Will you come to light or disappear into the darkness of a perishing world?

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (romans 12:21)

Philippines’ Taal volcano growing more restless: shaken by 9 volcanic quakes

June 13, 2013 – PHILIPPINES – Restive Taal Volcano in Batangas province showed heightened activity after at least nine volcanic quakes were recorded around it in the past 24 hours, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs). Paulo Reniva, science research assistant of the Phivolcs’ Volcano Monitoring Division, said these quakes were monitored from 7 a.m. Tuesday to 7 a.m. yesterday. Phivolcs recorded seven volcanic quakes in a previous 24-hour observation period. Despite the increased activity, Reniva said “there is nothing to worry about” since tremors below 10 are still within the “normal parameters” of a volcano under Alert Level 1. Alert Level 1, which means that hazardous eruption is not imminent, remains in effect over Taal. However, Reniva reminded the public to stay away from the main crater due to sudden occurrence of steam explosions and accumulation of toxic gases. Taal has about 40 craters, above water and under water, which have so far been discovered. He said the entire volcano island is off limits since it is a permanent danger zone. In Albay, Mayon Volcano was relatively “quiet” in the past 24 hours. Reniva said although moderate emission of white steam plumes was observed, no volcanic earthquake was recorded in the area. He said no rockfall was detected and that sulfur dioxide levels remained low. He added that no crater glow was observed Tuesday night due to thick clouds that covered the volcano’s summit. However, Reniva reiterated that the public should refrain from entering the six-kilometer radius permanent danger zone because small steam and ash explosions and rock falls may occur anytime. Meanwhile, two minor tectonic earthquakes were recorded in Northern Samar yesterday. The first quake with a magnitude of 2.9 occurred at 11:56 a.m. Its epicenter was traced 14 kilometers northwest of Laoang town, Northern Samar, which felt the quake at Intensity 3. The town of Pambujan also in Northern Samar felt the quake at Intensity 3. The second quake, measuring 3.2 in magnitude, occurred 10 minutes later. Its epicenter was some 20 km northeast of Laoang. It was felt at Intensity 3 in Laoang and Pambujan towns, and Intensity 2 in Catarman and San Roque. The two quakes are unlikely connected to a magnitude 5.3 quake that hit the province in September last year, said Erlinton Olaverde, science research specialist of the Phivolcs Seismology Division. “Masyado ng matagal nung nangyari iyong 5.3 earthquake…However, to verify if these two quakes are only aftershocks of the 5.3 tremor, we still need to conduct further study,” he also said. Olaverde also said 376 aftershocks have been recorded in North Cotabato since a 5.7-magnitude earthquake hit the province last June 1. As of 1 p.m. yesterday, 17 of the aftershocks were “significant,” he said. Aftershocks will continue to occur in North Cotabato and nearby areas for more than a month, he also said. –Malaya

Mexico’s Popocatépetl volcano shaken by 7 volcanic quakes; deformation occurs at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa

June 13, 2013 – MEXICO – A cluster of several (7) volcanic earthquakes up to magnitudes 2.4 has occurred this morning, perhaps heralding some more vigorous activity in the near future. Apart from this, activity has remained stable with about 2 weak steam-gas-sometimes ash-containing explosions per hour. A steam plume often rises about 1 km above the volcano. Meanwhile, Mauna Loa may be stirring in Hawaii. The large volcanic system last erupted in 1984. The latest update of the USGS mentions that minor inflation of a shallow magma reservoir beneath Mauna Loa may be occurring. Seismicity rates were slightly elevated. However, the level of observed seismicity is far from alarming and the alert level remains at green. No eruption is expected in the near future. From the USGS report: “Deformation of Mauna Loa continued to be dominated by southeasterly motion of the south flank. However, slow, localized uplift also continues near the summit caldera (~1cm/yr at MLSP) suggesting that some inflation of the shallow magma reservoir complex beneath the summit area is occurring. Seismicity: Seismic activity within the southwest rift was slightly above background levels. HVO seismic networks detected 1 shallow event below summit area, 2 mid-crustal events (5-13 km) west and northwest of summit, 8 shallow events within the southwest rift, 1 shallow events on the northeast rift zone.” –Volcano Discovery

Mid-West braces for giant 240-mile line of thunderstorms: 1-5 Americans told to prepare for devastating derecho

