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End Time News – Updated 1 February 2016 - 4 stories
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Earthquakes

earthquake headlines             6.0 quakes            7.0 quakes            quakes in diverse places          quake map

7.3 quake & multiple aftershocks strike Russia’s far eastern Kamchatka Region
RT

A strong, deep 7.0-magnitude earthquake rocked Russia’s far eastern Kamchatka peninsula on Saturday, the US Geological Survey reported.

The quake hit 106 kilometers north of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, the capital city of Russia’s Kamchatka Krai.

The depth of the earthquake was reported at 153 kilometers. There have been no immediate reports of serious damage or casualties. No tsunami warning has been issued.

The area was hit with at least seven aftershocks since the event, Kamchatka’s Geophysical Service said. Five of them measured 2.0 and above, according to a spokesman. The remaining too - 4.5 and 5.2, respectively.

Rescue crews are searching and inspecting buildings, TASS quoted an emergency services spokesperson as saying. “There have been no reports of damage yet,” Yulia Ananyeva said. “We saw furniture and doors shake as well as swinging chandeliers. Our office is one the first floor.”

She added that the buildings in the area were built to withstand a magnitude 9 quake.

Meanwhile on social media, frightened witnesses posted descriptions of the strong tremors felt in the region.

Terrified shoppers quickly evacuated one of the local malls when people felt tremors from the quake. One resident andre_prilepsky posted a picture showing people waiting outside in the snow without coats on.

Ksenya Maksimova tweeted about the “unpleasant feeling … when everything is shaking,” while several other young Twitter users said they “almost died of fright.”

Others were more enthusiastic about their first time in a strong earthquake.

“Cool earthquake! Our telly nearly fell over!” Senya Mikhaylitskaya tweeted, adding that she and her friend were about to rush into the street when it all ended.

“The earthquake broke our bottle of Bacardi,” stated Marina Brovkina, posting a pic of the shattered bottle of booze.

On Instragram, shamans_wood described the events as “action Kamchatka-style,” saying that the quake actually felt different in different parts of the city – from the sights and sounds of bouncing cars, wailing sirens, and even visibly shaking houses, to almost no noticeable effect.

When a journalist posted a comment asking user svetakov1 if she had any video of the quake, she replied: “Taking a video is the last thing you think about in such moments. I was thinking about whether I should pull my cat from under the cupboard [if] she’s dying there quietly … I hate those quakes.”

Source

 
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Pestilence
 

Was Zika outbreak caused by release of genetically modified mosquitoes in Brazil?
Mirror

The Zika virus outbreak currently gripping the Americas could have been sparked by the release of genetically modified mosquitoes in 2012, critics say.

The insects were engineered by biotechnology experts to combat the spread of dengue fever and other diseases and released into the general population of Brazil in 2012.

But with the World Health Organisation(WHO) now meeting in Geneva to desperately discuss cures for the Zika virus, speculation has mounted as to the cause of this sudden outbreak.

The Zika virus was first discovered in the 1950s but the recent outbreak has escalated alarmingly, causing birth defects and a range of health problems in South and central America.

The first cases were reported in Brazil last May with up to 1.5 million now thought people affected by the virus which is spread by mosquitoes endemic to Latin America.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito sub-species that carries both the Zika virus and dengue was the type targeted with genetically modified mosquitoes.

The aim was to release only male Aedes mosquitoes into the wild and they would in turn produce offspring with their virus carrying female counterparts.

This offspring would then die off before breeding age due to the GM coding in their genes.

But experts expressed concerns about the programme at the time of its inception, arguing that further studies were needed on the potential consequences.

On Saturday, senior health experts shockingly announced that the outbreak could pose a bigger threat to global health than the Ebola epidemic that killed more than 11,000 people in Africa.

"In many ways the Zika outbreak is worse than the Ebola epidemic of 2014-15," Jeremy Farrar, head of the Wellcome trust told The Guardian.

"Most virus carriers are symptomless.

"It is a silent infection in a group of highly vulnerable individuals – pregnant women – that is associated with a horrible outcome for their babies.”

The UK is unlikely to be affected by the outbreak because the virus carrying mosquitoes could not survive the climate.

But women returning from affected areas are warned to postpone trying for a baby for at least a month in case they have been infected.

Source

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Wars and Rumors of Wars

Syria: The story of the conflict
BBC

More than 250,000 Syrians have lost their lives in four-and-a-half years of armed conflict, which began with anti-government protests before escalating into a full-scale civil war. More than 11 million others have been forced from their homes as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and those opposed to his rule battle each other - as well as jihadist militants from so-called Islamic State. This is the story of the civil war so far, in eight short chapters.

1. Uprising turns violent

Pro-democracy protests erupted in March 2011 in the southern city of Deraa after the arrest and torture of some teenagers who painted revolutionary slogans on a school wall. After security forces opened fire on demonstrators, killing several, more took to the streets.

The unrest triggered nationwide protests demanding President Assad's resignation. The government's use of force to crush the dissent merely hardened the protesters' resolve. By July 2011, hundreds of thousands were taking to the streets across the country.

