Thursday, March 13, 2014

PLANETARY TREMORS: The Cascadia Subduction Zone - A Potent Threat Of Major Earthquake Off California's Northern Coast!

March 13, 2014 - CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - If a 9.0 earthquake were to strike along California's sparsely populated North Coast, it would have a catastrophic ripple effect.

A giant tsunami created by the quake would wash away coastal towns, destroy U.S. 101 and cause $70 billion in damage over a large swath of the Pacific coast. More than 100 bridges would be lost, power lines toppled and coastal towns isolated. Residents would have as few as 15 minutes notice to flee to higher ground, and as many as 10,000 would perish.

Scientists last year published this grim scenario for a massive rupture along the Cascadia fault system, which runs 700 miles off shore from Northern California to Vancouver Island.

The Cascadia subduction zone is less known than the San Andreas fault, which scientists have long predicted will produce The Big One. But in recent years, scientists have come to believe that the Cascadia is far more dangerous than originally believed and have been giving the system more attention.

The Cascadia begins at a geologically treacherous area where three tectonic plates are pushing against each other. The intersection has produced the two largest earthquakes in California in the last decade — Sunday's 6.8 temblor off Eureka and a 7.2 quake off Crescent City in 2005. The area has produced six quakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater in the last 100 years, the California Geological Survey said.

A man rides his bicycle in 2004 in Crescent City, where a 1964 earthquake spawned a deadly tsunami.
(Matthew Crawford / For The Times)

Officials in Northern California as well as Oregon and Washington are beginning to address the dangers.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tsunami researchers are testing a new generation of tsunami detectors off the Oregon coast, which could provide earlier warnings about the incoming wave's size.

During the 2011 Japan tsunami, some of the first detailed alerts underestimated the size of the tsunami to be lower than the sea walls — and then communications were cut off.

"So some people had a false sense of security," said Vasily Titov, director of NOAA's Center for Tsunami Research. "You want to have this information as accurate as possible."

Installing tsunami sensors on the deep ocean floor would provide better information on the tsunami's size in as little as five minutes. It now takes about half an hour.

Titov said two underwater test sensors off the Oregon coast seemed to perform well in Sunday's earthquake, though the quake did not produce a tsunami.

In Grays Harbor County in Washington state, crews will begin building an elementary school gym this summer to double as a "vertical evacuation center" — built so that 1,000 people can flee to the roof during a tsunami, protected by a high wall.

"We have no natural high ground," said Ocosta School District Supt. Paula Akerlund. "So we have to evacuate vertically."

Washington state and federal officials have also been discussing building about 50 "tsunami safe havens," such as artificial hills that could hold as many as 800 people.

The 2011 Japan tsunami as well as other natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina have fueled efforts to better prepare for a major quake on the Cascadia fault.

"Katrina was a worst case scenario for hurricanes in the gulf. And a Cascadia would be the worst case scenario for tsunamis on the West Coast," said Paul Whitmore, director of the National Tsunami Warning Center in Alaska.

For years, scientists believed the largest earthquake the area could produce was magnitude 7.5. But scientists now say the Cascadia was the site of a magnitude 9 earthquake more than 300 years ago.

Ripping over a fault that stretches in the Pacific Ocean from the coast of Vancouver Island to Cape Mendocino, the quake on the evening of Jan. 26, 1700, was so powerful, entire sections of the Pacific coastline dropped by as much as 5 feet, allowing the ocean to rush in and leave behind dead trees by the shore. - LA Times.

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; Drops Over 200 Points!

March 13, 2014 - GLOBAL ECONOMY - U.S. stocks declined on Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping over 200 points, as worries mounted about China's economy and escalating tensions in Ukraine.

"The New York Times broke a story that Russian forces were conducting new military operations near the Ukrainian border. That news probably triggered the hard downside move in the averages, which had already given back a good part of the opening rally," Elliot Spar, market strategist at Stifel, Nicolaus, wrote in afternoon commentary.

And, Reuters cited banking and industry sources in reporting increasing concerns about the financial health of bloated industries in China have caused many banks to reduce lending in these sectors up to 20 percent.

Alan Skrainka, chief investment officer at Cornerstone Wealth Management, pointed to a chart making the email rounds showing the correlation between NYSE margin debt and the S&P, with margin debt exceeding its 2007 peak.

"It has people a little shook up; there's speculative froth in the market that needs to be worked out," said Skrainka, who added the source for the chart was Jeffrey Gundlach, the founder of Doubleline Capital.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), a measure of investor uncertainty, gained 12 percent to 16.18.

"Since the beginning of March, the action has been poor all around. We're in a bit of a vacuum, and will probably have to wait until earnings season to get a boost," said Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG.

Ever since the spike in late February, the market has been trending lower. "I'm not sure there's any theme to that, we're just in a general malaise, after a pretty good recovery from the EM (emerging market) action," Greenhaus added.

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts jumped after hiking its yearly outlook. Williams-Sonoma gained after the seller of upscale cookware and home furnishings projected 2014 sales above expectations. Dollar General dropped after the discount retailer posted lower-than-expected sales for the holiday quarter. rose after the online retailer hiked the cost of its Prime membership. Goldman Sachs Group fell 1.7 percent after S&P Capital IQ downgraded its shares to sell from buy.

After a 64-point rise, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell as much as 255 points, and shed 1.4 percent. Pfizer led declines that included all but Procter & Gamble of the blue-chip index's 30 components.

After coming within four points from its record close, the S&P 500 shed 1.2 percent, with technology falling hardest and utilities the sole sector on the rise among its 10 major sectors.

The Nasdaq declined 1.5 percent.

For every stock rising, nearly three fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where 453 million shares traded as of 3:30 p.m. Eastern. Composite volume approached 2.9 billion.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, gold futures for April delivery rose $1.90, or 0.1 percent, to $1,372.40 an ounce; crude-oil futures for April delivery rose 21 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $98.20 a barrel.

The dollar gained against the currencies of major U.S. trading partners and the 10-year Treasury yield used in figuring mortgage rates and other consumer loans fell 9 basis points to 2.644 percent.

In Washington Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told a Senate panel told the U.S. and Europe would take "very serious" action after the vote this weekend on whether Crimea would leave Ukraine if there is "no sign" that the crisis would be resolved.

Also on Capitol Hill, Stanley Fischer, nominated to serve as vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, told the Senate Banking Committee the central bank has to conform to to market responses as it reduces stimulus

Ahead of the open, stock-index futures added to gains after the Commerce Department reported retail sales gained 0.3 percent in February after a 0.6 percent decline the prior month, with the latter figure bigger than initially estimated.

