Friday, March 14, 2014

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - Russian Companies Withdraw BILLIONS From The West As Diplomatic Talks Over The Ukraine Crisis Break Down; Fed Custody Holdings Record Decline Fuels Russia Speculation; And Bank Rossi Moving Dollar Holdings Offshore!

March 14, 2014 - GLOBAL ECONOMY - Russian companies are pulling billions out of western banks, fearful that any US sanctions over the Crimean crisis could lead to an asset freeze, according to bankers in Moscow.

Russian Companies Withdraw BILLIONS From The West.

and VTB, Russia’s giant partly state-owned banks, as well as industrial companies, such as energy group Lukoil, are among those repatriating cash from western lenders with operations in the US. VTB has also cancelled a planned US investor summit next month, according to bankers.

The flight comes as last-ditch diplomatic talks between Russia’s foreign minister and the US secretary of state to resolve the tensions in Ukraine ended without an agreement.

Markets were nervous before Sunday’s Crimea referendum on secession from Ukraine. Traders and businesspeople fear this could spark western sanctions against Russia as early as Monday.

Yields on Russia’s 10-year government bonds rose close to 9.7 per cent on Friday, compared with less than 8 per cent in January. The rouble hit 36.7 to the dollar, near to its weakest rate on record.

It also emerged on Friday that Russia’s top 10 billionaires, led by Alisher Usmanov, had lost a combined $6.6bn of their net worth over the past week, according to research firm Wealth-X. Russian equities, which showed more weakness on Friday, have lost 20 per cent of their value since the start of the year.

“You don’t need to have sanctions in place to cause economic turmoil,” said Christopher Granville, managing director of Trusted Sources, an emerging markets research firm. “The expectation is enough.”

Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution, who served in the State Department under Bill Clinton, said: “The irony is that the Russian banking sector has made quite a lot of progress in plugging into the global system. That means it is vulnerable, and a good lever for applying pressure.”

Data published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York sparked speculation that the Russian central bank was also reducing its vulnerability to potential sanctions. The data showed a drop of $105bn in Treasuries held by foreign institutions for the week ending March 12.

“We can only speculate about who might have decided to move their securities out of the Fed and into a third-party custodian, but one obvious candidate is Russia,” said Lou Crandall at Wrightson Icap.

Russia held $138.6bn in US government debt at the end of December, according to the US Treasury.

One senior Moscow banker said 90 per cent of investors were already behaving as if sanctions were in place, adding that this was “prudent exposure management”.

These moves represent the flipside of the more obvious withdrawal of western money from Russian markets that has been evident over the past fortnight.

Traders and bankers said US banks had been particularly heavy sellers of Russian bonds. According to data from the Bank for International Settlements, US banks and asset managers between them have about $75bn of exposure to Russia.

WATCH: EU readies sanctions against Russia.

Joseph Dayan, head of markets at BCS, one of Russia’s largest brokers said: “It’s been quite an ugly picture in Russian bonds the last few days and some of it has to do with international banks reducing exposure.”

Although foreign banks have not yet begun cutting credit to Russian companies en masse, bankers said half a dozen live deals to fund some of Russia’s biggest companies were in limbo as lenders waited to see how punitive western sanctions would be.

Bankers said Barclays of the UK had withdrawn from a plan with Russia’s VTB jointly to fund an Essar Energy deal. Barclays declined to comment.

Alexei Kudrin, a former Russian finance minister and a member of Vladimir Putin’s economic council, warned on Thursday that sanctions could drive an extra $50bn of capital outflows from the Russian economy per quarter.

The New York Fed and Russia’s central bank declined to comment, as did Sberbank, VTB and Lukoil.

Meanwhile, in a sign of the EU’s continuing economic ties to Russia, South Steam, the gas pipeline project backed by Gazprom of Russia, Eni of Italy, EDF of France and BASF of Germany, announced that it had signed a contract worth about €2bn with Saipem of Italy to build the offshore stretch of the route under the Back Sea from Russia to Bulgaria. Construction is scheduled to start in June. - FT.

Fed Custody Holdings Record Decline Fuels Russia Speculation.
Treasuries held in custody at the Federal Reserve by foreign central banks dropped by $104 billion to $2.86 trillion
in the week ending March 12, according to Fed data, as the turmoil in Ukraine intensified.
Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The record drop in U.S. government securities held in custody at the Federal Reserve is fueling speculation that Russia may have shifted its holdings out of the U.S. as Western nations threaten sanctions.

Treasuries held by foreign central banks dropped by $104 billion to $2.86 trillion in the week ending March 12, according to Fed data released yesterday, as the turmoil in Ukraine intensified. As of December, Russia held $138.6 billion of Treasuries, making it the ninth largest country holder. Russia’s holdings are about 1 percent of the $12.3 trillion in marketable Treasuries outstanding, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“The timing of the drop in custody holdings makes Russia a more likely suspect,” said Marc Chandler, global head of currency strategy in New York at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. in a telephone interview. “If Russia did it, then they may have transferred the holdings to another bank outside of the U.S.”

Crimea is preparing for a March 16 referendum on splitting from Ukraine after Russia seized the peninsula. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Russia that the U.S. and Europe could take serious action after the referendum should there be no sign of a resolution to the Ukraine crisis.

Diplomatic Efforts

Kerry, who told a Senate panel in Washington that “nobody doubts” Crimea will vote to leave Ukraine, met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in London today.

“Escalating talk of sanctions over the Ukraine conflict would give it every reason to move those holdings to an off-shore custodian,” according to Wrightson ICAP, referring to Russia.

The previous biggest drop in Fed custody holdings was $32 billion in June after the central bank indicated they may reduce purchases of Treasuries. Andrea Priest, a spokeswoman for the Fed Bank of New York, declined to comment.

“How much more room it has to go depends on who’s doing the shift,” said Shyam Rajan, rates strategist in New York at Bank of America Corp. “It could just be a shift in where they hold Treasuries as opposed to outright selling. If they had sold we would have been much higher in yields this week. We’ve seen a rally.”

Bank Rossi

A spokeswoman for Russia’s central bank said it hasn’t disclosed changes in its foreign-asset holdings.

“Bank Rossii publishes data on managing foreign-currency assets not earlier than six months after the given period because of the high sensitivity of prices on global financial markets to the actions of largest market participants, including the Russian central bank,” Anna Granik, a spokeswoman for Moscow-based central bank, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

The decrease in custody holdings at the Fed spurred speculation Russia may have moved to raise funds to defend its currency as the turmoil worsens. The ruble has declined 10.3 percent against the dollar this year and reached a record low 36.9 per dollar on March 3. It declined 0.2 percent today to 36.6.

“If they were selling to defend the currency, the market would have felt the impact on yields more substantially,” said David Keeble, the New York-based head of fixed-income strategy at Credit Agricole SA.

Central Banks

Central banks at the end of last year may have been adding to their holdings in Europe, such as Belgium’s central bank. Belgium custodial holdings of Treasuries rose by 28 percent in December to $256.8 billion, according to Bloomberg data.

