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End Time News – Updated 4 April 2016 - 4 stories
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earthquake headlines             6.0 quakes            7.0 quakes            quakes in diverse places          quake map

Indonesia earthquake off Sumatra measures 7.8

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake has struck off the coast of western Indonesia, the US Geological Survey (USGS) reports.

There have been no immediate reports of damage.

The USGS said the earthquake struck at 19:49 local time (12:49 GMT). It said the epicentre was 805km (500 miles) south-west of the city of Padang, and 24km deep.

Indonesia's National Meteorological Agency lifted its tsunami warnings several hours after the tremors.

Australian tsunami warnings for Cocos Island, Christmas Island and Western Australia were also lifted.

No tsunami warnings were issued in India or Sri Lanka.

'Roads jammed'

Residents near the city of Padang told the BBC that they felt two earthquakes around two minutes apart.

Jusuf Wiwekananda, a pilot in Padang, told the BBC the earthquake was "very powerful".

"The walls of my hotel room shook and made a loud sound. I have heard there are a lot of people trying to reach higher ground because of the tsunami reports, so some of the roads are jammed."

Telephone communication was reported to be down in the Mentawai island chain, closer to the epicentre.

In 2004, an 8.9 magnitude earthquake triggered the world's deadliest ever tsunami, killing more than 200,000 people.

After that disaster, a more effective tsunami monitoring system was put in place. Warnings are now issued more frequently after earthquakes in the area.

Indonesia lies on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" of plate boundaries, which produces high levels of seismic activity, including frequent earthquakes.


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Zika virus 'spreading explosively,' WHO leader says
by Greg Botelho, CNN

(CNN)The Zika virus "is now spreading explosively" in the Americas, the head of the World Health Organization said Thursday, with another official estimating between 3 million to 4 million infections in the region over a 12-month period.

"The level of concern is high, as is the level of uncertainty," Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO's director-general, told her organization's executive board members. "We need to get some answers quickly."

Five things you need to know about Zika

The lack of any immunity to Zika and the fact that mosquitoes spreading the virus can be found most "everywhere in the Americas" -- from Argentina to the southern United States -- explains the speed of its transmission, said Dr. Sylvain Aldighieri, an official with the WHO and Pan American Health Organization.

Aldighieri gave the estimate for Zika infections (including people who do not report clinical symptoms) based on data regarding the spread of a different mosquito-borne virus -- dengue. He acknowledged the virus is circulating with "very high intensity."

Some 80% of those infected with the Zika virus don't even feel sick, and most who do have relatively mild symptoms such as a fever, rash, joint pain or pink eye. But there are major worries about the dangers pregnant women and their babies face.

Chan said that, where the virus has arrived, there's been a corresponding "steep increase in the birth of babies with abnormally small heads and in cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome." Having small heads can cause severe developmental issues and sometimes death. Guillain-Barre is a rare autoimmune disorder that can lead to life-threatening paralysis.

The WHO's Dr. Bruce Aylward cautioned there was no definitive link between Zika and these disorders but sees a legitimate reason for concern. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Dr. Anne Schuchat said there is a "strong" suggestion they are connected.

While studies are underway to determine any links, millions of people live in areas with real fears about what this virus can do.

Pregnant women, their babies at high risk

After first being detected in 1947 in a monkey in Uganda, Zika was most often found along the equator from Africa into Asia. Nine years ago, new cases popped up in islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Last year, the virus made its way to the Americas -- with devastating results.

Since Brazil made its first discovery of Zika in May, the number of cases there and elsewhere in the Americas has grown exponentially. The virus had been thought to be relatively harmless over the long term, but that view changed late last year.

Health authorities began to suspect a connection between Zika and neurological ailments, especially in fetuses and newborns. Brazil alone has reported more than 4,000 cases of microcephaly -- a neurological disorder resulting in the births of babies with small heads -- in infants born to women infected with Zika while pregnant.

"Zika is not a new virus," the CDC's Schuchat said. "But what we are seeing in the Americas is new."

The mosquito-borne disease is in 23 countries and territories in the Americas, according to Chan.

There have been 32 documented cases in 12 states and the District of Columbia, though all of those people got infected in other countries. (There have been 19 laboratory-confirmed cases in Puerto Rico and one in the U.S. Virgin Islands.)

