Friday, February 12, 2016

ICE AGE NOW: Global Cooling Continues Relentlessly - New York Cancels Central Park's Ice Festival Because It Is Too COLD As U.S. Northeast States Brace For RECORD-BREAKING Low Temperatures This Weekend; Could This Be The Coldest Valentine's Day EVER?! [PHOTOS]

The Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain in Midtown, New York, has begun to freeze over due to the cold

February 12, 2016 - U.S. NORTHEAST - Love birds planning to spend their Valentine's Day outdoors will have to bundle up, as it will likely be the coldest one on record for much of the Northeast.

Temperatures will dip so low, it will be too cold in New York City for the annual Central Park Ice Festival.

The Central Park Conservancy says Saturday's event has been canceled due to the weekend's major arctic outbreak, which could bring sub-zero temperatures as 20 states in the Midwest and the Northeast brace for possibly 'life-threatening' wind chills, according to The Weather Channel.

In the eastern half of the country, a dip in the jet stream is making way for an arctic air mass to drop in from Canada, causing temperatures to plunge below zero, with wind chills of 20 to 30 degrees below zero.

Jacob Donahue, 34, (pictured) cleans snow from his car before going to work on Friday in Erie, Pennsylvania

Shar Horton, of Syracuse, scrapes ice from the windows of her car visiting a friend in Utica, NY, on Thursday

A woman walks down the street in New Bedford, Massachusetts on Monday during a snowstorm

NORTH EAST: A snow storm in Philadelphia on Wednesday sent a utility pole crashing down on a highway

Firefighters from the Erie, Pennsylvania, Bureau of Fire prepare to leave the scene after checking on the occupants of a sedan
that spun out in snowy conditions on Wednesday on the Interstate 79 northbound

Vehicles make their way through downtown New Bedford on Monday as the second winter storm in four days to hit the Northeast is expected to bring blizzard
conditions to Cape Cod and southeastern Massachusetts and leave behind as much as 18 inches of snow

Across New England, wind chills of 20 to 40 degrees below zero are expected.

The arctic blast begins today when temperatures in the Midwest will plunge below zero and stay there until President's Day, according to forecasts.

As the weekend arrives, the arctic blast will head east causing temperatures to drop at least 30 degrees below normal, ABC News reported.

On Saturday, record-cold is possible across the Great Lakes region - which includes parts of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota - as temperatures in the afternoon remain in the single digits and the teens throughout most of the day.

Lake-effect snow could be triggered in the Great Lakes area, which comes when moisture in warmer lake waters mixes with cold air from the north, causing upward of two to three inches of snow an hour, according to CNN.

The North East begins its Arctic plunge as temperatures sink in to the 20s in New York City and Boston

The country is still cold tomorrow, with New York City getting as cold as 4 degrees and parts of the North East going in to the negatives

One of the coldest Valentine's days ever with frosty temperatures in North East on Sunday

The West Coast is currently enjoying a warm blast blowing up from the southern hemisphere, and the East Coast is getting
hit by a cold blast coming down from Canada. But by Monday, both jet streams will break down

'Depending on where you are, if you're just south or north of this lake-effect, it can look like a wall of snow is coming down,' CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said.

And in New York City, a 100-year-old record could be broken if temperatures drop below two degrees.

In Buffalo, New York, a record-low maximum temperature of zero degrees is forecasted for Saturday afternoon with the record being five degrees, set back in 1899.

As a polar vortex is set to hit the East Coast, Midwest, and South next week following the arctic blast - the force of the downward icy blast, offset by the intense warm blast surging up the West Coast, has the potential to pull moisture up from the Gulf of Mexico.

It means snow and ice will likely batter vast swathes of the country east of California on President's Day and beyond.

Meanwhile, a midwinter heat wave is smashing records in California.

Temperatures on the southern West Coast rocketed into the 90s for the second consecutive day on Tuesday even as the warming Santa Ana winds that came in on Saturday began to fade.

Forecasters said strong high pressure will continue through the week, keeping afternoon temperatures well above normal until at least Valentine's Day on Sunday.

On the other side of the country, the romantic occasion will be a freezing one as snow persists and temperatures plummet to their worst of the winter.

New York City is set to see wind chills of -15 degrees on Sunday morning.

On a positive note for heat-seekers in the Midwest and North East, the worst of the winter cold is expected to subside as of Monday, according to the Weather Channel.

The site explains that the West Coast is currently enjoying a warm blast blowing up from the southern hemisphere, and the East Coast is getting hit by a cold blast coming down from Canada.

But by Monday afternoon, both jet streams will break down, the Weather Channel says.

As a result, winds around the North Pole will get stronger, containing the Arctic air - leading to a thaw on the East Coast for the rest of February.

Homeowners in Scranton, Pennsylvania, awoke to find their homes covered in ice yesterday after a pipe burst
overnight spraying water up to 20ft in the air in freezing temperatures

Icicles were left dangling from tree branches and power lines while the sidewalk and properties were covered with
a thick layer of ice before crews could shut the water off at around 3pm yesterday

Contractor Stephen Sunder attempts to chip ice off of the steps leading up to a home that froze after a water main burst,
but it may be days before the rest of the property thaws out

For now, however, East and West Coasters should be braced for a week of extremes.

By Tuesday afternoon on the southern West Coast, there were numerous readings in the 90s throughout the region.

Downtown Los Angeles topped out at 89 degrees, beating the old February 9 record by four degrees. The high was 21 degrees above normal for the date, the National Weather Service said.

Other records were set or tied in Long Beach, where it reached 92 degrees, Santa Barbara, Camarillo and at Los Angeles International Airport.

Unseasonable warmth began building over the weekend as high pressure set into the Great Basin, sending air flowing toward Southern California.

The gusty, dry Santa Ana winds form as air descends through mountain passes and canyons, warming through compression and pushing out to sea.

