Monday, March 3, 2014

WORLD WAR III: It's Official, We Have Now Entered A New Cold War Between United States And Russia - U.S. Suspends Trade Talks And Military Cooperation With Russia Over The Ukraine Crisis As Putin Ignores U.S. Threats Of Isolation!

March 03, 2014 - UKRAINE - The US has suspended forthcoming trade and investment talks with Russia over situation in Ukraine, according to a US official. In addition, the Pentagon announced that the US has also suspended all joint “military engagements” with Russia.




"We have suspended upcoming bilateral trade and investment engagement with the government of Russia that were part of a move toward deeper commercial and trade ties," a spokesman for the Office of the US Trade Representative said.

Earlier Monday evening, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby announced in a statement that US-Russia “military engagements,” such as military exercises and port visits, are on hold for now.

“Although the Department of Defense finds value in the military-to-military relationship with the Russian Federation we have developed over the past few years to increase transparency, build understanding, and reduce the risk of military miscalculation we have, in light of recent events in Ukraine, put on hold all military-to-military engagements between the United States and Russia,” the statement reads. “This includes exercises, bilateral meetings, port visits and planning conferences.”


WATCH: 'West ignited Ukraine's fire, now wants to pin crisis on us' - Russian Senator.

 


Kirby said the events in Ukraine have not changed US naval movements in the region.

“Some media outlets are speculating on possible ship movements in the region,” Kirby said. “There has been no change to our military posture in Europe or the Mediterranean; our Navy units continue to conduct routine, previously planned operations and exercises with allies and partners in the region.”

Earlier Monday, US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in a conference call that the US “has a broad range of options available” against Russia should tensions with Ukraine escalate.

"At this point we are not just considering sanctions given the actions Russia is taking, it is likely we will put those in place and we are preparing that," she added.

Top members of Congress announced they are considering loan assistance to Ukraine, as well as possible sanctions against Russian officials and “individuals.”

“We will also begin reviewing what authorities...we may provide the Administration so that the President can take actions to impose sanctions on Russian officials, oligarchs, and other individuals complicit in Russia’s efforts to invade and interfere with Ukraine’s sovereign affairs,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said in a statement.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Robert Menendez said his committee is crafting legislation to offer $1 billion in “loan guarantees to support Ukraine’s economy,” according to Reuters.

Russia’s prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, and US Vice President Joe Biden discussed the events in Ukraine during a telephone call early on Monday, ITAR-TASS reported.


WATCH: Switching Sides - Ukraine's Air Force brigade, Navy chief pledge allegiance to Crimea.

 


During the conversation, requested by Biden, Medvedev stressed “the need to protect the interests of all Ukrainian citizens, including people in the Crimea and the citizens of Russia, located on Ukrainian territory,” Medvedev’s press secretary, Natalia Timakova, said.

Medvedev and Biden did not raise the topics of economic sanctions against Russia or US participation in the G8 summit, scheduled for Sochi in June, Timakova said.

Meanwhile, at a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting to discuss the situation in Ukraine, both the Russian and American ambassadors insisted their respective positions put the well-being of the Ukrainian people first.

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said that ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking him to use military force in Ukraine. Churkin told the UNSC that it is about protecting the rights of the Russian-speaking population there and urged all sides in Ukraine to fulfill the commitments adopted on February 21.

"Under the influence of Western countries, there are open acts of terror and violence," Churkin quoted the letter from Yanukovich to Putin in the third emergency meeting of the UNSC.

"People are being persecuted for language and political reasons," Churkin read. ”So in this regard I would call on the President of Russia, Mr. Putin, asking him to use the armed forces of the Russian Federation to establish legitimacy, peace, law and order, stability and defending the people of Ukraine."


WATCH: Putin visits military drills in Russia.




Churkin clarified at the UNSC meeting that Russia’s goal is not to return ousted leader Yanukovich to power, but acknowledged that he is still the legitimate president of Ukraine and that his fate should be decided by the people of Ukraine.

US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power followed Churkin’s comments in front of the UNSC, saying that Russia's actions regarding Ukraine are a “violation of international law.”

"It is a fact that today Russian jets entered Ukrainian airspace," Power said. "Russian military action is not a human rights protection mission. It is a violation of international law and a violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the independent nation of Ukraine...Russian mobilization is a response to an imaginary threat.”

“Russia needs to...engage directly with the government of Ukraine," Power added.

Power appealed for human rights monitors to be sent to Ukraine, while calling on Russia to “immediately pull back” deployed forces.

The White House also announced on Monday that it will not send a US delegation to the Paralympic Games in Sochi. The Paralympics are set to begin this week.

"President Obama continues to strongly support all of the US athletes who will participate in the Paralympics and wishes them great success in the Olympic competition," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.

Crimean authorities requested Moscow’s assistance after the new self-proclaimed government in Kiev introduced a law abolishing the use of languages other than Ukrainian in official circumstances in the country. More than half the Crimean population is Russian and use only this language for their communication. The residents have announced they are going to hold a referendum on March 30 to determine the fate of the Ukrainian autonomous region.

On Saturday, Russia’s Federation Council unanimously approved President Putin’s request to send Russian military forces to Ukraine to ensure peace and order in the region “until the socio-political situation in the country is stabilized.” Putin has yet to make a decision on troops.

Crimea officials have denounced the self-proclaimed government in Kiev and declared that all Ukrainian law enforcement and military deployed in the peninsula must take orders from them. The majority of troops in Crimea switched sides in favor of the local authorities. Other regions of Ukraine have seen similar unrest, as thousands of people across eastern and southern Ukraine have flooded the streets of major cities, urging local authorities to disobey Kiev’s orders. - RT.


Putin Ignores U.S. Threats Of Isolation.
President Obama warned Russia on Monday of possible U.S. sanctions over its military land grab in Ukraine, but Moscow brushed aside international threats, tightening its stranglehold on Crimea and calling audaciously for a national unity government in Kiev.