Opposition supporters eventually began to take up arms, first to defend themselves and later to expel security forces from their local areas.

2. Descent into civil war

Violence escalated and the country descended into civil war as rebel brigades were formed to battle government forces for control of cities, towns and the countryside. Fighting reached the capital Damascus and second city of Aleppo in 2012.

By June 2013, the UN said 90,000 people had been killed in the conflict. By August 2015, that figure had climbed to 250,000, according to activists and the UN.

The conflict is now more than just a battle between those for or against Mr Assad. It has acquired sectarian overtones, pitching the country's Sunni majority against the president's Shia Alawite sect, and drawn in regional and world powers. The rise of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) has added a further dimension.

Note: See source for map of the war zone.

3. War crimes

A UN commission of inquiry has evidence that all parties to the conflict have committed war crimes - including murder, torture, rape and enforced disappearances. They have also been accused of using civilian suffering - such as blocking access to food, water and health services through sieges - as a method of war.

The UN Security Council has demanded all parties end the indiscriminate use of weapons in populated areas, but civilians continue to die in their thousands. Many have been killed by barrel bombs dropped by government aircraft on gatherings in rebel-held areas - attacks which the UN says may constitute massacres.

IS has also been accused by the UN of waging a campaign of terror. It has inflicted severe punishments on those who transgress or refuse to accept its rules, including hundreds of public executions and amputations. Its fighters have also carried out mass killings of rival armed groups, members of the security forces and religious minorities, and beheaded hostages, including several Westerners.

4. Chemical weapons

Hundreds of people were killed in August 2013 after rockets filled with the nerve agent sarin were fired at several suburbs of Damascus. Western powers said it could only have been carried out by Syria's government, but the government blamed rebel forces.

Facing the prospect of US military intervention, President Assad agreed to the complete removal and destruction of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal.

The operation was completed the following year, but the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has continued to document the use of toxic chemicals in the conflict. Investigators found chlorine was used "systematically and repeatedly" in deadly attacks on rebel-held areas between April and July 2014.

IS has also been accused of using homemade chemical weapons, including sulphur mustard. The OPCW said the blister agent was used in an attack on the northern town of Marea in August 2015 that killed a baby.

5. Humanitarian crisis

More than 4.5 million people have fled Syria since the start of the conflict, most of them women and children. Neighboring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have struggled to cope with one of the largest refugee exoduses in recent history. About 10% of Syrian refugees have sought safety in Europe, sowing political divisions as countries argue over sharing the burden.

A further 6.5 million people are internally displaced inside Syria, 1.2 million were driven from their homes in 2015 alone.

The UN says it will need $3.2bn to help the 13.5 million people, including 6 million children, who will require some form of humanitarian assistance inside Syria in 2016. About 70% of the population is without access to adequate drinking water, one in three people are unable to meet their basic food needs, and more than 2 million children are out of school, and four out of five people live in poverty.

The warring parties have compounded the problems by refusing humanitarian agencies access to civilians in need. Up to 4.5 million people in Syria live in hard-to-reach areas, including nearly 400,000 people in 15 besieged locations who do not have access to life-saving aid.

6. Rebels and the rise of the jihadists

The armed rebellion has evolved significantly since its inception. Secular moderates are now outnumbered by Islamists and jihadists, whose brutal tactics have caused global outrage.

So-called Islamic State has capitalized on the chaos and taken control of large swathes of Syria and Iraq, where it proclaimed the creation of a "caliphate" in June 2014. Its many foreign fighters are involved in a "war within a war" in Syria, battling rebels and rival jihadists from the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, as well as government and Kurdish forces.

In September 2014, a US-led coalition launched air strikes inside Syria in an effort to "degrade and ultimately destroy" IS. But the coalition has avoided attacks that might benefit Mr Assad's forces. Russia began an air campaign targeting "terrorists" in Syria a year later, but opposition activists say its strikes have mostly killed Western-backed rebels and civilians.

In the political arena, opposition groups are also deeply divided, with rival alliances battling for supremacy. The most prominent is the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, backed by several Western and Gulf Arab states. However, the exile group has little influence on the ground in Syria and its primacy is rejected by many opponents of Mr Assad.

Note: See source for detailed map of UK, Russian and US-led strikes in Syria

7. Peace efforts

With neither side able to inflict a decisive defeat on the other, the international community long ago concluded that only a political solution could end the conflict in Syria. The UN Security Council has called for the implementation of the 2012 Geneva Communique, which envisages a transitional governing body with full executive powers "formed on the basis of mutual consent".

Talks in early 2014, known as Geneva II, broke down after only two rounds, with then-UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi blaming the Syrian government's refusal to discuss opposition demands.

Mr Brahimi's successor, Staffan de Mistura, focused on establishing a series of local ceasefires. His plan for a "freeze zone" in Aleppo was rejected, but a three-year siege of the Homs suburb of al-Wair was successfully brought to an end in December 2015.

At the same time, the conflict with IS lent fresh impetus to the search for a political solution in Syria. The US and Russia led efforts to get representatives of the government and the opposition to attend "proximity talks" in Geneva in January 2016 to discuss a Security Council-endorsed road map for peace, including a ceasefire and a transitional period ending with elections.

