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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Syria buying advanced Russian missile system

US officials say they have been warned by Israel over the impending sale of an advanced Russian missile system to Syria, fearing it could hamper efforts for international intervention in the war-torn country.

Israel suspects that Russia plans to sell Damascus six S-300 missile batteries, as well as 144 missiles, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The long-range ballistic system, which can down both fighter planes and intercept cruise missiles, would represent a significant upgrade for Syria’s already formidable air defenses.

According to the report, Israeli officials say the deal has been in the works since 2010, when the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad began making payments for the $900 million package.

S-300 batteries in a Moscow parade. (CC BY www.Kremlin.ru)

There have been several unconfirmed reports of the sale of the missile system to Syria over the past year. According to the Wall Street Journal, Assad has sought the batteries for several years to beef up the country’s air defense array.

Brig. Gen. Asaf Agmon, the director of the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, told The Times of Israel recently that Syria’s air defense system, based on an earlier Russian technology, was already among the most advanced in the world.

Western media reported that the Israeli airstrikes on Iran-Hezbollah weapons transfers in Syria over the weekend were carried out from Lebanon, with pilots using a technique called “lofting” — essentially lobbing the bombs by speeding toward the border and pulling up at the last moment — rather than challenge Damascus’s air defense.

Russia has continued to back Assad despite the country’s two-year civil war and calls from the West for him to step down. US officials have been lobbying Putin not to let the sale go through, the Wall Street Journal reported, warning that Syria’s acquisition of the system could complicate efforts for outside military intervention.

On Tuesday, Moscow and Washington said they would work toward convening talks between opposition and regime forces in a bid to end the conflict, which has seen over 70,000 Syrians killed and over a million more displaced.

The US also announced it would provide another $100 million in aid to the rebels.

The Times of Israel

US Air Force stripped 17 officers controlling intercontinental nuclear missiles

US Air Force stripped an unprecedented 17 officers of their authority to control - and, if necessary, launch - nuclear missiles after a string of unpublicized failings, including a remarkably dim review of their unit's launch skills.

"We are, in fact, in a crisis right now," the commander, Lt. Col. Jay Folds, wrote in an internal email confirmed by the Air Force.

The tip to trouble was a March inspection of the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, which earned the equivalent of a "D" grade when tested on its mastery of Minuteman III missile launch operations. In other areas, the officers tested much better.

The Air Force publicly called the inspection a "success."

But in April it quietly removed 17 officers from the highly sensitive duty of standing 24-hour watch over the Air Force's most powerful nuclear missiles, the intercontinental ballistic missiles that can strike targets across the globe. Inside each underground launch control capsule, two officers stand "alert" at all times, ready to launch upon presidential order.

The 17 cases mark the Air Force's most extensive sidelining ever of launch crew members, according to Lt. Col. Angie Blair, a spokeswoman for Air Force Global Strike Command, which oversees the missile units as well as nuclear-capable bombers. The wing has 150 officers assigned to missile launch control duty.

The trouble at Minot is the latest in a series of setbacks for the Air Force's nuclear mission, highlighted by a 2008 Pentagon advisory group report that found a "dramatic and unacceptable decline" in the Air Force's commitment to the mission, which has its origins in a Cold War standoff with the former Soviet Union.

In 2008, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates sacked the top civilian and military leaders of the Air Force after a series of blunders, including a bomber's mistaken flight across the country armed with nuclear-tipped missiles.

Voice of Russia

Read more: http://english.ruvr.ru/2013_05_08/US-Air-Force-stripped-17-officers-controlling-intercontinental-nuclear-missiles/