"Retail sales in February were a touch better-than-expected but January was revised lower by a greater amount, so taken together, a bit softer than forecast," emailed Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at the Lindsey Group.

Another report, this one from the Labor Department, had applications for jobless benefits unexpectedly declining last week, by 9,000 to 315,000.

The retail-sales report was "a good indication that the economy is beginning to rebound from the winter chill," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital.

And, the claims report is "another indication that the labor market is healing and should expand. We should see creation of new jobs move above 200,000 to about 250,000 on a monthly basis," Cardillo said.

A third economic report Thursday had business inventories rising 0.4 percent in January, in line with expectations.
U.S. stocks were little changed on Wednesday, but the Nasdaq Composite derailed a four-session losing streak, as investors mulled the economic climate and tracked events in Ukraine. - CNBC.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong Magnitude 6.3 Earthquake Strikes Off South Japanese Island Of Kyushu - No Tsunami Threat! [MAPS+ESTIMATES]

March 13, 2014 - JAPAN - A 6.3 magnitude earthquake has struck off the south coast of Japan, 13 kilometers north of the city Kunisaki-shi, located on the southern Kyushu Island, according to the US Geological Survey.

USGS earthquake location map.

USGS earthquake shakemap intensity map.

The epicenter fell at a depth of 82.9km, striking off the coast at the intersection between Kyushu, the main island of Honshu, and Shikoku, at 2:06 a.m. on Friday (1706 GMT on Thursday).

A 6.3 earthquake is capable of causing ‘serious damage’, according to the USGS, while earthquakes measuring between 6.0 and 6.9 on the Richter scale can be felt up to hundreds of kilometers from the epicenter.

USGS earthquake uncertainty ratio map.

USGS earthquake population exposure map.

The quake struck 36 km south-south-west of the city of Hikari, western Honshu, which has a population of over 50,000 people.

No reports of damage or casualties have immediately followed. The USGS has released a pager ‘green’ alert, meaning that “there is a low likelihood of casualties and damage.”

While there have been local TV reports of fire in Shunan city, on the east coast of Honshu, they state that it is not dangerous. The Shimane Nuclear Power Plant, located some 250 kilometers northeast of Shunan also confirmed that there have been no abnormalities caused by the quake. No tsunami warning has been issued.

USGS earthquake estimates and losses map.

USGS earthquake estimates and losses map.

The earthquake struck shortly after the third anniversary of the Fukishima nuclear disaster, when a quake measuring a staggering 9 on the Richter scale struck Miyagi prefecture, causing a series of tsunamis that spawned deadly, 20-30-meter waves, sparking the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, claiming 16,000 lives and making a further 2,600 disappear without a trace. - RT.

Tectonic Summary - Seismotectonics of Japan and Vicinity
Japan and the surrounding islands straddle four major tectonic plates: Pacific plate; North America plate; Eurasia plate; and Philippine Sea plate. The Pacific plate is subducted into the mantle, beneath Hokkaido and northern Honshu, along the eastern margin of the Okhotsk microplate, a proposed subdivision of the North America plate. Farther south, the Pacific plate is subducted beneath volcanic islands along the eastern margin of the Philippine Sea plate. This 2,200 km-long zone of subduction of the Pacific plate is responsible for the creation of the deep offshore Ogasawara and Japan trenches as well as parallel chains of islands and volcanoes, typical of Circumpacific island arcs. Similarly, the Philippine Sea plate is itself subducting under the Eurasia plate along a zone, extending from Taiwan to southern Honshu that comprises the Ryukyu Islands and the Nansei-Shoto trench.

USGS plate tectonics for the region.

Subduction zones at the Japanese island arcs are geologically complex and produce numerous earthquakes from multiple sources. Deformation of the overriding plates generates shallow crustal earthquakes, whereas slip at the interface of the plates generates interplate earthquakes that extend from near the base of the trench to depths of 40 to 60 km. At greater depths, Japanese arc earthquakes occur within the subducting Pacific and Philippine Sea plates and can reach depths of nearly 700 km. Since 1900, three great earthquakes occurred off Japan and three north of Hokkaido. They are the M8.4 1933 Sanriku-oki earthquake, the M8.3 2003 Tokachi-oki earthquake, the M9.0 2011 Tohoku earthquake, the M8.4 1958 Etorofu earthquake, the M8.5 1963 Kuril earthquake, and the M8.3 1994 Shikotan earthquake. - USGS.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Latest Incidents Of Fireballs Over The Earth - Fireball Leaves Spectacular Trail Over Gloucester, England; Massive Fireball Captured On Hundreds Of Cameras Across Korea; Emergency Services Called After Reports Of "Fireball In The Skies" Over The UK; Second Large Meteorite Found Following Massive Fireball Over Korea; And Massive Fireball Lights Up Early Morning Skies Over Northern England And Southern Scotland!

March 13, 2014 - SPACE - The following constitutes the latest incidents of meteor fireballs seen in the skies over the Earth:

Fireball Leaves Spectacular Trail Over Gloucester, England.
Sarah-Jane Stanley

Mystery objects have been seen high in the sky above Gloucester to put UFO spotters in the area on high alert.

Hucclecote mum Sarah-Jane Stanley was out walking in Churchdown on Sunday evening when she caught sight of a mysterious object plummeting towards earth.

Sarah quickly grabbed her camera to record the moment.

She said: "I didn't think anything of it and took the photo as a general sunset picture. Then my 11-year-old daughter and I realized it was moving.

"I looked through my camera lens on full zoom and it appeared to have something at the tip of it and it was clearly visible on a downward descent. The object is spinning and glowing.

Sarah-Jane Stanley

Sarah-Jane Stanley

Sarah-Jane Stanley

"I took around 15 clear photos in all, with some exactly a minute apart, and you can see how fast it is traveling by the distance it falls on each picture.

"On one of the pictures, there appear to be two tails coming from whatever it is. Crazy although it sounds, it seems to be shaped like a claw and there is something glowing on it.

"I sent the larger photos to the Met Office as I wondered if it was something weather related. They came back to me and said their forecasters say it is not a weather phenomenon and looks like something entering the Earth's atmosphere.

"They suggested I contact the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, which I have and am waiting to hear back from."

Did you see the mysterious object falling from the sky? - Gloucester Citizen.

Massive Fireball Captured On Hundreds Of Cameras Across Korea.
A shining object (in circle) is captured by an in-car camera system in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province on Sunday.
News 1

A bright shining object in the skies captivated observers in Suwon on Sunday night. Experts say it was probably a shooting star.