June 13, 2013 – CHICAGO – A gigantic line of powerful thunderstorms could affect one in five Americans as it rumbles from Iowa to Maryland packing hail, lightning and tree-toppling winds. Meteorologists are warning that the continuous line of storms may even spawn an unusual weather event called a derecho, which is a massive storm of strong straight-line winds spanning at least 240 miles. Wednesday’s storms are also likely to generate tornadoes and cause power outages that will be followed by oppressive heat, said Bill Bunting, operations chief at the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma. The risk of severe weather in Chicago, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, is roughly 45 times higher than on a normal June day, Bunting said. Detroit, Baltimore, Washington, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Louisville, Kentucky, have a risk level 15 times more than normal. All told, the area the weather service considers to be under heightened risk of dangerous weather includes 64 million people in 10 states. ‘It’s a pretty high threat,’ Bunting said, who also warned that the storms will produce large hail and dangerous lightning. ‘We don’t want to scare people, but we want them to be aware.’ Wednesday ‘might be the worst severe weather outbreak for this part of the country for the year,’ said Jeff Masters, meteorology director at Weather Underground. He said it is possible to have tornadoes and a derecho at the same time, but at any given place on Wednesday the straight-line winds are probably more likely. Last year, a derecho caused at least $1 billion in damage from Chicago to Washington, killing 13 people and leaving more than four million people without power, according to the weather service. Winds reached nearly 100mph in some places and in addition to the 13 people who died from downed trees, another 34 people died from the heat wave that followed in areas without power. Derechoes, with winds of at least 58mph, occur about once a year in the Midwest. Rarer than tornadoes but with weaker winds, derechoes produce damage over a much wider area. –Daily Mail

Germany most snooped EU country by US

June 12, 2013 – BRUSSELS – The US National Security Agency (NSA) snoops on all EU member states and on Germany the most, new data reveals. A color-coded map of secret surveillance activities by the NSA ranks countries according to how much they are surveilled – green for the least and red for the most watched. All EU member states have variant shades of green except for Germany, which is color-coded orange. The NSA tool, called Boundless Informant, is among the documents disclosed by 29-year-old Edward Snowden who has since sought refuge in Hong Kong. Snowden, who has worked at the NSA for the past four years on a number of outside contracts, said some NSA analysts have blanket power to spy on anyone for any reason. “I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authority to wire-tap anyone … even if you are not doing anything wrong, you are being watched and recorded,” he told The Guardian newspaper. Boundless Informant reveals that some 3 billion pieces of metadata intelligence was gathered over a 30-day period, says The Guardian. Metadata includes calls made, location of the phone, time of the call and duration. The tool comes with an operational handbook and says it uses “big data technology to query SIGINT [signals intelligence] collection in the cloud to produce near real-time business intelligence describing the agency’s available SIGINT infrastructure and coverage.” It notes that the tool is “hosted entirely on corporate services” and is designed to, without any human intervention, to graphically display collected data in map view, bar chart, or simple table. The tool is able to create a “near real-time snapshot” of collection ability at any given moment. “The tool allows users to select a country on a map and view the metadata volume and select the details about the collection against that country,” notes the handbook. Boundless Informant, along with the revelation of the secret-Prism programme and the extent of the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act, has confirmed what a handful of EU privacy experts have long suspected. The amended FISA grants the US government powers to collect foreign intelligence on information stored in US Cloud computing providers like Google or Amazon. Caspar Bowden, a former chief privacy adviser to Microsoft, told this website in January that the amended FISA intentionally targets non-US persons who are engaged in any sort of activity that relates to the conduct of foreign affairs of the United States. But US justice department spokesperson Dan Boyd said his country’s data laws give high protection. “We believe the US standards are at least as strong as those governing intelligence collection in European Union Member States,” Boyd told EUobserver in an email in January. Boyd said the FISA Amendments Act is not used indiscriminately or for political purposes. He said the law has a judicial branch oversight through the so-called Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). “A careful and unbiased examination of US law demonstrates how strongly we carry out this commitment to protecting privacy,” said Boyd. Meanwhile, the FISC found the NSA activities unconstitutional in a 2011 opinion whose details have never been fully disclosed. The US justice department, in a rare public ruling on Friday (7 June), urged that the FISC opinion remain out of sight. –EU Observer

Record high temps, and dry weather fuels forest fires in Colorado: thousands evacuated

