Friday, February 28, 2014

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - Ukraine Bank Runs Could Soon Be Seen In EU And U.S.!

February 28, 2014 - UKRAINE - Bank runs in the Ukraine and Thailand today and Venezuela earlier this year, show the very fragile nature of our modern fractional reserve banking system. If just a small percentage of depositors withdraw some or all of their cash from the bank, there is not enough cash available.

People line up to withdraw money from an ATM in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, Feb. 20.
(Yuriy Dyachyshn/AFP/Getty Images)

The newly appointed governor of Ukraine’s central bank, Stepan Kubiv, said last Monday that as much as 7% of total bank deposits were withdrawn from February 18th to February 20th. The $2.9 billion (30 billion hryvnias) in cash was gobbled up by anxious depositors during a time of intense fighting between protesters and government forces in Kiev.

The plunge in the currency this week is likely to have exacerbated that trend and much more Ukrainian bank deposits were likely to have been withdrawn this week.

In a fractional reserve banking system, if too many depositors withdraw their cash, banks are forced to either shutdown or declare bankruptcy. Typically, they don’t have enough vault cash to pay their depositors. Ordinarily banks in Western countries have just 10% of deposits in cash, although figures in emerging markets may be higher.

But the modern version of a bank run often involves capital flight. Depositors aren’t only going for their cash, they are also wiring their savings out of the country in record numbers through electronic wire transfers. This is a form of silent or stealth bank run, as it is not visible in terms of angry depositors queuing up outside banks as was seen with Northern Rock in the UK and elsewhere in recent years.

The plunge in the Ukrainian hryvnia this week and the risk of bank runs, not to mention the risk of contagion for European banks exposed to Ukraine should support gold. The Ukrainian currency has collapsed 22% versus gold this week - from 11,684 hryvnia per ounce on Monday to 14,235 hryvnia per ounce at 11:30 GMT today.

Ukrainian Hryvnia in Gold, 5 Days - (Bloomberg)

Rising geopolitical tensions between Russia and the West over developments in the Ukraine should also be supportive. This morning Ukraine has accused Russia of invading Ukraine and is considering a state of emergency after masked gunmen occupied two Crimean airports.

Other geopolitical flash points include Thailand, Venezuela and the Middle East which continue to quietly simmer in the background. Tail-risks have increased and could lead to a renewed safety bid for gold in the coming weeks.

The increasing scrutiny by regulators and the media on the manipulation of the gold price should also support gold. The FT’s story regarding manipulation and the likelihood of lawsuits against banks engaged in manipulation was withdrawn from the internet earlier in the week and overnight Bloomberg has again covered the possible manipulation of gold at the London A.M. fix. This story has been bubbling under the surface for years and may blow up in the coming weeks leading to higher gold prices.

However, in the short term there are technical risks and a lower weekly close this week - below $1,324.35/oz - could lead to a quick and sharp retreat to support at $1,307/oz, $1,300/oz and $1,280/oz.

On Wednesday evening, we interviewed the publisher of the Trends Journal, Mr. Gerald Celente.

Celente is a contrarian commentator whose opinions are sometimes controversial but always thought provoking. He has a great track record at predicting many of the key financial, economic and geopolitical events of the last 30 years.

In an interesting question and answer session Celente addressed concerns about terrorism, a World War, financial meltdown, the risks of bank runs and difficulties in accessing savings in Europe and the U.S. in the coming months.

He pointed out how Cypriot depositors lost savings in bail-ins and that in the Ukraine today “massive bank withdrawals are going on.”

Celente said that the 9/11 attack and subsequent restrictions on access to bank deposits in New York , when Wall Street was closed down for a few days, may be seen again. He warned of the risk that “ATM machines are not working anymore” and the authorities are “putting restrictions on what you can draw out.”

He advised owning physical gold and silver in your possession and said that the precious metals are like a “cash cow when you have the real deal”.

“If you have gold or silver, you are in a golden position,” Celente said.

Despite the many risks of today, Celente saw light at the end of the tunnel. He said that there are opportunities in “clean food”, breakthrough alternative energy, alternative medicine and in digital education and internet learning. - Zero Hedge.

WATCH:  GoldCore Webinar - Celente On Ukraine, War, ATMs, Runs on Banks and Gold and Silver.


WORLD WAR III: Cold War 2.0 And The Ukrainian Catalyst - As Tensions Escalate In Ukraine, Russia Seeks Access To Bases In 8 Countries For Its Ships And Bombers!

February 28, 2014 - RUSSIA - At a time of escalated tensions with the West over Ukraine, Russia says it is negotiating with eight governments around the world for access to military facilities, to enable it to extend its long-range naval and strategic bomber capabilities.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday the military was engaged in talks with Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Algeria, Cyprus, the Seychelles, Vietnam and Singapore.

“We need bases for refueling near the equator, and in other places,” ITAR-Tass quoted him as saying.

Russia is not looking to establish bases in those locations, but to reach agreement to use facilities there when required.

The countries are all strategically located – in three leftist-ruled countries close to the U.S.; towards either end of the Mediterranean; in the Indian Ocean south of the Gulf of Aden; and near some of the world’s most important shipping lanes in the Malacca Strait and South China Sea.

Access to the new locations would extend the Russian military’s potential reach well beyond its existing extraterritorial bases, at the Syrian port of Tartus and in former Soviet states – Ukraine’s Sevastopol, Armenia, Belarus, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and the occupied Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Shoigu said Russia was also beefing up its existing military presence in the post-Soviet region, doubling its troop numbers in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and deploying a regiment of troops to Belarus where it already has fighter aircraft stationed.

“Russia has started reviving its navy and strategic aviation since mid-2000s, seeing them as a tool to project the Russian image abroad and to protect its national interests around the globe,” the RIA Novosti state news agency commented.

“Now, Moscow needs to place such military assets in strategically important regions of the world to make them work effectively toward the goal of expanding Russia’s global influence.”

During his previous tenure at the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin in 2002 shut down a Cold War-era radar base in Cuba and a naval base in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. Russia cited financial constraints, but the move was also seen at the time as an attempt to improve relations with Washington.

Russia says it is negotiating with Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Algeria, Cyprus, the Seychelles, Vietnam and
Singapore about access to facilities that can be used by its navy and strategic bombers. (Image: Google Maps) 

The listening station near Havana had been a key intelligence facility for decades, while the Vietnamese base, which was built by the U.S. during the Vietnam War, was leased to the Soviet Union in 1979 and became the largest Soviet base in the world beyond Moscow’s Warsaw Pact allies.