Red flag warnings for wildfire danger that were posted on Monday were not reissued on Tuesday as the winds subsided.

Mountains and some inland valleys were expected to see a bit of relief on Wednesday, but not coastal areas.

Cloudiness will lower Saturday temperatures five to 10 degrees, but the high pressure ridge will quickly reform and make next week almost as warm, forecasters said.

While Northern California has received a steady series of winter storms that have built a substantial snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, Southern California has yet to see the kind of extended rains sometimes produced by the El Nino warming phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean.

Downtown Los Angeles has recorded only about half the 8.28 inches of rain normally received seasonally to date.

Across the country, snow has already dusted the Midwest and North East on Wednesday.

On Saturday morning, the subzero chills will spread to Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, eastern Nebraska, and eastern Kansas.

By Sunday morning, subzero temperatures could hit southern New England, the suburbs of New York City and Philadelphia. - Daily Mail.

WEATHER PHENOMENON: La Nina Expected In The Next Months - The First Time In 4 Years!

February 12, 2016 - EARTH - Even as the El Nino weather phenomenon continues to impact global temperatures and crops, its counterpart La Nina is increasingly expected to emerge in the coming months for the first time in four years.

The return of La Nina, Spanish for "the girl" and characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures, is possible later this year, the U.S. government forecaster said Thursday. It joined other forecasters in projecting La Nina could follow on the heels of one of the strongest El Ninos on record.

Weather models indicate La Nina conditions, which tend to occur unpredictably every two to seven years, may emerge in the Northern Hemisphere fall, while El Nino - which means "the little boy" in Spanish - is expected to dissipate during the late spring or early summer, the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center (CPC) said in its monthly forecast.

The phenomenon can be less damaging than El Nino, but severe La Ninas are linked to floods, droughts and hurricanes.Even though CPC is not on official watch for La Nina, the probability is trending towards one, said Michelle L'Heureux, a CPC climate scientist and El Nino/La Nina expert.

When La Nina last appeared from August 2011 to March 2012, it hurt corn and soybean crops in Argentina and Brazil, brought the worst drought in a century to Texas and increased the number of storms that threatened U.S. coastal regions, like Hurricane Irene.

Energy and agricultural commodities have been roiled by the current and much-watched El Nino, which involves a pattern of warmer ocean surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific every few years.

Over the last year, El Nino has parched fields in the Philippines and Indonesia, brought unseasonable rains to areas of South America, driven up global food prices, and caused flash floods in Somalia that destroyed thousands of homes.

El Nino is likely to keep affecting temperature and precipitation patterns across the United States in the upcoming months, CPC said in its forecast.
"As we get into the spring, we'd still expect to see some influence. Folks need to keep their eyes on El Nino," CPC's L'Heureux said. - Yahoo.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Escalation In Mosquito-Borne Diseases Continue - Yellow Fever Outbreak Kills 37 People In Angola!

A yellow fever outbreak in Angola has killed 37 people since December, the country's national director of health Adelaide de Carvalho.
Picture: AFP/ Luis Robayo

February 12, 2016 - ANGOLA - A yellow fever outbreak in Angola has killed 37 people since December with eight new cases reported in the last 24 hours, the country's national director of health Adelaide de Carvalho said late on Wednesday.

The outbreak of yellow fever, which is transmitted by mosquito bites, began in the Luanda suburb of Viana but has spread to other areas of the southern African country with 191 people infected so far.

De Carvalho said health officials were monitoring suburbs around the capital of Luanda where infections have been worsened by unsanitary conditions caused by a garbage collection backlog.

“Actions should be developed for the improvement of public sanitary and garbage collection,” de Carvalho said.

Symptoms of yellow fever include sudden fever, severe headache, nausea, vomiting and fatigue, according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. - IOL.

ICE AGE NOW: Global Cooling Continues Relentlessly - Heavy Snowfall Cripples Life In Northern Pakistan! [PHOTOS + VIDEOS]

Heavy snow fall in Murree, Pakistan. 
© Sohail abbasi

February 12, 2016 - NORTHERN PAKISTAN - Widespread rain with thunderstorm and snowfall in northwestern upper parts of the country continued since Wednesday evening, crippling life in hilly areas, Samaa reported Thursday.

According to Met Office, heavy snowfall was recorded in hilly areas of Malakand Division, Hazara Division, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir.

Snow in Murree. © MINHAS ‏

Popular tourist destinations of Naran, Kaghan, Shogran and Murree also received heavy snowfall, with many roads blocked including Shahrah-e-Karakuram. Mansehra city in Hazara Division also received 6 to 8 inch snowfall after many years.

Heavy rainfall occurred in upper Punjab including Islamabad and Rawalpindi and different areas of KPK, including Peshawar.

WATCH: Heavy snowfall in Northern Pakistan.

The intermittent spell of rain and snowfall continued today.

Rain triggered landsliding in vulnerable areas of Malakand, Hazara divisions, Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir. - Samaa.

RATTLE & HUM: Mysterious Sounds Heard Across The Planet - Inexplicable Boom Heard In Howard City, Michigan?! [VIDEO]

February 12, 2016 - MICHIGAN, UNITED STATES - Several people living near Howard City reported that they felt and heard a loud boom Thursday morning.

WZZM 13 received several messages on our Facebook page from people saying they felt a rumble similar to an earthquake or sonic boom.

"The whole ground was shaking, the house was shaking," said Sue Eastman of Coral. It was just before 10 a.m. Thursday when she heard the loud boom. As she was trying to figure out what was going on, so were several others.

Christine Rizor of Howard City thought it was an earthquake. "I was sitting in a chair and all the sudden, it was like a big shake. I was like, 'Whoa!'"

Kasey Field, also in Howard City, posted about it on social media.