June 12, 2013 – COLORADO – Thick smoke plumes, visible for miles, billowed from fires near Colorado Springs, in southern Colorado, and in Rocky Mountain National Park to the north. A wildfire in a residential area northeast of Colorado Springs forced mandatory evacuations of 2,530 homes, including some worth more than $1 million, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said. Video from a helicopter showed several large homes engulfed in flames. Maketa said about eight homes had burned but had no exact number because the fire was moving so quickly across parched forest. “Right now the firefighters are more focused on fighting fires, drawing lines. And law enforcement, to be very honest, is scrambling to get people out of there as well as do searches,” Maketa said. He said firefighters have shifted from evacuation mode to search and rescue mode. Three helicopters were battling the Black Forest Fire, he said. The area is not far from last summer’s devastating Waldo Canyon Fire that destroyed 346 homes and killed two. “It’s very, very reminiscent of what we experienced in Waldo Canyon,” Maketa said. All the Colorado wildfires were moving quickly, driven by hot, gusty winds and record-setting temperatures. The conditions were making it difficult to build containment lines around the fire, as sparks jumped across them. “Weather is not working with us right now, but our guys are giving it a heck of a shot,” Maketa said. There were no immediate reports of injuries in any of the fires. In southern Colorado, the Bureau of Land Management said three structures have been lost in a fire on about 300 acres near the Royal Gorge Bridge. Authorities evacuated Royal Gorge Bridge & Park. A third wildfire in southern Colorado erupted Tuesday in rural Huerfano County. The Klikus Fire had burned an estimated 45 to 50 acres west of La Veta, prompting evacuation orders to about 200 residences northeast of the fire. A fourth wildfire sparked by lightning Monday in Rocky Mountain National Park quickly grew to an estimated 300 to 400 acres Tuesday. No structures were threatened. –CSM

Enemy of the State: Europe alarmed over U.S. intel spy program

U.S. government official brands NSA whistleblower as a traitor. The question remains why are U.S. government agencies collecting so much private data on American citizens, as though there were all presumed ’enemies of the state’?
June 12, 2013 – WASHINGTON – The EU is demanding assurances that Europeans’ rights are not being infringed by massive, newly revealed US surveillance program. Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding plans to raise the concerns with US Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday. Last week a series of leaks by a former CIA worker led to claims the US had a vast surveillance network with much less oversight than previously thought. The US insists its snooping is legal under domestic law. The Obama administration is investigating whether the disclosures by former CIA worker Edward Snowden were a criminal offence. More revelations are promised to be released to the press in coming days about the extent of U.S. domestic spying. Mr. Snowden’s employer, defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, said on Tuesday it had fired the 29-year-old infrastructure analyst for violating its ethics code. Russia has offered Mr. Snowden political asylum in light of the recent revelations against the U.S. US officials say the snooping program known as Prism, revealed in last week’s leaks, is authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). It gives the US National Security Agency (NSA) the power to obtain emails and phone records relating to non-US nationals. But details about the individuals targeted under the act remain secret, and there are concerns the NSA is overstepping its powers. Documents leaked to the Guardian and Washington Post newspapers claimed the US authorities had direct access to the servers of nine major US technology firms, including Apple, Facebook and Google. Mr. Snowden told the Guardian that individual operatives had the power to tap into anyone’s emails at any time. Although the firms have denied granting such access, saying they agreed only to legal requests, US officials have admitted Prism exists. And on Tuesday, Republican Senator Lindsay Graham said US surveillance of phone records allowed the government to monitor phone records for a pattern of calls, even if those numbers had no known connection to terrorism. One of the Guardian journalists who wrote the Prism stories, Glenn Greenwald, has promised “more significant revelations” to come. In the US, the controversy has focused on the possibility that conversations of US citizens may inadvertently be captured. But overseas, governments and activists point out that US law provides foreigners with no protection. The Liberation Daily in China has harsh words for President Obama: “Five years ago, Obama came to power waving an anti-George W Bush banner. Five years later, he is still exactly the same as George W Bush on invasion of privacy issues.” Russia’s Izvestiya compares the revelations to a dystopian novel: “The frightening reality of the 21st Century is that the world has become a house with glass walls, notions of ‘personal secrets’ and ‘confidential information’ are turning into fiction before our very eyes.” –BBC




Paul Begley











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