In Washington, Mr. Obama said the world is “largely united” against Russia’s military action and he is considering economic and diplomatic steps that would gradually isolate Russia. He criticized the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin for being “on the wrong side of history.”

“What cannot be done is for Russia with impunity to put its soldiers on the ground and violate basic principles that are recognized around the world,” Mr. Obama said. “Over time, this will be a costly proposition for Russia.”


WATCH: Obama - "Russia on the wrong side of history.




But the U.S. and European Union floundered for solutions — while global markets panicked over the prospect of violent upheaval in the heart of Europe. Fears grew that the Kremlin might carry out more land grabs in pro-Russian eastern Ukraine, or elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, adding urgency to Western efforts to defuse the crisis.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry was heading to Kiev in an expression of support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, and the EU threatened a raft of punitive measures as it called an emergency summit on Ukraine for Thursday. In Congress, lawmakers prepared to move on an aid package for Ukraine.
But it was Russia that appeared to be driving the agenda.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in Geneva at the beginning of a U.N. Human Rights Council session that Ukraine should return to the Feb. 21 agreement signed by pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych — but not by Moscow — aimed at ending Ukraine’s governing crisis.

Mr. Yanukovych fled the country after sealing a pact with the domestic opposition — and with the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland — that called for early elections and the weakening of presidential powers.

“Instead of a promised national unity government,” Mr. Lavrov said, “a ‘government of the victors’ has been created.” He justified the Russian intervention in the Crimean peninsula as necessary for the protection of Russian citizens and ethnic Russians within Ukraine’s borders.

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, said Mr. Lavrov’s assertions were “without basis in reality.”

“What is happening today is a dangerous military intervention in Ukraine,” Ms. Power said. “It is an act of aggression. It must stop.”

The Pentagon said late Monday that it will suspend military exercises and other activities with Russia. Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said the U.S. military has “put on hold” all military-to-military engagements, including bilateral meetings, port visits and planning conferences.

Meanwhile, Ukraine claimed that Russian troops had issued an ultimatum for two Ukrainian warships to surrender or be seized — prompting Ukraine’s acting president to accuse Russia of piracy.

Four Russian navy ships in Sevastopol’s harbor were blocking Ukraine’s corvette Ternopil and the command ship Slavutych, Ukrainian authorities said. Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said commanders and crew were “ready to defend their ships. … They are defending Ukraine.”

Vladimir Anikin, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman in Moscow, dismissed the report of a Russian ultimatum as nonsense but refused to elaborate.

It was not clear what the West could do to make Russia back down. The clearest weapon at the disposal of the EU and U.S. appeared to be economic sanctions that would freeze Russian assets and pull the plug on multibillion-dollar deals with the Kremlin. Late Monday, the EU threatened to freeze visa liberalization and economic cooperation talks and boycott the Group of Eight summit in Russia if Moscow does not back down on the Crimean peninsula by Thursday’s summit. - Washington Post.



WAR DRUMS: After Agreeing With Russia Over Ukraine, China Deploys New Intermediate-Range Nuclear Missile - DF-26C Missile Is Capable Of Attacking U.S. Forces On Guam!

March 03, 2014 - GUAM - U.S. intelligence agencies recently confirmed China’s development of a new intermediate-range nuclear missile (IRBM) called the Dongfeng-26C (DF-26C), U.S. officials said.


Chinese Internet photos first published Feb. 29, 2012 show China's new DF-26c intermediate-range ballistic missile.

The new missile is estimated to have a range of at least 2,200 miles—enough for Chinese military forces to conduct attacks on U.S. military facilities in Guam, a major hub for the Pentagon’s shift of U.S. forces to Asia Pacific.

As part of the force posture changes, several thousand Marines now based in Okinawa will be moved to Guam as part of the Asia pivot.

In April, the Pentagon announced it is deploying one of its newest anti-missile systems, the Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) to Guam because of growing missile threats to the U.S. island, located in the South Pacific some 1,600 miles southeast of Japan and 4,000 miles from Hawaii.

And on Feb. 10, the Navy announced the deployment of a fourth nuclear attack submarine to Guam, the USS Topeka.

Chinese military officials said the Topeka deployment is part of the Pentagon’s Air Sea Battle Concept and posed a threat to China.

Disclosure of the new Chinese IRBM follows the announcement this week by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that the U.S. military is sharply reducing its military forces.

“How can [U.S. policymakers] possibly justify such reductions in defense spending when American forces as far away as Guam, Korea, and Okinawa are targeted by these nuclear missiles,” said one official familiar with reports of the DF-26C.

It was the first official confirmation of China’s new IRBM, which officials believe is part of the People’s Liberation Army military buildup aimed at controlling the Asia Pacific waters and preventing the U.S. military entry to the two island chains along China’s coasts.

The first island chain extends from Japan’s southern Ryuku Islands southward and east of the Philippines and covers the entire South China Sea. The second island chain stretches more than a thousand miles into the Pacific in an arc from Japan westward and south to western New Guinea.

Few details could be learned about the new missile and a Pentagon spokesman declined to comment, citing a policy of not commenting on intelligence matters.

The missile is said to be on a road-mobile chassis and to use solid fuel. The fuel and mobility allow the missile to be hidden in underground facilities and fired on short notice, making it very difficult to counter in a conflict.

The DF-26C is expected to be mentioned in the Pentagon’s forthcoming annual report on China’s military power, which is due to Congress next month.

Adm. Cecil Haney, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, told a congressional hearing this week that missile and other nuclear threats from China and Russia continue to grow.

“The current security environment is more complex, dynamic, and uncertain than at any time in recent history,” Haney said in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Advances of significant nation state and non-state military capabilities continue across all air, sea, land, and space domains—as well as in cyberspace. This trend has the potential to adversely impact strategic stability.”

Russia and China in particular “are investing in long-term and wide-ranging military modernization programs to include extensive modernization of their strategic capabilities,” Haney said. “Nuclear weapons ambitions and the proliferation of weapon and nuclear technologies continue, increasing risk that countries will resort to nuclear coercion in regional crises or nuclear use in future conflicts.”