“A lot of people are looking at Belgium,” Keeble said, referring to shifts in foreign reserves.

Foreign holdings of Treasuries totaled a record $5.79 trillion at the end of last year, according to Treasury data released in February. Fed holdings for its own account were $2.2 trillion. The U.S. central bank has begun tapering its monthly purchases of Treasuries to $35 billion as it winds down monetary stimulus that was designed to help foster economic growth.

China, the biggest foreign U.S. creditor, held $1.27 trillion of U.S. government bonds as of December. Japan is the second-largest holder at $1.18 trillion.

The 10-year note posted the biggest weekly gain in almost two years, with the yield dropping as much as 18 basis points. The yield was little changed today at 2.65 percent, according to Bloomberg Bond Trader prices.

“On the margin, it’s a net negative for the Treasury market because it’s a reminder that there’s a potential seller of Treasuries for non-monetary reasons,” said Ian Lyngen, a government-bond strategist at CRT Capital Group LLC in Stamford, Connecticut. “If the market believed they were going to do it, Treasury yields would not be at 2.65 percent.” - Bloomberg.

ICE AGE NOW: Snowiest Winter On Record In Portions Of Michigan, Ohio, And Indiana - As Another Deadly Winter Storm Wallops U.S. Midwest, Northeast!

March 14, 2014 - UNITED STATES - The relentless winter of 2013 - 2014 continues to add to its extraordinary resume over the Eastern U.S., where yet another near-record cold blast is underway.

Daniel Davis is covered in snow and ice while clearing a sidewalk during a snow storm in Detroit Wednesday, March 12,
2014. The storm moved Detroit into 2nd place for its snowiest winter on record, behind the winter of 1880 - 1881.
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Temperatures on Thursday will be 10 - 25° below normal over the eastern 1/3 of the country, and it will be a serious case of weather whiplash in places like New York City, where the temperature peaked at 65°F at JFK Airport on Tuesday, a record high for the date. Temperatures will struggle to reach the upper-20s on Thursday--a spectacular 40° swing, and one of the coldest high temperatures so late in the year. The weather pattern that brought this winter's persistent cold to the Midwest and Eastern U.S., and record warmth and drought to the West Coast, is going to remain in place through most of the remainder of March. The latest 16-day forecast from the GFS model predicts a continuation of the dominant ridge over the Western U.S. and trough over the Midwest and Eastern U.S. that we've all grown very, very, very tired of (said Dr. Masters, after shoveling the latest installment of 6.5" of concrete-like snow of this winter's 90.7 inches that have fallen in the Detroit area--second only to the 93.6" that fell in the winter of 1880 - 1881.) Detroit has now had over 1" of snow on the ground for 72 consecutive days, and will easily break the record of 74 straight days, set during the notorious winter of 1978. Just to the south, in Toledo, Ohio, and Fort Wayne, Indiana, Wednesday's dumping of 6.7 - 7" of snow from Winter Storm Vulcan made the winter of 2013 - 2014 the snowiest on record at both cities. Chicago's 3.2" brought the winter total to 79.1", making it the Windy City's 3rd snowiest winter (the record: 89.7" in 1978 - 1979.) Some major cities that have had a top-five snowiest winters on record during 2013 - 2014:

Ann Arbor, MI: 1st snowiest, 92.1" (previous record: 89.8", 2007 - 2008)
Toledo, OH: 1st snowiest, 84.8" (previous record: 73.1" in 1977 - 1978)
Ft. Wayne, IN: 2nd snowiest, 72.2" (previous record: 81.2", 1981-82)
Detroit, MI: 2nd snowiest, 90.7" (record: 93.6" 1880 - 1881)
Flint, MI: 2nd snowiest, 81.8" (record: 82.9", 1974 - 1975)
Grand Rapids, MI, 2nd snowiest, 112.6" (record: 132.2", 1951 - 1952)
Billings, MT: 2nd snowiest, 95.2" (record: 98.7", 1996 - 1997)
Chicago, IL: 3rd snowiest, 79.1" (record: 89.7", 1978 - 1979)
Philadelphia, PA: 3rd snowiest, 62.9" (record: 78.7", 2009 - 2010)
Indianapolis, IN: 3rd snowiest, 54.7" (record: 58.2", 1981 - 1982)
Cincinnati, OH: 4th snowiest, 45.8" (record: 53.9", 1977 - 1978)

Predicted temperatures for March 20 - 26, 2014, from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center show a continuation
of much colder than average temperatures over the Midwest and Northeast U.S.

March Wonder (gardner48197)

Broke the record for the snowiest Winter ever, with 90 inches (and counting...)

Vulcan's Here.. (suzi46)

and the visibility is almost zero..snowing extremely hard with no wind at the moment..high winds later..24 inches expected to fall ontop of our 2/3 feet already on the ground..ugh!!!

Blizzard Warning! (tvsportsguy)

The shoreline along Lake Ontario is a violent place today. 50 MPH winds and heavy snow. Blizzard warning for much of WNY region.

Ice Art (RevMac)

Near record setting ice begins to break up on Lake Michigan on the approach into Chicago at 15,000 ft.

- Wunderground.

Deadly Winter Storm Wallops Midwest, Northeast
A storm that expanded from the Midwest to New England Wednesday caused massive travel disruptions as well as damage across the mid-Atlantic and left mounds of snow putting this winter in the record books.

Snow started coming down in the Midwest early on Wednesday morning. Significant delays were reported on the roadways near Chicago.

These delays followed the storm as it moved eastward.

By the morning rush, excessive delays spread from O'Hare and Midway in Chicago to Buffalo Niagara International in western New York.

A pedestrian walks along a slushy Western Ave. Wednesday, March 12, 2014, in Blue Island, Ill. A late winter storm
dumped more than 5 inches of snow in the Chicago area, causing power outages and headaches for commuters.
(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Slick roadways were reported in southern Michigan through the morning and into Ohio.

Precipitation started falling as rain in Ohio but quickly turned to snow after the with the arrival of the cold side of the storm.

Conditions deteriorated quickly, causing a massive pileup on the Ohio Turnpike, between Toledo and Cleveland.

More than 50 cars and trucks were involved in the large accident that killed three people and seriously injured a state trooper, according to Reuters.

Turnpike still shut down after massive pileup kills three & injures trooper. @DianeLarson 

Slick roadways and low visibility from the heavy snow continued to cause multi-vehicle accidents through the afternoon and evening into New York.

Part of I-90 in New York from Rochester to Waterloo was closed for a few hours due to a large accident.

Snow wasn't the only part of this storm causing problems Wednesday.

Even into Thursday, whipping winds behind the storm caused widespread power outages. On Wednesday, more than 26,500 FirstEnergy customers in Ohio were without power.

ComEd reported power outages over 45,000 across northern Illinois.

Even though snow did not reach the Philadelphia and Baltimore areas, the gusting winds managed to cause problems. Gusts over 45 mph knocked over trees, bringing power lines down with them.

In southern Pennsylvania, the effects of the wind were worsened by the many toppled trees from previous storms this winter.