"I had people from all over the lake area. They felt it in Morley and Evart. In Sears, they heard it up there."
According to the National Weather Service and the U.S. Geological Survey, it was not an earthquake.

Some suspect the source is a supersonic jet capable of producing a sonic boom. Such a sound is caused by a jet traveling more quickly than the speed of sound. The change in pressure causes the loud noise.

WATCH: Loud boom heard in West Michigan still a mystery.

Several people posted on the WZZM Facebook page that they saw military planes passing through the area.

So far, no military bases in Michigan seem to know where the alleged sonic boom came from. According to the Michigan National Guard, there are no planes fast enough and based in Michigan that can create a sonic boom.

It is possible that a supersonic jet from another state is conducting military exercises in this area. - Detroit Free Press.

MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFF: Mysterious Mass Death Of Monkeys In Central America - 40 Howlers Dead In Recent Months, With Relatively Full Stomachs And No Signs Of Trauma; Scientists Are Baffled; Could This Be Related To Zika Or Other Mosquito-Borne Diseases?!

A dead howler monkey found in the woods in southern Nicaragua.© Paso Pacifico

February 12, 2016 - CENTRAL AMERICA - Scientists are investigating the mysterious die-off of dozens of monkeys in Central America, including the possibility that they have contracted Zika or another virus that could be passed to humans.

In recent months, around 40 howler monkeys have been found dead or dying in the tropical rainforests of Nicaragua. The animals have all had relatively full stomachs and no obvious signs of trauma. Experts fear there may be many more cases that have not been reported.

"Wild animals die off all the time, but it is really unusual to see this many deaths in such a short time with no apparent reason," said Kim Williams-Guillen, a conservation Ph.D. who has been researching in Nicaragua's jungles since 1999. "I have never seen anything like it."

"These deaths are worth investigating, not just from a conservation standpoint, but from a public health standpoint. It is very important we get to the bottom of this."

WATCH: Nicaragua Howler Monkey Die-off Signals New Viral Outbreak?

Primates are highly susceptible to mosquito-borne diseases, and outbreaks among them could be a precursor to the spread of disease among humans, although scientists are careful to warn that this leap remains rare.

Complicating the mystery is the fact that howler monkeys are immune to dengue but are highly vulnerable to yellow fever. Yet Nicaragua has been declared free of that disease for years.

What is less clear is how the primates will respond to Zika and chikungunya, both of which are related to yellow fever and have just arrived in the Western Hemisphere in the last couple of years.

Nicaragua has reported 29 cases of Zika so far. Meanwhile, chikungunya has infected more than 100,000 people across Central America since first arriving there in 2014.

Among the numerous unknowns is whether howler monkeys would even exhibit symptoms if they became infected with either virus.

"It is just not something that has been researched yet, how or whether they would affect primates," adds Williams-Guillen, who is conservation director at Paso Pacifico, an environmental nonprofit working in Central America's Pacific jungles.

The group is now coordinating with scientists from the University of California, Davis, to come up with a definitive diagnosis for whatever it is that is killing off the monkeys.

In addition to the possibility of a virus, the researchers will also probe other factors that might be at work, including drought and other environmental variables.

The first challenge is to take hair, skin and other samples from a recently deceased animal and then transport it to Davis.

Red Howler Monkey babies are seen at the Hacienda Miraderos forests in the Municipality of Armenia, Antioquia, Colombia, December 14, 2015.© Fredy Builes/Reuters

Liliana Cortez Ortiz, a University of Michigan researcher and member of the International Primate Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, said this kind of unexplained die-off of apparently healthy animals is unusual, but not unprecedented.

"Any instances in which primates are dying from unknown causes is potentially a concern for humans as well," she added. "We simply don't know why this is happening and we need to find out."

Despite their cute appearance and size, typically weighing around 17 to 20 pounds, howler monkeys are actually the loudest land animals on the planet.

That's because they have large, hard, hollow throats, which they use to project roars that can travel for miles across the jungle. To the untrained ear, they sound more like a big cat than a fluffy monkey.

But now that they are apparently suffering from a mystery disease, they also face a new threat, warns Cortez Ortiz: humans.

"Now that we know they are dying, it is possible that local people may become scared and take matters into their own hands, killing the monkeys deliberately out of fear," she said.

"It is very important that they message gets out in Nicaragua that that is not the way to handle this, and these monkeys are not a danger to humans." - PRI.

MONUMENTAL SOLAR SYSTEM ANOMALIES: Welcome To The Quiet Sun - Solar Cycle 24 Activity Continues To Be The Lowest In NEARLY 200 YEARS!

February 12, 2016 - SUN - It has been a couple of months since WUWT has checked in on the progress of solar cycle 24. Right now, the sun is in “cue ball” mode, with no large visible sunspots as seen above in the most recent Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) photo.

Since there is a new analysis out at Pierre Gosselin’s website by Frank Bosse and Prof. Fritz Vahrenholt, I thought it would be a good time to do an update. They write:

[The sun was] rather quiet in January. The determined solar sunspot number (SSN) was 56.6, which is 71% of the mean this far into the period, calculated using the 23 previously measured solar cycles.

Figure 1: Plot of the monthly sunspot number so far for the current cycle (red line) compared to the mean solar cycle (blue line)
and the similar solar cycle no. 5 (black).

The earlier peak occurring at month number 35 (fall 2011) signaled the time of the SSN maximum at the sun’s northern hemisphere. The later peaks occurring at about month no. 68 (mid 2014) are the SSN maximum for the sun’s southern hemisphere.

They also have a prediction, read about it here. Full report (in German) here.

As you can see from the plots in Figure 1, the current level of activity of solar cycle 24 seems close to that of solar cycle number 5, which occurred beginning in May 1798 and ending in December 1810 (thus falling within the Dalton Minimum).