Richard Fisher, a China military affairs specialist, said Chinese reports have discussed a DF-26 missile as a medium-range or intermediate-range system. Medium-range is considered between 621 miles and 1,864 miles. Intermediate-range is between 1,864 and 3,418 miles

Online reports of three new types of medium- and intermediate-range missiles have said the weapons could be multi-role systems capable of firing nuclear or conventional warheads, along with maneuvering anti-ship and hypersonic warheads, Fisher said.

According to Fisher, two likely transporter erector launchers (TEL) for the new missiles were displayed last year on Chinese websites. They include two versions from missile TEL manufacturing companies called Sanjiang and Taian.

Three years ago, the state-run Global Times reported that the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. (CASIC) was working on a new 2,400-mile range missile that would be deployed by 2015.

That Chinese manufacturer also produced the DF-21 missile, prompting speculation that the DF-26C is a follow-up version of that system.

“China is developing and will soon deploy new longer-range theater missiles as part of its anti-access, area denial strategies, to be part of a combined force of new long-range bombers armed with supersonic anti-ship missiles, plus space weapons and larger numbers of submarines,” Fisher said in an email.

These forces are being deployed to push U.S. forces out of the first island chain and to have the capability to reach the second chain, including Guam, he said.

“China also consistently refuses to consider formal dialogue about its future nuclear forces or to consider any near term limits on them,” Fisher said. “China is giving Washington and its Asian allies no other choice but to pursue an ‘armed peace’ in Asia.”

According to Fisher, the Chinese missile buildup has forced the Navy to redesign its first aircraft carrier-based unmanned combat vehicle into a larger and longer aircraft.

The new Chinese long-range missiles also highlight the urgent need for a new U.S. long-range bomber to replace an aging fleet of strategic bombers.

To counter the Chinese threats, the United States should field its force of anti-ship ballistic missiles on submarines to match Chinese capabilities and deter China from using its naval power against U.S. allies such as Japan and the Philippines, Fisher said.

Russian officials have cited China’s intermediate-range missiles as one reason Moscow is seeking to jettison the U.S.-Russia Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which bans medium and intermediate ballistic and cruise missiles.

U.S. officials have said Russia is violating the INF treaty with a new cruise missile and testing its long-range missiles to INF ranges.

“It is time to retire the INF treaty because the United States now requires this class of missiles in order to deter China,” Fisher said.

“The bottom line: We are in an arms race with China and if America falters, so will our strategic position in Asia, which will surely increase the chances of conflict, nuclear proliferation and even nuclear war.”

The Pentagon’s latest report on China’s military forces, published last year, said the PLA is investing in “a series of advanced short- and medium-range conventional ballistic missiles, land-attack and anti-ship cruise missiles, counter-space weapons, and military cyberspace capabilities.”

The weapons “appear designed to enable anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) missions, what PLA strategists refer to as ‘counter-intervention operations,’” the report said.

The Washington Free Beacon first reported on March 7, 2012, that the Chinese military had revealed online photos of a new intermediate-range nuclear missile.

The new missile is believed by U.S. officials to be the DF-26C.

China’s military frequently uses the Internet to reveal the first photos of new weapons systems.

Analysts said the missile TEL shown in the photo is smaller in size than China’s DF-31 intercontinental missile and larger than the DF-21 missile. - Free Beacon.



MAJOR ALERT: Safety Fears - Massive 65-Foot CRACK Is Discovered In A Washington Dam And "Construction Flaws" In Six Hanford Nuclear Waste Tanks In Washington State, 13 More May Be Compromised!

March 03, 2014 - WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES - A 65-foot-long crack in a Columbia River dam in central Washington has prompted officials to begin lowering the water level by 20 feet so inspectors can get a better idea of how serious the damage is.


A 65-foot-long crack in a Columbia River dam in central Washington has inspectors
investigating how serious the damage is.

There's no immediate threat to public safety from the crack in the Wanapum Dam, Grant County Public Utility District spokesman Thomas Stredwick said Friday. The dam is located just downstream from where Interstate 90 crosses the river.

'At this point we already know there's a serious problem,' Stredwick said. 'We want to make sure the spillway is stable enough that inspectors are safe when inspecting it.'

An engineer earlier this week spotted a slight "bowing" above the spillway gates near where cars can drive across the dam, The Seattle Times reported.

Divers found a 2-inch-wide crack along the base of one of the spillway piers.

Public utility district officials analyzed the divers' data and decided Friday that the failure risk was sufficiently high that they should notify other government agencies and downstream water users.

Officials have lowered the water level by 6 feet already and plan to let the level drop another 14 feet by Monday.


Safe: Officials said the crack currently poses no threat to local residents.

Electric: The dam can generate more than 1,000 megawatts of hydroelectric power.

Dam failure in the rural area south of the small town of Vantage would primarily affect farmers, fishermen and power generation.

The dam can generate more than 1,000 megawatts of hydroelectric power.

PUD officials are working with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to determine how best to repair the cracked pillar.

Repairs could also affect the rest of the Columbia River hydroelectric system.


WATCH:
Dam crack in Washington raises breach concerns.



'All these dams coordinate to generate energy on a regional scope,' Stredwick said. 'If Wanapum is impacted, that has impacts on dams upstream as well as below.'

Officials with the Bonneville Power Administration, the federal utility that sells and transmits much of the Northwest's cheap and abundant hydroelectric power, declined to comment on any potential impact to power generation, The Times reported.

Wanapum Dam was built in 1959 and is more than a mile long.

The piers supporting its 10 spillway gates are each 65 feet wide, 126 feet tall and 92 feet deep. - Daily Mail.


"Construction Flaws" In Six Hanford Nuclear Waste Tanks, 13 More May Be Compromised.