The heaviest corridor of snow stretched from Buffalo through central New York and into northern New England. At the Canada-United States border of Niagara Falls, more than 10 inches of snow fell.

Rochester and Syracuse areas in central New York topped out near 15 inches. Burlington, Vt., had over 18 inches of new snow as of Thursday morning.Even with smaller snowfall amounts from this storm made an impact around the Midwest and Northeast. A small or large amount of snow pushed some locations to become one of the top 5 snowiest winters on record.

After about 7 inches of snow from the latest storm, Toledo, Ohio, has officially had its snowiest winter on record.

The general 3 to 6 inches across the Chicago region Wednesday made it the third snowiest winter on record.

A roller-coaster ride of temperatures will continue to the Northeast and Midwest in the coming week as Mother Nature slowly transitions into spring. Despite milder temperatures Friday, the weekend will bring another shot of cold. - AccuWeather.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Spring Is Fireball Season - Rate Of Meteors Climbs During The Weeks Around The Vernal Equinox!

March 14, 2014 - SPACE - Daylight Saving Time is a familiar sign of approaching spring, but another, lesser known signal is starting to appear in the skies: more fireballs.

On Oct. 9, 1992, a large meteoroid, or fireball, survived its passage through Earth's atmosphere. The resulting
meteorite hit a parked car in Peekskill, N.Y. (NASA/Sarah Eichmiller, Altoona Mirror)

As Earth moves through space, it frequently encounters meteors and other bits of debris, most of which burn up in the atmosphere, creating the familiar streaks of light we like to call shooting stars. When they’re brighter in the sky than the planet Venus, astronomers call them fireballs — and they can get quite large, like the meteor that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia in February 2013. According to NASA, around the time of the March equinox — the first day of spring for the northern hemisphere — nightly fireball appearances tend to increase up to 30 percent, for reasons astronomers don’t entirely understand.

“We’ve known about this phenomenon for more than 30 years,” Bill Cooke, lead of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, said in a release. “It’s not only fireballs that are affected. Meteorite falls — space rocks that actually hit the ground — are more common in spring as well.”

One solution to the mystery could be that Earth’s orbit around this time of year crosses into an area more highly populated with meteoroids, according to NASA. Oddly enough, March is usually the slowest month for meteors of ordinary brightness, according to the American Meteor Society (AMS), with most meteor showers occurring later in the year.

To help answer the question, NASA in 2011 began development of its All-sky Fireball Network, which currently consists of 12 cameras — in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Mexico — that take photos and collect data on incoming fireball collisions. The cameras’ fields of view overlap, meaning more than one camera can observe the same fireball, helping astronomers get a broader picture of impacts.

Though most fireballs are harmless to humans, some can reach Earth and cause damage. The Chelyabinsk meteor, for example, created a shockwave that shattered windows and caused upward of 1,000 injuries. They’re also dangerous for spacecraft orbiting Earth, according to NASA.

The AMS, which collects and investigates reports of meteors in the United States, has already logged 637 separate fireball events in 2014, with its most recent confirmed report coming out of Maryland at 1:30 a.m. on March 9. Fireballs are plainly visible to the naked eye, so keep watching the sky if you want to catch sight of one. - TWC.

What are the signs of spring? They are as familiar as a blooming Daffodil, a songbird at dawn, a surprising shaft of warmth from the afternoon sun.

And, oh yes, don't forget the meteors.

"Spring is fireball season," says Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Center. "For reasons we don't fully understand, the rate of bright meteors climbs during the weeks around the vernal equinox."

In other seasons, a person willing to watch the sky from dusk to dawn could expect to see around 10 random or "sporadic" fireballs. A fireball is a meteor brighter than the planet Venus. Earth is bombarded by them as our planet plows through the jetsam and flotsam of space--i.e., fragments of broken asteroids and decaying comets that litter the inner solar system.

WATCH: NASA ScienceCasts - Fireballs.

In spring, fireballs are more abundant. Their nightly rate mysteriously climbs 10% to 30%.

"We've known about this phenomenon for more than 30 years," says Cooke. "It's not only fireballs that are affected. Meteorite falls--space rocks that actually hit the ground--are more common in spring as well1."

Researchers who study Earth's meteoroid environment have never come up with a satisfactory explanation for the extra fireballs. In fact, the more they think about it, the stranger it gets.

A NASA fireball camera at the
Marshall Space Flight Center.
Consider the following:

There is a point in the heavens called the "apex of Earth's way." It is, simply, the direction our planet is traveling. As Earth circles the sun, the apex circles the heavens, completing one trip through the Zodiac every year.

The apex is significant because it is where sporadic meteors are supposed to come from. If Earth were a car, the apex would be the front windshield. When a car drives down a country road, insects accumulate on the glass up front. Ditto for meteoroids swept up by Earth.

Every autumn, the apex climbs to its highest point in the night sky. At that time, sporadic meteors of ordinary brightness are seen in abundance, sometimes dozens per night.

Read that again: Every autumn.

"Autumn is the season for sporadic meteors," says Cooke. "So why are the sporadic fireballs peaking in spring? That is the mystery."

Meteoroid expert Peter Brown of the University of Western Ontario notes that "some researchers think there might be an intrinsic variation in the meteoroid population along Earth's orbit, with a peak in big fireball-producing debris around spring and early summer. We probably won't know the answer until we learn more about their orbits2."

To solve this and other puzzles, Cooke is setting up a network of smart meteor cameras around the country to photograph fireballs and triangulate their orbits. As explained in the Science@NASA story What's Hitting Earth?, he's looking for places to put his cameras; educators are encouraged to get involved. Networked observations of spring fireballs could ultimately reveal their origin.

"It might take a few years to collect enough data," he cautions.

Until then, it's a beautiful mystery. Go out and enjoy the night sky. It is spring, after all. - NASA.

INFRASTRUCTURE & SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: Another Building Collapse In Mumbai, India - 7 People Killed, 4 Injured!

March 14, 2014 - MUMBAI, INDIA - Seven people were killed and four injured after a Santa Cruz (East) building that was declared as dilapidated in 2008 collapsed on Friday.

Two families had refused to vacate the ground-plus-seven building, Shankar Lok, which fell on the adjoining Catherine Chawl, crushing more than 10-12 of its 21 homes.

"First, a photo frame fell in my home and then I felt the tremors. I immediately picked up my baby and rushed out. Within minutes, the entire building fell on our house, flattening it," said Sayli Khandare, a resident of the chawl. Joseph Fernandes, another chawl resident, too, escaped as he had left for his in-law's place in the vicinity minutes before the mishap.

The building was constructed in 1982 and declared dilapidated in 2008—in just 26 years—following a structural audit report from SP Engineering College that deemed it as dangerous and that it needed to be vacated and reconstructed. The BMC issued an eviction notice under Section 354 of the MMC Act.

Of the original 27 families that lived in the building, 25 vacated after the notice. The beams and columns had begun to corrode.

One of the two families that refused to vacate included that of high court lawyer Sindha Sridharan. She went to court challenging the BMC's eviction notice. High court stayed the demolition and eviction, and said the families could continue to occupy the building at their own risk and that the BMC was not to be held responsible for any accident.