The maximum smoothed sunspot number (monthly number of sunspots averaged over a twelve-month period) observed during the solar cycle was 49.2, in February 1805 (the second lowest of any cycle to date, as a result of being part of the Dalton Minimum), and the minimum was zero.(ref: Wikipedia)

Below is what the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center has offered this month. Sunspot count continues below the red prediction line. 10.7 cm radio flux is about at the prediction level, and the Ap geomagnetic index continues to rise, suggesting that the solar magnetic dynamo might be a bit more active, but that activity isn’t translating into increased sunspots or radio flux.

Sunspot Number Progression

F10.7cm Radio Flux Progression

AP Progression

As always, there’s more at the WUWT Solar Reference Page - WUWT.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - Venezuela On The Verge Of Default As Oil Prices Fall!

February 12, 2016 - VENEZUELA - The country with the world’s biggest crude reserves could default on its $122.9 billion external debt as early as this month. The plunge in oil prices puts Venezuela’s ability to pay creditors in doubt.

Caracas is scheduled to make a $1.5 billion external bond repayment on February 26.

Despite the crisis the country has managed to pay bondholders on time so far. But with 96 percent of the Venezuela’s export earnings coming from crude sales, the drop in price from over $100 per barrel in mid-2014 to the current $30 per barrel has wreaked havoc on the country's economy.


In January Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro claimed the country will be able to service its debt obligations despite low oil prices.

“Venezuela has ethics, morals and commitments, first with the people and the fatherland, but also has the commitments that the republic has honored and will continue honoring,” he told the Wall Street Journal.


Venezuela currently holds a CCC credit rating from Standard & Poor with its foreign-currency assets at $35.5 billion in the third quarter of 2015. The country’s ability to pay is increasingly in doubt as foreign exchange reserves are rapidly running out.

Venezuela’s economy contracted by 10 percent last year, inflation reached 141 percent between September 2015 and the year-end, according to government statistics. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts further recession. - RT.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Latest Report Of Volcanic Eruptions, Activity, Unrest And Awakenings – February 12, 2016! [PHOTOS + VIDEO]

Colima volcano.

February 12, 2016 - EARTH - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing reports of volcanoes across the globe.

Colima (Mexico): The volcano continues to produce intermittent explosions, but there might be something new in the making: weak, but continuous glow from the crater has appeared during the last night, something that hasn't been observed since the latest effusive eruptive phase in July last year.

Glow from Colima's summit crater this morning.

Washington VAAC reported that during 3-8 February ash plumes from Colima rose to altitudes of 4.9-6.7 km (16,000-22,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted 75-140 km in multiple directions. (Smithsonian / USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Report 3-9 February 2016)

It could indicate that a new lava dome is about to appear. The next days or weeks will probably give a better answer.

WATCH: Time-lapse video.

Sakurajima (Kyushu, Japan): The volcano continues to produce small to moderate vulcanian explosions at rates of a few per day, typically.

Ash plume from an eruption at Sakurajima.

- Volcano Discovery .

WORLD WAR Z: Plagues & Pestilences - 3 Deaths Linked To Zika Virus In Venezuela; Infection Spreads To 20 States In The U.S.; And Discovery Of The Disease In Fetus May Prove Link Between Zika And Severe Brain Defect!

The World Health Organization appears to have triggered a surge in microcephaly, which causes babies to be born with
smaller than usual heads and can result in severe disabilities

February 12, 2016 - HEALTH - The following constitutes the latest developments on the spread of the Zika virus across the globe.

3 deaths linked to Zika virus in Venezuela

Three people have died in Venezuela from complications related to the Zika virus, President Nicolas Maduro said.

There have been 319 confirmed cases of the Zika virus in the nation, state-run newspaper Correo Del Orinoco reported Thursday.

Venezuela's deaths come as other Latin American nations battle the virus.

Zika is also commanding attention because of an alarming connection between the virus and microcephaly, a neurological disorder in which babies are born with abnormally small heads. It causes severe developmental issues and in some cases, death.

The Zika virus is a flavivirus, part of the same family as yellow fever, West Nile and dengue. But unlike some of those viruses, there is no vaccine to prevent Zika and no medicine to treat the infection.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the first case of locally acquired Zika virus in the United States in the latest outbreak. The case was transmitted via sex, and not by the most common route, which is via mosquito bite.

Brazil has reported the most cases in the outbreak, sparking major concern because the nation is hosting the Olympics in August.

The World Health Organization has declared the spike in microcephaly cases a global health emergency. Other nations affected include Colombia and El Salvador.

Adult deaths unclear

The WHO said it has not seen adult deaths due to the Zika virus, adding that the world health agency is awaiting more information on the Venezuela deaths. Brazil also reported three deaths from the virus, but experts say more research is needed on those cases as well.

"We have not seen reports of deaths of adults directly linked to the viral infection," said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, the WHO assistant director-general for health systems and innovation.

People infected with Zika usually develop mild symptoms - fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes - which usually last no more than a week.

"It could be that this was Guillain-Barre in persons known to be infected with Zika virus, but this will need to be confirmed. We have had no direct primary information from Venezuela on that yet."

The link between Zika virus and Guillain-Barre is highly probable, according to Kieny. Areas where there is an increased prevalence of Zika have also seen an increase in cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome.

"The direct causality is still to be demonstrated but the association in time and location seems to be clear. We have a few more weeks to be sure to demonstrate the causality, but the link between Zika and Guillain-Barre is highly probable," Kieny said.

Guillain-Barre is a rare autoimmune disorder that can lead to life-threatening paralysis.

Vaccines in the works

The WHO has said that vaccines to fight the Zika virus are at least 18 months away from large scale trials.

Many companies have been identified, but most have just begun working on a vaccine, according to Kieny.

"The landscape is evolving very rapidly and numbers change daily," she said.

"About 15 companies have been identified by the WHO so far, and most only just started work. Two vaccines candidates seem to be more advanced."  - CNN.