On The Verge Of Witnessing The Death Of The Paper Gold Scam

The legal claims on physical gold far exceed the amount of physical gold that the banks actually have by a very, very wide margin.  And right now the bankers are scared out of their wits because their warehouses are being drained of physical gold at a frightening rate.  
So what happens when their physical gold is gone but they still have lots and lots of people with legal claims to gold?  When that moment arrives, it will represent the end of the paper gold scam.  Many believe that the recent takedown of the price of paper gold was a desperate attempt by the bankers to put off that day of reckoning, but it appears to have greatly backfired on them.  Instead of cooling off demand for precious metals, it has unleashed a massive "gold rush" all over the globe. 
 Meanwhile, word has been spreading among wealthy families in both North America and Europe that they had better grab their physical gold out of the banks while they still can.  This is creating havoc in the financial community, and at least one major international bank has already declared that it will only be settling those accounts in cash from now on.  The paper gold scam is starting to unravel, and by the time this is all over it is going to be a complete and total nightmare for global financial markets.
For years it has been widely known that the promises that banks have made regarding their gold far exceed their actual ability to deliver, but we have never reached a moment of such crisis before.
Posted below are quotes from people that know precious metals far better than I do.  What these experts are saying is more than a little bit disturbing...
-CME President Terry Duffy: What’s interesting about gold, when we had that big break two weeks ago we saw all the gold stocks trade down significantly, we saw all the gold products trade down significantly, but one thing that did not trade down, was gold coins, tangible real gold. That’s going to show you, people don’t want certificates, they don’t want anything else. They want the real product.
-Billionaire Eric Sprott: So we see all of these paper (trading) volumes going through that bear absolutely no relationship to what’s going on in the physical markets. As you know I have always been a proponent of the fact that supply in the gold market was way less than demand, and by a very large factor. I think demand exceeds supply by at least 60%. The central banks are surreptitiously supplying that gold, and ultimately they will be running on fumes.
When we hear about the LBMA not willing to deliver gold, and JP Morgan’s inventories at the COMEX have gone from 2.4 million (ounces) down to 160,000 ounces, it just makes you realize that all of this paper trading means nothing. It’s the real physical market that you have to rely on.
-JS Kim: FACT #1: COMEX gold vaults were recently drained of 2 million ounces of physical gold in one quarter, the largest withdrawal of physical gold bullion from COMEX vaults in one quarter during this entire 12-year gold and silver bull. There has been speculation about the reasons that spurred these massive withdrawals of gold from COMEX vaults, but the most reasonable speculation is that no one trusts the bankers to hold on to their physical gold anymore, especially in light of Fact #2. Note below, that both registered AND eligible stocks of gold had heavily declined in recent months. Such an event signals a general distrust of the banking system from everyone holding gold in registered COMEX vaults.
FACT #2: One of the largest European banks, ABN Amro, defaulted on their gold contracts and informed their clients that they would only settle their gold bullion contracts in cash and not in physical. So much for the supposed legality of financial contracts as a "binding" contract. So whether Fact #1 caused Fact #2 or vice versa is irrelevant. What IS apparent is that the level of trust in bankers to safekeep physical gold and physical silver is disappearing, as it should be, and as it should have already been for years now. But truth always takes some time to catch up to banker spread lies and that is what is happening now. I have been warning people never to trust bankers in deals involving gold and silver for years now, as in this article I wrote nearly four years ago informing the public that the SLV and GLD are likely a banker invented scam as well.
FACT #3: Silver fraud whistleblower and London trader Andrew Maguire stated that the LBMA was having trouble settling gold contracts in bullion as well and stated that institutions that asked for physical settlement “were told they would be cash settled instead by a bullion bank.” In plain English, this is a default. So Andrew Maguire reported that the LBMA had already gone into default. In light of Fact #1 and Fact #2, the dominoes were starting to tumble and the house of cards that the bankers had built in gold and silver paper derivatives to deceive and hide the true fundamentals of the physical gold and physical markets from the entire world was rapidly starting to crumble. A financial earthquake of magnitude 2.5 was quickly threatening to evolve into one of the biggest financial earthquakes of all time in which the world’s confidence in all global fiat currencies would effectively have a well-deserved funeral.
-Jim Sinclair: I think the reality is the supply situation is extremely volatile at this point, and even discussing it is like rubbing a raw nerve to the people who are in charge. The amount of discussion on the subject of warehouse supply, supply that is represented by the gold leases, indicated to the central planners that the demand for physical was going to continue to effect the exchanges.
Although they did not expect any grandstand delivery, the mere continued draining of physical inventories was threatening the very functioning of the paper exchange. That threatening of the paper exchange and its ability to continue functioning is really taking off the blinders and revealing the truth behind the critical question, ‘Where is the gold?’
The question now is, ‘Where has the gold gone?’ Who has all of this gold? Because of the nature of gold leasing, all of this gold has been purchased and it has gone somewhere. The reality of the empty vaults reveal that the gold has gone missing.
-Ronald Stoeferle: We’re seeing this rush to physical gold not only in the retail market, but also for the institutional players...[it's] just overwhelming…I [estimate] a 130-to-1 [ratio of paper to physical gold]…and I think in the last week we were really close to [triggering] a default of the paper market.