“Significant construction flaws” have been found in at least 6 of the 28 double shelled radioactive waste storage tanks at the Hanford nuclear waste complex in Washington State, which may lead to additional leaks, documents obtained by the AP say.

After one of the 28 huge underground double shelled tanks was found to be leaking in 2012, subsequent surveys performed for the US Department of Energy by one of its Hanford contractors found that at least six of the other tanks shared the same defects, according to the documents. A further 13 tanks may also be compromised, the inspectors found.

“It is time for the Department (of Energy) to stop hiding the ball and pretending that the situation at Hanford is being effectively managed," Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore, who until recently was chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, wrote Friday in a letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

According to him, the six double-walled tanks which have construction flaws similar to those at the leaking tank contain about 5 million gallons of radioactive wastes.

Wyden also criticized the Department of Energy for not mentioning the flaw in the double walled tanks in a September framework plan for a cleanup in Hanford.

“The citizens living along the banks of the Columbia River deserve to know the full story of what is happening with the Hanford tanks,” Wyden wrote. He also asked the Department of Energy to give him a response in 45 days.

Hanford is located on the Columbia River in Washington State near the border with Oregon and contains 53 million gallons of high-level nuclear waste from the production of plutonium for the US nuclear weapons program. It was built during World War Two as part of the Manhattan Project to build the nuclear bomb. There are some 177 underground storage tanks on the site, many of which date back to World War Two. These are single skinned and many have already leaked. The 28 double walled tanks were built as replacement between the 1960’s and 1980’s.

After the AP published its report, Senator Doc Hastings, R-Wash, released a statement saying there is “no new threat to our communities or our environment” and that “new storage tanks will never be a panacea” for the Hanford nuclear waste problem.

Energy Department officials in Richland near Hanford insisted that they are continuing to make thorough inspections of the tanks and that the frequency of inspections has been increased from five-seven years to every three years.

Tom Fletcher, the Department of Energy’s assistant manager to the tank farms, said his teams are now in the process of looking at the final eight double walled tanks that haven’t been inspected since the 2012 leak was discovered.

“If there are changes or improvements we need to make in the program, based on what we learn, to make sure we capture the risks that exist on the tank farms, we will make them,” Fletcher said.

Tom Carpenter from a citizen’s watchdog group called Hanford Challenge said he wasn’t surprised at the news of the leaking tanks.

“These tanks have an engineering design life, and we’re reaching the end. Its bad planning that they don’t have new tanks up and running,” he said.

“The price for cleaning up the environment once this stuff gets out is incalculable,” he added. - RT.



ICE AGE NOW: Major Cold Outbreak Challenge Long-Standing March Record Lows In The U.S. Midwest And East - Frigid Arctic Air Bring Unprecedented Plunge In Temperatures! [MAPS+STATS]

March 03, 2014 - UNITED STATES - The same frigid air that helped to push a snowstorm south Sunday to Monday may bring the lowest temperatures on record for March to parts of the Midwest and East.




In the wake of the storm over parts of the Plains and East, temperatures plunged 25 to 50 degrees in a few hours and reached the lowest levels ever recorded in March for some locations.

In Austin, Texas, the temperature on Sunday went from 72 degrees at 8:47 a.m. to 40 degrees at noon Central Time. In Houston, temperatures dropped from a Sunday afternoon high of 77 degrees to 28 degrees Monday morning.

Temperatures at Kansas City, Mo., plummeted to minus 3 F Monday morning, breaking the old all-time record low temperature for March of minus 1 F set in 1962.

After spending much of Sunday with temperatures in the 40s and 50s over the coastal mid-Atlantic, temperatures Monday morning had plummeted to the teens and lower 20s with snow. In 24 hours, Richmond, Va., went from 72 degrees with partial sunshine Sunday, to 22 degrees and windswept snow on Monday. The cold will not stop there.

On Tuesday morning, temperatures may rival record lows set in the 1800s in parts of the mid-Atlantic.


Record Lows to be Challenged Tuesday Morning



Many areas along the mid-Atlantic coast will start the day Tuesday in the single digits. Temperatures will dip to near or below zero over parts of the central Appalachians.

A moderating trend is forecast for much of the Central and Eastern states later this week.

According to Northeast Weather Expert Dave Dombek, "Tuesday will likely be the coldest morning from New York City to Washington, D.C., until next winter."

However, it will not mark the end of the colder-than-average weather.





Normal high temperatures for the middle of March are 46 degrees in Chicago, 50 in New York City and 56 in Washington, D.C.

There will be more days with high temperatures in the 40s and 50s compared to what has occurred in recent weeks in the Midwest and Northeast, and that will feel good to millions of people struggling with the cold and high heating bills this winter.

However, as normal temperatures trend upward through March, actual temperatures on a number of days will lag behind the normal trend by 5, 10 or more degrees in some cases. The higher-than-average demand for energy will continue into the spring. - AccuWeather.



FIRE IN THE SKY: Asteroid 2003 QQ47 Hurtles Into The Inner Solar System, Could Hit Earth On March 21, 2014 - The 1.2km Wide Space Rock Has A Mass Of 2.600 MILLION TONS; Scientists Warn Of A Possible Collision And Are "Carefully Monitoring"!

March 03, 2014 - SPACE - Scientists were today warning of a possible asteroid collision with the Earth.




An asteroid around two-thirds of a mile wide (1.2km) could hit the earth on March 21, 2014 and has been classified as "an event meriting careful monitoring" by astronomers.

But they say the probability of the asteroid hitting Earth is just 1 in 909,000 and the risk of impact is likely to decrease as they collect more information.

The newly-discovered asteroid, known as 2003 QQ47, has a mass of around 2,600 million tons (2,600 billion kg).

Its orbit calculations are currently based on just 51 observations during a seven-day period.

Dr Alan Fitzsimmons of Queen's University, Belfast, one of the expert team advising the UK NEO (Near Earth Objects) Information Centre, based in Leicester, said: "The NEO will be observable from Earth for the next two months, and astronomers will continue to track it over this period."