The object blazed across the night sky for some moments before crashing to earth.

A black rock presumed to be part of a meteorite is stuck in the soil in a greenhouse
in Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province. Newsis

Several videos capturing the scene from in-car systems were posted on social networking sites.

On Monday morning, a black rock measuring 25 by 50 cm and presumed to be part of a meteorite was found in a greenhouse in Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province.

Reports from eyewitnesses:

9 March 2014 - Justin Solomon, Osan AB, Seoul, South Korea, 8:45pm

15 seconds duration. Moving in a south-easterly direction. Green in color, as bright as a full moon. No fragmentation, but it looked wicked!

9 March 2014 - Kellee Hayang, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea, 10:04pm

10-15 seconds duration. Northwest to Southeast direction, I was facing East. White fireball with immediately orange tail and which was green at the end. Upon entering Earth's atmosphere it created a brilliant light over the town, lighting up the night sky. It started off as a tiny, white light, and as it closer it got bigger and brighter and was pure, white light. It remained intact until it burnt out, from what I could see. It appeared to get reasonably close to crashing to the ground. I was observing from the 3rd floor of an apartment building and had it not burnt out, it was within a second of dropping out of view due to a four-story apartment across the road in front of me. It was traveling at extremely high.

WATCH:  Fireball over Korea.


SOURCES: Chosun | Lunar Meteorite Hunters.

Emergency Services Called After Reports Of "Fireball In The Sky" Over The UK.
Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service and Norfolk Police were
called just after 2pm with reports of the sighting from
a driver on the A1065.  EADT24, UK
Emergency services have been called to the Thetford area after a member of the public reported seeing a "fireball" in the sky which then crashed to the ground.

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service and Norfolk Police were called just after 2pm with reports of the sighting from a driver on the A1065.

Sam Beazley, 23, from Norfolk, said he and his mother, Jill Payne, had seen the object in the sky at around 1.45pm in between Mundford and Thetford as they travelled southbound towards the Fiveways roundabout.

"I was asleep and my mum woke me up to point out this object on fire to the left of us over Thetford Forest.

"At first she thought it must have been a flare but it was far too large and was actually changing direction in the sky, rather than just falling. It looked like it might have been being controlled somehow.

"We lost sight of it when it went below the treeline - it was just bizarre," he said.

Mr Beazley said the object was around a quarter of a mile from the road in the direction of Thetford from Mundford.

It was in the sky for around two minutes, according to Mr Beazley.

A fire crew from Thetford was mobilised to the scene but was unable to find anything, according to a fire service spokesman. The incident has been reported as a false alarm as of 2.45pm.

Mr Beazley also reported the incident to RAF Lakenheath.

A USAF spokesman said he was not aware of any incident involving base aircraft at this point.

A spokesman for Ministry of Defence said it had not received any reports of an incident from the Stanford Training Area (STANTA) in Thetford Forest. - EADT.

Second Large Meteorite Found Following Massive Fireball Over Korea.
Reporters gather around a piece of a meteorite, which according to local authorities and scientists, was lifted from the bottom of the Chebarkul Lake, placed on display in a local museum in Chelyabinsk, October 18, 2013. Reuters
South Korean media outlets are abuzz this week with the news of the discovery of a possible meteorite, likening the rock to a jackpot worth millions of dollars.

Scientists on Tuesday told the national media the rock found a day earlier in provincial city of Jinju, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) southeast of Seoul, is likely to be a meteorite, assuming it wasn't placed there.

The condition of the surroundings, a vegetable farm on relatively flat land, meant the 9.5-kilogram (20.9-pound) rock was unlikely to have fallen from somewhere nearby, they said. They added that the rock's surface had signs of burning, which takes place when an space object enters the atmosphere.

On Wednesday, national media reported another rock half the size showed up just a few miles away from the original discovery site. These reports follow multiple sightings of a shooting star in Suwon, a suburb south of Seoul.

Following the initial reports of the first rock, the national media have begun speculating on its value, noting that very rare meteorites are sold for dozens of dollars per gram.

The space rock trade isn't common in South Korea outside academic circles but collectors worldwide buy and sell meteorites.

Lee Jong-ik, a geologist at the Korea Polar Research Institute and lead researcher in the ongoing analysis, on Wednesday said it's too early to give a precise estimate of the value of the rock, which depends on the rarity of its composition.

Heightened interest in the rock's value is partly due to the Sochi Winter Olympics, where the organizers awarded medals containing a piece of a meteorite on Feb. 15. Athletes received the medals to commemorate a February 2013 asteroid explosion above the Russian province of Chelyabinsk Oblast.

A file picture taken on February 15, 2013, shows a meteorite trail seen above a residential apartment block
in the Urals city of Chelyabinsk. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The Chelyabinsk explosion is also known for producing the largest meteorite fragment on record, weighing about 650 kilograms and found in a lake in October in the Urals. - WSJ.

Massive Fireball Lights Up Early Morning Skies Over Northern England And Southern Scotland.
Lunar Meteorite Hunters / Google Earth

12 March 2014 - Rob Davis, Prestwick, Scotland, 6:13am
2-3 seconds duration. I was facing Southwest, it traveled down steeply from high to my right towards the middle of my view. It was a large green body with a white trail. Very bright, same as a marine flare, but moving much faster. The sky was already bright and clear, with Venus clearly visible in the dawn sky. The meteor was distinctly bright green, much brighter than any other sky object at that time.
12 March 2014 - Dave Wilson, Portpatrick, 6:15:00
1 second duration. East-southeast direction, electric arc blue colour. It was as bright as the moon.
12 March 2014 - Scully, Wigan 6.13am
5 seconds duration. North/west direction. Brilliant white, as bright as Venus. Fragmenting around the edges.
12 March 2014 - Gus, Manchester, 6:10:00
1 second duration. Straight down, in a Northwest direction. Bright white ball of fire. As bright as the Sun, with a slight trail.
12 March 2014 - Emma Holmes, Chapel, Cheshire, UK, 6.10am
Approx. 2 seconds duration. I was facing Northwest and it was travelling in the same direction. White colour, bright white.
12 March 2014 - Mr Geraint Williams, Llandudno, Conwy, UK, 06.10am
5-10 seconds duration. Straight down. I was facing southwest. Green/white colour. As bright as Venus.
- Lunar Meteorite Hunters.