-Gerhard Schubert, head of Precious Metals at Emirates NBD: I have not seen in my 35 years in precious metals such a determined and strong global physical demand for gold. The UAE physical markets have been cleared out by buyers from all walks of life. The premiums, which have been asked for and which have been paid have been the cornerstone of the gold price recovery. It is very rare that physical markets can have a serious impact on market prices, which are normally driven solely by derivatives and futures contracts…
I did speak during the week with several refineries in the world, of course including the UAE refineries, and the waiting period for 995 kilo bars is easily 2-3 weeks and goes into June in some cases. A large portion of the 995 kilo bars in the UAE goes normally into the Indian market, but a lot of the available 995 kilo bars are destined for Turkey, at this time. We heard that premiums paid in Turkey have reached anything between US $ 20 and US $ 35 per ounce.
-James Turk: Another indication of the demand for large bars is the huge drawdown in the gold stock in COMEX warehouses. It is noteworthy that COMEX reports show the drawdown is largely the result of dealers removing their inventory, their working stock. When that happens, you know the availability of supply is constrained.
What all of this means, Eric, is one thing. If the central planners want to keep the precious metals at these low prices, to meet the demand for physical metal they will need to empty more metal from central bank vaults, or borrow metal from the ETFs as some have suggested is happening. Otherwise, the central planners will have to step back and stop their intervention, thereby letting the price of gold and silver rise so that demand tapers off, bringing demand and supply of physical metal back toward some kind of balance.
We've seen this same situation several times over the last twelve years. It is what I have been calling a “managed retreat.” Despite the current weakness, I firmly believe we have again entered a critical period where the central planners will need to retreat once again in order to let the gold and silver prices climb higher.
-The Golden Truth: And then I get a call from a close friend in NYC last Friday.   His career has been in private wealth management in the private bank department of the Too Big To Fail banks.  He's been looking for work and chats with old colleagues all the time.  He called my Friday and told me he just got off the phone with a very high level private banker from a big Euro-based TBTF bullion bank, but who was at JP Morgan until about six months ago.
This guy told my friend that there is a scramble by many very wealthy European families/entities to get their 400 oz bars out of the big bank vaults. He knows this personally, for a fact.  He said the private banker community is small over there and the big wealthy families all talk to each other and act on the same rumors/sentiment.  The Bundesbank/Fed and the ABN/Amro situations triggered this move.  He knows for a fact JPM tried to calm fears about 3 months ago by sending a letter to it's very wealthy clients assuring them their bars were safe, in allocated accounts.  He said right now those same families are walking into the big banks like JPM and demanding delivery of their bars or threatening to take their $100's of millions in investment portfolios to competitors.  His wording was "these people are putting a gun to the heads of private banks and demanding their gold."
I know this information is good because I know my friend's background and when he tells me his source is plugged in, the guy is plugged in. Not only that, my friend's source said that there's no doubt that someone like a John Paulson, not necessarily specifically him, but entities like him or it may include him, have held a gun to GLD and demanded delivery of physical in exchange for their shares.
Regarding the Bundesbank/Fed situation, recall that the Bundesbank asked to have some portion of its gold sitting - supposedly - in the NY Fed vault in NYC sent back Germany. The total amount is 1800 tonnes.  After behind the scenes negotiations, the Fed agreed to ship 300 tonnes back over seven years.  To this day, the time required for that shipment has never been explained.  Venezuela demanded the return of its 200 tonnes held in London, NYC and Switzerland and received it all within about four months.
And regarding the ABN/Amro situation.  ABN/Amro offered a gold investment account product that offered physical delivery of the gold in the investment account when the investor cashes out.  About a week before the gold price smash, ABN sent a letter to its clients informing that the physical delivery of the bullion was no longer available and that all accounts would be settled with cash at redemption.
I believe it was these two events that triggered the big scramble for physical gold by wealthy families/entities who were suspicious of the integrity of their bank vault custodial arrangement anyway.
So what does all of this mean?
It means that we are entering a period when there will be unprecedented volatility for precious metals.  There will be tremendous ups and downs as this crisis plays out and the bankers try to keep the paper gold scam from completely unraveling.
Meanwhile, nations such as China continue to stockpile gold as if the end of the world was coming.
According to Zero Hedge, Chinese gold imports set a brand new all-time record high in March...
Quite the contrary: as export data released by theHong Kong Census and Statistics Departmentovernight showed, Chinese gold imports in March exploded to an all time record high of 223.5 tons.
And the number for April is expected to be even higher.
Does China know something that the rest of us do not?
We are also seeing a rapid decoupling between spot prices and physical prices.  In fact, it is quickly getting to the point where the spot price of gold and the spot price of silver are becoming irrelevant.
For example, demand for silver coins has become so intense that some dealers are charging premiums of up to 30 percent over spot price for silver eagles.
That would have been regarded as insane a few years ago, but people are now willing to pay these kinds of premiums.  People are recognizing the importance of actually having physical gold and silver in their possession and they are willing to pay a significant premium in order to get it.
We are moving into uncharted territory.  The paper gold scam is rapidly coming to an end.  In the long-term, this will greatly benefit those that are holding significant amounts of physical gold and silver.
Economic Collapse