The giant rock was first observed on August 24 by Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research Program (LINEAR), based in Socorro, New Mexico.

The observations were reported to the Minor Planet Centre in Massachusetts, a centre for all new discoveries of asteroids and comets. The asteroid has been given a classification - known as a "Torino hazard rating" of one - defining it as "an event meriting careful monitoring."

Scientists said it was likely to drop down the scale for hazard as more observations were made.

Kevin Yates, project manager for the UK NEO Information Centre, said: "As additional observations are made over the coming months, and the uncertainties decrease, asteroid 2003 QQ47 is likely to drop down the Torino scale.

"The NEO Information Centre will continue to monitor the latest results of observations and publish regular updates on our website."

Asteroids such as 2003 QQ47 are chunks of rock left over from the formation of our solar system 4.5 billion years ago.

Most are kept at a safe distance from Earth in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

But the gravitational influence of giant planets such as Jupiter can nudge asteroids out of these safe orbits and send them plunging into the Earth's neighbourhood. - Daily Mail.



GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Pacaya Volcano Erupts In Guatemala - Spewing Ash And Vapor Over Two Miles Into the Air; Tourism Cancelled; Mass Evacuations; Alert Level Raised To Yellow! [PHOTOS+VIDEOS]

March 03, 2014 - GUATEMALA - Thousands of people could face evacuation in Guatemala after its most active volcano - and popular visitor attraction - erupted, shooting plumes of ash and vapor more than two miles into the air and spewing glowing-hot rocks.


Closed to tourists: This is Pacaya's second strong eruption this year and locals are on evacuation standby.

The Pacaya volcano, just 24 miles from the tourist town of Antigua and near the capital Guatemala City, erupted early on Sunday, sending an ash plume high into the sky.

Flights to the area have been cancelled and an amber alert has been issued, warning the 3,000 people who live nearby to be ready for evacuation.


WATCH: Pacaya volcano erupts in Guatemala.






Pacaya National Park director, Humberto Morales, said: 'We are assessing with the National Disaster Management Centre (Conred) whether we will need to evacuate the 3,000 people who live in the villages of El Rodeo and Patrocinio.

'Access to the areas around the volcano has been suspended.'

Pacaya is one of Guatemala's most active and picturesque volcanoes and is a popular visitor attraction.


Eruption: A column of ash rises from the Pacaya volcano. The latest eruptive phase of the volcano continues
at decreased strength. The second paroxysm of Pacaya this year, only about 6 weeks after the previous
one in January, started yesterday morning with lava fountains, associated ash emissions, as well
as a new lava flow that quickly reached about 2 km length.

Powerful: Ash was spewed 2.3 miles into the sky as Pacaya erupted over the weekend. The current seismic signal
suggests that activity continues at a decreasing trend. Images from later during yesterday showed that
lava fountaining and lava effusion had already decreased significantly after the first hours.

According to local news, a first increase in explosive activity at the summit vent of the Mackenney crater
occurred already on the evening of 1 March at 17:00 local time, followed by a loud explosion at 05h15 the
next morning, which opened a new vent between the old cone of Cerro Chino and the Mackenney
crater. Landsat image of the ash plume and lava flow of Pacaya's eruption yesterday
(Source: @rudigerescobar / Twitter)

The ash plume, about 120 km long, from Pacaya yesterday
(Source: @rudigerescobar / Twitter)

Standing at more than 8,000ft high, it has impressive views of the lagoon of Calderas and three neighbouring volcanoes, Agua, Fuego and Acatenango.

It is a popular day trip destination from Antigua, the pretty, colonial former capital of Guatemala, which has become a Mecca for adventure travellers.

Hiking and horseriding tours are normally available so that holidaymakers can visit the main cone of the volcano and see the most recent lava flows.

However, the area is currently closed to tourists.


A lava flow began to issue from this new vent and satellite images about 5 hours later showed that it reached
about 1 km length to the NW in that time. Image: Pacaya's ash plume yesterday seen from the NE
(Image: @MrVop / pic.twitter.com/zzhrQu0gkU)

An ash plume, well visible from Guatemala city and on satellite imagery, rose about 2 km above the volcano
and drifted more than 100 km to the west-southwest. Image: Light ash fall occurred in areas such
as Escuintla (22 km to the SW).  The lava flow yesterday (CONRED / facebook)

Authorities are evaluating the need to evacuate residents near the villages El Patrocinio and
El Rodeo on the SW foot of Pacaya. CONRED raised the civil alert level for the area to yellow. 
Image: Decreased explosive activity from the summit yesterday (CONRED / facebook)

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) warns: 'Take care if you are near any active volcano. Monitor local media and seek advice from your tour operator in case of possible travel disruption.

'Four of Guatemala’s volcanoes are currently active and the local authorities issue alerts in response to increased volcanic activity.'

The FCO also warns travellers that there is already a state of orange alert in place for Fuego volcano, near Pacaya.

Pacaya last erupted in January, sending lava flowing down one side of the volcano and leading to evacuations.

SOURCES: Daily Mail | Volcano Discovery.



FIRE IN THE SKY: Getting Closer And Closer - 30-Meters Large Asteroid 2014 DX110 To Come Within 0.9 Lunar Distances Of The Earth On March 5, 2014!

March 03, 2014 - SPACE - On March 5, 2014 at 21:07 UT, a 30-meters large asteroid 2014 DX110 will made a very close approach with the Earth.




The asteroid will reach a minimum distance of less than 350.000 km, which is 0.9 lunar distances from the Earth.

A very safe distance, but still, of very spectacular and potentially dangerous circumstance.

The asteroid has been assigned a condition code of 7 by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Solar System Dynamics. The condition code is an estimate of the orbital uncertainty, from 0-9, with 0 being good, and 9 being highly uncertain. Therefore, this asteroid deserves close monitoring. 


Near-Earth asteroid 2014 DX110: orbital position, on March 5, 2014.