SOLAR WATCH: Almost X-Flare - The Sun Erupts With Major M9.3 Solar Flare And Caused Waves Of Ionization To Ripple Through Earth's Upper Atmosphere! [PHOTOS+VIDEO]

March 13, 2014 - SUN - Departing sunspot AR1996 erupted on March 12th at 2234 UT, producing an M9-category blast that almost crossed into X-territory. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the extreme ultra-violet flash:

Sunspot 1996 produced an impulsive M9.3 solar flare peaking at 22:34 UTC. Rapid releases of energy
are not generally known to produce large coronal mass ejections.  Imagery by SDO/EVE.

A very impulsive solar flare measuring M9.3 was just observed at 22:34 UTC.

UV radiation from the flare caused waves of ionization to ripple through Earth's upper atmosphere, but they quickly subsided. Otherwise the flare was not geoeffective. The sunspot's location near the sun's eastern limb mitigated any Earth effects.

WATCH:  Major M9.3 Solar Flare - March 12, 2014.


WARNING: Geomagnetic K-index of 5 expected
Valid From: 2014 Mar 13 0105 UTC
Valid To: 2014 Mar 13 0700 UTC
Warning Condition: Onset
NOAA Scale: G1 - Minor

Potential Impacts: Area of impact primarily poleward of 60 degrees Geomagnetic Latitude.
Induced Currents - Weak power grid fluctuations can occur.
Spacecraft - Minor impact on satellite operations possible.
Aurora - Aurora may be visible at high latitudes, i.e., northern tier of the U.S. such as northern Michigan and Maine.

The Bz component of the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) is currently tipped south.
Sky watchers at high latitudes should be alert for visible aurora this evening.

A brief period of minor G1 level geomagnetic storming was observed last night at high latitudes during a prolonged period of southward Bz. Conditions have since returned to more quieter levels.

The next flare could have a greater influence on our planet. Sunspot AR2002 is directly facing Earth, and it has a 'beta-gamma-delta' magnetic field that harbors energy for strong explosions. NOAA forecasters estimate an 80% chance of M-class flares and a 15% chance of X-flares on March 13th.

Solar activity reached high levels during the past 24 hours. The strongest event was an impulsive M9.3 solar
flare observed around sunspot 1996 at 22:34 UTC. The event did not generate a noteworthy CME. The active
region continues to rotate behind the west limb and out of direct Earth view. All other visible regions, including
sunspots 2002 and 2003 remain stable for now. A couple of small trailing spots behind region 2005 near the
northeast limb are now coming into view but appear to be rather insignificant. There will remain
a chance for an isolated moderate solar flare during the next 24 hours.

AURORA SURPRISE: Observers around the Arctic Circle were surprised last night when the skies overhead erupted in swirls of verdant color. Rayann Elzein sends this picture from Inari in the Finnish Lapland:

The unexpected storm, a relatively minor G1-class event, was caused by a fluctuation in the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF). As March 12th turned to 13th, the IMF tilted south, opening a crack in Earth's magnetosphere. Solar wind poured in and fueled the display. 

SOURCES: Space Weather | Solar Ham.

WORLD WAR III: Russia Prepping For "Full-Scale Invasion," Ukraine Says - G7 Warns "Annexation Of Crimea" Breaks International Pacts!

March 13, 2014 - UKRAINE - Ukraine accused Russia of preparing for a “full-scale invasion” on Wednesday, as the G7 nations warned Moscow that the “annexation of Crimea” would break international agreements.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting on economic issues at the Bocharov Ruchei
residence in Sochi on March 12, 2014. Michael Klimentyev/AFP/Getty Images

“In addition to its impact on the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea could have grave implications for the legal order that protects the unity and sovereignty of all states,” a statement from the G7 countries says. “Should the Russian Federation take such a step, we will take further action, individually and collectively.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper reinforced the message during an address to a business group in Vancouver later in the day.

“All of the G7 countries remain collectively, strongly committed to the view that we will not accept Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea,” he said after returning from Seoul where he had just announced a new free trade deal with South Korea.

The G7 said a Russian takeover of Crimea would violate a number of international agreements and urged Russia to withdraw its troops and offered to mediate talks between Moscow and the Ukrainian government.

Meanwhile, Ukraine and Russia traded barbs Wednesday as Kyiv accused Moscow of conducting a large buildup of troops near their border that raises the threat of an invasion, but Moscow denied that.

Andriy Parubiy, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, told reporters in Kyiv that Russia has deployed more than 80,000 troops, up to 270 tanks and 140 combat planes close to the border, creating the “threat of a full-scale invasion from various directions.”

Parubiy said Russian troops are based in the immediate vicinity of the Ukrainian border, some of them as close as a two- or three-hour drive from Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.

In Moscow, Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov denied a military buildup on the nearly 2,000-kilometre border.

He also said Moscow has accepted a request that Ukraine had made Tuesday to conduct a surveillance flight over the Russian territory under the Open Skies treaty, which was designed to build confidence.

Antonov said that while Russia was not obliged to allow such a flight, it decided to issue permission for one so that Ukraine can see for itself that “Russian armed forces aren’t conducting any military activities near the border of Ukraine that could threaten its security.”

People talk about developments in Ukraine at a central square next to a statue of Soviet revolutionary leader
Vladimir Lenin in Donetsk, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 12, 2014. AP Photo/Sergei Grits

A pro-Russian soldier stands outside the Ukrainian infantry base in Perevalne, Ukraine,
Wednesday, March 12, 2014.  AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda

Seamen stand aboard the Turbinist Russian navy minesweeper at the harbour of Sevastopol on March 10, 2014.

Russian forces have secured control over Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, and President Vladimir Putin has said Moscow is ready to “use all means” to protect Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine.

The Kremlin-controlled parliament has granted Putin permission to use the Russian military in Ukraine.

Parubiy said Russia could try to stage the seizure of government buildings in the eastern regions of Ukraine, followed by demands for a referendum there. He said that such plans have been thwarted, thanks to efforts of Ukrainian law enforcement agencies.

Parubiy added that Ukrainian authorities have denied 3,700 Russian citizens permission to enter Ukraine because they were suspected of being involved in extremism and sabotage.

Crimea, where Russia maintains its Black Sea Fleet base, became the epicentre of tensions in Ukraine after President Viktor Yanukovych fled last month following months of protests.

Parubiy said 399 people already have registered as refugees from Crimea, where the regional legislature will hold a referendum on Sunday asking its citizens if they want to become part of Russia. Ukraine’s government and Western nations have denounced the referendum as illegitimate and warned Russia against trying to annex Crimea.

The G7, which includes some of the world’s top economies, said a Russian-backed referendum on the status of the Black Sea peninsula would have no legal effect.

The statement also said the referendum process is flawed by its rushed nature and the deployment of Russians troops in the Crimea.