Are you ready for RFID chips built into your money and documents?

North Dakota State University. researchers have developed a new way of embedding traceable chips within “smart” paper — raising the possibility of banks and governments guarding against counterfeiting and even tracking the usage of paper money, IEEE Spectrumreports.

The new method of embedding radio frequency identification chips (RFID) in paper uses a patent-pending technology called Laser Enabled Advanced Packaging (LEAP) to transfer and assemble the traceable RFID chips on paper. Such “smart” paper could lead to new types of banknotes, legal documents, tickets and smart labels.

The European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan to launch separate projects based on that possibility,a and Saudi Arabian researchers have begun their own efforts to embed RFID chips in Saudi Arabian currency.

LEAP can quickly and precisely place ultra-thin semiconductor chips at specific locations and orientations on both rigid and flexible materials — an approach that could enable other chip-embedded devices such as smart clothing.That could enable the spread of RFID chips in applications as diverse as public transit smart cards and product labels and help make RFID chips cheaper overall.

Such cheap, widely-deployed RFID technology could transform everything about doing business — all the way down to the cash changing hands. Law enforcement agencies could also track smart money as part of its efforts to fight drug trafficking or other organized crime schemes.

But the applied RFID technology could also herald a future world where trackable banknotes further diminish the privacy of how people use money. For instance, the government might track the flow of money in the so-called “gray economy” that relies on mostly untraceable cash exchanges.


Iran urges war on Israel 's northern front

Iranian officials are believed to be encouraging the Syrian army, Palestinians, and its terror proxy Hezbollah to launch an attack on the Golan Heights, Israeli territory that borders war-torn Syria.

Iran responded to cables from the United States and Russia over the weekend by saying that Syrian forces aligned with President Bashar al-Assad have been instructed to immediately retaliate against Israel, according to Israeli news site Ynet, which translated a report first published in a Hezbollah-aligned Lebanese newspaper.

The instructions followed Israeli strikes on Syrian weapons facilities that contained Iranian-made weapons waiting to be shipped to Hezbollah forces in Lebanon.

“Iranian officials have warned that their reaction to preceived [sic] aggressions would likely would be expressed in one of two ways,” Ynet reported. “The first, one of the sources said, would be ‘a blow below the belt in more than one location’” both within and outside of Syria, as they approached ‘the Day of Judgment.’

Iran has issued “a final decision” to turn “the Golan Heights in the ‘Fatahland,’” the source told Ynet. Syrians, Palestinians, and “all who want to fight Israel” would be encouraged to storm the northern front.

Iran is also planning a conference on the Syrian crisis in Tehran, according to Ynet.

“Preparations are currently underway for a far-reaching Syria conference, to be held in Tehran, in which the Syrian regime will be represented by Syrian Minister for National Reconcilation [sic] Ali Haider and by the Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil,” according to the report.

Meanwhile, a top Iranian envoy blamed the United States and Israel for spurring the civil war in Syria on Wednesday.