Upon his return to the presidency in 2012, Putin began exploring options to renew alliances with the communist countries, and Russian Navy chief Vice Admiral Viktor Chirkov said that year Cuba and Vietnam were in the frame.

Russia is now helping Vietnam to upgrade facilities at Cam Ranh Bay, including a submarine training center, and Russia is negotiating for preferential access to refueling and repair facilities there for its ships.

As for the Western hemisphere, Russian Navy ships in 2008 made their first visit since the end of the Cold War, holding joint maneuvers with the Venezuelan Navy in the Caribbean, navigating the Panama Canal, and making a port call in Havana.

Russian Navy vessels visited Cuba again in 2009 and last August – and on Wednesday, a Russian intelligence-gathering ship, the Viktor Leonov, docked in Havana harbor with no explanation from the government or state media coverage, the Associated Press reported.

Russian strategic bombers also visited the region in 2008 – for the first time since long-range flights by the aircraft were halted after the Soviet Union’s collapse – and again last fall, when two Tupolev “Blackjacks” carried out combat training patrols between Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Russian defense spending has been climbing sharply in the years since its last military engagement – the invasion of Georgia in August 2008 – and early this year it was reported to have overtaken Britain to become the world’s third biggest spender, behind the U.S. and China.

According to the British consultancy HIS Jane’s, Russia’s defense expenditure has more than doubled since 2007, and will have tripled by 2016. - CNS News.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - Ukraine Imposes Capital Controls, Limits Foreign Currency Withdrawals!

February 28, 2014 - UKRAINE - Yesterday we reported that as part of the Ukrainian central bank's plan to bailout the nation's largely insolvent private banks, it would provide any needed funding but only "if they will remain under open control of the National Bank of Ukraine."

And since the new CB head Stepan Kubiv's allegiance to Europe were already well-known, this was merely a quick and efficient way of providing Europe with all the banking details including asset holdings of the local population. Today, the annexation of the country's banking system by a "benevolent" Europe is complete.

Itar-Tass reports that Ukraine's national bank has imposed temporary limits to withdraw money from foreign currency deposits to sums equivalent to no more than 15,000 hryvnias (about $1,500) a day, National Bank Chief Stepan Kubiv told a press conference. Or, as the citizens of Cyprus call it - capital controls.
Why is Ukraine doing this? Because when your currency is crashing at a record pace to unseen lows, what is the best way to limit FX transactions? Simple - just minimize the amount of foreign currency that can be in circulation.

Which is also why the the central bank's capital controls do not touch local currency: there is more than enough of that in circulation since after all Ukraine has its own currency and can print it in infinite amounts: "For hryvnia deposits you may take as much as a million or two. Banks have liquidity," Kubiv said.

Then there was the token propaganda:
The chief banker also noted that the situation on Ukraine’s currency market was under control. "The exchange rate may move in one direction and the opposite. There are just emotions and misinformation on the financial market," he noted.

He assured the national bank would toughly stop violators of the currency law. For example, inspectors were sent to eight banks that had engaged in speculation, he said.
To summarize: first banks abdicate their control to a pro-European central bank, and now the citizens face their first (of many) capital controls which incidentally will simply aggravate the fund outflow situation even more, leading to an even faster drop in foreign reserves.

Finally comes the inflation. Wait until the people start rioting - think Egypt - when the economy collapses and a loaf of bread costs its wheelbarrow equight equivalent in Hryvnias. Just how fast will the countercoup in Ukraine take place then? Recall, in Egypt it was just over a year and a half... - Zero Hedge.

WORLD WAR III: Cold War 2.0 And The Ukrainian Catalyst - Russia Admits That It Has Moved Troops Into Ukraine; US, NATO, EU Lecture Russia With 'Provocative Statements'; UN Security Council Agrees To Meet On The Crisis!

February 28, 2014 - UKRAINE - Russian troops have moved into Crimea in what Moscow is calling a mission to “protect Black Sea Fleet’s positions” but which the Ukrainian government has denounced as an “armed intervention.”

Russian troops patrol outside of Simferopol airport, on February 28, 2014. AFP Photo/Viktor Drachev

The Russian foreign ministry said Friday that it had informed the Ukrainian government that armoured units from the Black Sea Fleet base near Sevastopol had entered Crimea in order to protect fleet positions.

“The Ukrainian side was also passed a note regarding the movement of armoured vehicles of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, which is happening in full accordance with the foundation Russian-Ukrainian agreement on the Black Sea Fleet,” the ministry said in a statement posted on its website on Friday afternoon.

In the same note the Russian foreign ministry said it had declined a Ukrainian request for “bilateral consultations” on events in Crimea because they are “the result of recent internal political processes in Ukraine.”

WATCH: Russian Night Wolves biker gang rolls into Simferopol.


Unconfirmed reports were emerging late on Friday that a convoy of armoured vehicles were moving up the Sevastopol highway toward Simferopol, the regional capital.

Earlier armed men in unmarked uniforms occupied key transportation hubs in the Crimea on Friday, in what the Ukrainian government denounced as an “armed intervention” by Russian troops.

Men in unmarked camouflage uniforms occupied two airports and blocked the road between Simferopol and Sevastopol before dawn, while a Russian warship was reported to have blockaded the entrance to the bay at Balaklava, the home of the Ukrainian coast guard.

Several dozen men in camouflage uniforms and carrying AK-74 assault rifles and PK 7.62 mm machine guns occupied a restaurant and patrolled the car park and forecourt of Simferopol international airport early on Friday morning.

The soldiers, who wore no identifying insignia, refused to answer questions from journalists as they strolled up and down outside the airport.

The troops made no apparent attempt to interfere with the running of the airport or take over key infrastructure, contenting themselves with strolling up and down the car park at a leisurely place, apparently deliberately for the benefit of television cameras.

While those patrolling the car park carried assault rifles without magazines attached, belt ammunition could be seen loaded into two medium machine guns carried by sentries outside the occupied restaurant building. Some rifles carried telescopic sights and under-barrel grenade launchers.

They were backed by civilian volunteers wearing the orange and black St George’s ribbon, a symbol of Russian military prowess that has been adopted by pro-Russian activists in Crimea as an identifying mark.

“We are here for your safety,” said one man, who described himself as a member of the “people’s militia and ordered journalists away from the restaurant the troops had occupied. “If you don’t move away from this building maybe someone will throw a grenade at you,” he said. He denied he was threatening journalists, citing an incident yesterday when armed men in the regional parliament building reportedly answered shouted questions with a stun grenade.