First case of Zika identified in Alabama as it emerges virus has now spread to 20 U.S. states and DC

The Zika virus is now believed to have spread to 20 states, as well as Washington, DC, with 59 reported cases in the United States.
All of the cases involved people who were infected abroad before returning to America

The first case of the Zika virus has been confirmed in Alabama.

Officials in Alabama said the person had recently traveled to a country affected by the virus and returned infected.

The individual, who has not been identified, is a resident of Morgan County in the Tennessee Valley and is said to be 'fine'.

Four other people have been tested and are awaiting results, while another person, who had returned from Latin American country, came back negative.

'The person is fine,' Dr Jim McVay, from the Alabama Department of Public Health, told

Dr Tom Miller, acting state health officer, said he expected more cases to be identified in Alabama.

'We knew it was only a matter of time before we would have the first positive case of an individual in Alabama with Zika virus,' he said.

'Given the frequency of international travel to affected areas, we anticipate having additional positive cases. We are working with the medical community to identify high-risk individuals.'

The Zika virus is now believed to have spread to 20 states, as well as Washington, DC.

The worst affected areas are Florida, with 14 cases of Zika, Texas, with 11, California, with six, and New York, with five.

Hawaii, Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC, have all seen at least two cases, while 10 other states have each seen one infection.

Indiana and Ohio became the latest states to confirm infections after women returning from Haiti were found to have the virus.

Of the 59 reported cases of the virus in the U.S., all of them have been brought back into the country by people who became infected abroad.

There have been no cases where the virus has been spread by mosquitoes in the U.S..

It came as the World Health Organization declared the outbreak, which has swept through South and Central America since last summer, an international public health emergency over fears the virus has triggered a surge in cases of the birth defect microcephaly. - Daily Mail.

Zika found in fetus may prove link between virus and severe brain defect – study

A group of researchers from Slovenia presented a first documented case of mother-to-fetus Zika transmission, moving one step closer to pinpointing the link between serious birth defects and the virus sweeping across the Americas.

The study published in the New England Journal of Medicine by scientists from the University of Ljubljana provides a report on a 25-year-old European woman “probably infected with ZIKV” who had to have her pregnancy terminated due to microcephaly found in her baby, a type of defect causing infants to be born with underdeveloped brains and skulls.

An autopsy performed after the surgery showed that the fetus had no other anomalies, while the detailed medical background of the woman revealed no sigh of genetic disorders.

The obtained information explicitly indicates the connection between the virus and abnormalities found in newborns, the study said.

The researchers were also able to recover the whole Zika virus genome that will contribute to further research.

In addition, infants born to mothers infected with Zika may suffer from eye abnormalities worsening with time and leading to blindness, another study published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology on Tuesday, February 9, said.

Researchers monitored babies with underdeveloped skulls (smaller than 32 centimeters) over 21 days at Roberto Santos General Hospital in Salvador, where the Zika outbreak has been particularly severe. Retinas and optic nerves of ten infants were found affected. Seven babies had anomalies in both eyes.

“Congenital infection due to presumed ZIKV exposure is associated with vision-threatening findings, which include bilateral macular and perimacular lesions as well as optic nerve abnormalities in most cases,” the study concludes. - RT.

INFRASTRUCTURE COLLAPSE: 2 Buildings Collapse In Istanbul, Turkey - People May Be Trapped Inside!

February 12, 2016 - ISTANBUL, TURKEY - Two buildings have collapsed in central Istanbul. The structures were reportedly empty, but there were operational shops on the ground floor, prompting fears that people are trapped inside.

The collapsed buildings, one of them five story, are on the Zambak Street, near Istiklal Avenue, a busy shopping area.

Firefighters and medics were dispatched to the scene, with crew beginning the search for people, who might be trapped under the debris.

No casualties and nobody trapped in building collapse
Twitter: Mark Lowen

The cause of the collapse is yet to be established.Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin confirmed that two buildings “unfortunately” collapsed in the city on Friday.

It’s believed that no one was killed or injured in the incident, the governor stressed.

WATCH: 5-story building collapse in Istanbul.

“A building was used as a hotel. It had two customers. According to our information, neither of them were in the building at that time of the collapse,” he said, as cited by Dogan news agency. - RT.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - Business Leaders Worry That The U.S. Economy Is Running Out Of Gas, As ANOTHER RECESSION Looms; U.S. Stocks Fall For The Fourth Straight Day; Investors "Go Bananas" For Gold Bars, WITH LINES AROUND THE BLOCK, Deutsche Bank Attempts To Calm Fears Of BANK COLLAPSE; As Global Stock Markets Tumble; Investors Seeking Safety; Economists Say That The World Can't Afford Another Financial Crash, Fearing It COULD DESTROY CAPITALISM As We Know It; Questions Grow Over Banks As Profit Warnings Pile Up; Central Banks Run Out Of Ammo Under The New Frontier Of Negative Interest Rates!

February 12, 2016 - GLOBAL ECONOMY - Countries across the globe are pumping money into their economies, creating negative interest rates and buying billions of dollars in bonds. Yet experts are worried some of these strategies will not be enough to turn around the coming global financial crash.

Is the US economy running out of gas, is there another recession coming?

Is there another U.S. recession on the way? That's a question rattling investors, worrying business leaders and shaping the debate on the presidential campaign trail. The answer depends a lot on how you measure the strength and durability of the recovery, now in its seventh year based the business cycle dates tracked by economists at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

"There is always some chance of recession in any year," Fed Chair Janet Yellen told Senators on Thursday. "But the evidence suggests that expansions don't die of old age." To see how this recovery compares, CNBC tracked a series of economic and market data over the last eight recessions since 1960 — starting each cycle with the beginning of each downturn.

By just about every measure, the current expansion has been the weakest of the eight.