“The U.S. and the Zionist regime are the main plotters of the Syrian crisis and the recent attack of the Zionist regime’s warplanes on the country is the best evidence for this claim and proves that the Takfiri groups, which have come to Syria from abroad, are fully coordinated with the (Zionist) regime,” Iranian Ambassador to Beirut Qazanfar Roknabadi was quoted as saying by Iran’s Fars News Agency.

Roknabadi’s comments were made during a meeting of “international human rights activists” held at the Iranian embassy in Beirut, according to Fars.

Roknabadi went on to warn the United States against intervening in Syria.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran opposes any foreign interference in Syria and has called on all foreign sides to stop weapons and financial aids to armed groups and remain committed to their international responsibility for settling the Syrian crisis,” Roknabadi said.

A top Syrian army strategist also speculated that pro-Assad forces would retaliate against Israel.

“This move will not remain unanswered,” Syrian military analyst Turki Hassan said on Wednesday.

“In Israel … there is no place out of the range of the Syrian army and no Patriot or Iron Dome missiles (shield) can stand up to Syria’s reprisal,” Hassan said, explaining that forces are waiting on attack orders from Assad.

Washington Free Beacon

Mayon volcano survivor recalls scenes from hell

PHILIPPINE tour guide Roel Llarena has recalled how a mountain hike turned into a nightmare when the volcano he was climbing began spewing out giant rocks, killing five of his companions.

"I stood there frozen. I couldn't believe what was happening, I didn't know what to do. It was like a scene from hell," he said, after surviving the giant ash explosion at Mayon volcano on Tuesday.

Mr Llarena, 33, was one of the Filipino tour guides leading a group of foreigners up the 2460-metre (8070-foot) Mayon when the picturesque volcano suddenly shot a column of hot ash into the air.

The volcano, famed for its near-perfect cone, has a history of deadly eruptions. But it was not showing signs of activity when the tour group ascended, leading many to think it was safe.

"The tourists were all very nice and we were exchanging stories with them the previous night. I can't believe this all happened, especially when the night before we were just all having fun," Mr Llarena said by phone.

The group was climbing the mountain when rain started to pour down. Recognising the danger, Mr Llarena and the others began to turn back only to see a column of ash shoot from the cone.

The hikers took cover behind a huge rock as boulders, some as large as minivans, began tumbling towards them and carried some people to their death.

Mount Mayon spews a thick column of ash 500 metres into the air. Picture: AFP

Mr Llarena said a fellow guide, Nicanor Mabao, saved an Austrian woman by grabbing her by her bag. But three Germans, a Spanish woman and a Filipino guide - Mr Llarena's brother-in-law - were killed by the cascade of rocks.

Rescue teams recovered the five bodies but bad weather prevented helicopters from landing on the mountain and the body bags were carried down by hand.

A Thai tourist who went missing during the ash explosion was found with minor injuries on Tuesday, local officials said.

Volcanologists described the eruption as a 73-second "steam-driven minor explosion" that was not expected to be repeated anytime soon.

Chief state seismologist Renato Solidum said the explosion was triggered when the rainwater made contact with hot ash deposits on the crater mouth.

The province's governor Joey Salceda said some tourists were drawn to the volcano 330 kilometres southeast of Manila, because of the danger.

Policemen carry Nicanor Mabao Jr., one of the Filipino tour guides who survived after Mayon Volcano spewed a giant ash cloud. Picture: AFP

"Mayon volcano is an enigmatic personality. The more she does this, the more they will come. The more the danger, the more the tourists," he told reporters.

But Mr Llarena will not be guiding them anymore.

"After this I'm definitely not going back to Mayon. I curse Mayon volcano. I vow never to climb it again," he said.

Rescuers and residents point to the spot where the bodies of mountain hikers were found near the crater of Mayon volcano. Picture: AP

Read more: http://www.news.com.au/travel/world/mayon-volcano-survivor-recalls-scenes-from-hell-after-five-companions-died/story-e6frfqai-1226637950988#ixzz2SnpxU5Yl

Pro-choice reporter covering Gosnell trial changes mind on abortion

May 8, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A pro-choice reporter who has been present in the courtroom listening to testimony in the Gosnell trial has changed his mind on abortion, according to one of his fellow reporters.

“That's the power of the Gosnell trial,” reporter JD Mullane told former Gov. Mike Huckabee during a recent appearance on the Huckabee Show.