Russian Forces patrol around the International airport near the Crimean Capital of Semforopol Photo: DAVID ROSE

Kiev on February 27, 2014. AFP Photo / Louisa Gouliamaki

Russian military vessels are anchored at a navy base in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Sevastopol. REUTERS

“It is an unpredictable situation and we want to make sure everything remains calm. We are just people from this city who want to protect their families,” he said.

The man refused to give his name, but said he and his group arrived at the airport at 6 AM. He refused to say who controlled his "militia" or whether they accompanied or knew the identity of the mysterious soldiers.

Meanwhile, at least 20 men wearing the uniform of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet carrying automatic riffles were reported to have surrounded a Ukrainian border guard post in the port city of Sevastopol on Friday.

A serviceman who identified himself as a Black Sea Fleet officer said “we are here…so as not to have a repeat of the Maidan,” Reuters reported.

A Russian warship is reported to have blocked the bay at Balaklava, where the Ukrainian coast guard is based. - Telegraph.

WATCH: Ousted Yanukovich talks to press in Russia (FULL CONFERENCE).


US, NATO, EU Lecture Russia With 'Provocative Statements' On Ukraine.
Pro-Russian demonstrators carry a giant Russian flag as they rally in central Simferopol on February 27, 2014.
AFP Photo / Viktor Drachev

Moscow has urged NATO to refrain from provocative statements on Ukraine and respect its non-bloc status after a chorus of Western politicians said Russia should be “transparent” about its military drills and avoid any steps that could be “misunderstood.”

“When NATO starts giving a consideration the situation in Ukraine, it sends out the wrong signal,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement published on its website on Thursday.

As Ukraine’s turmoil has shifted to the ethnic Russian-majority in the Crimea region, the US, NATO, and the EU have all voiced their concerns over the situation as well as come up with proposals on how Russia should act.

At the same time, the EU-brokered agreement to settle the Ukrainian political crisis which was signed on February 21 and certified by the foreign ministers of Germany, Poland and France “is still not being implemented,” Russia said.

“Militants, who still haven’t surrendered arms and not vacated administrative buildings, announced their intention to ‘bring order’ to all Ukrainian regions,” the Russian ministry said.

The agreement to jointly investigate violence, as well as to form a national unity government “fell into oblivion,” Moscow said. “Instead, as it was announced on [Kiev’s] Maidan ‘a government of winners’ has been established which includes nationalist extremists.”

 Russia urged foreign partners who encouraged the opposition rallies in Ukraine and then initiated the February 21 settlement agreement, to realize their responsibility to work towards its fulfillment.

Moscow says it is ready to cooperate with the West on Ukraine, just as it had been offering to do long before the crisis in the country descended to bloody unrest.

“But we are ready to cooperate if there is a clear understanding that the cooperation should be honest, and based on an ability to make agreements as well as to fulfil them. And agreements should take into consideration interests of all the Ukrainian people as well as of all Ukraine’s partners,” the ministry’s statement reads.

‘Moscow, be careful’ chorus

The barrage of comments from the West particularly intensified after President Vladimir Putin ordered on Wednesday a surprise military drill to test the combat readiness of the armed forces across western and central Russia. The move – Moscow underlined – was not related to events in Ukraine and was in full compliance with Russia’s international agreements (The Vienna Document 2011) and obligations. That has been confirmed by NATO.

However on Thursday, NATO’s chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged Russia “not to take any action that could escalate tension or create misunderstanding.”

His statement was echoed by American Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel who said that Moscow must be transparent about military exercises along the Ukrainian border and not take any steps that could be misinterpreted or "lead to miscalculation during a delicate time."

US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Moscow Wednesday to be “very careful” with its approach to Ukraine and respect its territorial integrity.

WATCH: Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks during a press conference on the second day of a defence ministers 'meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on February 27, 2014. 

A similar sentiment came from the head of another NATO member-state, British Prime Minister David Cameron.

"We are particularly concerned by the situation in Crimea - every country should respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine," Cameron added at a joint briefing with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in London on Thursday.

 Lawmakers in Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea voted Thursday to hold a referendum to determine the region’s future. According to the parliament’s spokeswoman as a result of “the unconstitutional seizure of power in Ukraine by radical nationalists supported by armed gangs,” Crimea’s peace and order is “under threat.” Ethnic Russians form around 58.3 percent of the population of the peninsula on the Black Sea.

Turmoil in the region began after the new Ukrainian authorities ousted President Yanukovich and revoked a 2012 law that allowed regions to use minority languages, including Russian, as second language.

The European Parliament also had its say pointing out in a resolution that Russia must not put economic pressure on Ukraine. Moscow “pledged to uphold Ukraine’s territorial integrity in the "Budapest memorandum" signed with the US and the UK in 1994,” the parliament’s press service reported. In the same act, they added, “it also pledged to refrain from exerting economic pressure on Ukraine in order to subordinate it to its own interests.”

On Thursday, NATO defense ministers and Ukraine’s first deputy defense minister gathered in Brussels to discuss the Ukrainian crisis, while the parliament in Kiev was busy forming the new Cabinet.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said it was important “that we prevent a breakup of the Ukraine, and that special forces in the country are strengthened,” Ruptly TV reported.

“NATO stands ready to support democratic development, defense reforms, military cooperation and democratic control over the security sector,” Rasmussen said after the session of the NATO-Ukraine Commission. NATO, which “has a long-standing partnership” with Ukraine is set to continue its engagement and support the country “on the path of democratic and inclusive reforms,” he added.

A day earlier, Rasmussen also noted that the door to NATO remains open to Ukraine, admitting though that there are “more urgent priorities” for the country’s new leadership.

Russia, in response blamed the western alliance for attempting to make a decision for Ukrainians.

“So, the membership should remain among not so urgent, but still priority tasks?” the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday. “We strongly recommend everyone to refrain from provocative statements and respect Ukraine’s non-bloc status.”  - RT.

UN Security Council Agrees To Meet On Ukraine.
The U.N. Security Council will hold private consultations to discuss the crisis in Ukraine.

U.N spokesman Martin Nesirky said the council had scheduled a meeting Friday afternoon. The announcement came hours after Ukraine said Russian troops have taken up positions around a coast guard base and two airports in its Crimean peninsula, and sought help from the council to help protect it from its powerful neighbor.

Russia, which has a major naval base in Crimea, has confirmed only that armored vehicles from its Black Sea Fleet were moving around Crimea for security reasons.

However, any action by the Security Council is highly unlikely because Russia is a veto-wielding permanent member and can block any action. - ABC News.

BIG BROTHER NOW: The Rise Of The Global Police State - Governments Use GCHQ And NSA Surveillance Agencies To Spy On Innocent People Via Yahoo Webcams, Laptops And XBox; Optic Nerve Software Collects Information Whether Users Were Intelligence Target Or Not!