8. Proxy war

What began as another Arab Spring uprising against an autocratic ruler has mushroomed into a brutal proxy war that has drawn in regional and world powers.

Iran and Russia have propped up the Alawite-led government of President Assad and gradually increased their support. Tehran is believed to be spending billions of dollars a year to bolster Mr Assad, providing military advisers and subsidized weapons, as well as lines of credit and oil transfers. Russia has meanwhile launched an air campaign against Mr Assad's opponents.

The Syrian government has also enjoyed the support of Lebanon's Shia Islamist Hezbollah movement, whose fighters have provided important battlefield support since 2013.

The Sunni-dominated opposition has, meanwhile, attracted varying degrees of support from its international backers - Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan, along with the US, UK and France.

Until late 2015, rebel appeals for anti-aircraft weapons to stop devastating government air strikes were rejected by the US and its allies, amid concern that they might end up in the hands of jihadist militants. A US programme to train and arm 5,000 rebels to take the fight to IS on the ground also suffered a series of setbacks before being abandoned.

Produced by Lucy Rodgers, David Gritten, James Offer and Patrick Asare

Source

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Famines

Government should take urgent measures to avert starvation
The Zimbabwean

The current rain season has been nothing short of a disaster. Zimbabwe is facing the horrifying spectre of an unprecedented famine largely caused by the El Nino weather conditions coupled with a very poor disaster management system in the country. The Zanu PF regime appears clueless in the face of a massive food shortage that will affect no less than three (3) million people. As if this was not enough, the regime has not yet declared a state of national emergency in order to promptly and effectively harness the necessary resources that are now urgently needed to avert mass starvation.

The MDC is gravely concerned by the casual and rather lackadaisical attitude of the Zanu PF government in handling the impending severe food shortage. Even though it is now abundantly clear that the country will need to import maize to feed about three (3) million people, there are no concrete plans that have been activated to ensure that our grain silos are timeously re-stocked. We note, with trepidation, that GMB grain silos at all major depots such as Lion’s Den, Chinhoyi, Aspindale and Banket are still empty and in a serious state of disrepair.

A few days ago, the State-controlled media reported that the government has arranged a US$200 million credit facility with a certain foreign import-export bank but the reality on the ground is that people are already starving; particularly in the southern provinces of Masvingo, Matebelend South and Matebeleland North. As the MDC, we would like to call upon President Robert Mugabe not to waste any more time before his government declares a state of emergency. It doesn’t make good planning sense for the government to wait until people start starving before it treats the impeding drought with the seriousness that it obviously deserves.

The Zanu PF regime should also take prompt measures to rectify the far-reaching deficiencies in its much-talked about land reform program. Put simply, all those people who are not productively utilising the land that was allocated to them should have that land taken away from them and re-distributed to Zimbabweans who will be able to use the land more effectively and productively. Because of the ravages brought about by climate change, our farmers should deliberately move away from rain-fed agriculture and focus more on irrigation technology. There are more than 11 000 dams in Zimbabwe and thus, we shouldn’t have any excuse for failing to grow enough food crops to feed our rather small population of only 13 million people.

The effects of global warming cannot be wished away. Already, weather experts have predicted that the entire southern African region is going to experience below normal rainfall for the next three or four farming seasons. It is, therefore, incumbent upon the Zanu PF government to channel more resources to enhance the country’s irrigation facilities. Zimbabwe is not at war with any country and neither are we facing any serious security threat. Reports that both the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) as well as the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) are planning to recruit more than 30 000 new recruits each are therefore quite depressing and unfortunate. Instead of wasting our limited financial and material resources on building up a massive security system, the Zanu PF government should, instead, focus more on feeding the millions of starving people and also resuscitating the ailing economy. The government should prioritise the importation of grain rather than utilising our limited financial resources in purchasing expensive motor vehicles for government ministers and other regime bureaucrats.

President Robert Mugabe should also try to spend more time in the country attending to pressing national issues rather than travelling from one foreign destination to another. Zimbabwe needs a hands-on administration that is prepared to bite the bullet and take immediate corrective action to avert any further bleeding of the comatose economy. Amongst other actions, the government should ruthlessly clamp down on corruption in both the public and private sectors. The Masvingo birthday jamboree that has been planned for the soon to be 92 years old ruler, Robert Mugabe, should be cancelled. The US$800 000 that has been budgeted for this useless and expensive birthday celebration should be channelled towards the urgent importation of maize. It is high time that the extravagant Zanu PF regime takes a few lessons from President John Magufuli of Tanzania. President Magufuli is only 56 years old but there is absolutely no doubt that the 92 year old President Mugabe has got a lot to learn from the Magufulis of this world.

It is actually humiliating to note that only less than two decades ago, Zimbabwe used to be the breadbasket of Southern Africa; capable of feeding no less than 250 million people. Thanks to the Zanu PF –induced violent and chaotic land reform program, Zimbabwe is now effectively a basket case; struggling to feed a small population of 13 million people. What a shame! What a fall from grace!

Source

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