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MOSCOW: Since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, relations between Moscow and NATO have dramatically worsened. The Kremlin has threatened a range of responses if NATO moves more forces into Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia.
Mr Evgengy Volk, a political analyst, said: “I believe that at present, the relations between Russian and NATO are at the worst point since the end of the Cold War. I believe that during the Cold War, the relationship was actually sometimes better.”
Since early March, NATO warships have participated in naval drills in the Black Sea. The US has also delivered over 120 armoured units, including tanks, to Latvia in March.
But according to the NATO’s Secretary-General, Russian military flights close to alliance members’ airspace in Europe were intercepted more than 400 times last year.
In mid-December last year, a Russian military jet with its location determining transponders switched off nearly collided with a passenger plane over Sweden.
“I think that the reality is that when youre flying military aircraft around Europe with the transponders turned off, theres always a danger of another black swan event,” said political analyst Chris Weafer. “So long as these exercises are continuing, theres always the potential for another accident that can also negatively impact the situation.
Earlier in March, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Northern Fleet onto full combat alert in a ‘snap readiness exercise’ in the Arctic as the US and several Eastern European NATO countries conducted a series of military exercises near Russia’s border.
Russia has been spending more money on its military and has been boosting military capabilities which were weakened during the 1990s. When Vladimir Putin became president in 2000, Russia spent more than US$9 billion on its military. This has since risen 10 times and is likely to increase again this year despite a sluggish economy.
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New low in Russia-NATO relations: Analysts
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Traci Watson, Special for USA TODAY 1:32 p.m. EDT March 12, 2015
Photo of Ganymede, taken from NASA’s Galileo spacecraft.(Photo: NASA)
The biggest moon in the solar system harbors a salty ocean beneath its frozen surface, according to a study that examined the moon’s flickering auroras to probe its interior.
A number of worlds in our solar system are thought to have oceans. But this is the first clear-cut data of its kind to suggest that a sea lies hidden under the icy shell of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, which is 50% bigger than our own moon. Scientific models predicted an ocean on Ganymede, and when NASA’s Galileo spacecraft visited Ganymede in the 1990s, it collected data that hinted at an ocean. But new images from the Hubble Space Telescope offer strong confirmation of a liquid body of water inside Ganymede, scientists say.
Galileo’s observations “provide inconclusive evidence for the ocean,” says study co-author Joachim Saur of the University of Cologne. “The Hubble data require an ocean.”
Finding an ocean on a celestial body hundreds of millions of miles from Earth is no easy feat. Saur and his team turned to the space-going Hubble, which trained its keen eyes on Ganymede in 2010 and again in 2011. The Hubble focused on Ganymede’s two auroras, shimmering patterns in the sky similar to the earthly phenomenon known as the Northern Lights. A person standing on Ganymede’s surface and looking up would see a red glow, Saur says.
Ganymede has two auroras, one around its north pole and one around its south pole, both created in part by the moon’s own magnetic field. These auroras don’t stay fixed in place. Instead, they wander slightly across Ganymede’s face. With the help of supercomputers, the scientists calculated how much Ganymede’s auroras would shift if the moon had a salty sea. A layer of salty water could carry electrical current, generating another magnetic field that would affect the auroras.
Illustration of the interior of Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon.(Photo: NASA)
The researchers found that the aurora shift witnessed by Hubble nicely matched the prediction of what should happen if Ganymede has an ocean. Just as importantly, the Hubble data did not match the prediction for an ocean-less Ganymede, the scientists reported online last month in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
Ganymede’s ocean is sandwiched between two layers of ice. That’s not particularly hospitable to life, says planetary scientist William McKinnon of Washington University in St. Louis, who didn’t work on the new study. But Saur says it’s still possible that Ganymede’s waters are habitable.
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Hubble telescope spots ocean on Jupiter moon Ganymede
This two-bedroom unit at 11/55 Delmar Parade, Dee Why, sold for $665,000. Photo: Supplied
Domain Group 2015 Prediction: Houses: 5-7 per cent Apartments: 5-7 per cent
The Northern Beaches market is set for a much-needed boost over the next few years as construction of the controversial new hospital at Frenchs Forest gets underway, bringing with it extra infrastructure and spin-off medical businesses.
Angus Raine, executive chairman and chief executive of Raine & Horne, says prices in suburbs such as Forestville, Frenchs Forest and Davidson have risen by 10 per cent since preliminary work started on the hospital last year. “With lower interest rates, we see no reason why this level of growth won’t continue in 2015,” Raine says.
The 488-bed Northern Beaches Hospital is scheduled to open in 2018.
Raine predicts Forestville, Frenchs Forest, Davidson and nearby Killarney Heights could produce price growth of 10 per cent or more in 2015.
“This is especially the case with the state government confirming it is going ahead with a road underpass, a road widening on Warringah Road and other upgrades in support of the hospital,” Raine says.
Sam Pfafflin from Raine & Horne Forestville/Frenchs Forest says properties near the hospital will be highly sought-after by specialists, GPs and other medical businesses.
The northern beaches was one of the underperformers of the Sydney property market last year, says Dr Andrew Wilson, the chief economist for the Domain Group. “Even though [the Northern Beaches] did record a quite healthy prices growth it wasn’t at the same level as the budget areas or the mid-price range areas,” says Wilson.
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MAJURO, MARSHALL ISLANDS The Marshall Islands is experiencing its worst-ever coral bleaching as global warming threatens reefs across the entire northern Pacific, scientists said Monday.
Marine researchers said an El Nino weather pattern had been developing in recent months, raising ocean temperatures and stressing delicate coral reefs.
The worst coral bleaching event ever recorded for the Marshall Islands has been occurring since mid-September, Karl Fellenius, a Majuro-based marine scientist with the University of Hawaii, said.
C. Mark Eakin, manager of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations Coral Reef Watch program, said recent observations showed the problem was widespread across the vast waters of the northern Pacific.
Major bleaching was seen in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, the northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI), the Marshall Islands, and Kiribati, he said. Thermal stress levels set new record highs in CNMI and the NWHI and we saw the first widespread bleaching event in the main Hawaiian Islands.
Fellenius said coral bleaching was a naturally occurring phenomenon but not on the scale currently being seen: While bleaching can occur on very hot days in pools of water with little circulation (such as) very low tides on reef flats, it has become a global problem due to greenhouse gas emissions causing elevated temperatures under climate change.
He said sea surface temperatures had been on average half to a full degree Celsius higher than normal for months, adding, This does not seem like a lot but it makes a big difference to corals.
Fellenius said the last major bleaching event was in 1997, when an exceptionally strong El Nino system affected about a quarter of the worlds coral reefs.
He said indications were that the latest episode had affected up to 75 percent of smaller corals and 25 percent of the larger varieties at some sites in the Marshalls. He said the bleached coral was becoming covered with algae, hindering its chances of recovery.
The World Meteorological Organization raised the alarm about rising sea temperatures this month on the sidelines of U.N. climate talks in Lima, saying 2014 was set to be the hottest year on record, consistent with man-made climate change. What is particularly unusual and alarming this year are the high temperatures of vast areas of the ocean surface, WMO chief Michel Jarraud said.