Saturday, September 27, 2014

Japan Declares Level 3 Emergency From Volcano Eruption, NYC Threatened By Terrorism, Russia Threatens EU States With Gas Cut-Offs

Japan Declares Level 3 Emergency, At Least One Dead After Volcano Erupts

When one thinks of Japan and natural disaster, the things that usually come to mind are earthquakes, tsunamis, radioactive lizards, the occasional massive nuclear power plant explosion. Not volcanoes - those are usually delegated to the sole country that dared to give bankers the middle finger, Iceland. And yet, overnight Japan declared a level 3 alert (on a scale of 1 to 5) when a volcano in central Japan erupted, sending ash clouds down the mountain’s slope for more than 3 kilometers. According to RT, at least one person has died and 70 were injured, while aircraft have been forced to divert to avoid the dangerous area. Medics confirmed the death of at least one person, while 70 more were reported to be injured, NHK reported. Thirty of the injured have been sent to hospital in critical condition, health officials added. One can only hope there were no nuclear power plants in the immediate vicinity of the volcano.
According to Japan's NHK, the Ontake volcano on the border of Nagano and Gifu prefectures, 200 kilometers west of Tokyo, started erupting at about 11:53 local time (02:53 GMT). The Japanese TV outlet released the following video showing the volcano spewing thick, gray smoke into the air.

The Meteorological Agency said the volcano 125 miles west of Tokyo erupted just before midday and sent ash pouring down the mountain's south slope for more than two miles. The eruption forced aircraft to divert their routes, but officials at Tokyo's Haneda airport and Japan Airlines said there were no disruptions to flights in and out of Tokyo. NHK quoted a Nagano prefectural official as telling a government meeting that seven people were unconscious and eight people were seriously wounded.

But while Tokyo may be safe for now, the immediate vicinity is in a air transit lockdown: "Airplanes are diverting their flying routes to avoid the ash cloud,"Makoto Hasegawa of the Nagano prefecture fire department told Reuters.

RT adds that a local eyewitness told NHK that small rocks were being hurled into the air along with the ash. "It was like thunder," she said. "I heard boom, boom – then everything went dark." Japan’s Meteorological Agency declared a level 3 volcano alert on a 1 to 5 scale, which means people are advised to stay away from the mountain. The agency warned that the debris from the volcano could fall as far as 4 kilometers away.
Stratovolcano Ontake (Ontake-san) is the second highest volcano in Japan at 3,067 meters. It is also a popular destination for religious pilgrimages.

Russian energy minister Alexander Novak has warned that EU states which re-export gas to Ukraine will face cut-offs, with Hungary already stopping its reverse flow.
Novak spoke in German daily Handelsblatt on Friday (26 September) morning ahead of talks in Berlin later the same day between the European Commission and Russian and Ukrainian energy officials.
"The contracts signed [between Russia and EU clients] do not have any provisions for re-exports … We hope that our European partners respect the past agreements. That is the only way to guarantee uninterrupted supplies”, he said.
Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia earlier this year began shipping Russian gas to Ukraine in order to help it cope in winter after Russia stopped supplying Ukraine in a price dispute which is bogged down in legal arbitration.
Earlier this month, Russian gas flows to Poland temporarily dropped by 45 percent and to Slovakia by 10 percent in what was blamed on technical reasons.
For its part, Hungarian gas distributor FGSZ on Thursday said it will no longer supply Ukraine “until further notice” also due to “technical reasons” linked to increased demand at home.
But Ukraine transit firm Naftogaz said in a statement the decision is political and comes after the CEO of Russian gas firm Gazprom, Alexei Miller, met with Hungarian leader Viktor Orban on Monday.

“Neither EU countries nor Ukraine should be put under political pressure through energy blackmail”, it said in a note to press. “Naftogaz is committed to being a reliable partner and vital transit hub for Russian gas to the EU. In return, Naftogaz expects its European partners and neighbours to respect their contractual obligations”.
Ukrainian PM Arseny Yatseniuk told Reuters: “They want us to freeze. This is the aim and this is another trump card in Russian hands".

Vladimir Putin has said in a letter to the EU commission, seen by Reuters, that he will impose trade sanctions on Ukraine if it starts to make any pro-EU economic reforms in the next 15 months.
He added that the substance of the trade treaty must be modified to meet Russian demands.
“We still believe that only systemic adjustments of the association agreement, which take into account the full range of risks to Russian-Ukrainian economic ties and to the whole Russian economy arising from implementation of the agreement, will allow [us] to retain existing trade and economic considerations between the Russian Federation and Ukraine”, he said.

Six weeks after he was declared dead, a Canadian in the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham resurfaced on video Thursday, vowing the terrorist group was preparing to bomb New York and fly its flag over the White House.
Interviewed from Iraq by the U.S. website, Farah Mohamed Shirdon, a former Calgary movie theatre employee, appeared erratic and became increasingly enraged as he dished out threats and claimed God was on his side.
“God willing, we will make some attacks in New York soon, a lot of brothers are mobilizing there right now in the West, thanks to Allah,” he said. Smiling, he added they were “mobilizing for a brilliant attack, my friend.”
ISIS was conducting beheadings because “you attack one of us, we will attack one of you,” he said, adding, “We will stop when we behead the kuffar [disbelievers] and when we turn his children into our slaves.”
But as if to undermine his boasts, he said he was under attack “day and night” and would have to go, apparently because of yet another assault. Calling himself Abu Usamah, Mr. Shirdon was eulogized online by fellow terrorists in August but later returned to Twitter to say he had been injured but was alive.

 Iran’s president on Friday urged faster progress at nuclear talks between his country and six world powers, joining other top international officials who say the current round has failed to make substantial headway toward sealing a deal by the November 24 deadline.

Without mentioning the US by name, Hassan Rouhani suggested agreement could end the more than three-decade deep-freeze in relations between Washington and Tehran and mark “the beginning of a path toward collaboration and cooperation.

Rouhani also said Iran would never accept any agreement that requires it to stop enriching uranium, and that sanctions by the US, the European Union and the United Nation must “be melted away.”

The talks remain stuck over uranium enrichment. Iran says it needs a robust enrichment program to make reactor fuel and for other peaceful purposes, but the US and its allies fear the program’s other application — making the fissile core of a nuclear weapon.

While eager to reach an agreement in return for an end to crippling nuclear-related sanctions, Iranian officials insist they will never agree to gutting their enrichment capabilities.

Iran and six world powers made little progress in overcoming significant disagreements in the most recent round of nuclear talks, including on uranium enrichment, Iranian and Western diplomats close to the negotiations said on Friday.
Officials from Iran and the six countries had cautioned ahead of the talks in New York that a breakthrough was unlikely to end sanctions on Tehran, although they had hoped substantial progress could be made in narrowing disagreements.
A senior State Department official said gaps "are still serious" with just eight weeks to go before a Nov. 24 deadline.
"We do not have an understanding on all major issues, we have some understandings that are helpful to move this process forward and we have an enormous number of details still to work through," the official told reporters.

Israel has repeatedly threatened to use military force against Iranian atomic sites if diplomacy fails to defuse what it sees as the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.
Iran rejects allegations from Western powers and their allies that it is seeking a nuclear weapons capability but has refused to halt uranium enrichment, inviting multiple rounds of U.S., European Union and U.N. Security Council sanctions. Enrichment is a process of purifying uranium for use as fuel for power plants or, if enriched to a very high purity, for bombs.

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