The states where Zika virus has been confirmed among travelers returning from affected countries are Arkansas, California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and the District of Columbia, according to health departments.

Schuchat expects the number of travel-associated U.S. cases to rise and for people to contract the disease from mosquitoes here (though she downplayed widespread transmissions).

There will likely be more outside the United States as well.

"We expect more countries to be affected," Schuchat said.

WHO calls emergency meeting

Chan has called an emergency committee meeting Monday in Geneva, Switzerland, to address the Zika virus' spread and its ramifications.

The gathering will aim to determine the appropriate "level of international concern," recommend measures for the most affected countries to take and assess Zika's possible association with neurological disorders, the WHO's Aylward said.

"There is a lot of uncertainty about some of the real basics about this disease," Aylward said from Geneva.

U.S.-based researchers Daniel Lucey and Lawrence Gostin had called for just such a meeting this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, criticizing the WHO for not stepping up sooner.

"The very process of convening the committee would catalyze international attention, funding, and research," Lucey and Gostin wrote in an article published Wednesday. "While Brazil, PAHO and the CDC have acted rapidly, WHO headquarters has thus far not been proactive, given potentially serious ramifications."

After Chan's announcement about next week's meeting, Gostin urged the WHO leader to "mobilize international resources to curb the rapid spread of Zika worldwide, including aggressive mosquito control, active surveillance, accelerated vaccine research and travel advisories for pregnant women."

"It is far better," said the Georgetown University public health expert, "to be overprepared than to wait until a Zika epidemic spins out of control."

With no vaccine, controlling mosquitoes is key

No medicines are available to treat those with the Zika virus, and there are no vaccines to prevent it. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Thursday that clinical trials on a vaccine could begin this year.

The lack of treatment and preventive options has led officials in Colombia, Jamaica and El Salvador to advise women to avoid getting pregnant so long as the Zika threat remains. Eduardo Espinoza, El Salvador's vice minister of health, recommended that women should "plan their pregnancies and try to avoid getting pregnant this year and the next."

The WHO isn't going that far, nor does it plan to anytime soon, according to Aylward. The agency will more likely focus on advising women in the Americas who want to get pregnant to reduce their risk of mosquito bites. The United States is urging pregnant women not to fly to countries battling the virus.

Authorities are also focusing on containing the Aedes mosquito species, which spreads the disease. These mosquitoes have spread flaviviruses such as Zika before -- for example, dengue fever, in South America, Central America and as far north as Florida and Texas.

And the regularly occurring global weather phenomenon known as El Niño is expected to make things worse by increasing mosquito populations, the WHO's Chan said.

Keeping down the number of what Schuchat called "aggressive daytime biters" is tough. Microbiologist Brian Foy pointed out that Aedes mosquitoes "can replicate in flower vases and other tiny sources of water."

"Community mosquito control may be difficult," Schuchat said. "The current methods that we have may have shortcomings."

Canadian Blood Services, which manages most of Canada's supply of blood and blood products, is asking all potential donors who have traveled anywhere other than Canada, the United States or Europe to delay donating blood until one month after their return.

The agency said it is working with Health Canada and Héma-Québec to establish the length of time for delaying donations, but for now the recommendation is one month.

"The risk of Zika virus transmission from a Canadian donor to a blood recipient is very low. This deferral period is being introduced as a precaution, since to date, there has been no evidence of Zika virus transmission by transfusion causing illness in a recipient," the agency said in a statement.

The American Red Cross, the largest blood collection organization in the United States, said it is closely monitoring the virus but isn't taking a similar precaution, at least not yet.

"We are evaluating, as part of the AABB Transfusion Transmissible Disease committee, whether to ask donors to self-defer for 28 days following their return to the U.S. if they traveled to areas with ongoing Zika outbreaks," said Dr. Susan Stramer, vice president of scientific affairs at the American Red Cross.

She said that the Red Cross will continue to use safety measures to protect the blood supply from Zika virus as well as other mosquito-borne viruses.

Schuchat said the FDA is looking into blood supply issues for donors and travelers. The FDA regulates blood collection and manufacturing of blood products in the United States.

Follow CNN Health on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/CNNHealth and Twitter https://twitter.com/cnnhealth .

