'Epic' Severe Storm in Wyoming.

 


It shows the rotating updraft of a supercell thunderstorm over eastern Wyoming, according to Weather Channel meteorologist Jon Erdman.


A storm rolls over the central USA.(Photo: Brianna Schenkelberg, Your Take)

Supercells are the largest, strongest and longest-lasting thunderstorms. They are most common on the Great Plains.

Known as a "low-precipitation" supercell, these types of storms seldom produce heavy rain or tornadoes, though they can produce large hail, Erdman said. - USA Today.



INFRASTRUCTURE & SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: Freight Trains Collide Near Moscow, Russia - At Least 6 Killed And 45 Injured! [PHOTOS+VIDEOS]

May 20, 2014 - RUSSIA - A freight train has crashed into a passenger train in the Moscow Region. There are reports about multiple injured and at least six dead. Injured passengers are being carried out of the carriages by hand. Rescuers are working at the scene.


Repair services and Russian Railways employees and investigators gather near the site of a train
collision in Moscow region May 20, 2014. (Reuters / Grigory Dukor)

“Today at 12:38pm (08:38 GMT) a freight and a commuter train collided on the Bekasovo-Nara railroad near the regional center of Naro-Fominsk,” reported the transport police press service.

According to preliminary reports, six persons were killed in the incident, one of them dying in hospital of wounds.

Up to 45 passengers have been injured, 15 of them are in a serious condition.

“We now know about five dead,” confirmed the head of Naro-Fominsk Region Vadim Andronov. “It is possible that the number of dead and injured passengers will grow as one overturned passenger carriage has been blocked by a container from the freighter train, which now remains on top of it. Rescuers are entering the second damaged passenger carriage right now.”

Health Minister of the Moscow Region Nina Suslova has assured that all injured people will receive “all the necessary medical treatment.” Three helicopters are being used to help evacuate the injured, she said.

First Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets said that 18 injured passengers in are in a grave condition in local hospitals, most of them have head trauma.


Photo from vk.com/scipperok

Photo from vk.com/scipperok

Photo by Semyon Gutsul

Photo by Semyon Gutsul

A preliminary evaluation maintains that the problem started when the frame of one of the freight carriages broke up, sending several of them off the rails. The passenger train passing on the next railway line was struck by them, completely tearing off a side wall of at least one passenger carriage.

The Moscow Region transport department is investigating if that crash was caused by a broken rail.

Semyon, an eyewitness to the crash site, told RT that the scene is full of ambulances coming and going, taking the injured to hospitals.

The three most seriously injured have been delivered to the Sklifosovsky Clinic in Moscow. All in all, 18 ambulances have been evacuating injured from the crash site. At least one patient is a child.

The freighter train has already been dragged away. And unhurt passengers from the passenger train have been asked to return to their reserved seats so that they do not interfere with the rescue operation.

The passenger train was heading from Moscow to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova.

The Interior Ministry’s press service reported of 394 tickets sold on the ill-fated Moscow-Chisinau train.

The freight train was carrying cargo from Renault's production facility in Romania. It belongs to a Ukrainian logistics company.

There was no head-on collision, yet 16 carriages of the freighter and three passenger carriages left the rails.


WATCH: Passenger, freight trains collide near Moscow, deaths reported.

 


WATCH: Carriage ripped to pieces at scene of deadly train crash near Moscow.




Russian Railways has deployed two maintenance parties, consisting of 45 repair personnel and 16 units of equipment, to put the carriages back on the rails and repair the railroad infrastructure.

The service on the damaged railway line has been temporarily suspended.

Local authorities have organized a bus service between stations to bypass the crash site. There are 70 buses operating on the route between Aprelevka and Nara.

The Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov is visiting the crash site.

The passengers injured in train crash could receive up to 2 million rubles (about $57,000) compensation, says Andrey Yuryev the head of National Association of Liability Insurers.

The Moldovan Ministry of Transport maintains it has unconfirmed reports of nine dead in the crash. - RT.



GLOBAL FOOD/WATER CRISIS: Monumentally Severe Drought - Dozens Of Texas Communities With Less Than 90 DAYS Of Water! [VIDEO]

May 20, 2014 - TEXAS, UNITED STATES -  Joe Mooneyham no longer grows any flowers or plants in his backyard. Instead, the Pebble Beach resident in Bandera County is nursing a quiet optimism that it will all come back.




"I haven't watered since September of last year," Mooneyham said. “Everything was just emerald green."

He misses the greenery, the deer and the water.

Medina Lake, which used to send gentle waves lapping at his backyard dock, has receded more than a mile and a quarter away.

"Every day I go on and check the level," Mooneyham said.

Pebble Beach is a community whose name is borne out in the field of small stones that were once covered by several feet of lake water. It's also a community reporting less than a three-month supply of water for its residents.

Neighbors a few miles down the road are having water brought in by the truckload, or face spending tens of thousands of dollars to dig for it.