Sindha lost her sister Sudha in Friday's collapse and her brother Satyam was injured. The six others to have died are residents of the chawl.

"The BMC had tried everything, from prosecution to propping the building, to issuing repeated notices to residents to vacate. In fact, we had also given residents of the chawl a notice to leave, citing that if the building collapsed, it would endanger their lives, too," said deputy municipal commissioner Ramesh Pawar.

The residents' opposition was so stiff that when a civic officials' team visited the premises in October 2013 for inspection, Sindha registered a criminal case against them at the Vakola police station.

The deceased have been identified as Chandraben Patel (45), Sudha Shridharan (32), Louis Monks (60), Sundarabai Pardhi (66), Rajeshri Pardhi (35), Aditya Pardhi (10) and Ayush Pardhi (7). Four injured are Akshay Kesarkar (18), Sita Kesarkar (60), Rohini Jagtap (47) and Satyam Shridharan (39). The injured have been admitted to V N Desai hospital.

Among the deceased were four members of Pardhi family--Sundarabai Pardhi (66), her daughter-in-law Rajeshri, her grandsons Aditya and Ayush.

Anil Pardhi, who was away at work during the collapse fell unconscious on hearing the news and did not revive for hours.

Another deceased, Chandan Patel, had resided in the chawl for 40 years. She is survived by her husband and three children.

The four injured did not suffer fatal injuries. "They have sustained abrasions, bruises and minor trauma injuries," said Dr K G Pimple, medical superintendent, V N Desai Hospital. Among the injured was 70-year-old Sitabai Kesarkar, who is likely to have suffered fracture on one or both legs. Pimple said they were awaiting the X-ray reports for further treatment.

Akshay Kesarkar (21) and Rohini Jagtap escaped with minor injuries and are currently undergoing treatment. Satyam Sridharan has suffered injuries to his legs. - Times of India.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Idaho Avalanche Buries State Highway 21 Under 60 Feet of Snow - Debris Covered 500 Foot Section Of Road; State Highway May Be Closed Indefinitely!

March 14, 2014 - IDAHO, UNITED STATES - An Idaho state highway that was buried in an avalanche last week may be closed indefinitely.

Snow, trees, and other debris cover Idaho state highway 21 northeast of Boise on Mar. 11, 2014. An ITD maintenance foreman, wearing orange, is standing on the debris pile. (Idaho Transportation Department)

The avalanche danger kept investigators away from the site until earlier this week, when an Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) took a closer look. The crew reports the avalanche along State Highway 21 in Canyon Creek, northeast of Boise, was 50-60 feet deep and covering a 300-500 foot section of the road.

The photo above gives you a better idea about how large the snow and debris pile spread. The orange spot you see on the snow is actually ITD maintenance foreman Stuart Wilson.

The avalanche danger has subsided enough to allow ITD crews to begin a lengthy cleanup. According to the ITD Facebook page, one crew is first working to remove several smaller avalanches on the north side of the slide area near Stanley before they can even get to the largest avalanche mentioned above. A second ITD crew is starting near the town of Lowman.

Due to the challenge of this cleanup, no estimate was given regarding a reopening of the road.

View of avalanche chutes northeast of Lowman, Idaho on March 11, 2014. (Idaho Transportation Department)

First, the avalanche occurred in a narrow canyon, with limited space to store debris and equipment. Secondly, the debris pile is so tall, an excavator cannot reach the top of it. That means ITD crews will have to bulldoze debris toward each end of the slide area for removal.

Unlike a massive Alaskan avalanche in late January 2014, this slide is not blocking the flow of Canyon Creek, which is running under the piles of debris.

Tree decay from a wildfire 10 years ago was thought to be a factor in the magnitude of this avalanche. The ITD said these decayed trees are no longer able to hold snow on the slope.

According to a story from Boise State Public Radio, there are 54 separate avalanche chutes in the mountains on either side of this segment of State Highway 21 dubbed "avalanche alley." This problematic stretch of road has only been open in winter over the past, roughly, 30 years.

While precipitation since October 1 has only ranged from 47-65 percent of average in the mountains of central Idaho, recent heavy, wet snow loaded on top of older, weaker snow layers lead to the enhanced avalanche danger in early March.

As of March 11, 23 have been killed in avalanches in the winter of 2013-14, according to - TWC.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Volcano Report For March 13, 2014 - 18 Earthquakes In Just 24 Hours At Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano; More Than 11,000 Micro-Earthquakes At A Shallow Depth Could Signal Volcanic Awakening At Cerro Negro de Mayasquer In Colombia; And Weak Ash Emissions At Peru's Ubinas Volcano!

March 14, 2014 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing reports of volcanoes across the globe.

Kilauea (Hawai'i): Eighteen earthquakes were strong enough to be located beneath Kilauea Volcano in the past 24 hours - about average for the past couple weeks.

Cerro Negro de Mayasquer (Colombia): More than 11,000 micro-earthquakes at shallow depths were recorded beneath the volcanoes of Cerro Negro de Mayasquer and Chiles during the past few months, INGEOMINAS Pasto volcano observatory reported.

Map of seismicity near Cerro Negro volcano (Image: INGEOMINAS / Pasto Observatory)

The seismic record for Cerro Negro volcano goes only back to past November when a small network of seismometers and tiltmeters was installed, so it is not known whether the observed seismic activity is abnormal or part of the normal behavior of the volcano, which last might have erupted in 1936 and has only fumarolic activity at present. In absence of stronger signs of unrest, the alert level of Cerro Negro remains at green for the moment.

The report mentions that a decrease in earthquakes was observed in the first months, while the numbers increased again this March. All quakes were tiny, not exceeding magnitude 1.2. Their hypocenters are located in a cluster a few km SE of Cerro Negro de Mayasquer and mostly between 3 and 5 km depth beneath the summit.

Ubinas (Peru): Weak ash emissions could be occurring at the volcano, recent webcam images suggest. VAAC Buenos Aires (one of the less busy VAAC centers) issued an alert in any case.

Small plume from Ubinas this morning (INGEMMET webcam

Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for March 13, 2014.

- Volcano Discovery.

MASS BIRD/FISH/ANIMAL DIE-OFF: Latest Incidents Across The Earth - Scores Of Dolphins, Porpoises, Turtles, Lobsters And Starfish Wash Up Dead In South England; Hundreds Of Fish Found Dead In A Creek In Rocky Gap, Virginia, United States; 38,000 Birds Killed Due To Avian Flu In Bentheim, Germany; Flock Of Dead Birds Mysteriously Found In Lancashire, England; 7,500 Chickens Killed Due To Avian Flu In Macau, China; And 110,000 Salmon Killed Due To Outbreak Of Disease In Troms, Norway!

March 14, 2014 - EARTH - The following constitutes the latest incidents of mass fish, bird and animal die-offs across the Earth:

Scores Of Dolphins, Porpoises, Turtles, Lobsters And Starfish Wash Up Dead In England.
Coastguards at Littlehampton have now found five dolphins and porpoises [WESSEX NEWS]

More dead dolphins have been found on south coast beaches - tragic victims of the winter storms which saw them starve to death when their food prey swam out to deeper water.