One of the main reasons has been the relatively sluggish pace of spending an investment — by consumers, government and businesses — since the Great Recession began in December 2007. Consumer spending has recovered far more slowly than past recoveries. And despite a massive stimulus program in 2010, government spending at all levels is actually lower than when the Great Recession hit.

Consumers have been slow to spend, in part, because their paychecks have been rising more slowly than in past downturns. While the job market has recovered and the pace hiring sped up in the last two years, the overall gains in employment lag past recoveries because the scale of job losses in 2007 and 2008 was much higher.

Consumer spending — which makes up about two-thirds of the U.S. economy — has also been held back by the sharp drop in household wealth that accompanied the collapse of the financial markets. To rebuild the trillions of dollars in lost wealth, American households have been stashing more into savings than in past recoveries.

Corporations have also struggled to keep profits moving ahead after the crash of 2007. While profits have recovered along with the job and housing markets, the gains lag all but the 1981-1990 cycle, when the U.S. entered a relatively mild recession brought on by a downturn in the housing market. That cycle was followed by the Roaring '90s, when a surge in profits and the rapid growth of the technology industry sparked the Internet stock market bubble.

By comparison, the latest cycle has produced relatively weak stock market gains — outpacing only the mid-'70s expansion, when rampant inflation eroded stock market gains when measured in real terms. - CNBC.

U.S. stocks fall for fourth straight day

U.S. stocks fell for the fourth dayin a row as concerns about global economic weakness intensified, even as Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen reiterated her confidence in the U.S. economy. Financial stocks fell hardest Thursday as investors worried that interest rates in the U.S. and elsewhere would remain low and sap bank profits. Oil prices sank again, this time to their lowest levels since 2003. While all three major U.S. indexes finished lower, they recovered somewhat from far steeper losses earlier in the day.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 254 points, or 1.6 percent, to close at 15,660. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 22 points, or 1.2 percent, to 1,829. The Nasdaq composite fell 16 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,266. The S&P 500 index has dropped 14 percent since peaking last summer. Worries are high that the sharp slowdown in China's growth, falling U.S. corporate profits and other downward pressures will pull the economy back into a recession.

If a garden-variety one is on the way, the stock market's drop isn't even halfway done. Stocks have lost an average of 33 percent from top to bottom around past recessions, going back to 1929, according to a review by strategists at Credit Suisse. - CBS News.

Investors 'go bananas' for gold bars, with lines around the block, as global stock markets tumble

The price of gold is currently over $1,200 an ounce Photo: Alamy

BullionByPost, Britain's biggest online gold dealer, said it has already taken record-day sales of £5.6m as traders pile into gold following fears the world is on the brink of another financial crisis. Rob Halliday-Stein, founder and managing director of the Birmingham-based company, said takings today had already surpassed the firm's previous one-day record of £4.4m in October 2014. BullionByPost, which takes orders of up to £25,000 on the website but takes higher amounts over the phone, explained it had received a few hundred orders overnight and frantic numbers of phone calls this morning.

"The bullion market has been building with interest since the end of last year but this morning things have gone bananas," said Mr Halliday-Stein. "Some bankers in London are placing unusually large orders for physical gold." London-based ATS Bullion added it had been inundated with orders for the past week. The firm has sold 4,000 gold bars and coins since February 1, a 40pc rise on the same period a year ago when it sold 1,500.

"It's been crazy - it's been the best week since 2012. We've had people queuing round the block," said Michael Cooper of ATS Bullion, a family run firm that trades online and also from an outlet in the West End. Gold is currently at its highest level since May, with prices surging 2.2pc this morning to $1,218.17 for an ounce of the precious metal. Gold producers are among the biggest risers on the FTSE today, with shares in Rangold Resources and Fresnillo up 6.3pc and 6.2pc respectively.

Online gold investment platform BullionVault recorded its busiest-ever trading day on Monday, with investors buying and selling more than a quarter-tonne of gold, worth £7.2m, and more than 5 tonnes of silver, worth £1.7m. The World Gold Council said this morning that demand for the precious metal grew 4pc in the fourth quarter as central banks bolstered their reserves to diversify away from the dollar. Russia's central bank stockpiled the most gold last quarter, adding an estimated 60 tonnes to its reserves. The country bought around 200 tonnes of gold last year, 141 tonnes of which is thought to have been snapped up over the summer.

Global stock markets have had a torrid time in recent months. In early trading on Thursday morning, the FTSE 100 sank to a fresh three-year low. RBS warned last month that major stock markets could fall by a fifth this year, and oil may plummet to $16 a barrel. Meanwhile the price of gold, typically seen as a safe haven by investors, has risen 15pc since the beginning of the year. - Telegraph.

The world can't afford another financial crash – it could destroy capitalism as we know it

They bounce back after terrorist attacks, pick themselves up after earthquakes and cope with pandemics such as Zika. They can even handle years of economic uncertainty, stagnant wages and sky-high unemployment. But no developed nation today could possibly tolerate another wholesale banking crisis and proper, blood and guts recession.

We are too fragile, fiscally as well as psychologically. Our economies, cultures and polities are still paying a heavy price for the Great Recession; another collapse, especially were it to be accompanied by a fresh banking bailout by the taxpayer, would trigger a cataclysmic, uncontrollable backlash. The public, whose faith in elites and the private sector was rattled after 2007-09, would simply not wear it. Its anger would be so explosive, so-all encompassing that it would threaten the very survival of free trade, of globalisation and of the market-based economy. There would be calls for wage and price controls, punitive, ultra-progressive taxes, a war on the City and arbitrary jail sentences.

For fear of allowing extremist or populist parties through the door, mainstream politicians would end up adopting much of this agenda, with devastating implications for our long-term prosperity. Central banks, in desperation, would embrace the purest form of money-printing: they would start giving consumers actual cash to spend, temporarily turbo-charging demand while destroying any remaining respect for the idea that money needs to be earned.

