Alcohol Blamed in Ukraine Cold Deaths

A wave of cold weather hit large parts of Europe, causing the death of numerous people across the continent, while alcohol was blamed in Ukraine cold deaths, Emergency Situations Minister Viktor Baloga told journalists. Reportedly, some 130 people have died due to the bad weather in Ukraine in the past couple of weeks, while 3,000 Ukrainians have been hospitalized during the same period.

Ukraine Cold Deaths

Some 14,000 homeless people are roaming along the streets of the Ukraine’s capital city of Kiev, and it is not quite a news story that alcohol is blamed in Ukraine cold deaths, since the alcohol is an obvious solution for homeless people to warm themselves in below-freezing conditions. The authorities have distributed some 3,000 emergency relief tents all over the country, trying to reduce the number of cold-related deaths to a minimum.

The alcohol gives an imaginary feeling of security, while not helping the body to get warmer, thus causing numerous deaths among homeless and low-income people who have no other means to protect themselves against freezing.

The temperatures in Kiev have been below zero degrees Celsius for 25 days in a row and, alcohol blamed in Ukraine cold deaths aside, many people who are working outside also suffer from the somewhat unusual weather conditions.

Huge Whale Shark Caught

Huge whale shark caught by Pakistani fishermen near Karachi managed to sell the giant fish for 1.7 million rupees, or $18,000, local media reported. The 40-foot-long whale shark was removed from the boat with the help of five cranes before the eyes of a huge crowd in the port of Karachi.

Whale Shark

A huge whale shark caught by a fishing net is not an uncommon event in Pakistan although the fish is protected by the law in numerous countries around the world. According to estimates, Pakistan is on the list of the Top 20 shark exporting countries in the world, with Southeast Asia countries exporting the bulk park of sharks globally.

Population of whale shark is constantly decreasing, which forced the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources to declared it a threatened species in 2008. Nevertheless, fishermen in Southeast Asia continue to hunt for the big fish, which despite its size is not an aggressive or human-attacking creature.

Local sources in Karachi said that at least 30 whale sharks have been caught in the sea offshore Karachi in the past decade, making it the site with the largest number of catches officially reported. A huge whale shark is caught usually by boats hunting for other fish and fishermen routinely say that the whale shark has been already dead when taken aboard, to avoid prosecution.

Argentina to File Protest Against Great Britain at U.N.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner announced that Argentina is to file protest against Great Britain at U.N. following moves by the British military that have been described as “militarization” of the Falkland Islands, local media reported. The Falklands War erupted in April 30 years ago following an exchange of exchange of accusations between Argentina and the United Kingdom although most political commentators agree that a new war between the countries over the Falkland Islands is highly unlikely.

Argentina Complaint

The UK sent a destroyer to the region while UK’s Prince William, second in line to the throne, has also been deployed to the Falkland Islands last week causing a massive wave of media hype. A decision by Argentina to file protest against Great Britain at U.N. would be a unwise move, according to a Downing St. spokeswoman who added that the British military posture in the region remains the same. South America’s trading bloc Mercosur announced a decision in December preventing Falkland Islands’ based ships from entering ports across its member states, while London responded by the HMS Dauntless to the South Atlantic.

The British side insists both the deployment of Prince William and the Royal Navy destroyer are “routine”, nevertheless a nervous Argentine president continuously states that Argentina is to file protest against Britain at U.N., urging the Security Council to take measures against “the militarization”.

5000 Missing in Mexico Drug War

Mexico’s government said that about 5000 missing in Mexico drug war have been reported throughout the country where more than 47,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence during the past five years. President Felipe Calder?n started a massive on drug cartels, ordering the military to take action, but during the first nine months of 2011 alone drug-related killing rose by 11 percent year-over-year, a report by the government showed. From January 2011 through September 2011 nearly 13,000 Mexicans lost their lives in drug-related violence, the report said.