For more on the asteroid's orbital elements, physical parameters and close-approach data, click HERE.

This is a developing story. I will update as soon as further information becomes available.



GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - Worst Day In A Month For The DOW, S&P As Sentiment Hit By Crisis In Ukraine!

March 03, 2014 - WALL STREET, UNITED STATES - U.S. stocks declined sharply on Monday, sliding along with other global equities, as worries about Russian intervention in the Ukraine has investors fleeing assets perceived as risky.




Ford Motor, General Motors and Toyota all reported U.S. sales fell in February, a month in which winter weather hit much of the country. Newmont Mining rose along with the price of gold.

Investors sought perceived safe havens on heightened concerns tensions involving Russia's threat to use military force in Ukraine, which mobilized its army and requested foreign observers. Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Kiev Monday after saying Russia risked possible sanctions.

"Certainly this might go on for a couple days, but ultimately what matters for stock prices is earnings. This might cause some near-term turbulence, but there is no reason to think this is the end of the rally," Dan Greenhaus, chief strategist at BTIG, told CNBC.

"The Crimean showdown has subsequently morphed investors' torment over demonstrations in Kiev to something on a potentially graver scale," Andrew Wilkinson, chief market analyst at Interactive Brokers, wrote in an emailed note.




Wall Street's focus on the Ukraine had investors overlooking a rebound in U.S. factory activity in February from an eight-month low, while consumer spending increased more than estimated the prior month.

After falling as much as 250 points, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 153.68 points, or 1 percent, to 16,168.03, with all 30 of its components finishing in the red.

After rallying to a record close on Friday, the S&P 500 on Monday fell 14.02 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,845.43, with technology pacing losses that extended to all 10 of its major sectors.

The Nasdaq lost 30.82 points, or 0.7 percent, to 4,277.30.

For every stock rising, two fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where almost 696 million shares traded. Composite volume neared 3.4 billion.

 On the New York Mercantile Exchange, gold futures for April delivery rose $28.70, or 2.2 percent, to $1,350.30 an ounce. Crude-oil futures for April delivery added $2.33, or 2.3 percent, to $104.92 a barrel.

The dollar gained against the currencies of major U.S. trading partners and the 10-year Treasury yield fell 5 basis points to 2.602 percent.

After pegging a slew of recent economic data that disappointed as related to the weather, investors on Monday bypassed better-than-forecast economic reports.


WATCH: Stocks sink on Ukraine fears.



The Institute for Supply Management reported on manufacturing activity in February, with the reading at a better-than-expected 53.2.

And, ahead of Wall Street's open, U.S. stock-index futures retained steep losses after figures from the Commerce Department had consumer spending rising more than projected in January, with household purchases up 0.4 percent after a minuscule 0.1 percent gain the prior month.

On Friday, U.S. stocks lost much of their gains, with the S&P 500 still managing a record close and equities posting a monthly gain. - CNBC.



WAR DRUMS: North Korea Fires More Short-Range Missiles Into The Sea Of Japan - "Calculated Provocation" Has South Korea On High Alert!

March 03, 2014 - NORTH KOREA - North Korea has test fired two short-range missiles off the east coast into the Sea of Japan, the South’s Yonhap news agency has reported.


File photo.

The test firing is the second in a series of launches that Seoul has denounced as a calculated provocation.

It followed a similar test firing of four short-range Scud missiles on Thursday — just days after South Korea and the United States launched their annual joint military exercises.

According to the South’s defence ministry, Thursday’s tests were of Scud-type missiles at the longer edge of the short-range spectrum, with an estimated reach of 300-800 kilometres — capable of striking any target in the South.

It is not unusual for North Korea to carry out such tests — especially to register its displeasure at the annual military drills — and they often go unreported by South Korea.

Washington had initially played down Thursday’s firings, but later suggested they violated UN sanctions imposed on the North’s missile program.

Two UN Security Council resolutions prohibit North Korea “from launching any ballistic missile, and this includes any Scud missile”, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren said on Friday.

The South’s defence ministry had called last week’s tests a “calculated, provocative act’’.

But they are unlikely to trigger a significant rise in military tensions, with observers suggesting they amount to little more than a display of North Korean frustration over the annual drills in the South.


WATCH: North Korea test-fires short-range missiles.




Pyongyang routinely condemns the joint exercises, which began last week and run until mid-April, as provocative rehearsals for invasion.

Last year, they coincided with a sharp and unusually protracted surge in cross-border tensions, that saw North Korea issuing apocalyptic threats of pre-emptive nuclear strikes.

By contrast, this year’s drills began as relations between Seoul and Pyongyang were enjoying something of a thaw.

They overlapped with the end of the first reunion for more than three years of families divided by the Korean War, an event that raised hopes of greater cross-border cooperation.

Pyongyang had initially insisted that the joint exercises be postponed until after the reunions finished. But Seoul refused and - in a rare concession - the North allowed the family gatherings on its territory to go ahead as scheduled.


On guard ... An army soldier works on an armoured vehicle during a military exercise in Yeoncheon, South Korea
near the border with North Korea on Friday. Picture: AP Photo/Ahn Young-join
Source: AP

Most analysts believe the missile tests reflect Pyongyang’s need to flex its muscles in the wake of the reunion compromise.

Last week also saw an incursion by a North Korean patrol boat across the disputed Yellow Sea border that has been the scene of brief but bloody naval clashes in the past.

No shots were fired and the vessel retreated to its side of the boundary after repeated warnings from the South Korean navy. - Herald Sun.



GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - War Worries Spark Sell-Off; Markets React To Heightened Tensions In Highly Volatile Ukraine; Country Is On The Brink Of Bankruptcy, Downgraded To Junk Status!

March 03, 2014 - GLOBAL ECONOMY - Markets have a lot to digest this morning; a geopolitical crisis in Ukraine, China’s PMI index beating expectations (which was a surprise) and the start of central bank week.




However, the biggest talking point is the developments out of Crimea.