Call this a protest? You ain't seen nothing yet Photo: PAWEL KOPCZYNSKI / REUTERS

History never repeats itself exactly, but the last time a recession was met by pure, unadulterated populism was in the Thirties, when the Americans turned a stock market crash and a series of monetary policy blunders into a depression. President Herbert Hoover signed into law the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, dreamt up by two economically illiterate Republican senators, slapping massive taxes on the imports of 20,000 goods and triggering a global trade war. It was perhaps the most economically destructive piece of legislation ever devised, and it took until the Nineties before the damage was finally erased.

That is why we must all hope that the turmoil of recent days in the financial markets, and the increasingly worrying economic news, will turn out to be a false alarm. It would certainly be ridiculously premature, at this stage, to call a recession, let alone a financial crisis. But at the very least we are seeing a major dose of the “dangerous cocktail of new threats” rightly identified at the turn of the year by George Osborne, a development which will have political repercussions even if the economy eventually muddles through. Investors in equities, including millions of people with private pensions and Isas, have already lost a fortune; they won’t be too happy when they begin to realise the extent of the damage. Growth is slowing everywhere, and the monetary pump-priming of the past few years is looking increasingly ineffective. Traders believe that interest rates won’t go up in Britain until 2019, and there is increasing talk that negative interest rates could become necessary across the developed world, further crippling savers.

No positive spin can be put on any of the latest developments. Banking shares have taken a beating; China’s slowdown continues; Maersk, the shipping giant, believes that conditions for world trade are worse than in 2008-09; industrial production slumped in December, not just in Britain but more so in France and Germany; energy prices are devastating Middle Eastern and Russian economies; and sterling has tumbled.

It is always a sure sign that panic has broken out when financial markets respond badly to all possible scenarios. The prospect of higher interest rates? Sell, sell, sell. A chance of lower rates? Sell, sell and sell again. A rise in the price of oil is met with as much angst as a decline. The financial markets remain addicted to help from central banks: they are desperate for yet more interventions, regardless of the consequences on the pricing of risk, the allocation of resources or the creation of unsustainable bubbles that only enrich the owners of assets.

This is exactly the tonic that the populists have been waiting for. Despite their dramatic emergence, they have so far failed to make a real breakthrough. The SNP was unable to win the Scottish referendum and the National Front didn’t gain a single region in France. Mariano Rajoy remains Spain’s prime minister, and anti-establishment parties have been thwarted in Germany. Even lighter forms of populism, such as Ed Miliband’s, were rejected. Syriza’s victory in Greece was one of the few genuine populist triumphs; but it was soon crushed by the combined might of Brussels and Frankfurt.

The Republican presidential nominee often proclaims that his presidency will make America a "great" country again

This could be about to change. The fact that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both won their respective New Hampshire primaries is certainly one remarkable indication of the state of mind of many US political activists. Any economic relapse would help Marine Le Pen’s chances in next year’s French presidential election, and further undermine Angela Merkel’s sinking popularity in Germany.

But it is in Britain that the immediate impact could be the greatest. The Brexit debate is already being overshadowed by the migration crisis, undermining the Government’s attempts at portraying a Remain vote as a safe, low-risk option; a sustained bout of economic volatility would further ruin the pro-EU case, especially given that the eurozone, rather than the City, is likely to emerge as one of the epicentres of any fresh crisis. It would be hard for bosses of large financial giants to credibly tell the electorate to vote Remain when their own businesses are in crisis.

Britain will noticeably outperform the EU this year: our labour market remains strong and our banks far better capitalised than many of their eurozone competitors, too many of which are still sitting on massive amounts of bad debt. The Chinese slowdown is worse for Germany than for us. But while the Eurosceptic cause to which some of us are partial is likely to benefit from the turmoil, it would be madness for anybody who cares about this country’s future to feel anything but dread towards the economic threats facing the world. The sorry truth is that there is very little that governments can do at this stage, apart from battening down the hatches and hoping that central banks succeed in kicking our problems even further down the road. - Telegraph.

Questions grow over banks as profit warnings pile up

Questions are growing over the financial health of banks, particularly in Europe and the U.S., as they face a toxic mix of low economic growth, bad loans and squeezed earnings. France's Societe Generale became Thursday the latest bank to issue a confidence-shattering profit warning, which helped trigger a new sell-off in financial stocks. The bank saw its share price stumble 12 percent and major rivals like Deutsche Bank and UniCredit saw losses of nearly 10 percent. European banks are not the only ones to suffer. Japanese bank Mitsubishi Financial fell 7 percent on Thursday. In the U.S., Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and Bank of America are down more than 30 percent so far this year.

Among the top concerns is that the global economy will weaken more than expected, souring some of the loans that banks have issued to companies around the world - particularly in distressed sectors like the energy industry. U.S. banks have tens of billions of exposure to loans made to energy companies, who have found themselves unable to pay back their debts due to low energy prices.

Mike van Dulken, head of research at Accendo Markets, says the latest weakness in bank stocks stems from U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen "warning on current financial market turbulence and suggesting further rate hikes could be delayed, which added to already raised anxiety about the health of the global economy." On Wednesday, Yellen cautioned that global weakness and falling financial markets could depress the U.S. economy's growth and slow the pace of Fed interest rate hikes. That's a particular concern as the U.S. economy has been one of the few bright spots in the global economy, which is seeing a slowdown in China and stagnation in Japan and Europe.

The slowing of interest rate increases in the U.S. is also bad news for the big banks, which have been waiting anxiously for interest rates to rise. Since the financial crisis, the big banks have largely grown profits by cutting costs. Higher interest rates would mean banks could charge more for their loans.
The fact that many central banks keep cutting interest rates, pushing down market lending rates, is further hurting banks by squeezing their profits. Banks mainly make money by lending, so as rates drop, so do earnings. Investors made big bets in the second half of last year that interest rates would rise in the U.S., so to see that bet fail has forced investors to dump bank shares.