Mexico Drug War

The wave of violence hit major cities as Guadalajara that were once considered safe places but with 5000 missing on Mexico drug war no place all over the country can be regarded as safe at present, experts said. There is increasing frustration among Mexicans who believe that the number of drug-related killing is even higher but the government is hiding information on the actual number of violent murders across the country. Initially, the government claimed it is classified information that cannot be released to the public without putting at risk the national security but later a report was revealed, whose figures, however, are disputable, according to independent analysts.

Local experts put the number of drug-related killings at more than 67,000 since a wave of violence hit the country in 2007. The figure is in sharp contrast with government reports that about 47,000 people have been killed in the past five years.

Recently, drug-related killings have been reported in Mexico city, hinting that even the heavily patrolled financial districts of the Mexico’s capital are no longer safe.

In December 2006 President Felipe Calderon ordered the military to engage in a campaign against the local drug cartels, while the drug gangs responded with mass killings in eight of Mexico’s 32 states, with another 5000 missing in Mexico drug war in the process.

Italian Cruise Ship Sinking

Costa Concordia, the Italian cruise ship sinking off the coast of Northern Italy, fell victim to human errors with the ship owners blaming Captain Francesco Schettino for the accident that took the lives of at least 11 people, local media reported. A transcript of a conversation between an Italian Coast Guard official and the ship’s captain reveals that Schettino refused to return to the ship while aboard a lifeboat that according to him got stuck.

Italian Cruise Ship

The cruise liner capsized off the coast of Italy with 24 people still missing after the ship hit rocks during what looked like a routine cruise. Rescuers managed to find the bodies of five people so far.

Rescue operations continue while Dutch company Smit is preparing to conduct a survey of the Italian cruise ship sinking near what Captain Francesco Schettino claims to be uncharted rocks in order to determine how much time it would take to begin with the extraction process. Ecologists voiced concerns that a fuel spill may occur if an operation to empty the ship’s fuel tanks, containing some 2 million liters of fuel, is not conducted on time.

Costa Crociere, the company that owns the ship, claims the captain was not authorized to change the ship’s course that is pre-programmed, while the ship’s navigational computer should sound an alarm if change in the course occurs. The company insists that the captain did not follow certain procedures, which caused the 4,000-passenger vessel to run aground.

Francesco Schettino, the captain of the Italian cruise ship sinking off the coast of Tuscany faces manslaughter, shipwreck, and abandoning a ship charges and is in police custody, according to the Italian authorities.

Earthquake Hits off Antarctica’s Coast

A 6.6-magnitude earthquake hits off Antarctica’s coast at depth of 6.2 miles, rising fears there would have been a small possibility of a tsunami to occur, a possibility that fortunately did not materialize, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center announced. The epicenter of the quake was located west on Coronation Islands south of South America’s southern tip and some 390 miles northeast of Antarctica’s Palmer Station.

Antartica Earthquake

A second earthquake followed almost an hour later, hitting the remote South Orkney Islands in Antarctica. The magnitude of the second tremor was measured at 5.1, the United States Geological Service said. This earthquake hits off Antarctica’s coast with no harm to people or damages to property, the statement reads.

Later on, the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center announced that a possible tsunami would hit coasts located no more than several hundreds kilometers from the epicenter of the two quakes, while a giant tsunami is able to cause ocean waves that are able to reach coasts located at more than 10,000 kilometers from the epicenter of the quake. Such a tsunami struck Japan in March last year causing deaths of thousands of people and its waves hit an ice shelf in Antarctica.

People living in the regions bordering Antarctica are aware that when an earthquake hits off Antarctica’s coast it could, in theory, cause tsunami that is able to inflict serious damage.

60 Slain in Iraq Bombings

Intensifying tensions between Sunnis and Shiites led to bombings in Baghdad and Nasiriyah, leaving 60 slain in Iraq bombings on Thursday, local media reported. Al-Qaeda members stood behind the bombings, Iraqi officials hinted, following a coordinated attack on two Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, where at least 27 people have been killed. Another attack took place close to Nasiriyah, taking the lives of more than 40 Shiite pilgrims heading to Karbala, a holy Shiite city.