The Ukrainian situation is a tinder box in the making; the geopolitical crisis from the Kiev revolution has escalated even further overnight, with the one-day old head of the Ukrainian navy defecting to the pro-Russian self-elected Prime Minister of Crimea. Kiev has reacted by charging the Admiral with treason. There are also reports that Russian troops are surrounding Ukrainian army bases in the region as the Sevastopol Bay sees Russian warships entering the mouth of the port and passing freely into the Russian navy base.

The market to watch is Brent, which has spiked each time more details of the situation emerge. The price of oil has risen a full dollar over the weekend, and it will be interesting to see how the markets behave once Asia sits down to digest the developments from the weekend.

Other markets to watch can be reviewed through history. The possible response to the Ukrainian developments are hard to quantify currently; however during the five-day war (Russo-Georgian War) in 2008, reactions in typical markets were mixed; gold actually contracted over the five days, oil traded sideways, but EUR/USD fell through the floor from $1.532 to $1.493 on the opening day and dropped for the preceding four.


WATCH: Ukraine on brink of bankruptcy, downgraded to junk status.

 


The major difference between the five-day war and the Crimea situations is the cultural and political divides are larger and more pronounced, with greater possibilities for flare ups and conflict over the longer term. On the opening of the currency markets this morning the EUR and the JPY are seeing increased activity as safety is bid up and geographical tensions hit risk.

The other part to this story will be the Russian side; inflation in Russia is over 6% and the likely reaction from the weekend’s development is for the US (and its allies) to cut funding to Russia, which will see the Ruble (RUB) come under real pressure. It will have a pronounced impact on the Russian economy as inflation flares up over the coming months.

US futures open at 10am AEDT; all eyes will be on these for how the rest of the full trading day that is March 3 will pan out. Expectations are that with a market that has made an intraday record high on Friday night will use a geopolitical crisis as an excuse to sell off and commodities fluctuate.

Ahead of the Australian open

Offsetting the geopolitical concerns from the weekend was China’s surprise with an official PMI print of 50.2. As mild as that is, the spreads in the CNY on Friday suggested the PBoC was looking for a contraction. Several major investment banks were communicating on Friday that the only player that could move the market the way it did was the PBoC and it suggested it was concerned a contraction was emanate. The open in Shanghai will be a major determinate of how the Australian market will trade in the afternoon.

It is also the start of central bank week; the RBA is in clear focus as we await the press statement once more having seen a breakdown of domestic conditions. How much emphasis is placed on the private expenditure numbers from last Thursday will be interesting. It was the worst forward read in 20 years, yet the market is full aware the RBA is not going to move on rates.

So the question becomes; how does the RBA keep the economy flowing if blunt monetary policy tools have been put but in the tool bag? The statement will be watched, with the most amount of interest around as to whether the bank holds the neutral call.

Based on Saturday’s close of the futures market we are currently calling the market up 17 points on the 10am bell (AEDT) to 5421, however the opening of the US futures will be what drives the first few hours of trade. The opening of China will then take over in the afternoon; the European futures will also be watched later today as a US press release at 8:00am AEDT stated that Russia has taken complete control of Crimea. - IG.




EXTREME WEATHER ANOMALIES: Spring One Day, Then Thundersleet The Next - Temperatures Plunge 60 DEGREES In Just 6 HOURS In Texas?!

March 03, 2014 - TEXAS, UNITED STATES - If there was ever any doubt Texas weather can turn on a dime, it was crushed under the weight of thundersleet today.




After two balmy days in the 80s, temperatures crashed Sunday into the 20s.  A precipitous drop with , yes, precipitation to go with it.

We’ve seen freezing rain and sleet on and off most of the day across North Texas, with some heavier pockets of thundersleet at times.  Thundersleet is basically a thunderstorm that produces sleet instead of rain…but it still has lightning & thunder associated with it.

Some locations have picked up over 1/2″ of sleet causing slick spots, mainly on bridges & overpasses.  Most of the icy precipitation will end by 7pm.  By the way, the last time the DFW Metroplex saw a WINTER STORM WARNING in March or later was March 6, 2008.  Collin County and areas just to the north and east saw a WINTER STORM WARNING on March 21, 2010.







The bitter cold is the other big story.  A WIND CHILL ADVISORY is in effect overnight until 8am Monday for “feels like” numbers in the -5 to 0 range!  That is dangerous cold and can lead to frostbite very quickly.  Actual temperatures will be in the teens at wake-up on Monday.

High temperatures Monday will stay below freezing for most of North Texas.  With many dry hours expected, a lot of the moisture will have a chance to evaporate or sublimate.

There is a slight chance of more possible wintry weather by Tuesday morning, but then a bigger warm-up by the end of the week.  There are signs of more cold air for next weekend though.  Remember, winter doesn’t officially end until March 19th, not that it matters it seems this year. - CBS Dallas.



WORLD WAR III: "The Biggest Crisis In Europe In The 21st Century - Europe's Peace At Risk As China Joins Russia "In Agreement" Over Ukraine; Russia Seizes Operational Control Of All Military Bases And Terminals In The Crimea Region; Ukraine Mobilizes For War; Obama And Cameron Proclaim Russia's Act Of Aggression As "Completely Unacceptable"!

March 03, 2014 - UKRAINE - Russia has said China is largely "in agreement" over the situation in Ukraine after the other G8 nations condemned its intrusion into the country.




Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed Ukraine by telephone with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, on Monday, and claimed they had "broadly coinciding points of view" on the situation there, according to a ministry statement.

Speaking at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, he said Russian troops were necessary in Ukraine "until the normalisation of the political situation".

 He added: "We call for a responsible approach, to put aside geopolitical calculations, and above all to put the interests of the Ukrainian people first."

As a tense stand-off continues between Russian and Ukrainian forces on the borders of Crimea, the other seven nations of the G8 urged Moscow to hold talks with Kiev.