The situation is worsened in some regions, particularly the eurozone and Japan, where the central banks charge commercial banks to deposit money with them. Analysts at Capital Economics say that if the European Central Bank cuts one of its key interest rates further below zero, "this could have adverse effects on banks' profitability." Citing ECB chief Mario Draghi's recent statements that the central bank could take more action in March, the analysts said the ECB "seems prepared to squeeze banks' profitability further in the short term in order to support the economy." The Stoxx index of European bank shares is down 20 percent in the last month, when Draghi first mentioned chance that the ECB might try to offer more stimulus in March to lower market rates. In some markets, bad loans are already piling up - or have not been dealt with effectively since the global financial crisis.

That's the case in Italy, where banks are estimated to hold some 350 billion euros in soured loans, or more than 30 percent of the eurozone's total. The government is trying to mop up those bad loans, but the banks are seeing their shares slide in the meantime. Banca Monte del Paschi, which was down 9 percent on Thursday, is down 60 percent so far this year. More narrowly, some banks are being targeted for complex financial investments they have made in recent years. That's the case of Deutsche Bank, which has seen the value of its so-called contingent convertible bonds fall sharply. The bank has some 350 million euros in payments on such bonds due by April 30, and had to issue a statement Monday evening assuring it had the money to pay. Deutsche Bank's shares were down 9 percent, bringing its drop this year to 41 percent. - AP.

The New Frontier of Negative Interest Rates

When central banks start exploring strange new worlds, the results aren't always ideal. Quantitative easing wasn't just a change in monetary policy, but a whole new kind of monetary policy -- a journey into the unknown. It isn't over yet, but there's already a debate about drawbacks and unintended consequences. With that question far from resolved, another adventure in super-loose monetary policy has begun: negative interest rates. This week, as global markets plunged, unforeseen complications have arisen there too.

Shares in European banks suffered especially badly during this renewed market turmoil. There was more than one reason, but negative rates seem to be implicated. Banks' deposits at the European Central Bank now pay minus 0.3 percent, and a further cut has been advertised for next month. The idea is to encourage banks to lend more (rather than sit on idle balances) and to lower the cost of capital for riskier borrowers. The new concern is that negative rates have squeezed banks' profits and put their soundness in question.

Advocates of negative rates might be perplexed by this apparent squeeze on bank profits. They might wonder, why should that happen? Banks simply have to pass the negative rate on to their various customers, borrowers on one side and lenders on the other. The spread between the two needn't change. But it seems that banks have been reluctant to force negative rates on to their depositors -- hence the squeeze on profits. Perhaps the banks are worried that depositors wouldn't like it. Upsetting them is something banks are understandably reluctant to do.

Policy makers seem to have doubts as well. The Bank of Japan recently startled financial markets by adopting negative rates, having previously said it wasn't going to -- but it structured the new policy so that it works at the margin of the banks' balances with the central bank, rather than applying to the total. Why? So that the banks wouldn't need to pass the change through to depositors. Policy makers and banks alike are embracing negative rates timidly -- and they're right to be cautious. Substantially negative rates would be an even braver adventure than QE. As I've previously mentioned, a world of negative rates is a very weird place -- one where savers pay borrowers for the privilege of deferring consumption, and borrowers get compensated for bringing spending forward. An editorial in The Economist made the point well:
Small savers would use any available form of prepayment—gift vouchers, long-term subscriptions, urban-transport cards or mobile-phone SIM cards—to avoid the cost of having money in the bank. That would be only the start of the topsy-turviness. Were interest rates negative enough for long enough, specialist security firms would emerge that would build vaults to store cash on behalf of big depositors and clear transfers between their customers’ accounts. Firms would seek to make payments quickly and receive them slowly. Tax offices would discourage prompt settlement or overpayment of accounts: one Swiss canton has already stopped discounts for early tax payment and said it wants to receive money as late as possible.
Well, that last part sounds quite appealing. (Everybody's  favorite New Yorker cartoon comes to mind: "How about never? Is never good for you?") People would adjust to the new rules, eventually. Trouble is, that calls into question the policy's usual rationale: It's typically seen as a temporary expedient.

Concerning the flight to cash, that could be dealt with as well. To remind, with negative rates in place, cash is a better place for savings than a bank account. The possibility that people might switch to cash therefore makes it difficult to force rates below zero. The cost of holding cash (including the risk that it might be stolen) creates some room for maneuver. Beyond this, central banks could further discourage the use of cash by forcing down its value relative to electronic balances -- in effect, taxing its use -- or move to abolish it altogether. Undermining paper currency in this way would be politically fraught, at best. Yes, inflation undermines paper currency, so the phenomenon is hardly new. But no central bank will want to say, "We can't get inflation any higher with our usual methods so we've decided to undermine the currency directly."

Suppose they did dare, thinking they could get away with it and reckoning that the economics is correct even if the politics is, you know, challenging. With financial anxiety running high and the flow of credit blocked, would such a dramatic departure actually work as intended, helping to calm nerves and incline borrowers and lenders to take risks? It might very well do the opposite. A reckless-seeming experiment is not the best way to restore confidence. Central banks have shown that the lower bound for interest rates is less than zero. They've shown that the ability to hold cash instead of electronic balances doesn’t draw any sharp or fixed line, as previously supposed. There's at least some room for maneuver at less than nothing.

The European Central Bank can probably make its deposit rate a bit more negative. In fact, it's as good as promised to do so in March. Legal complications permitting, the U.S. Federal Reserve could push rates slightly negative as well, though Fed Chair Janet Yellen told Congress this week she thought it wouldn't be necessary. The main point, though, is that this room for maneuver is limited. There is indeed a lower bound to interest rates -- cultural, political, prudential -- and we're close. For the moment, we just don't know how close. - Bloomberg View.