Coastguards at Littlehampton have now found five dolphins and porpoises along the shores of West Sussex and others have been discovered in Dorset and Cornwall.

Marine experts say the huge waves pounding the beaches have taken a terrible toll because it forced 'food' such as sand eels and sprats to seek shelter far out to sea where the dolphins could not catch them.

In the latest find, a male striped dolphin almost seven feet long was spotted lying dead on the beach in Felpham.

Just hours earlier, a young male harbour porpoise, less than 4ft long, was found on the beach at Rustington.

The creatures starved to death when their prey swam out to deep water [WESSEX NEWS]

A coastguard spokesman said today: "Residents are advised if they do come across deceased animals on the beach not to touch them as they can harbour harmful bacteria.

"Any dolphins or porpoises should be reported to the coastguard with information passed on to the Natural History Museum which can help identify if there are any environmental factors affecting marine wildlife.

"This winter, marine biologists have seen scores of unusual creatures washed up along the county's shoreline including dolphins, porpoises, turtles, lobsters, goose barnacles, long-spined sea scorpions, puffins, starfish and whelk eggs."

Thousands of puffins and other seabirds have also been found dead along the coast following the severe weather. - Express.

Hundreds Of Fish Found Dead In A Creek In Rocky Gap, Virginia, United States.
 Anglers discovered hundreds of dead fish in Laurel Creek near Interstate 77 Tuesday. Staff photo by Jon Bolt
Inspectors with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality were on the scene Tuesday after anglers discovered hundreds of dead fish in Laurel Creek near Interstate 77.

“We have an area extending approximately a mile to a mile and a half of fish kill,” J. Alex Sneed of the department’s pollution response program said along the banks of the creek.

The zone with dead fish extends from an Interstate 77 bridge near the East River Mountain Tunnel to where Laurel Creek meets Wolf Creek, Sneed said. The incident was reported at approximately 10:30 a.m. Tuesday after local anglers discovered dead fish in the stream. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries had stocked the stream with trout on Monday.

“We have a significant amount of trout that have been impacted,” Sneed said, estimating the number of dead fish was in the hundreds.

The fish died after area firefighters extinguished a vehicle fire Monday along I-77. Approximately 5,500 gallons of chlorinated tap water and fire fighting foam went down a highway drain and into the creek, he said.

Sneed said the creek should be able to recover, and that there “was no reason to believe” there was any threat to the public.

Besides trout, the contaminated water that flowed into the stream left other species of fish dead.

“It’s really killed everything in the creek,” Sneed said. “It killed all the minnows and other smaller species of fish.”

Alex Sneed, Mike Hutchison, and Jason McCroskey with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality sweep a
section of Laurel Creek near Rocky Gap Tuesday afternoon, searching for dead fish. Staff photo by Jon Bolt

One resident who lives along Laurel Creek did not know about the dead fish until Sneed and his team arrived and asked if they could check the stream next to his property.

“I was clearing a building out when I heard the dog barking,” said Tony Scott, 42, of Rocky Gap, Va. “They asked if I had seen any dead fish.”

Scott and his wife, Amanda, saw the dead fish when Sneed and his coworkers started seeking out and counting them.

“We counted 43 in a 50-foot span,” Scott said. He frequently fishes in Laurel Creek. “I’ve caught as many as 22 in one day. I guess I won’t be doing that for a while.”

“We do a lot of catch and release,” Amanda Scott said, looking at the stream. “It breaks my heart.” - BDT.

38,000 Birds Killed Due To Avian Flu In Bentheim, Germany.
In Lower Saxony laying hens a mild form of bird flu has
been detected. Photo: Gerhard Seybert / Fotolia
Thousands of animals had to be killed: In a laying hen operation in Emlichheim (Lower Saxony) is a mild form of bird flu has been detected.

Are affected, according to the relevant county Bentheim in operation around 38,000 hens. The birds are already all been killed.

The farmer had noticed a few days ago that his chickens eat less than usual, say the "news Grafschafter". He had, therefore, informs a veterinarian.

At the weekend, laboratory results were then shown: the animals are infected, the virus type is for humans but not dangerous. In Emlichheim a restricted area of ​​one kilometer has been set up around the operation. - Mopo. [Translated]

Flock Of Dead Birds Mysteriously Found In Lancashire, England.
The dead starlings in Beaumont Road, Ladybridge.

The mystery appearance of a flock of dead birds in the middle of a busy road has left Ladybridge residents baffled.

Between 20 and 30 dead starlings appeared in Beaumont Road, near the Britannia Hotel, on Sunday afternoon.

Eyewitnesses reported hearing a loud bang before finding the birds in an "X-Files-like" experience, as if they had “fallen from the sky”.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has said it is unlikely they flew into a poisonous air trail as their injuries would be less uniform.

 A spokesman said the low-flying birds, which tend to travel in a tight flock, could have been hit by a vehicle or been confused or dazzled and flown into one.

Craig Clarkson, aged 39, who was in Beaumont Road shortly after the birds first appeared, said there were nearly 100 of them, with some lying still alive in the road.

The RSPB spokesman said: “I have heard of a previous discovery of a group of dead starlings, and it was never really established how they got there.

"The most likely reason is that they confused and flew into something, or were dazzled.

“Or they may have been hit by a lorry at speed as they were cutting across the road. They do fly low enough for that.”

 Mr Clarkson added: “A guy told us he had heard a loud bang and then found these birds outside.

“It was really weird, like something out of the X-Files.”

Kayleigh Knott, from Farnworth, who was visiting a friend in the area, said: “I’ve heard of things like this happening elsewhere and they’ve never found an explanation.

“This is just so unusual and people need to know why this has happened.” - This is Lancashire.

7,500 Chickens Killed Due To Avian Flu In Macau, China.
“Didn’t quite sound like thunder, usually with thunder you have a big boom and then a crescendo fading away,” he says. “This was one big sharp boom!”

It wasn’t an explosion, meteorite, sonic boom or oil and gas work as many had speculated.

"To ensure public health, authorities have decided to take decisive action and ordered the emergency measures of culling, sealing off and disinfection," a government statement released Thursday said.

They did not give details on which strain of H7 flu was found.

The cull of the 7,500 chicken started at midnight and lasted six hours, a government spokeswoman told AFP.

Images on the government website showed health officials wearing masks and white protective suits placing chicken in large plastic yellow bags at the Nam Yue Wholesales Market.

The market - Macau's only wholesale market for poultry imports - will be closed for 21 days starting Thursday for disinfection, the government said.

A health department spokesman said that since 1999, there has not been a human case of avian flu in the territory. In the neighbouring southern Chinese city of Hong Kong, the virus has claimed the lives of three men since December last year, and has infected six in total.

An 18-month-old girl, in the latest case announced in the city, was confirmed to carry the virus earlier this month after having recently returned from mainland China.