CNN's Jason Hanna, Steve Almasy and Debra Goldschmidt contributed to this report.


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Wars and Rumors of Wars

Iraqi Casualties Figures Almost Double in March - UN

The total number of casualties from an armed conflict and acts of terrorism in Iraq has almost doubled between February and March to over 1,000, the United Nations Assistance Mission (UNAMI) for Iraq said.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The casualty count from terrorism, violence and an armed conflict among Iraqis increased from 670 in February to 1,119 in March, the mission said on Friday.

The number of civilian casualties, including police and civil defense personnel, increased by 165 and amounted to 575, according to the report.

Security forces casualties include the Kurdish Peshmerga forces but exclude casualties incurred in the ongoing operation against Daesh in the northern Anbar province. Deaths among security personnel have caused most of the casualty increase, rising from 260 in February to 544 in March, UNAMI figures showed.

The total number of injuries was up from 1,290 in February to 1,561 in March, with civilian figures showing a lower increase from 1,050 to 1,196, UN mission figures showed.

The Baghdad governorate has been worst hit by the violence, accounting for 259 deaths and 770 injuries, while the northern Ninewa governorate, which is partially overrun by Daesh, accounted for 133 deaths and 89 injuries, according to UNAMI.

Daesh is a terrorist group outlawed in the United States, Russia and numerous other countries. The group has seized large areas in Syria and Iraq and declared a caliphate on the territories under its control. The Iraqi army and security forces have been carrying out an anti-Daesh campaign in Anbar since early 2015. In December 2015, the Iraqi army regained control over Anbar's capital Ramadi.


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North Korea warns of new famine as Kim's weight, belligerence balloon
Fox News

Portly North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, whose hostile actions have brought crippling international sanctions to his impoverished nation, has a new message for the Hermit Kingdom's starving masses: Get ready to eat plant roots.

Kim, whose weight the South Korean government estimates has ballooned to nearly 300 pounds, signaled through state media that the nation could be headed for another famine like the one that killed an estimated 3.5 million people in the 1990s.

"The road to revolution is long and arduous," an editorial in the state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper said Monday, according to The Telegraph. "We may have to go on an arduous march, during which we will have to chew the roots of plants once again."

"Arduous march" in North Korean is code for famine. It's how state media described the disaster that struck when Kim was a mere teen, which experts say was brought on by the economic mismanagement of his father, Kim Jong Il, loss of foreign aid and natural disasters.

But Kim, who at 33 walks with a cane and reportedly suffers from gout, won't miss any meals. Last September, South Korea disclosed that Kim appeared to have added nearly 70 pounds to his 5-foot, 9-inch frame over the previous five years, reaching an estimated weight of 290 pounds.

Photos released over the past year have shown Kim Jong Un's rapid weight gain. The secretive regime hasn't said much about it, but South Korean analysts suspect he's been under severe stress. Investigators also note that he reportedly developed a taste for Emmental cheese while he was a student in Switzerland years ago.

Pyongyang has ordered every citizen in the capital to provide around 2 pounds of rice to the state’s supplies every month, while farmers are forced to hand over additional rations from their own meager crops to the military, South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported.

The comments from state media come amid reports of North Koreans hoarding their food supplies, according to The Telegraph. Kim Jong Un’s regime has been cracking down on open-air markets that have served as a source of additional food for city dwellers.

"Even if we give up our lives, we should continue to show our loyalty to our leader, Kim Jong Un, until the end of our lives," the state-run newspaper wrote, calling for a "70-day campaign of loyalty."

Much of North Korea's population of 25 million is already hungry, but new sanctions, the most severe in 20 years, were approved by the UN Security Council after Pyongyang’s February nuclear weapons test and a recent long-range missile launch.

The sanctions will further cripple North Korean trade and squeeze Kim's weapons programs. Under them, UN members are even barred from accepting the reclusive nation's main exports of coal and iron ore.

But experts don't expect Kim's belligerence to stop just because the world shuns him. The latest message to the suffering people is yet another one of collective sacrifice.

“It’s an old pattern of telling the population to endure short-term hardship for the promise of larger benefits over the long term,” Daniel Pinkston, a lecturer at Troy University in Seoul, told the Los Angeles Times of the Rodong Sinmun editorial.


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