February 28, 2014 - TECHNOLOGY - Britain's surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.

The GCHQ program saved one image every five minutes from the users' feeds.
Photograph: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.

In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.

Yahoo reacted furiously to the webcam interception when approached by the Guardian. The company denied any prior knowledge of the program, accusing the agencies of "a whole new level of violation of our users' privacy".

GCHQ does not have the technical means to make sure no images of UK or US citizens are collected and stored by the system, and there are no restrictions under UK law to prevent Americans' images being accessed by British analysts without an individual warrant.

The documents also chronicle GCHQ's sustained struggle to keep the large store of sexually explicit imagery collected by Optic Nerve away from the eyes of its staff, though there is little discussion about the privacy implications of storing this material in the first place.

Optic Nerve, the documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show, began as a prototype in 2008 and was still active in 2012, according to an internal GCHQ wiki page accessed that year.
The system, eerily reminiscent of the telescreens evoked in George Orwell's 1984, was used for experiments in automated facial recognition, to monitor GCHQ's existing targets, and to discover new targets of interest. Such searches could be used to try to find terror suspects or criminals making use of multiple, anonymous user IDs.

Rather than collecting webcam chats in their entirety, the program saved one image every five minutes from the users' feeds, partly to comply with human rights legislation, and also to avoid overloading GCHQ's servers. The documents describe these users as "unselected" – intelligence agency parlance for bulk rather than targeted collection.

One document even likened the program's "bulk access to Yahoo webcam images/events" to a massive digital police mugbook of previously arrested individuals.

"Face detection has the potential to aid selection of useful images for 'mugshots' or even for face recognition by assessing the angle of the face," it reads. "The best images are ones where the person is facing the camera with their face upright."

The agency did make efforts to limit analysts' ability to see webcam images, restricting bulk searches to metadata only.

However, analysts were shown the faces of people with similar usernames to surveillance targets, potentially dragging in large numbers of innocent people. One document tells agency staff they were allowed to display "webcam images associated with similar Yahoo identifiers to your known target".

Optic Nerve was based on collecting information from GCHQ's huge network of internet cable taps, which was then processed and fed into systems provided by the NSA. Webcam information was fed into NSA's XKeyscore search tool, and NSA research was used to build the tool which identified Yahoo's webcam traffic.

Bulk surveillance on Yahoo users was begun, the documents said, because "Yahoo webcam is known to be used by GCHQ targets".

Programs like Optic Nerve, which collect information in bulk from largely anonymous user IDs, are unable to filter out information from UK or US citizens. Unlike the NSA, GCHQ is not required by UK law to "minimize", or remove, domestic citizens' information from its databases. However, additional legal authorisations are required before analysts can search for the data of individuals likely to be in the British Isles at the time of the search.

There are no such legal safeguards for searches on people believed to be in the US or the other allied "Five Eyes" nations – Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

GCHQ insists all of its activities are necessary, proportionate, and in accordance with UK law.

The documents also show that GCHQ trialled automatic searches based on facial recognition technology, for people resembling existing GCHQ targets: "[I]f you search for similar IDs to your target, you will be able to request automatic comparison of the face in the similar IDs to those in your target's ID".

The undated document, from GCHQ's internal wiki information site, noted this capability was "now closed … but shortly to return!"

The privacy risks of mass collection from video sources have long been known to the NSA and GCHQ, as a research document from the mid-2000s noted: "One of the greatest hindrances to exploiting video data is the fact that the vast majority of videos received have no intelligence value whatsoever, such as pornography, commercials, movie clips and family home movies."

Sexually explicit webcam material proved to be a particular problem for GCHQ, as one document delicately put it: "Unfortunately … it would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person. Also, the fact that the Yahoo software allows more than one person to view a webcam stream without necessarily sending a reciprocal stream means that it appears sometimes to be used for broadcasting pornography."

The document estimates that between 3% and 11% of the Yahoo webcam imagery harvested by GCHQ contains "undesirable nudity". Discussing efforts to make the interface "safer to use", it noted that current "naïve" pornography detectors assessed the amount of flesh in any given shot, and so attracted lots of false positives by incorrectly tagging shots of people's faces as pornography.

GCHQ did not make any specific attempts to prevent the collection or storage of explicit images, the documents suggest, but did eventually compromise by excluding images in which software had not detected any faces from search results – a bid to prevent many of the lewd shots being seen by analysts.

The system was not perfect at stopping those images reaching the eyes of GCHQ staff, though. An internal guide cautioned prospective Optic Nerve users that "there is no perfect ability to censor material which may be offensive. Users who may feel uncomfortable about such material are advised not to open them".

It further notes that "under GCHQ's offensive material policy, the dissemination of offensive material is a disciplinary offence".

Once collected, the metadata associated with the videos can be as valuable to the intelligence agencies as the images themselves.

It is not fully clear from the documents how much access the NSA has to the Yahoo webcam trove itself, though all of the policy documents were available to NSA analysts through their routine information-sharing. A previously revealed NSA metadata repository, codenamed Marina, has what the documents describe as a protocol class for webcam information.

In its statement to the Guardian, Yahoo strongly condemned the Optic Nerve program, and said it had no awareness of or involvement with the GCHQ collection.

"We were not aware of, nor would we condone, this reported activity," said a spokeswoman. "This report, if true, represents a whole new level of violation of our users' privacy that is completely unacceptable, and we strongly call on the world's governments to reform surveillance law consistent with the principles we outlined in December.

"We are committed to preserving our users' trust and security and continue our efforts to expand encryption across all of our services."

Yahoo has been one of the most outspoken technology companies objecting to the NSA's bulk surveillance. It filed a transparency lawsuit with the secret US surveillance court to disclose a 2007 case in which it was compelled to provide customer data to the surveillance agency, and it railed against the NSA's reported interception of information in transit between its data centers.

The documents do not refer to any specific court orders permitting collection of Yahoo's webcam imagery, but GCHQ mass collection is governed by the UK's Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, and requires certification by the foreign secretary, currently William Hague.

The Optic Nerve documentation shows legalities were being considered as new capabilities were being developed. Discussing adding automated facial matching, for example, analysts agreed to test a system before firming up its legal status for everyday use.

"It was agreed that the legalities of such a capability would be considered once it had been developed, but that the general principle applied would be that if the accuracy of the algorithm was such that it was useful to the analyst (ie, the number of spurious results was low, then it was likely to be proportionate)," the 2008 document reads.

The document continues: "This is allowed for research purposes but at the point where the results are shown to analysts for operational use, the proportionality and legality questions must be more carefully considered."