“We call on the Russian Federation to immediately halt actions supporting a referendum on the territory of Crimea regarding its status, in direct violation of the Constitution of Ukraine,” it says.

“Any such referendum would have no legal effect. Given the lack of adequate preparation and the intimidating presence of Russian troops, it would also be a deeply flawed process which would have no moral force. For all these reasons, we would not recognize the outcome.”

The G7 countries — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States — were joined in the statement by the president of the European Council and the president of the European Commission.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk planned to meet with President Barack Obama in Washington on Wednesday. Yatsenyuk has asked the West to defend Ukraine against Russia, calling it a country that is “armed to the teeth and that has nuclear weapons.”

NATO on Wednesday deployed two surveillance aircraft to monitor Ukraine’s air space and Black Sea ship movements as Russia consolidated its military buildup in Crimea.

NATO headquarters spokesman Lt. Col. Jay Janzen said one Boeing E-3 Sentry aircraft based in England would observe Russian air and sea movements from Polish air space, while the other based in Germany would fly over Romania. Both Poland and Romania are NATO members and border Ukraine, and Romania’s Black Sea coast is only about 220 kilometres from the Crimean Peninsula.

Also on Wednesday, a Pentagon spokesman, Army Col. Steve Warren, said the U.S. is sending 12 F-16 fighter jets to Poland to augment the air force detachment there. He said there is no scheduled departure date for the fighter jets and they will be there “until further notice.”

Last week, the Pentagon sent six F-15 fighter jets to Lithuania to bolster air patrols over the Baltics, adding to the four such planes that previously had been there for the mission.

A sailor hoists the Ukrainian flag on the naval ship Ternopil in Sevastopol bay on March 12, 2014. 

People fish on a pier as a Russian naval vessel passes them in Sevastopol bay on March 12, 2014.

A pro-Russia supporter waves a Crimean flag at Chongar checkpoint blocking the entrance to
Crimea on March 10, 2014.  ALISA BOROVIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images

As Washington considers imposing new sanctions on Russia, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will hold with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in London on Friday in a bid to defuse the crisis over Ukraine.

In Warsaw, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said after the talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday that both leaders “hope to see signs of de-escalation (in Ukraine), but we must also be prepared for a worse scenario.”

“We are prepared for a long-term action because this crisis will take longer than could be expected,” Tusk said, adding that the European Union foreign ministers will discuss sanctions against Russia on Monday.

Tusk said the EU plans to sign an association agreement with Ukraine next week.

Merkel – who has discussed the Ukraine crisis with Putin on the phone five times since Jan. 29, and who has called the Crimea referendum “illegal” – said sanctions will be needed, if talks fail.

“In general, we need patience,” she said. “We have the strength to react. We are in the 21st century. We don’t solve conflicts with military. However we also don’t evade conflicts.” - National Post.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - German Stocks Collapse To 3-Month Lows As Russia Nears Bear Market!

March 13, 2014 - GLOBAL ECONOMY - With Russia's MICEX down another 2% today back at May 2010 lows (and Russian govt bond yields up to 9.41%), it appears investors are anything but confident that the worst is behind us in Ukraine. Russian stocks are -18% in the last 3 weeks. Perhaps the biggest tell is the German stock market which is now the worst-performing European stock market this year and back to lows seen in mid-December. Even the glorious safety of Portuguese stocks is fading in the last few days. Europe's VIX broke 22% - its highest in 5 weeks; and Europe's high-yield credit markets (which are rumored to be heavily biased long) are squeezing wider playing catch-up to stocks. Peripheral sovereigns don't give a crap in their manipulated illiquid way but Bund yields have sluped to 1.54% (lowest since July) - its tightest to US TSYs since 2006!

Russia in freefall...

Germany hits 3-month lows - underperforming Europe (as even the safety of Portuguese stocks is ebbing)

And EU HY Credit is crashing back to stocks...

Europe is totally disconnected from US stocks (for now)...

And Bunds are the richest to Treasuries in 8 years...

Charts: Bloomberg

- Zero Hedge.

GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS: "It Is Certainly Front Of Mind For Everyone" - El Nino Warning Puts Farmers And Commodities Investors On Alert!

March 13, 2014 - GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS - Commodities investors and farmers are on alert after the third official warning in a week of an El Niño weather phenomenon emerging that could affect food and energy markets already reeling from extreme weather in many parts of the world.

A dog hangs around an abandoned farmhouse on February 6, 2014 near Bakersfield, California. Now in its
third straight year of unprecedented drought, California is experiencing its driest year on record,
dating back 119 years and possible the worst in the past 500 years.
Getty Images

El Niño refers to a warming of Pacific sea surface temperatures that occurs naturally every few years and can trigger drought in some parts of the world and floods in others, depending on its strength.

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said on Tuesday the tropical Pacific subsurface had "warmed substantially" over the past few weeks, meaning sea surface temperatures were likely to rise in coming months.

A recent burst of westerly winds over the far western Pacific was also the strongest seen since at least 2009, the last time an El Niño developed, the bureau said.

Its warning comes a week after the US weather forecaster said there was a 50 per cent chance of an El Niño developing this summer and days after Japan's weather bureau raised its forecasts of such an event.

"It's certainly front of mind for everyone, from commodities analysts to farmers," said London-based commodities analyst Tracey Allen of Rabobank. "Everyone is watching it because it could have such a significant bearing on products."

The last strong El Niño in 1997-1998 is estimated to have caused billions of dollars worth of agricultural damage in the US alone.

Any damage to crops and the rise in food prices could hit poorer countries, some of which are already feeling the effects of higher import prices due to the volatility in emerging market currencies.

Analysts said that some commodities had priced in the possible weather impact.

"The prospects of a potential El Niño have already provided some weather risk price support to cocoa and palm oil," said Kona Haque, agricultural analyst at Macquarie in London.

Cocoa, which is mainly produced in west Africa, led by the Ivory Coast and Ghana, has rallied 8 per cent since the start of the year to levels not seen since September 2011, while palm oil, grown mainly in Indonesia and Malaysia, has gained more than 9 per cent year-to-date.

Both west Africa and southeast Asia face the risk of droughts caused by El Niño, as do Australia and India. Other commodities at risk include wheat, sugar, cotton and rubber.

A rise in the Pacific sea temperatures would also affect fish catches in Peru, the world's biggest fishmeal exporter. Fishmeal prices are already at historically high levels due to increased demand from the aquaculture and livestock industries. Any price increases will filter into fish and meat prices as fishmeal is used to feed the multibillion-dollar fish farming industry as well as pigs and poultry.