Iraq Bombings

With more than 60 slain in Iraq bombings it is too early to state who organized the suicide attacks but the main goal of those who stood behind them is to create turmoil among Iraqi people, military spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said in a statement.

These are the deadliest attacks in Baghdad since al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for a series of blasts that killed 69 Iraqis on December 22, 2011. Four days earlier the last U.S. military forces have left the country.

The government in Baghdad has issued an arrest warrant for Sunni Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi, which deepened the severe political crisis in Iraq, foreign correspondents commented. He denies any terrorism charges but the main Sunni bloc in parliament, the al-Iraqiyya group, announced they will boycott the national assembly. Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, a Shia, is monopolizing power, they said.

Hospital doctors in Baghdad said there are more than 60 slain in Iraq bombings but their statements cannot be officially confirmed because they were not authorized to reveal the actual number of those killed and injured in the last blasts.

New Swine Flu Strain

A new swine flu strain has been discovered in the United States and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are working on a new vaccine against the strain, named A(H3Ns)v. It is a variant of the A(H3N2) virus, which is known for its ability to sicken people and 12 Americans suffered from the swine influenza in the U.S. since July 2011, the agency said in a press release.

New Swine Flu

The new swine flu strain have sickened people in Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, while all patients infected with the virus variation have recovered successfully. Nevertheless, drug manufacturers are expected to start developing a vaccine against the A(H3Ns)v after the CDC has prepared a “seed virus”, CDC spokesman Thomas Skinner said. According the various reports, the seasonal influenza vaccine for 2011-2012 is not able to provide high enough level of protection against the new virus variant.

The A(H3N2)v strain is not spreading freely from human to human, experts said, adding that human-to-human is not characteristic for some variations of the swine flu virus. People should be aware that the trivalent seasonal vaccine protects only against the 2009 pandemic virus, the regular A(H3N2) virus, and an influenza B strain, while protection against the new swine flu strain is still in its earliest stage of development.

Winter Solstice 2011

Winter solstice 2011 is taking place on Wednesday and Thursday, marking the shortest day in the winter after which the days are growing longer. Thursday’s daylight lasts for 9 hours and 26 minutes thus marking the winter solstice 2011. In the Western Hemisphere, the day will grow to 10 hours of daylight after January 25, scientists said.

Winter solstice 2011

The shortest day in the year have played an important role in various religions and cults since time immemorial and even contemporary human beings are not feeling very comfortably during the long winter nights, psychologists claim. That is why this day is celebrated with much light all around the world.

Winter solstice 2011 is much the same as every other winter solstice but it will be remembered with heavy rains in many parts of the United States instead of snowing that is more common during this time of the year.

Kim Jong Il Died

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il died of a heart attack and will be succeeded by one of his sons, Kim Jong Un, the KCNA state news agency reported. South Korean military sources said Pyongyang conducted a missile test off North Korea’s eastern coast before the state news agency announced that Kim Jong Il had passed away. Japan’s Prime Minister has called a special security meeting of his cabinet to discuss the situation in the region after the death of the North Korea’s leader.

Kim Jong Dead

Kim Jong Un, who is expected to head the secretive country after Kim Jong Il died, is virtually unknown outside North Korea, which raises concerns in the region over what political course will follow the new leader. The new North Korean leader is nearing his 30s and was educated in Switzerland. Reportedly, he is Kem Jong Il’s third son.

South Koreans, whose country is still technically at war with the North, expressed mixed feelings following the death of the state leader in Pyongyang. Most South Koreans were surprised by their government’s unpreparedness for the news, while Lee Myung Kak urged his fellow countrymen to focus on their usual business.

The United States and China both said that they will keep close eye on political developments on the Korean peninsula following the news that Kim Jong Il died, while South Korean military is on high alert.