Russian servicemen outside a Ukrainian
military unit in Perevalnoye, Crimea
"We, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States and the President of the European Council and President of the European Commission, join together today to condemn the Russian Federation's clear violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine," they said in a statement.

 "We have decided for the time being to suspend our participation in activities associated with the preparation of the scheduled G8 Summit in Sochi in June."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who is in Kiev for talks on the crisis, said Russia has taken operational control of Crimea and described its intervention in Ukraine as the biggest crisis in Europe in the 21st century.

Prime Minister David Cameron also tweeted he will chair a meeting of the National Security Council on the "British and international response to the grave situation in Ukraine".

Moscow's Stock Exchange dropped around 10% in the first hour of trading, and Russia's central bank responded by hiking its main interest rate in an emergency move to limit economic damage.

 The Bank Rossii raised its rate to 7% from 5.5% as the ruble hit an historic low against the dollar and the euro.

On Monday, it was trading at 51.20 rubles to the euro, with one dollar also worth around 37 rubles - the lowest ever value for the Russian currency beating even the financial crisis of 2008/9.

Hundreds of suspected Russian troops have surrounded a Ukrainian military base near Crimea's capital Simferopol, preventing soldiers from going in or out.


William Hague said the crisis was the biggest in Europe in the 21st century

The convoy blockading the site includes at least 17 military vehicles, which have Russian number plates.

Troops are also reported to have taken control of a ferry terminal in the city of Kerch, around 12 miles (19km) by boat from Russia on the eastern tip of the Crimea region.

 Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk indicated his country was mobilising for war following the move, saying in English: "This is not a threat: this is actually the declaration of war to my country."

Mr Yatseniuk heads a pro-Western government that took power in the former Soviet republic when its Moscow-backed president, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted last week.

Mr Cameron and US President Barack Obama spoke on Sunday evening and agreed Russia's actions were "completely unacceptable" - and that it would face "significant costs" if it did not change course on Ukraine.

The US announced Secretary of State John Kerry would visit Kiev on Tuesday to show "strong support for Ukrainian sovereignty".

Meanwhile, Ukraine launched a treason case against its new navy chief after he switched allegiance to the pro-Russian Crimea region.




Rear Admiral Denis Berezovsky was appointed head of Ukraine's navy on Saturday and the Kiev government was still claiming its Black Sea fleet remained loyal on Sunday afternoon.

Appearing before cameras in Sevastopol alongside Sergiy Aksyonov, the pro-Russian prime minister of Crimea's regional parliament, he said he had ordered Ukrainian naval forces there to disregard orders from "self-proclaimed" authorities in Kiev.

Despite the strong language employed by the US, a series of public statements and private conversations with reporters made it abundantly clear that Washington wanted to get Russian President Vladimir Putin to pull back without any armed confrontation.


An anti-war rally in the Ukrainian Black Sea city of Odessa

"Right now, I think we are focused on political, diplomatic and economic options," a senior US official told reporters.

"Frankly our goal is to uphold the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, not to have a military escalation."

Mr Kerry had previously accused Russia of an "incredible act of aggression", saying: "You just don't in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped-up pretext."

It came after Mr Putin secured permission from his parliament on Saturday to use military force to protect Russian citizens in Ukraine and told Mr Obama he had the right to defend Russian interests and nationals, spurning Western pleas not to intervene. - SKY News.



ICE AGE NOW: Monster Cold Outbreak In The United States - Major Snowstorm For Mid-Atlantic And Northeast States; Plunging Cold Temperatures Will Produce Treacherous Ice And Substantial Snowfall Exceed A Foot; Travel Disruptions And Cancellations Are Expected; Thousands Already Without Power After "Incredible" Accumulation Of Sleet And Freezing Rain!

March 03, 2014 - UNITED STATES - A far-reaching winter storm with substantial snow and ice will continue to track through the mid-Atlantic on Monday.




This will remain a complex winter storm with plunging temperatures setting the stage for treacherous ice and substantial snow. In some cases, the ice and snow are following a period of rain and even violent thunderstorms.

Fresh arctic air pouring into the Northeast will spare places from I-80 northward in the Northeast from the snowstorm. At most, an inch or so will graze the New York City area. Southern New England should escape with very little, if any, snow.

AccuWeather.com meteorologists have determined that the heaviest snow will instead focus on the mid-Atlantic from the mountains of West Virginia to northern and central Virginia and southern New Jersey through Monday.

Washington, D.C., Harrisonburg, Va., Baltimore, Dover, Del., and Atlantic City, N.J., are bracing for substantial snowfall that will total 6 to 12 inches. Some places will even have amounts top a foot.

Snowfall rates at the height of the storm may reach 2 inches per hour, causing the snow to quickly clog major interstates.




Commuters will face extremely treacherous travel, along with lengthy flight delays and cancellations on Monday. Residents will be dealing with more disruptions to daily routines and school cancellations.

The snowstorm comes after temperatures surged into the 40s and 50s across much of the mid-Atlantic on Sunday. Any wet roads or sidewalks will rapidly freeze on Monday morning as colder air arrives and the rain transitions to a period of ice, then the heavy snow.

Evident by the icy conditions that unfolded around Dallas on Sunday morning, arctic air is having no trouble pressing farther south than previously anticipated, and AccuWeather.com is concerned for rain changing to a glaze of ice as far south as Charlotte, N.C., later on Monday.

Bridges and overpasses would be the first to turn icy, and snowflakes could even bring the ice to an end in Raleigh, N.C.

This storm system has been responsible for dropping heavy amounts of sleet from Texas into the Tennessee Valley. An incredible 6 inches of sleet was reported in Huntingdon, Tenn., with 4- to 6-inch amounts of sleet common across northwestern Tennessee.

Freezing rain left thousands of customers without power in Arkansas as of early Monday morning, and also left a glaze of ice around Nashville. The combination of sleet and freezing rain made roads very slippery in much of Kentucky, with crashes closing a portion of Interstate 75 south of Lexington on Sunday evening. - AccuWeather.