Hong Kong officials said last month that they were extending for four months a ban on live poultry imports from mainland China to guard against the disease.

The outbreak, which first emerged on the mainland in February 2013, has reignited fears that a bird flu virus could mutate to become easily transmissible between people, threatening to trigger a pandemic.

A total of 72 people died from the H7N9 bird flu strain in China in the first two months of this year, government figures showed, far more than 46 deaths in the whole of 2013. - ASIA One.

110,000 Salmon Killed Due To Outbreak Of Disease In Troms, Norway.

See the full statistical report HERE.

WORLD WAR III: John Kerry Says Russia Has Until Monday To Reverse Course In Ukraine - Russian Troops Mass At Border With Ukraine; Estonia Claims That Russia Is Preparing To Invade East Ukraine; Kremlin Website Hit By "Powerful" Cyber Attack!

March 14, 2014 - UKRAINE - Secretary of State John Kerry warned of serious repercussions for Russia on Monday if last-ditch talks over the weekend to resolve the crisis in Ukraine failed to persuade Moscow to soften its stance. Kerry will travel to London for a Friday meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov ahead of a Sunday referendum vote in the Crimea region to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.

John Kerry Says Russia Has Until Monday To Reverse Course In Ukraine.

U.S. and European officials argue that Moscow is orchestrating the referendum and waging an intimidation campaign with thousands of Russian troops controlling the region. If Russian-backed lawmakers in Crimea go through with the Sunday referendum, Kerry said the U.S. and its European allies will not recognize it as legitimate under international law.  The U.S. and Europe on Monday would then unite to impose sanctions on Russia, Kerry told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee Thursday during a hearing on the State Department's budget.

“There will be a response of some kind to the referendum itself,” Kerry said. “If there is no sign [from Russia] of any capacity to respond to this issue ... there will be a very serious series of steps on Monday.”  “Our hope is to have Russia join in respecting international law. ... There is no justification, no legality to this referendum that is taking place,” he said. “The hope is that reason will prevail but there is no guarantee of that.”  Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and a top critic of President Obama's foreign policy, asked what the administration would do if Russian forces advance farther into the eastern area of Ukraine, and the new government in Kiev asks the U.S. for weapons to fight the Russians.  Kerry responded carefully, saying “we have contingencies – we are talking through various options that may or may not be available.”  “Our hope is not to create hysteria or excessive concern about that at this point in time,” he said. “Our hope is to avoid that, but there's no telling that we can.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (L) and US Secretary of State John Kerry stand together before
a meeting at Winfield House in London on March 14, 2014. (AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)

U.S. authorities are closely monitoring the number of Russian troops in Crimea, as well as their movements, he said, noting that Moscow is allowed to have a total of 25,000 troops in Crimea.  He said that currently Russia does not have the assets positioned to “march in and take over all of Ukraine but that could change and we recognize that.”  “I've been impressed on how united our European allies are on this… to a person, to a country, they are very, very committed to make sure there is accountability,” he said.  Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who was chairing the hearing, asked how this showdown with Russia in Ukraine is impacting efforts to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile.  When Obama threatened to make good on his red-line threat to Syrian leader Bashar Assad, Russia helped avert U.S. military strikes by offering to step in and negotiate arrangements to have Damascus destroy its chemical weapons.  Kerry said Russia had been helpful in pushing Syria on tighter deadlines for locating, moving and destroying its stockpile, but considering the crisis in Crimea, their cooperation going forward is an open question.  “Now there's a question mark about where that's going to go,” he said. - Washington Examiner.

WATCH: Western objection to Crimea referendum falls against many precedents.


WATCH: Lavrov - If Kosovo is a special case then Crimea is also.


Russian Troops Mass At Border With Ukraine.
With a referendum on secession looming in Crimea, Russia massed troops and armored vehicles in at least three regions along Ukraine’s eastern border on Thursday, alarming the interim Ukraine government about a possible invasion and significantly escalating tensions in the crisis between the Kremlin and the West. The announcement of the troop buildup by Russia’s Defense Ministry was met with an unusually sharp rebuke from Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who warned that the Russian government must abandon what she called the politics of the 19th and 20th centuries or face diplomatic and economic retaliation from a united Europe. “Ladies and gentlemen, if Russia continues on its course of the past weeks, it will not only be a catastrophe for Ukraine,” she said in a speech to the German Parliament. “We, also as neighbors of Russia, would not only see it as a threat. And it would not only change the European Union’s relationship with Russia. No, this would also cause massive damage to Russia, economically and politically.”

WATCH: Russian troops held military exercises in several regions near the Ukrainian border early on Thursday amid heightened tension between Kiev and Moscow.

Ms. Merkel’s words reflected the rapid evolution of the Ukraine crisis from a regional conflict to a full-blown East-West confrontation that threatens a deep rupture in relations between Moscow and an increasingly unified European Union and the United States. That a leader of Germany, which has traditionally sought to bridge the East-West divide, should speak so forcefully was a further indication of the seriousness and depth of the potential breach.  In a congressional appearance on Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry asserted that Russia had not yet made the military preparations to undertake a full-scale invasion of all of Ukraine, though he stressed “that could change very quickly and we recognize that.”  Mr. Kerry said his hope was “not to create hysteria or excessive concern about that at this point of time.”  “Our hope is to be able to avoid that,” he added. “But there’s no telling that we can.”  Mr. Kerry will meet his counterpart from Russia, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov, on Friday in London, seeking a way to de-escalate the crisis.  As Russia turned up the heat, the United States was trying to tamp it down. An American official said that the Obama administration had deferred a request from Ukraine’s interim government for military assistance like arms and ammunition, although the administration was “still considering” it. The Ukrainian request and administration response were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.  Asked about Russia’s military moves, a senior State Department official said, “We’re very concerned.”  “It certainly has created an environment of intimidation,” said the official, who cannot be identified under the agency’s protocol for briefing reporters. “It certainly is destabilizing.” Mr. Kerry plans to ask for an explanation of the military moves when he meets with Mr. Lavrov, the official said. Mr. Kerry said in testimony on Thursday that further sanctions would be announced Monday if the referendum went forward on Sunday. “There will be costs if the referendum goes forward,” the official said. If Russia escalates the crisis further, those costs will be increased, the official added.

Until Thursday, the Russian military actions had been largely confined to asserting control over the Crimean peninsula, the largely Russian-populated area in southern Ukraine that took steps a week ago to secede and join Russia after the ouster of the pro-Kremlin government in Ukraine last month. A Crimean referendum, which Ukraine, the United States and the European Union have called illegal, is set to ratify that decision on Sunday.  But the buildup on Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia signaled possible further moves by the Kremlin to reassert authority by force over territory, also heavily populated by Russians, forfeited in the Soviet Union breakup two decades ago.  Underscoring the potential gravity of the troop movements, Russia’s senior commander, Valery V. Gerasimov, spoke by telephone with his NATO counterpart, Gen. Knud Bartles of Denmark, the news agency Interfax reported, citing a defense source. The details of the conversation were not disclosed.