Climate scientists are also watching the El Niño forecasts closely because of speculation it could end a so-called pause in global warming that emerged after the last big El Niño event in the late 1990s.

However, US officials said it was impossible to say at this stage what impact an El Niño might have this year.

"It's still far too early to guess how strong this event will be, assuming it does develop," said Mike Halpert, of the US Climate Prediction Center.
"We've had a number of weak to moderate, even moderate to strong, episodes during the past 15 years, most recently in 2009/10, and those years did not see big increases in global temperatures."

"The very strong events, like 1997/98, would make a record warm year, probably in 2015, more likely," he added, but it was far too early to predict this would happen. - CNBC.

FUK-U-SHIMA: Troubled Waters - The Fukushima Nuclear Radiation Found In British Columbia May Pose Health Concerns For Humans And Marine Life!

March 13, 2014 - BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA - A radioactive metal from the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan has been discovered in the Fraser Valley, causing researchers to raise the alarm about the long-term impact of radiation on B.C.’s west coast.

Chum salmon, such as these, spawned out next to Kilby Provincial Park on the Harrison River, are being tested for evidence of radiation from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan. Photograph by: John Preissl , Submitted

Examination of a soil sample from Kilby Provincial Park, near Agassiz, has for the first time in this province found Cesium 134, further evidence of Fukushima radioactivity being transported to Canada by air and water.

“That was a surprise,” said Juan Jose Alava, an adjunct professor in the school of resource and environmental management at Simon Fraser University, in an interview on Tuesday. “It means there are still emissions ... and trans-Pacific air pollution. It’s a concern to us. This is an international issue.”

Cesium 134 has a half-life of two years, meaning its radioactivity is reduced by half during that time. Its presence in the environment is an indication of continuing contamination from Fukushima.

A more persistent danger to people and marine life is radioactive Cesium 137, which has a half-life of 30 years, and bioaccumulates in the food chain.

Researchers developed a model based on the diet of fish-eating killer whales along with the levels of Cesium 137 detected and predicted (less than 0.5 becquerels per cubic metre, a measurement of radioactivity) by other researchers in the Pacific waters offshore of Vancouver Island.

The models suggests that in 30 years, Cesium 137 levels in the whales will exceed the Canadian guideline of 1,000 becquerels per kilogram for consumption of seafood by humans — 10 times the Japanese guideline.

“It’s a reference, the only benchmark we have to compare against,” Alava said.

He said recent federal government cutbacks have placed a greater burden of testing and monitoring for aquatic impacts on academics, non-governmental organizations and even private citizens.

WATCH: Is Fukushima radiation posing a threat to fish caught off the B.C. coast?

“The Canadian government is the one that should be doing something, should be taking action to keep monitoring to see how these contaminants are behaving, what are the levels, and what is next.”

It was a citizen, Aki Sano, who provided SFU with the soil sample from Kilby park, near the mouth of the Harrison River, on Nov. 16, 2013. Samples of chinook, sockeye and chum spawning salmon nearby are also being analyzed for evidence of radiation.

While the soil sample tested positive for Cesium 134, the exact level is not yet known, although it is thought to be low. The plan now is to test soil samples from Burnaby Mountain, closer to Vancouver.

Earlier research by Kris Starosta, associate professor of chemistry, and his colleagues at SFU has shown evidence of Iodine 131, which has a half-life of eight days, in rainwater and seaweeds in B.C. Fisheries and Oceans Canada conducted the analysis of sea water off Vancouver Island.

An adult killer whale weighing up to 5,000 kilograms can eat five per cent of its body weight, or 250 kilograms of fish, per day.

Endangered resident killer whales already face a host of challenges: the need for high-protein chinook salmon, habitat degradation, underwater noise pollution, harassment from whale watchers, and climate change. While the additional impact of Cesium 137 is unknown, it may negatively affect the immune system or endocrine system, Alava said.

“The impact on the animal needs to be studied. This is part of a cumulative impact on the marine environment.”

The results raise concerns for aboriginal people who maintain a diet heavy in fish.

“We might expect similar results because the diet of First Nation communities is based on seafood,” Alava said. “Humans at the top of the food web can perhaps see increasing levels in the future.”

The Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant suffered a catastrophic failure due to a 9.0-magnitude earthquake on March 11, 2011, which killed almost 19,000 people. Alava noted the plant continues to leak radiation, meaning that the problem is not going away soon. “There’s going to be a long-term exposure to organisms building up in the marine environment.”

While radiation levels so far remain low, the long-term implications deserve further study.

“So far the levels are safe,” Alava said. “We shouldn’t be worried now, but we need to keep monitoring in the long term to see whether these levels are building up in the food web.”

WATCH: 3 Years On - Contaminated Fukushima water may be dumped into Pacific Ocean.


A victim of federal cutbacks, Peter Ross, a former research scientist with the federal Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney on Vancouver Island, joined the Vancouver Aquarium last month as director of a new ocean science program.

Ross said he worked almost 18 years at the institute until Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced in May 2012 it would cut 55 positions nationally, nine of them within B.C., as part of a plan to “divest itself of ocean pollution research and monitoring to the private, non-profit and academic sectors.”

No one at Fisheries and Oceans Canada or Health Canada was available immediately to comment Monday.

Alava noted that there remain low background levels of Cesium 137 dating back to the 1960s due to the dumping of radioactive material into the Pacific Ocean from nuclear submarines and reactors.

The BC Centre for Disease Control has been notified of the latest research finding. - Vancouver Sun.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Scientist Gary Hecox Say That The Giant Louisiana Sinkhole Appears To Be Stabilizing - The Hole Is Still Growing, But The Rate Of Growth Has Slowed!

March 13, 2014 - LOUISIANA, UNITED STATES - A leading scientist studying the Bayou Corne-area sinkhole that emerged in an Assumption Parish swamp 18 months ago says the hole has shown signs of stabilizing.

Assumption Parish sinkhole on 6/27/2013. Photo: Assumption Parish Police Jury

The Advocate reports a CB&I hydrogeologist working for the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources on the sinkhole, Gary Hecox, told about 40 residents and officials at a community meeting in Napoleonville Tuesday that a variety of scientific measurements show the sinkhole is trending toward stability and tracking with past models for its ultimate size.

Those models would mean the hole would not reach La. 70 to the north, Bayou Corne to the south or the Bayou Corne community to the west. Hecox said the hole is still growing, but the rate of growth has slowed.
Newly released surveys show the hole has grown from about 25 acres in November to 29 acres in February and is continuing southwest beyond the southern arm of a containment levee surrounding the sinkhole and toward the Bayou Corne waterway.