Optic Nerve was just one of a series of GCHQ efforts at biometric detection, whether for target recognition or general security.

While the documents do not detail efforts as widescale as those against Yahoo users, one presentation discusses with interest the potential and capabilities of the Xbox 360's Kinect camera, saying it generated "fairly normal webcam traffic" and was being evaluated as part of a wider program.

Documents previously revealed in the Guardian showed the NSA were exploring the video capabilities of game consoles for surveillance purposes.

Microsoft, the maker of Xbox, faced a privacy backlash last year when details emerged that the camera bundled with its new console, the Xbox One, would be always-on by default.

Beyond webcams and consoles, GCHQ and the NSA looked at building more detailed and accurate facial recognition tools, such as iris recognition cameras – "think Tom Cruise in Minority Report", one presentation noted.

The same presentation talks about the strange means the agencies used to try and test such systems, including whether they could be tricked. One way of testing this was to use contact lenses on detailed mannequins.

To this end, GCHQ has a dummy nicknamed "the Head", one document noted.

In a statement, a GCHQ spokesman said: "It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters.

WATCH:  'GCHQ in your sheets' - UK spies collect Yahoo web chat images.


"Furthermore, all of GCHQ's work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee.

"All our operational processes rigorously support this position."

The NSA declined to respond to specific queries about its access to the Optic Nerve system, the presence of US citizens' data in such systems, or whether the NSA has similar bulk-collection programs.

However, NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said the agency did not ask foreign partners such as GCHQ to collect intelligence the agency could not legally collect itself.

"As we've said before, the National Security Agency does not ask its foreign partners to undertake any intelligence activity that the US government would be legally prohibited from undertaking itself," she said.

"The NSA works with a number of partners in meeting its foreign intelligence mission goals, and those operations comply with US law and with the applicable laws under which those partners operate.

"A key part of the protections that apply to both US persons and citizens of other countries is the mandate that information be in support of a valid foreign intelligence requirement, and comply with US Attorney General-approved procedures to protect privacy rights. Those procedures govern the acquisition, use, and retention of information about US persons." - Guardian.

INFRASTRUCTURE COLLAPSE: 'Poo-mageddon' Swamps The Streets Of London - Burst Main Floods Major Roads With A Murky Deluge Of Filthy Sewage Water!

February 28, 2014 - LONDON, ENGLAND - A major road in London has been closed after homes were flooded with filthy water as a result of a burst main.

Firefighter rescues trapped woman from the sewage in South London.

A series of pictures and videos were posted on Twitter showing the murky deluge flowing down Clapham Road in south London.

There were initial reports that a sewage pipe had sprung a leak, causing a torrent of excrement to cascade down the road.

WATCH:  Filthy water flows down major London road.

One policeman at the scene described it as “stinky sewage” and eyewitnesses said the water was seeping into basement flats.

But a Thames Water spokesman later said the flood was a result of a burst water main, which had mixed with silt and mud.

More images from London, as sewage flows down the streets:

The flooded streets of London. Picture: Helen Jeffery/Twitter Source: Twitter

Resident Lewis Whyld, who posted footage online, wrote on Twitter: “People now getting trapped by sewage in south London, firefighters evacuating properties.”

In another post, he added: “Expect lower ground floor flats to be full of sewage in south London tonight, it’s getting deeper too.”

“The road has been made into a river,” said 58-year-old resident Angela Reynolds.

“It’s not clear how they are going to stop it. The water is revolting, brown, muddy — well I hope it’s mud.

“There are lots of basements around here. One of the houses has already been badly flooded. The water just flooded the road in 10 minutes. It was quite incredible.”

Marcus Eyskens, 24, who was among the onlookers in Clapham Road, said: “It’s blocked all the road. It’s a lot of water. It’ll probably take a few days to get it under control.”

A London Fire Brigade spokesman said: “We received a call reporting flooding in the area. Four fire engines are on the scene and Thames Water are on the way to try and fix the problem. It is very much an ongoing incident.” - News Australia.

RATTLE & HUM: "It Was Just Shaking Like Crazy" - Vibrating Gwinnett Co. Homes Mystify Neighbors In The U.S. State Of Georgia?!

February 28, 2014 - GEORGIA, UNITED STATES - It is a steady staccato beat, unerring and continuous. Just low enough in frequency to be annoying, yet strong enough to literally shake a house.

Several in fact.

Nerves too have been shaken in this community along Little Mill Road in Gwinnett County, when neighbors awoke to the strange vibrations.

"This is my wine cooler," said resident Gayle Akana, demonstrating the way the appliance vibrates. "And if you (touch it), it stops. And that's what happened with the vibration when we like pressed against the wall or bed."

Akana says her house shook for six hours.

"It was just shaking like crazy," Akana said. "It was real quick; I can't even replicate the sound it was making. It was just a constant shaking."

At first she thought there was a problem with the pump or pipes in her backyard pond. But a quick check there showed nothing but sleeping koi. That's when she went to the computer and noticed that Facebook started blowing up with other neighbors reporting the same mysterious phenomenon.

"The door on the medicine cabinet was vibrating at a constant speed," said neighbor Kurt Barr. "And I'm listening to it and I'm like 'Oh, wow!' And as I look around I can tell that the whole house is literally doing the same thing."

Calls to local utilities and the nearby landfill indicated no problems in the area. And the affected homes ranged in distance from right next door to each other to a half mile away.

"I got everything from ghosts to water pressure, things like that," said neighbor Michelle Hord, who used her cell phone to capture the sound by placing it next to the wall.

WATCH: Vibrating Gwinnett Co. homes mystify neighbors.


"It was vibrating constantly for a while," she said. "It started about 3 a.m. and woke my husband and myself up. We were just trying to find where it was coming from."

The good news is there were no reports of any damage.

11Alive News called over to the Tellus Science Museum and asked them to check the seismograph: no earthquake activity in the area. The same residents felt it when that quake hit in South Carolina a couple of weeks back.

So the mystery remains tonight... - 11 Alive.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Fireball Lights Up The Skies Over United States East Coast!

February 28, 2014 - UNITED STATES - A dazzling meteor lit up skies Thursday night in at least 10 states, from Ohio to Maryland and all the way down to South Carolina.

"It was a huge yellow burning tail streaking what seemed right over the city," one poster on the American Meteor Society's reporting page wrote from Virginia Beach, Virginia. "It was angled in a way that it looked like it was going to crash into the city."

Others on Twitter described the meteor, which appeared a little after 7 p.m., as white, blue or green.