In a further sign of a military buildup, Russian news agencies said the Defense Ministry had ordered six Sukhoi-27 fighter jets and three transport planes to Belarus, a Russian ally, to fend off what the Belarus president, Aleksandr Lukashenko, called a potential NATO threat. The Belarus deployment came after NATO sent 12 F-16 fighters to Poland last week.  Oleksandr V. Turchynov, Ukraine’s acting president, said in a statement on his official website that he believed Russian forces massed near the border were “ready to intervene in Ukraine at any time,” and that he hoped diplomatic efforts by Ukraine and sympathetic nations would “stop the aggression.”  In Moscow, the military acknowledged significant operations involving armored and airborne troops in the Belgorod, Kursk and Rostov regions abutting eastern Ukraine, where many ethnic Russians have protested the new interim government in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, and appealed to Moscow for protection.  A day after a deputy minister denied any military buildup on the border, the Defense Ministry released a series of statements beginning early on Thursday that appeared to contradict that. They outlined what was described as intensive training of units involving artillery batteries, assault helicopters and at least 10,000 soldiers.

The operations confirmed, at least in part, assertions by Ukrainian leaders on Wednesday that Russia was massing forces. Amateur photographs appeared to show columns of armored vehicles and trucks in a border village called Lopan, only 30 miles from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. One statement announced that another 1,500 paratroopers from Ivanovo, east of Moscow, had parachuted onto a military base in Rostov, not far from the Ukrainian cities Donetsk and Luhansk.  Donetsk in particular has been a flash point of tensions over the past few weeks, with competing demonstrations by pro-Russia and pro-Ukraine supporters erupting in violence. On Thursday night, the first death was reported, as several dozen supporters of the interim government in Kiev were attacked by opponents during a rally on a central Donetsk square.  The ouster of the government of Viktor F. Yanukovych in February and Russia’s subsequent intervention in Crimea have deeply divided Russia and the West, and in Berlin, Ms. Merkel underscored the potential risks, declaring that “the territorial integrity of Ukraine cannot be called into question.”  As Russia’s largest trading partner in Europe, Germany is certain to have significant influence on the debate over how to respond to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Some politicians and observers in other European countries and in the United States have suggested that Germany’s close trading and other ties with Russia had made it hesitant to adopt sanctions against Russia.  Ms. Merkel’s speech, however, suggested that President Vladimir V. Putin might have miscalculated the anger that the occupation and annexation of Crimea would cause — or that he might be impervious to it.

Mr. Putin, who has remained in Sochi to attend the Paralympics there, has so far showed no sign of bending to international criticism. In a meeting on Wednesday with the directors of national Paralympic teams, he implicitly reiterated the Kremlin’s argument that the ouster of Mr. Yanukovych was an armed coup instigated by outside forces. “I would like to assure you that Russia was not the initiator of the circumstances we are now facing,” Mr. Putin said.  In her remarks, Ms. Merkel rejected any comparison between the situation in Crimea today and that in Kosovo in the late 1990s, when NATO bombed Serbia for 78 days to halt the attacks on Kosovo Albanians by Serbian forces.  Ms. Merkel was clear that Germany would go along with the other 27 states of the European Union, and the United States, if Russia did not open meaningful diplomatic talks and the West moved to freeze Russian accounts and impose travel bans or restrictions on leading Russian figures.  “To make it unmistakably clear,” she said, “nobody wants it to come to that.” - NY Times.

Estonia Claims That Russia Is Preparing To Invade East Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing to “invade eastern Ukraine” after occupying the country’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, Estonia said. Russia warned that Ukraine’s government has lost control of the country today, fueling concern the Kremlin may extend a military intervention as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for it to halt a takeover of the disputed province.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing to “invade eastern Ukraine” after occupying the country’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, Estonia said. Russia warned that Ukraine’s government has lost control of the country today, fueling concern the Kremlin may extend a military intervention as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for it to halt a takeover of the disputed province. - Bloomberg.

Kremlin Website Hit By "Powerful" Cyber Attack.
Hackers knocked out the Russian presidency's website several times on Friday and brought down the central bank website, the Kremlin press service said.

"A powerful cyber attack is under way on the (Kremlin) site," a Kremlin spokeswoman said, adding that the attack was continuing and security experts were trying to prevent further disruptions.

She did not say who was believed to be behind the cyber attack. - Reuters.

WATCH: Crosstalk - Ukraine on the brink.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - Japan's Nikkei Slides To 1-Month Low As Ukraine, China Woes Unnerve Investors!

March 14, 2014 - JAPAN - Japanese stocks skidded 2.7% to a one-month low on Friday morning as concerns over Ukraine and slowing growth in China rattled investors, underpinning the safe-haven yen and hurting exporters.

A city worker in Tokyo looks at the falling Nikkei stock index

The Nikkei share average fell 395.04 points to 14,420.94 in mid-morning trade after dropping to a low of 14,408.62 earlier, the weakest since February 17.

"Investors are unwinding their long positions in the Nikkei and short positions in the yen," said Kyoya Okazawa, head of global equities and commodity derivatives at BNP Paribas. "Short-term sellers like commodity trading advisors are also big players today and they are also reacting to the falling copper price."

On Thursday, copper resumed its decline on the London Metal Exchange after a brief recovery on the previous day. It hit a 44-month low on Wednesday.

Nonferrous metal shares, which have been hit over the past few sessions, extended their declines. Dowa Holdings dropped 3.0% to a nine-month low of 807 yen, and Sumitomo Metal Mining shed 2.0% to a five-week low of 1,240 yen.

Traders said investors remained risk-averse amid the backdrop of troubles in Ukraine and soft data in China, adding that the benchmark Nikkei would likely target support at 14,000 if it breaches Friday's futures and options settlement price of 14,429.87.

Market participants, citing estimates by local brokerages, said that Nikkei futures and options contracts expiring in March likely settled at 14,429.87. The official settlement price will be announced by the Osaka Securities Exchange after the market closes.

Markets remained nervous on rising tensions in Ukraine after Russia launched military exercises near its border with Ukraine.

Index heavyweight stocks led the declines. SoftBank Corp fell 1.8% and was the most trade stock by turnover, while Fast Retailing Co declined 2.7% and was the second-most traded stock.

Exporters were also battered after the dollar/yen hit the lowest in over a week at 101.83 yen. A weak yen hurts Japanese exporters' competitiveness abroad as well as their dollar earnings when repatriated.

Toyota Motor Corp slid 2.3%, Nikon Corp tumbled 4.1% and Tokyo Electron Ltd shed 4.2%.

The Topix dropped 2.4% to 1,174.83, with all of its 33 subsectors in negative territory.

The JPX-Nikkei Index 400 , a gauge comprising firms with high return on equity and strong corporate governance, dropped 2.4% to 10,624.75. - Business Standard.

EXTREME WEATHER: 2014 Forecast - Severe Storm And Tornado Threat To Spike Later Than Usual Across The United States!

March 14, 2014 - UNITED STATES - Persistent cold air during the first part of the spring is likely to cause severe weather to get off to a sluggish start in a heavily populated part of the nation. However, a marked turnaround is expected later in the spring for 2014.