"The well-service people have been lowering pumps. Some have had to have new wells drilled. It's just a fact of nature," said Bandera County Judge Richard Evans.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality keeps tabs on those places where the water is scarce enough to draw concern.

Pebble Beach is on the list, and so are 33-others which could be out of water within three months.

A dozen municipalities are reporting they could go dry in 45 days or less.

"We have sort of taken water for granted for a long time. And I think that time is over. I think its valuation has gone up. Some communities are in more trouble than others," said St. Mary’s University water law professor Amy Hardberger.

And as San Antonio and other large water-users grow in population — and go shopping for more water resources — they're dealing with smaller communities which are becoming more protective of their water rights.

Experts say this is the trend, even should the skies do open up.

"Does it mean we are always going to be able to continue to water our lawns in the heat of summer? Probably not," added Hardberger.

In the meantime, Pebble Beach is asking the help of Bandera County-- in going after a $350,000 grant from the Department of Agriculture to dig a new, deeper water well.


WATCH: Dozens of Texas communities with less than 90 days of water.

                        


"They have one well with a limited amount of supply. They need another well. They need storage capacity. So, that's what we're trying to help them effect," said Judge Evans.

"It will rain again. We will flood again. The lake will be full again. We just want it to go ahead and happen,” laughed Evans. “It needs to be here pretty quick."

The Bandera County Judge talks to me on a courthouse lawn ...that hasn't been watered for several years.

"We live in the Texas Hill Country. It's part of the price you pay for living here," he said.

UPDATE:
By the end of May, Bandera County should receive a $350,000 grant from the Texas Department of Agriculture. Bandera County will match with $90,000 in an effort to acquire property, construct one well and erect a 30,000 gallon ground storage tank for Pebble Beach. - KHOU.



GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: More Sinkholes Keep Popping Up Across The United States - 40-FOOT WIDE Sinkhole Swallows Part Of Austin Peay's Football Stadium In Clarksville, Tennessee! [PHOTOS]

May 20, 2014 - TENNESSEE, UNITED STATES - A large sinkhole has been discovered at Austin Peay State University's Governors Stadium, complicating the project underway already to replace the main stadium building.


Sinkhole at Austin Peay University in Nashville, TN via @NC5
CBS Newspath



The hole, which extends into the north endzone, started out only about 3 feet by 5 feet and no more than 5 feet deep when it was discovered where the football field meets the track.

But workers have had to dig it out to be much larger, about 40 feet wide and 40 feet deep, in search of stable bedrock.

"We actually put a line item in the budget for sinkhole remediation," said Mike Jenkins, superintendent for Nashville-based Bell & Associates Construction. "You never know to what extent you're going to run into them, but we know that Montgomery County, and Austin Peay State University specifically, is famous for sinkholes."

Last August, a 5-foot sinkhole opened on Ford Street, near the university's Maynard Mathematics Center.

Underground limestone caves create the area's unique karst topography, and digging for installation of electrical wires or pipes can accelerate the flow of water that leads to the erosion of the rock.


Sinkhole at Austin Peay University in Nashville, TN via @NC5
CBS Newspath


Sinkhole at Austin Peay University in Nashville, TN via @NC5
CBS Newspath



Jenkins said officials met with a geotechnical engineer Monday as construction workers continued to excavate dirt and expand the hole, which was discovered nearly a month ago. It will be filled by several layers of rock, separated by concrete and topped off by 2 feet of subgrade asphalt beneath the track and turf.

That should be completed by the end of the week, and Jenkins said they delayed the process in order to have it coincide with the scheduled demolition of the existing track and turf. New surfaces will be laid sometime in June.

Renovations to the stands on the west side are being treated as a separate project, and Jenkins said the sinkhole shouldn't affect the budget or schedule for either one.

Crews will also have to fix multiple smaller sinkholes in the parking lot in the final part of the project, which should be finished in time for the Govs' home opener vs. Chattanooga Sept. 13. - Indy Star.



MONUMENTAL SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: "Avoid All Demonstrations And Large-Scale Gatherings" - Australians Warned To Exercise A High Degree Of Caution After Thailand's Army Declares MARTIAL LAW!

May 20, 2014 - THAILAND - Australians have been warned to avoid all demonstrations and large-scale gatherings in Thailand and to monitor developments that might affect their safety after Thailand's army declared martial law before dawn on Tuesday.


Thai soldiers take up position on a street outside the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order
after soldiers were sent in to seize the centre on Tuesday in Bangkok.

The surprise announcement in Bangkok intensifies the turbulent nation's deepening political crisis. The military, however, deny a coup d'etat is underway.

Troops are patrolling the streets of Bangkok and Thai army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha appeared on all Thailand's TV channels in the middle of the night to order police off the streets of the nation's capital.


WATCH:  Thailand's military declare martial law.

 


The army said in a statement that the military had taken the action to 'keep peace and order' and soldiers entered several private television stations in the capital.