Hecox cautioned that the hole bears more monitoring.

“This is Bayou Corne. Every time you think you’ve got a tight handle on this, she rears up and does something .but right now, a lot of data is trending towards a much more stable condition,” Hecox said.

Scientists believe an underground salt dome cavern owned by Occidental Chemical Corp. and operated by Texas Brine Co. had some sort of collapse or breach of its outer supporting sidewall of salt.

This failure deep underground allowed rock to flow into the massive hollow cavern carved from the salt, scrambled the rock surrounding the salt dome and led to the sinkhole.

The sinkhole and gas fears have forced an evacuation of the 350 residents in the area, though a few people still live in Bayou Corne. - Claims Journal.

WATCH: Public Briefing Videos Part 1-12.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: "Chickens Lay Everyday, But I Can't Sell The Eggs" - H7N9 Bird Flu Epidemic Comes Home To Roost In China; 72 Dead; 226 Sickened!

March 13, 2014 - CHINA - The handful of poultry dealers lingering at Chengbei Market have had little to do since Chinese authorities shut down their livelihoods after H7N9 bird flu began stalking the country again, killing scores of people this year.

They spend their days counting the losses to their business, gambling at cards and cleaning the cages which once held thousands of live birds, hoping the government will allow the trade to resume.

“The chickens lay every day and I can’t sell the eggs. We are losing money,” said Li Guiying, local boss of the Xuancheng Shandi Poultry Co.

H7N9 avian influenza has returned to China with a vengeance, sickening 226 people and killing 72 so far this year, as the government girds for what is likely to be a long battle to contain what one World Health Organization (WHO) official has labelled an “epidemic”.

China has responded by aggressively closing down poultry markets in locations believed to be at threat from the virus, raising an outcry from the agricultural industry and consumers with a taste for freshly slaughtered food.

But in the longer term the government needs to encourage a shift in behaviour of consumers and clean up the nation’s food supply chain, experts say, which has been hit by a series of health safety scandals.

Ultimately, fears exist that the H7N9 virus could mutate and become easily passed between people, rampaging through the world’s most populous country and crossing its borders to spread around the planet.

After subsiding following the first outbreak early last year, H7N9 resurfaced in the autumn, then boomed. The figures for the first two months of the year exceed the tallies of 144 infections and 46 deaths for the whole of 2013.

The WHO and Chinese authorities maintain there is no evidence of “sustained” human transmission with H7N9, though there have been cases of family members in close contact infecting each other.

But they acknowledge a seasonal spike in cases, possibly caused by the affinity of the virus for colder temperatures and humans’ greater susceptibility to illness in winter.

“The big question always is, ‘does it go down as the season goes away or does it continue?’” said the WHO Representative in China, Bernhard Schwartländer.

“We seem to start seeing a decrease again, which confirms the seasonal patterns, but there is of course no reason and no space to relax,” he said.

Poultry dealers accuse the government of shutting the markets without scientific evidence and demand compensation for the birds they were forced to slaughter or sell at rock-bottom prices.

“Chickens can’t talk. Ducks can’t talk. We don’t know where bird flu came from: chickens, ducks or other birds,” said Li, at the Chengbei market in Hangzhou.

Authorities in the city, capital of the eastern province of Zhejiang, the centre of the current outbreak, shut down the market in January. The province has announced radical plans to ban — forever — all live poultry trading in urban areas, according to state media, and replace it with factory-slaughtered and frozen meat.

China’s National Poultry Industry Association estimates the sector has lost more than $3.0 billion so far this year, on top of the impact of the outbreak last year as consumers shunned fowl and markets stopped business.

“Within the industry we call it a devastating hit, a crowning calamity. With our backs to the wall, it seems one cannot adequately depict the severity of the situation,” said the association’s secretary general Gong Guifen.

“The selling of frozen chicken is more like an emergency response, whereas the industry as well as the public’s consumption habits cannot be changed overnight,” she said.

But poultry market closures were the most important measure to contain the virus, said WHO’s Regional Director for the Western Pacific Shin Young-soo.

“Of course, I think the Chinese government should consider many other things. This has a huge impact on our daily life... on farmers, market people,” he said.

In contrast to H5N1, a different strain of avian influenza which affected China earlier, H7N9 is harder to detect because it does not kill the birds that can pass it to humans, he pointed out.

“H7N9 is more difficult because actually the bird and ducks, they’re... not really sick. It’s more difficult to control,” he said.

“It’s very fatal to human beings,” he added. “We know that this virus (is) never going again. It’s coming back.” - Daily Times.

EXTREME WEATHER: Snowy Ohio Turnpike Causes 50-Vehicle Pileup - 3 Dead, Trooper Badly Injured!

March 13, 2014 - OHIO, UNITED STATES - Three people were killed and a state trooper was seriously injured Wednesday in a mammoth series of accidents involving more than 50 vehicles just 10 miles apart on the snowy Ohio Turnpike, state Highway Patrol said.

The accidents left dozens of vehicles twisted and disabled Wednesday on the Ohio Turnpike.

No information was immediately available on the people who were killed.

Trooper Andrew B. Clouser, 29, was in serious condition at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo with injuries to his legs and abdomen. Clouser was pinned between two vehicles while responding to a crash that occurred about 1:25 p.m. ET in the eastbound lanes of the turnpike between Toledo and Cleveland, the patrol said.

Forty minutes later, vehicles began piling up after a second accident in the westbound lanes about 10 miles up the turnpike near Sandusky.

About 50 disabled and damaged cars and trucks stretched over 10.2 miles of the turnpike in both directions Wednesday, twisted and toppled like Tinker Toys. The turnpike authority told motorists to avoid the roadway in Erie and Sandusky counties.

WATCH: Huge storm heading to the U.S. northeast.


By 9 pm. ET, one westbound lane of I-80 had been reopened, said state Highway Patrol spokeswoman Lt. Anne Ralston.

Highway Patrol was beginning to clear parts of the pileup after 9 p.m. ET, but they did not have an estimation of when it would be clear enough to let traffic begin to flow on the eastbound lanes, according to Ralston.

The authority blamed the accidents on the snowy weather, which that State Patrol said severely limited visibility.

A late-winter storm dropped up to 7 inches of snow overnight Tuesday and Wednesday in parts of the Midwest. The storm was moving into the Northeast on Wednesday night. - NBC News.

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: "They Shouldn't Even Exist" - Fifteen Old, Massive Galaxies Found In The Early Universe?!