In Silver Spring, Maryland, another poster to the Meteor Society page wrote that it "looked like a plane on fire close by."

A Twitter post by the American Meteor Society shows a heat map indicating the locations
and frequency of sightings Thursday.

It wasn't, of course. It was almost certainly an unusually bright meteor classified by the American Meteor Society as a fireball -- a bit of rock, metal or ice from space that shines brighter than Venus as it burns up in Earth's atmosphere.

The object had generated at least 155 reports to the meteor tracking group as of Friday morning.

A similar event happened late Monday, viewed by at least 100 people from Maryland north to Connecticut. The organization says "several thousand" meteors that could be classified as fireballs enter the atmosphere every day, but most go unseen because they burn up over oceans or uninhabited areas.

NASA's All Sky Fireball Network

- CNN.

Bright Fireball Captured Over Wisconsin On Police Video
Look, up in the sky! A bird? A plane? Superman? No, just a bright white fireball captured on video in a Madison police officer's squad car.

On a cold Wednesday night on the city's West Side, a veteran police officer saw something not normally seen when on patrol, Madison police said in a news release.

"The officer was parked near the Hy-Vee store at Westgate Mall when just before midnight, a large, bright white fireball pierced the cold night sky," said police spokesman Joel DeSpain.

"The object was moving extremely fast and would have without question struck the ground," the officer said in his report.

A fellow officer driving on Old Sauk Road also saw the same "long fire trail," the release said.

The first officer was able to catch the fireball on video.

WATCH:  Squad car video - Meteor over Wisconsin.


Fearing the worst, such as the fireball possibly being an airplane, he drove to where he thought the object might have crashed, near a local television tower.

"He could find nothing out of the ordinary, and he also checked with the FAA," DeSpain said. "No large planes were in the area."

After taking a few moments to figure things out, the officer decided whatever fell from the sky could have been a long distance away.

"I didn't see any impact flash or hear an impact," the officer said.

"His conclusion was it most likely was a meteor or maybe some space junk that momentarily heated up an otherwise cold night on routine patrol," DeSpain said. - Madison.

PROTESTS & SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: Students And Police Clash In Violent Venezuela Protests - Over 50 People Dead!

February 28, 2014 - VENEZUELA - Student protesters have clashed with police in Caracas, prompting officers to use tear gas to break up the crowds. It comes after almost two weeks of massive street demonstrations that the government has condemned as an attempted coup d’état.

An anti-government demonstrator throws a teargas canister after it was thrown at protesters by the police,
during clashes at Altamira square in Caracas February 27, 2014. (Reuters/Tomas Bravo)

Students marched through the Venezuelan capital on Thursday, demanding the release of their peers who were detained during the last two weeks of protests. The demonstration descended into violence when a group of masked protesters attempted to block a road in central Caracas. The police used tear gas to break up the crowd, while demonstrators pelted officers with stones.

 “[President] Maduro, tell us when and where you are going to release the prisoners. Tell us when there will be justice for our dead,” the head of the student protest movement, Juan Requesens, addressed protesters on Thursday.

Over 50 people have died in the mass protests that have gripped Venezuela over the last couple of weeks, according to government figures. President Nicolas Maduro decried the unrest as an attempt at a coup d’état orchestrated by fascist elements in the Venezuelan opposition.

Opponents of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro clash with riot police during an anti-government
protest in Caracas on February 27, 2014. (AFP Photo/Leo Ramirez)

Supporters of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro take part in a ceremony commemorating the 25th anniversary of
a deadly popular revolt, also known as El Caracazo, in Caracas, on February 27, 2014. (AFP Photo/Leo Ramirez)

“There will be no coup d'etat in Venezuela; you can rest assured. Democracy will continue, and the revolution will continue,” Maduro said on national television on Wednesday. The head of the Venezuelan government has also pointed the figure at President Barack Obama for “financing, promoting and defending members of the opposition that promote violence against our country.”

Elsewhere in Caracas on Thursday government supporters gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Caracazo – violent protests against economic measures imposed in 1989 that left hundreds of people dead. The historical event is widely believed to have prompted the civic-military rebellion led by Hugo Chavez that happened three years later in 1992.

The latest wave of violence in Venezuela comes on the heels of the arrest of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez who handed himself into police custody last week. The Harvard-educated opposition figure is facing charges of inciting violent protests which carries a potential jail sentence of ten years.

Lopez was initially accused of murder, but his lawyers say these charges have been dropped by prosecutors.

WATCH: Tensions flare in Caracas during new national holiday.

"I said, 'Send him to jail,' and that's what happened and that's what will happen with all of the fascists. I won't allow him to challenge the people of Venezuela, the constitution,” said Maduro shortly after Lopez’s arrest.

Following the arrest Maduro announced the expulsion of three US diplomats from Venezuela whom he accused of a “fascist” conspiracy to oust the socialist government.

In response, Washington gave three Venezuelan diplomats 48 hours to leave the Latin American country and denied the US had anything to do with the unrest. - RT.

ICE AGE NOW: A Year Without Spring - Rough Winter To Lag Into March For The United States Midwest, East; Kansas To Massachusetts Will Face Up To A Foot Of Snow That Will Fall Across 1,300 Miles; Will Impact Over 100 MILLION People!

February 28, 2014 - UNITED STATES - March may not come in like a lion everywhere across the nation, but winter will roar during the first several days of the month and impact more than 100 million people.

Several storms will slice eastward in the snow area this weekend with the main
storm forecast to roll out Sunday to Monday.

Early indications are that a long-duration snow event will expand from the northern Rockies and central Plains to portions of the Midwest and Northeast in the days ahead.

The adverse winter conditions will develop Friday into Saturday over the Plains and is forecast to shift slowly eastward Sunday and Monday. Snowfall from the west to east storm will exceed a 1,500-mile stretch on its journey.

People traveling by road or airways should expect major delays as this area of snow expands eastward and crawls along. While some gaps are likely in between the storms, snow or a wintry mix could fall for 36 hours over a several-day stretch some areas in the central Plains and the middle part of the Mississippi Valley.

It is during the last part of the storm train, when the heaviest snow is likely to fall. This is projected to be Sunday to Monday over the northern part of the Ohio Valley to part of the central Appalachians and Monday into Monday night in the coastal Northeast.

For a time, the snow will impact areas between the I-70 and I-90 corridors over the Rockies and Plains and the I-64 to I-80 corridors in the Midwest and East.

Major airport hubs from Kansas City, Mo., Chicago, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Detroit, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City and Boston may all be affected by the storm.

Initially, the storm will evolve into a blizzard over the northern Rockies and northern High Plains with dangerously low AccuWeather RealFeel® temperatures.