Mullane, a pro-life columnist for the Bucks County Courier Times, has been present in the courtroom from the very beginning of the Gosnell trial. His regularly-updated Twitter account has become the go-to place for breaking updates on the case.

“There is one journalist sitting in that courtroom who writes for a local publication who has told me that he is very liberal, very pro-choice,” Mullane told Huckabee, “but after sitting through the testimony in the Gosnell trial, he's reconsidered. He's changed his mind.”

Testimony in the case has featured former employees of Gosnell describing how “hundreds” of babies, many of them past viability, were born alive in the clinic only to have their spinal cords snipped by Gosnell or one of his assistants. Employees described babies moving, breathing, screaming, and even "swimming" in a toilet after being born alive.

“For 40 years abortion in this country has been waged in the court of public opinion. This is a court of law. And the testimony that comes out of there is under oath,” said Mullane. “None of the evidence is doctored. It's for real. It's a capital case. And the testimony of one witness is far heavier than all the pro-choice editorials and op-eds that have ever appeared in, say, the New York Times.”

Pro-life activists have charged the mainstream media with ignoring the Gosnell trial over fears that publicity will hurt the cause of legal abortion. Mullane suggested that their fears are well-founded.


A senior Palestinian Authority Official: 'If We Had Nuke, We'd Have Used It This Morning'

A senior Palestinian Authority has praised the use of violence against Israel, asserting that if the PA had the military wherewithal to rise up against the Jewish state, it would not hesitate to do so.

"I swear that if we had a nuke, we'd have used it this very morning," vowed Jibril Rajoub during an interview with the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen TV channel, as reported by thePalestinian Media Watch (PMW).

Jibril Rajoub is the Deputy Secretary of the Fatah Central Committee and Chairman of the PA Olympic Committee.

The interview was also published on Rajoub's Facebook page on May 2, 2013.

According to PMW, two other senior PA officials also expressed open support for the murderer who killed Evyatar Borovsky, an Israeli who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist last week as he was waiting for a bus at the Tapuach junction in Samaria.

"We salute the heroic fighter, the self-sacrificing Salam Al-Zaghal," said Abu Al-Einein, who was until recently an advisor holding the rank of minister to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

"He insisted on defending his honor, so he went against the settler and killed him. Blessings to the breast that nursed Salam Al-Zaghal," said another PA official, whose words were met with applause from the audience.

Israel National News

Greek Youth Unemployment Rises to 64.2 percent

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek youth unemployment rose above 60 percent for the first time in February, reflecting the pain caused by the country's crippling recession after years of austerity under its international bailout.

Greece's jobless rate has almost tripled since the country's debt crisis emerged in 2009 and was more than twice the euro zone's average unemployment reading of 12.1 percent in March.

While the overall unemployment rate rose to 27 percent, according to statistics service data released on Thursday, joblessness among those aged between 15 and 24 jumped to 64.2 percent in February from 59.3 percent in January. Youth unemployment was 54.1 percent in March 2012.

"It is by far the highest youth unemployment rate in the euro zone, highlighting the difficulties young people face in entering the labor market despite government incentives to create jobs," said economist Nikos Magginas at National Bank.

Athens has lowered the minimum monthly wage for those under 25 years by 32 percent to about 500 euros to entice hiring.

Greece's economy is in its sixth year of recession, battered by tax hikes and spending cuts demanded by its European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders. The economy is expected to slump by 4.2 to 4.5 percent this year.

The high jobless rate is keeping Greeks pessimistic about their economic prospects.


Popocatepetl Volcano Eruption Covers Mexican Towns In Ash

Popocatepetl Volcano Eruption

Mexico's Popocatepetl volcano has spewed ash over several towns in the central state of Puebla, just 55 kilometers (35 miles) southeast of Mexico City, but the country's capital was spared.

The volcano blew a huge stack of smoke that went 3,200 meters (10,500 feet) skyward late Tuesday, but surrounding residents were not in danger, said Jesus Morales, Puebla's civil protection director.

A three-centimeter (one-inch) thick carpet of ash covered nearby towns, forcing people to wear masks. The National Disaster Prevention Center said Wednesday that ash also fell in the state capital of Puebla.

The 5,452-meter (17,900-foot) high Popocatepetl is Mexico's second highest peak after the Citlaltepetl volcano.