March 13, 2014 - SPACE - Yet another enigma has been discovered about the early Universe: galaxies that seem to come out of nowhere. Most of the galaxies that have been observed from the early days of the universe were young and actively forming stars. Now, an international team of astronomers have discovered galaxies that were already mature and massive in the early days. The finding raises new questions about how these galaxies formed so rapidly and why they stopped forming stars so early.

Fifteen mature galaxies were found at a record-breaking average distance of 12 billion light years, when the universe was just 1.6 billion years old. Their existence at such an early time raises new questions about what forced them to grow up so quickly.

Today the universe is filled with galaxies that have largely stopped forming stars, a sign of galactic maturity. But in the distant past, galaxies were still actively growing by consuming gas and turning it into stars. This means that mature galaxies should have been almost non-existent when the universe was still young.

Together with lead author Caroline Straatman and principal investigator Ivo Labbe, both of Leiden University, the astronomers used deep images at near-infrared wavelengths to search for galaxies in the early universe with red colors. The characteristic red colors indicate the presence of old stars and a lack of active star formation. The galaxies are barely detectable at visual wavelengths and are easily overlooked. But in the new near-infrared light images they are easily measured, from which it can be inferred that they already contained as many as 100 billion stars on average per galaxy.

The mature galaxies have masses similar to that of the Milky Way, which still forms new stars at a slow rate. The newly discovered galaxies must have formed very rapidly in roughly 1 billion years, with explosive rates of star-formation. The rate of star formation must have been several hundred times larger than observed in the Milky Way today.

The galaxies were discovered after 40 nights of observing with the FourStar camera on the Magellan Baade Telescope at Carnegie's Las Campanas Observatory in Chile and combined with data from Hubble's Cosmic Assembly Near-infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey and the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey. Using special filters to produce images that are sensitive to narrow slices of the near-infrared spectrum, the team was able to measure accurate distances to thousands of distant galaxies at a time, providing a 3-D map of the early universe.

The image at the top of the page shows the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF). The million-second-long exposure reveals the first galaxies to emerge from the so-called "dark ages", the time shortly after the big bang when the first stars reheated the cold, dark Universe. The new image offers insights into what types of objects reheated the Universe long ago.

This historic new view is actually two separate images taken by Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) and the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-object Spectrometer (NICMOS). Both images reveal some galaxies that are too faint to be seen by ground-based telescopes, or even in Hubble's previous faraway looks, called the Hubble Deep Fields (HDFs), taken in 1995 and 1998.

"Hubble takes us to within a stone's throw of the big bang itself," says Massimo Stiavelli of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, USA, and the HUDF project lead. The combination of ACS and NICMOS images is used to search for galaxies that existed between 400 and 800 million years (corresponding to a redshift range of 7 to 12) after the big bang. A key question for HUDF astronomers is whether the Universe appears to be the same at this very early time as it did when the cosmos was between 1 and 2 billion years old.

This finding was published by The Astrophysical Journal Letters. - Daily Galaxy.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - The Real Reason Bitcoin Is DOOMED?!

March 13, 2014 - GLOBAL ECONOMY - It's been a busy couple of weeks for bitcoin enthusiasts, first as they dealt with the volatility brought on by the implosion of the world's largest bitcoin exchange, then as Newsweek fingered a 64-year-old California man named Satoshi Nakamoto as the creator of the virtual currency.

It's the taxman, rather than any private institutional failures, that will relegate the cryptocurrency to niche status.

But compared to the question of whether bitcoin will ever achieve levels of adoption anywhere near the scale of government-backed fiat currencies, these stories are mere trifles. Bitcoin's biggest obstacle to success has always been receiving the blessing of the very governments that many of its supporters view as enemies one through 100.

Some governments, like China, have taken steps to combat bitcoin's use. In December, Chinese officials banned financial institutions from dealing with bitcoin though individuals are free to own them. The United States has taken a more hands-off approach, but it is inevitable that the Treasury Department, and especially the IRS, will have to take an official stance on the currency, and its position will have huge implications for the success of bitcoin.

Tax attorney Lee Sheppard argues convincingly in a recent article in Tax Notes that "Bitcoin is not a currency," despite the protestations of some supporters. According to Sheppard:
Users of Bitcoin should not think that it is exempt from taxation or outside the tax system. There's nothing that Bitcoin allows anyone to do that they can't already do in the regular banking system ... Libertarians, drug dealers, and tinfoil hatters like Bitcoin because it is not issued by a central government, but the irony is that it is more controllable and more traceable than the U.S. bank notes ...
Sheppard points to a United States Tax Court decision from the 1970s that dealt with a company called Barter Systems, which allowed customers to trade in hard assets in return for "trade units" issued by the firm. This was during a time when inflation was high, which explains the appeal of these trade units. The U.S. tax court ruled that Barter Systems was required to report transactions involving these trade units and that the exchange "should be taxed on the fair market value of property received in exchange for trade units." Continues Sheppard:
Bitcoin is analogous to the trade units considered in Barter Systems Inc. of Wichita. It is a privately issued medium of exchange accepted only in constrained circumstances and not backed by any promise of the issuer. Colvin treated the trade units as property in analyzing their use. The same analysis applies to Bitcoin.
If Sheppard's analysis is accurate, then how bitcoin users would be taxed when they sell their bitcoins for goods or dollars would depend on whether that person is a trader, investor, or dealer. But one thing is for sure, the transaction would be taxed, as bitcoin transactions are easily traceable.

And if you're a bitcoin user that is buying and selling the currency on a short-term basis, as one would expect from a person using bitcoin like everyday currency, any gains you realize would be taxed as ordinary income -- as high as 39.6%.

One of the main appeals for bitcoin is the fact that it was designed so that there can only be a finite number of bitcoins created. This, of course, will help those who keep their wealth in bitcoin avoid the hidden tax of inflation. The United States has an explicit policy goal of devaluing its currency at a steady 2% per year, and that adds up to quite a bit over time.

But here's the rub: The IRS will value the gains you make on bitcoin vis-a-vis the dollar. The more inflation in the dollar, the higher your tax bill will be if you keep your wealth invested in bitcoin and transact often using it. There's also the issue of the high cost of record-keeping and reporting to the IRS an individual or company's frequent bitcoin transactions.

So, if you're interested in bitcoin as a currency for its ability to maintain value, you're also going to have to plan on paying a high price to the feds for the pleasure of using it.

The great contradiction inherent in bitcoin is that so much of its appeal comes from its supposed independence from the government, but it's increasingly clear that for the currency to be widespread enough for it to be a stable store of value, it will have to have to receive the blessings of governments across the world. And those governments are unlikely to cede their control over the monetary system anytime soon. - CNN Money.