Farther east, the storm may be less intense in terms of wind and low RealFeel extremes, but precipitation can be quite heavy and very disruptive. The storm is likely to impact not only travel, but also school and business activities. The storm may completely tap remaining ice-melting supplies in some communities.

According to AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams, "The challenge with this storm is figuring out where the north-south boundary between rain and snow will set up and migrate to as the storm progresses slowly eastward."

At this early stage, the storm has the potential to bring half of a foot to a foot of heavy wet snow along a 1,000-mile swath in the Midwest and East, with locally higher amounts. Snowfall rates at the height of the storm may reach 2 inches per hour. Ice is a concern for some areas as well.

"In a narrow swath, all or part of the storm will deliver snow that may be difficult to shovel and plow, due to its accumulation and weight," Abrams said.

A tremendous temperature contrast will set up from north to south with the storm. A distance of 100 miles could bring temperatures ranging from the 60s and 70s to the 20s and 30s and the difference between rain, ice and snow.

"Because of the great amount of moisture available to this storm, a narrow zone of heavy ice can occur with downed trees and power outages," Abrams said.

In the warm air on the southern flank of the storm, drenching rain and thunderstorms will occur. Long-duration rainfall will occur near the rain/snow line, while the potential for strong to locally severe thunderstorms sweeping through is greatest over the lower Mississippi Valley.

Details will continue to unfold over the next few days on the storm as to which areas are mostly likely to receive all snow or a change from snow to rain and vice versa, as well as the northern extent of the snowstorm.

While spring officially begins on March 20 and there are signs of a pattern change beginning around that date, winter may not be in a hurry to let go over much of the Central and Eastern states completely.

March is typically a battle of two seasons: winter and spring. While there are indications of an end to the intrusions from the polar vortex and corresponding freezing and subzero weather during the month ahead for many areas of the Midwest and East, this may be a slow spring.

People walk through falling rain in downtown Chicago, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

According to Paul Pastelok, head of AccuWeather's Long Range Team, "The pattern causing the persistent cold will not suddenly go away and stay away in the weeks ahead."

Pastelok and crew expect mid-winter style cold to continue more often than not until the third week in March for most areas east of the Rockies.

"Beginning around the third week of March and continuing through much of April in the Midwest and East, the pattern will transition to more of a chilly spring weather pattern," Pastelok said.

The slow spring transition will be complicated by rather wet and stormy weather at times in the Midwest, East and especially the South.

Surges of warmth over the interior South and East, while possibly dramatic over short distances, are likely to be punctuated.

"We just do not see a sudden snap in winter or any long-duration warm, dry weather coming up for most Central and Eastern states until late in the spring," Pastelok said.

Pastelok stated that it may take until late April or May for steady warmth be widespread in the East.

The sputtering warmup could ease concerns for a sudden meltdown and widespread major flooding in the northern tier states. However, the overall chilly wet pattern could lead to some frustration for people with outdoor activities and pothole-dodging motorists. There are some concerns for flooding moving forward into the spring for parts of the interior South to the Midwest.

Why Has It Been so Cold in the Midwest, East?

Steering winds high in the atmosphere, known as the jet stream, have been in a very high amplitude configuration for months.

Early in the winter, the pattern developed big southward dip in much of eastern North America and a northward bulge in western North America.

Since Dec. 1, 2013, Minneapolis has averaged 8 degrees below normal with Chicago at 7 degrees below normal and Detroit 6.5 degrees colder than average.

The persistent cold, accompanied by snow and ice at times, has busted budgets for states, cities and townships and caused tens of thousands of flight cancelations nationally. The extreme winter will force many school districts to alter their spring schedules to make up for lost school days.

Winter Has Not Been Cold Everywhere

According to Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson, "Despite the cold winter over eastern North America and much of Russia, it was business as usual for much of the globe over the past few months."

Bulges in the jet stream have created well-above average warmth not only in western North America, but also in much of China, Greenland and to some extent western and southern Europe.

According to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), January was the second warmest on record in China and the third warmest in Alaska. Records have been kept since 1961 and 1918, respectively.

"Both December 2013 and January 2014 ranked in the top five warmest globally, while 2013 tied for fourth warmest year on record," Anderson said.

Global surface temperature records date back to 1880.

"Nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred during the 21st century and only one year, 1998, was warmer than 2013," Anderson said.

January Arctic sea ice extent was below the 30-year average compiled from 1981 to 2010.

In contrast, January Antarctic sea ice extent was the second largest for the 30-year average compiled from 1981 to 2010. So far this winter, the extent of Great Lakes ice is the third largest since records began in the late 1970s. - AccuWeather.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - Major Bitcoin Exchange MT Gox Files for Bankruptcy; Bitcoin's Credibility Faces A Make-Or-Break Moment!

February 28, 2014 - GLOBAL ECONOMY - The Mt. Gox bitcoin exchange in Tokyo filed for bankruptcy protection Friday and its chief executive said 850,000 bitcoins, worth several hundred million dollars, are unaccounted for.

The exchange's CEO Mark Karpeles appeared before Japanese TV news cameras, bowing deeply for several minutes.

He said a weakness in the exchange's systems was behind a massive loss of the virtual currency involving 750,000 bitcoins from users and 100,000 of the company's own bitcoins. That would amount to about $425 million at recent prices.

The online exchange's unplugging earlier this week and accusations it had suffered a catastrophic theft have drawn renewed regulatory attention to a currency created in 2009 as a way to make transactions across borders without third parties such as banks.

It remains unclear if the missing bitcoins were stolen, voided by technological flaws or both.

"I am sorry for the troubles I have caused all the people," Karpeles said in Japanese at a Tokyo court.

Karpeles had not made a public appearance since rumors of the exchange's insolvency surfaced last month. He said in a web post Wednesday that he was working to resolve Mt. Gox's problems.

The loss is a giant setback to the currency's image because its boosters have promoted bitcoin's cryptography as protecting it from counterfeiting and theft.

Bitcoin proponents have insisted that Mt. Gox is an isolated case, caused by the company's technological failures, and the potential of virtual currencies remains great.

Debts at Mt. Gox totaled more than 6.5 billion yen ($65 million), surpassing its assets, according to Teikoku Databank, which monitors bankruptcies.

Just hours before the bankruptcy filing, Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso had scoffed that a collapse was only inevitable.

 MTGox's shut down prompted some bitcoin traders to picket the exchange's offices.

"No one recognizes them as a real currency," he told reporters. "I expected such a thing to collapse."

Japan's financial regulators have been reluctant to intervene in the Mt. Gox situation, saying they don't have jurisdiction over something that's not a real currency.

