Sunday, April 19, 2015

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Athens On The Brink - Grexit Edges Closer As Markets Brace For Default; Greece Remains Defiant As Creditors Up Pressure For A Deal!



April 19, 2015 - GREECE
- Eurozone officials meet for further crunch talks on Greece this week amid warnings that time is running out for the country to avoid defaulting on its debts and being jettisoned from the single-currency bloc.

Deputy finance ministers will convene on Wednesday to pave the way for talks among finance chiefs in the Latvian capital, Riga, at the end of the week, a Greek government official told Reuters.

But investors are increasingly sceptical that a rescue deal can be reached between Greece and its creditors. Financial markets do not expect a breakthrough at that meeting of the so-called Eurogroup – the eurozone’s finance ministers – and focus is already shifting to early May when Greece is scheduled to repay almost €1bn (£700m) to the International Monetary Fund – a sum most experts say Athens will not be able to raise.

Greece’s recently elected leftwing-led government has so far failed to present a package of reforms to the IMF and its eurozone partners that those creditors deem serious enough to unlock the remaining bailout funds.

“Although time is running short, there are clear indications that the Eurogroup meeting in Riga on 24 April might not bring a breakthrough,” said Reinhard Cluse, an economist at the bank UBS.

“In the absence of a deal in the next few weeks, the government might not be able to avoid default, which – we fear – would likely raise the risk of ‘Grexit’ [a Greek exit].”

Greece faces a series of repayments and interest payments on its debts in the coming weeks as well as its usual pensions and public-sector salary obligations. Experts say money is running out.

“As to how much funds they have left to pay back maturing debt, it is almost zero,” said Gabriel Sterne at the consultancy Oxford Economics. “It is more of a question of what barrel they can still scrape to find some money to stave off default.”

Greece owes money to the IMF, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European commission following two bailouts in 2010 and 2012.

Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, speaking at the Brookings Institute
in Washington. Greece is due to repay almost €1bn to the IMF in early May.
Photograph: Paul Richards/AFP/Getty
Athens is waiting for the final €7.2bn payment under the second rescue package, but that money has been held up after the new anti-austerity government scrapped previous commitments to privatise state assets and cut welfare provision.

Germany in particular has made it clear that it wants strong commitments to reforms. The country’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, has said there is not enough detail from Greece for rescue funds to be released and has expressed scepticism that any progress will be made in Riga.

There was, however, some support for Greece’s position at last week’s IMF meeting in Washington where Poul Thomsen, head of the fund’s European department, said the reforms being demanded from Athens should be slimmed down.

Further ahead, economists warn that a €7.2bn package would merely buy some time for Athens but by no means guarantee Greece could remain in the eurozone – something polls suggest most Greeks want.

Even if Greece could get help to meet payments to the IMF on 1 May and 12 May, a “really big crunch” looms in July and August when €6.7bn of bonds held by the ECB mature, said Alastair Winter, chief economist at the broker Daniel Stewart.

“Nobody in Greece – or outside for that matter – is facing up to the reality that a lot more than the final €7.2bn will be needed,” said Winter. “The result will be growing chaos in Greece, and discord and disarray in the eurozone in the coming months.”

Such concerns are growing on financial markets. Jitters about Greece in effect becoming bankrupt and being forced to leave the currency union pushed up the yields of government bonds from other countries on the eurozone’s periphery last week. Yields were all higher – meaning prices were down – on Portuguese, Spanish and Italian bonds on Friday.

At the same time, yields on benchmark 10-year German government bonds, or bunds, fell to a record low of 0.05%, reflecting their perceived safe-haven status among investors. Yields on shorter dated German bonds are already negative, meaning people are in effect paying the German government to park money with it.

The Greek gridlock was likely to dominate market moves again this week, said economists at Daiwa Capital Markets.

“A fraught week lies ahead, primarily for Greece, but also perhaps for euro-area equity markets and bond markets in the euro-area periphery. And negative yields on 10-year bunds seem likely to be reached,” they wrote in a research note.

While economists appear divided over whether a Greek exit from the eurozone would lead to full-scale break-up of the monetary union, the ECB president, Mario Draghi, has sought to allay such fears.

Draghi said at the IMF’s meetings in Washington over the weekend that financial buffers were sufficient to prevent contagion spreading to other weak economies in the currency union. But he warned that Europe would be entering “uncharted waters” that made the outcome of a default uncertain. - The Guardian.



Greece Remains Defiant as Creditors Up Pressure for a Deal



U.S. President Barack Obama and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi
call on the Greek government to do more to resolve the standoff
amid depleting cash reserves.
Greece said it won’t renege on election pledges to end austerity measures, even as creditors pressed for a compromise to free financing and avert a worsening crisis.