On average, severe weather gradually ramps up moving forward through the spring. This year, the transition may occur later and may be more dramatic.

A spike in damaging thunderstorms, including some capable of producing tornadoes, is expected during May and June.

Early Season Temperature Extremes

According to AccuWeather Long Range Weather Expert Paul Pastelok, "We expect a southward dip in steering-level winds to occur much of the time over a large part of the Midwest to the Eastern states during March and the first part of April."

This dip of strong winds high in the atmosphere, known as a jet stream trough, will generally keep warm, moist air at bay from near the Mississippi River to the Atlantic coast.

Last year, a similar setup occurred in much of the same area during the spring and led to a much lower-than-average severe weather season for the nation as a whole.

Thunderstorms are fueled by rising warm, moist air. As a general rule, the lower the temperature near the ground, the lower the risk for tornadoes and violent thunderstorms.

"This year, the ground is colder, the Great Lakes have an extensive amount of ice and the Gulf of Mexico waters are starting off colder than average," Pastelok said. "All of these can have a negative impact on temperatures in the lower atmosphere."

Over much of the Southeast, Midwest and Northeast, the tornado risk will be lower than average early on due to the colder-than-average environment expected.

According to Severe Weather Expert Dan Kottlowski, "As a positive note, we may not see the frequency and violence of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes that typically occur during March and much of April, because of the lingering chill impacting a significant part of the nation."

However, Kottlowski urged caution when comparing overall numbers of tornado and other severe weather incidents to other seasons.

"This is not to say there cannot be a couple of outbreaks of severe weather during the first part of the spring in portions of the Midwest, the South and even the Northeast," Kottlowski said. "People should not let their guard down."

Even during a minor severe weather event, all it takes is one tornado hitting a populated area to bring the potential for great loss of life and destruction.

Strong storm systems can exploit temperature extremes. These storms can allow building warm, moist air to surge in just long enough to trigger an outbreak of severe weather in an otherwise, predominately cool weather pattern.

There is one area where severe weather may get off to an early, typical start with the possibility of frequent severe weather events during March and April.

In portions of Texas, Oklahoma, western Arkansas and western Louisiana, Kottlowski and Pastelok both expect warmth to build quickly relative to the balance of the Central and Eastern states.

The AccuWeather long-range team has concerns for flooding over part of the Tennessee and Ohio valleys with this setup, however. Weakening thunderstorms could unload heavy rain as they move farther east and unwind in the semi-permanent cooler air.

Dramatic Pattern Change Later in Spring

Pastelok and Kottlowski expect the pattern from the Mississippi Valley to the East to change significantly during May and June and correspondingly expect a spike in severe weather incidents to progress northward and eastward.

"We expect a normal to perhaps an above-average amount of severe thunderstorms over the Central states during May and June," Kottlowski said.

Indications are that the jet stream will pull to the north during May and June and hence will allow warm, moist air to flow northward more regularly over the Midwest.

"While warmth combined with drier air may keep a lid on severe weather for a time in the East during May, the air should be thoroughly warm and moist over much of the Midwest and South Central states," Pastelok said.

Areas from the Dakotas and Minnesota to Wisconsin, Michigan, the Appalachians and Atlantic coast should experience surge of severe weather during June and July.

A significant number of severe weather events are likely to continue to occur over the balance of the Midwest and South Central states and expand to along the Rockies as spring draws to a close and summer begins. - AccuWeather.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - China's Premier Li Keqiang Warns Investors To Prepare For WAVE OF BANKRUPTCIES!

March 14, 2014 - CHINA - China is braced for a wave of industrial bankruptcies as its slowing economy forces companies with sky-high debts to the wall, the country's premier has said.

Premier Li Keqiang told lenders to China's private sector factories they should expect debt defaults as the world's second largest economy encounters "serious challenges" in the year ahead.

Speaking after the annual session of the national people's congress, Li Keqiang said: "We are going to confront serious challenges this year and some challenges may be even more complex." He told lenders to China's private sector factories they should expect debt defaults.

Li said China must "ensure steady growth, ensure employment, avert inflation and defuse risks" while also fighting pollution, among other tasks.

"So we need to strike a proper balance amidst all these goals and objectives," he added. "This is not going to be easy," he said.

Li's warning followed the failure of Shanghai Chaori Solar Energy to make a payment on a 1bn yuan (£118m) bond last week. The default was the first of its kind for China and widely seen as pointing to the end of 11th-hour government bailouts for troubled enterprises.

Some analysts said the decision to let some indebted firms collapse was a sign the authorities had learned from the Japanese boom and bust experience of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Tokyo was plunged into two "lost" decades of stagnation after it prevented zombie companies from declaring bankruptcy – even blocking petitions from bondholders in the courts - when a property collapse exposed debts many times the value of their businesses.

However, figures this week revealed that Beijing is copying the Japanese tactic of ramping up public infrastructure spending to replace the steep slowdown in private sector investment. Fixed asset investment, a measure of government spending on infrastructure, expanded 17.9% during the first two months of 2014, the National Bureau of Statistics said.

China's industrial production rose at its slowest pace in five years with surveys showing a faster slowdown than expected. Industrial output, which measures production at factories, workshops and mines, rose 8.6% in January and February year on year, which is the lowest pace of growth since the 7.3% annual growth figure recorded in April 2009.

The figures covered a two-month period owing to China's lunar new year holiday week, which fell in both months.

China's Premier, Li Keqiang, was speaking after the annual session of the national people's congress.
Photograph: Feng Li/Getty Images

Retail sales gained 11.8% in the two months from the year before, the lowest since an 11.6% increase in February 2011.

The pessimistic data surprised economists but followed indicators for manufacturing, trade and inflation that also suggested weakness in China's economy.

China's GDP grew 7.7% in 2013, unchanged from the year before, the slowest growth since 1999. Li said this month that Beijing was targeting economic growth of about 7.5% in 2014, the same target as last year.

Société Générale said in a research note that the results were a confirmation of "fast deterioration of China's economic growth". But Julian Evans-Pritchard, Asia economist for Capital Economics, said officials were unlikely to intervene.

"Limited and seasonally distorted data over the last few weeks have made it difficult to make sense of what's really happening in China's economy," he said in a note. "Despite this broad evidence of a slowdown, we don't think policymakers will necessarily step in to support growth," he said, adding that officials were "comfortable with a moderate slowdown".

The figures come as China's leadership says it wants to transform the growth model away from an over-reliance on often wasteful investment, making private demand the driver for the country's development.

A reliance on public sector investment while the private sector rebalances away from low margin manufacturing relies for its success on the economy maintaining the government's growth target.

Li said: "Last year, without taking any additional short-term stimulus measures, we succeeded in meeting our target. Why can't we do this this year?"

He emphasised the target was approximate. "This 'about' shows that there is a level of flexibility here."

At any rate, he said authorities were not focused on the figure itself, but how it contributes to improving livelihoods, saying growth "needs to ensure fairly full employment and needs to help increase people's income". - Guardian.