They pointed to the Consumer Affairs Agency, which deals with product safety, as one possible place where disgruntled users may go for help.

The agency's minister Masako Mori urged extreme caution about using or investing in bitcoins. The agency has been deluged with calls about bitcoins since earlier this year.

"We're at a loss for how to help them," said Yuko Otsuki, who works in the agency's counseling department.

It's hard to know how many people around the world own bitcoins, but the currency has attracted outsize media attention and the fascination of millions as an increasing number of large retailers such as begin to accept it.

WATCH: Bitcoin users to gather in Tokyo amid MtGox woes.


Speculative investors have jumped into the bitcoin fray, too, sending the currency's value fluctuating wildly in recent months. In December, the value of a single bitcoin hit an all-time high of $1,200. One bitcoin has cost about $500 lately.

Roger Ver, a Tokyo resident who has provided seed capital for bitcoin ventures such as, a registry of bitcoin transactions, said he believes bitcoin will survive, possibly emerging with better technology that's safer for users.

He said Mt. Gox people were likely sincere but had failed to run their business properly.

WATCH: Ron Paul - Bitcoin market volatility "not surprising".


"Mt. Gox is a horrible tragedy. A lot of people lost a lot of money there, myself included," he said ahead of the bankruptcy filing. "I hope we can use this as a learning experience."

Some countries have reacted sternly to bitcoin's emergence, but many people remain fans of its potential.

Vietnam's communist government said Thursday that trading in bitcoin and other electronic currencies is illegal, and warned its citizens not to use or invest in them.

Late last year, China banned its banks and payment systems from handling bitcoin, although people still use them online. Thailand earlier put a blanket prohibition on using bitcoins and Russia has effectively banned them.

There was still considerable appetite for bitcoin in China, where it has become attractive as an investment since tightly-regulated state banks offer very low interest rates on deposits.

Even some with money tied up in Mt. Gox were undaunted.

Huang Zhaobin, a 21-year-old student in Chengdu, said he had lost 50,000 to 60,000 yuan ($8,125 to $9,750) from the Mt. Gox closure.

WATCH: Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen - "Fed can't regulate Bitcoin".


"Actually this money itself is the benefit from bitcoin investment," said Huang, who plowed 10,000 yuan into bitcoins about three months ago.

"If it is legal, I will continue to invest for sure as it is the trend in the world."

In Singapore, Tembusu Terminals, a joint venture specializing in crypto-currencies, announced Friday its first bitcoin ATM in the city-state and plans for many more. In Hong Kong, a group opened what it said was the world's first bitcoin retail store.

Yang Weizhou, analyst at Mizuho Securities Co. in Tokyo, said laws to regulate virtual currencies may have to be created by countries including Japan.

She said lawsuits from those who lost money were likely, and any court rulings would chart unexplored territory and help define the reach of virtual money.

The trend toward such technology for peer-to-peer payments wouldn't replace traditional money but was here to stay because of its convenience, she said.

"It is undeniable," she said. "One must separate the Mt. Gox problem from the overall concept." - ABC News.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Scientists - New Bubbles At The Giant Louisiana Sinkhole Site Could Signal Blast Risk!

February 28, 2014 - LOUISIANA, UNITED STATES - Authorities say state and parish agencies are testing to see whether newly discovered gas bubbles northeast of the Bayou Corne, La.-area sinkhole are tied to the swampland hole.

Source: Assumption Parish OEP

The Advocate reports the state Office of Conservation and contractor CB&I have taken samples of the gas bubbles to determine their source, though officials acknowledge the bubbles likely are connected to the sinkhole.

The new bubble site in Grand Bayou is about one-third of a mile north of La. 70 and La. 69, parish officials said. Most bubble sites tied to the sinkhole have been discovered in the Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou waterways and elsewhere farther to the west and south.

Previous sinkhole-related testing below Grand Bayou shows a 1- to 2-foot-thick gas layer exists in shallow sands under the new bubble site, said Patrick Courreges, spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources.

Scientists believe when the wall of an underground salt dome cavern collapsed in 2012, the failure shattered surrounding strata. This created the sinkhole but also unleashed natural deposits of oil and gas that percolated up.

Texas Brine Co. officials say the oil leaking in the sinkhole stopped last year, but methane gas bubbles have proliferated in bayous and even on dry land where water is standing.

Parish officials said 100 such sites had been found prior to the latest discovery.

Scientists think the gas presents an explosion risk for residents and the area remains under an evacuation order 18 months after the sinkhole appeared.

WATCH:  Bubbling in Grand Bayou - February 24, 2014.


Texas Brine, which managed and developed the failed cavern, has burned off 25 million cubic feet of gas, parish officials said, and may have another 10 million cubic feet that is recoverable.

Many residents have taken buyouts from Texas Brine. Others filed suit.

Recent pipeline work under Grand Bayou could have provided a path for the gas to escape, according to John Boudreaux, director of the Assumption Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Acadian Gas Pipeline System was boring under the bayou to reroute a pipeline damaged by the sinkhole.

Boudreaux said that three weeks ago, survey crews marked the area and did not see bubbles.

Acadian Gas tested two other pipelines in the same Grand Bayou crossing and found no leaks, state officials said. - Insurance Journal.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - Rome On The Verge Of Bankruptcy; Needs 500 MILLION Euros Or City May Grind To A Halt In The Next Two Days!

February 28, 2014 - ITALY - The Italian capital will go bankrupt unless the national authorities urgently allocate almost 500 million euros to ensure the proper functioning of the city, Italian media report. Rome needs specifically 485 million euros or else the city may grind to a halt in the next two days.

Rome, Italy. © Photo: Voice of Russia

Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino has said that road traffic (public service vehicles and private cars) will be blocked as of this coming Sunday, save for police cars, unless the required allocations are made shortly.

"As of March, we'll have no funds to pay 25,000 public servants, buy fuel for buses, maintain kindergartens and remove rubbish. Rome won't even have money to canonize two Popes, John-Paul II and John XXIII, an event of global scale," the Rome Mayor said.

The Mayor is certain that spending on Rome maintenance by far exceeds what the city can actually afford.

According to him, the city is compelled to pay the tax on the land that was leased back in 1957 to build the Olympic Village for the XVIIth Summer Olympics. Now the government should return to Rome all that belongs to the city, Ignazio Marino said.

Marino also said that saving the city is within the jurisdiction of both the Mayor of Rome and the country’s new Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi.

Meanwhile, the Italian media point out that city council, government and Economics Ministry experts are dealing with Rome's likely default as a priority. - VOR.