The military statement was signed by army chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha. It cited a 1914 law that gives it authority to intervene during times of crisis, and said it had taken the action because on-going mass rallies between political rivals 'could impact the country's security and safety of the lives and properties of the public.'

THAILAND IN POLITICAL CRISIS

The move came after a six-month political stalemate, which has involved widespread anti-government demonstrations.

Analysts have warned Thailand is on the brink of civil war and 28 people have been killed in clashes across the country.

Thailand has been without a sitting parliament since December last year, when then-premier Yingluck Shinawatra refused to bow to pressure to step down but called an election for February in an attempt to ease unrest.


Pedestrians stroll past armed Thai soldiers in Bangkok on Tuesday after Thailand's army declared martial law.

Thai soldiers occupy the foyer of the National Broadcasting Services of Thailand television station in Bangkok.

Thai soldiers use sand bags to fortify their position in the middle of a main intersection in Bangkok's shopping district.

Thai soldiers in Bangkok's shopping district. Thailand's army declared martial law on Tuesday
to restore order after six months of anti-government protests.

Thailand's army declared martial law to restore order after six months of anti-government protests
which have left the country without a functioning government.

The February elections were sabotaged by the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), led by Suthep Thaugsuban.

Election officials were unable to schedule a new poll before Yingluck was removed on May 7, after a court found her and nine of her ministers guilty of abuse of power.

Thailand's acting prime minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan insisted on Monday that his government will not resign, resisting pressure from a group of senators who are seeking ways to settle the country's political crisis, and from anti-government protesters who are demanding an appointed prime minister.

TOURISTS WARNED ABOUT TERROR THREAT

A statement on the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website posted on Tuesday warns tourists: 'We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Thailand due to the possibility of civil unrest and the threat of terrorist attack. You should pay close attention to your personal security at all times.'

A spokesman for DFAT said the department understands the country's caretaker government is still in office.

'We are following these events closely and encourage all parties to resolve their political differences through peaceful democratic processes,' he said.

'The Department will continue to assess the implications of this development for Australian travellers and will update the travel advice accordingly.'

Do not travel warnings have been issued for the southern provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla.

SENATORS CALL FOR POLITICAL REFORMS

A group of about 70 senators, most of whom are seen as siding with the anti-government protesters, proposed a framework on Friday that calls for a government with full power to conduct political reforms.

Acting Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan and Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri met with two representatives of the Senate in an undisclosed location Monday to avoid disruption from the protesters.

In a statement following the meeting, Niwattumrong said the Cabinet cannot resign because 'it will be negligence of duty and against the constitution,' and insisted he 'can carry out duties and has full authority' as prime minister.


Thai soldiers take their positions in the middle of a main intersection in Bangkok's shopping district.

Thai soldiers walk outside the National Broadcasting Services of Thailand (NBT) building.

A Royal Thai Army soldier stands guard on an overpass outside a major shopping center in downtown Bangkok.

Thai anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban is greeted by his supporters
during a march in Bangkok, Thailand, on Monday.

An anti-government protester waves a Thai national flag during a march through streets in Bangkok on Monday.

The Cabinet has operated in a caretaker capacity with limited power since Yingluck dissolved the lower house in December in a failed bid to ease the political crisis.

A new government cannot normally be named until there are elections, which anti-government demonstrators have vowed to block unless political reforms occur first.

The Senate, the only functioning legislative body in the country, was seen as the last resort of the anti-government protesters, who are calling for an interim, unelected prime minister to be chosen.

WHY YINGLUCK WAS REMOVED

Earlier this month, the Constitutional Court removed Yingluck for nepotism along with nine Cabinet members in a case that many viewed as politically motivated.

Protesters said her removal is not enough because she was replaced by an acting prime minister from the ruling party, Niwattumrong.

Anti-government protesters say they are making their final push to oust the government and install an unelected prime minister and government.

They have promised to call off their rallies if they are not successful by May 26, following six months of street demonstrations in which 28 people have died and hundreds of others have been injured.

The protesters on Monday began searching for members of the Cabinet at their residences to pressure them to resign, but did not find any.

Labor unions representing about 20 state-owned enterprises vowed to go on strike Thursday to support the anti-government protesters, although several companies, including Thai Airways and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, said Monday that they would operate normally.

CRISIS STARTED IN 2006

Thailand's political crisis began in 2006, when Yingluck's brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was toppled by a military coup after being accused of corruption, abuse of power and disrespect for King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Thaksin, a former telecommunications billionaire, remains highly popular among the poor in the north and northeast, and parties controlled by him have won every national election since 2001.

The anti-government protesters, who are aligned with the opposition Democrat Party and backed by the country's traditional elites, say they want to remove all traces of his political machine from politics.

Thaksin's supporters, known as the Red Shirts, have staged a rally in Bangkok's western outskirts since May 10, raising concerns about possible clashes between them and the anti-government protesters. - Daily Mail.