U.S. President Barack Obama and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi both called on the Greek government to do more to resolve the standoff amid depleting cash reserves. Greek officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis, stood their ground.

“We want a viable solution within the euro,” Dragasakis said in an interview published Sunday in Athens-based To Vima newspaper. Still, “we don’t budge from our red lines.”

Snap elections or a referendum are possible should negotiations with creditors stall, Dragasakis said.

European peers want Greece to do more to revamp its debt-burdened economy before they release another tranche of the 240-billion-euro ($259 billion) bailout program. At stake is Greece’s ability to avoid a default and stay in the 19-nation euro area.

The showdown will figure heavily at a meeting of euro-area finance ministers in Latvia on April 24. In the shadow of the brinkmanship, Greek government bonds last week suffered their worst week since Alexis Tsipras was elected as prime minister in January on a platform promising to undo the tough bailout terms.

Greece’s so-called red lines are a refusal to cut wages and pensions, introduce new taxes or sell state assets, Alternate Health and Social Security Minister Dimitris Stratoulis said in an interview Saturday with Athens-based Skai TV.

No Privatization

Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis was also defiant, saying the country won’t agree to any privatizations, according to an interview published Sunday in Athens-based Real News newspaper.

While “so-called” partners, including unidentified International Monetary Fund officials, want to “blackmail” the Greece into adopting measures that would hurt the working class, “we won’t betray the people’s mandate,” he said.

‘Realistic Reform Plan’

Draghi said it was “urgent” that Greece do “much more work” to show it can satisfy the terms of the bailout. “We all want Greece to succeed,” Draghi said Saturday in Washington. “The answer is in the hands of the Greek government.”

His comments were echoed by Deputy Managing Director David Lipton, who said the IMF wants to intensify dialog with Greece on the basis of more specific proposals, according to an interview published Sunday in Italy’s Il Sole 24 Ore newspaper.

The government is taking action and will continue to respect the will of the electorate, a party spokeswoman said on Sunday.

“The Greek government has presented a realistic reform plan that doesn’t contain recessionary measures or burden the weaker layers of society, yet gives the economy breathing space,” Syriza party spokeswoman Rania Svigou said, according to an e-mailed transcript of her comments. “The government will exhaust all possibilities for a solution that respects the mandate of the Greek people.”

Draghi said Greek banks continue to meet the requirements for Emergency Liquidity Assistance, a financial lifeline the ECB decides on each week. The funding has so far helped to avoid a meltdown as the wrangling over aid has gone on.

The emergency aid “will continue to be given to the banks if they’re judged to be solvent and if they have adequate collateral, which is the case now,” Draghi said.

Greece needs to repay April 20 about 80 million euros in interest on bonds held by the ECB.
Swift Resolution
U.S. officials also urged a speedy resolution to Greece’s talks with its creditors. Obama said April 17 that the Greek government needs to show its creditors that “you’re trying to help yourself,” he said.

A deal between Greece and its creditors won’t be ready by the euro-zone finance ministers’ meeting, Eurogroup President and Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on Saturday. The French and German finance ministers agreed.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble declined to comment in Washington on Friday when asked whether European partners were preparing a safety net to prevent a euro exit in case of a Greek default.

“The Syriza-led government will carry out the reforms the Greek people need, not ones requested by our creditors,” Alternate Health Minister Stratoulis told Skai TV. The country won’t be pressured “by euro-exit threats.” - Bloomberg.





PLANETARY TREMORS: Very Strong 6.8 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Taiwan - Buildings Sway In Taipei; Tsunami Alert Issued For Southwestern Japan! [MAPS + TECTONIC SUMMARY]

Earthquake 3D map.

April 19, 2015 - TAIWAN
- Tsunami advisories have been issued for Japan’s Miyakojima and Yaeyama areas following a shallow 6.8-magnitude underwater earthquake between the coasts of Okinawa and Taiwan.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recorded the temblor with a 6.6 magnitude.

Japan Meteorological Agency has issued tsunami advisories for the Miyakojima and Yaeyama areas of Japan.

While JMA issued alerts of high wave activity affecting Japan’s southwestern islands, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said that there was no threat of a tsunami after the quake.



USGS shakemap intensity.

Waves as high as one meter are expected to hit southwestern territories, Japan's broadcaster NHK said, also warning that smaller waves could potentially strike other islands. There was no warning issued for the main Okinawa island.

“We want residents to get as far as possible from the sea,”
Satoshi Shimoji of the Miyako City government told NHK, as cited by AFP. “We are issuing warnings via the radio.”

The epicenter of the strong 6.8-magnitude earthquake was located between Okinawa and Taiwan, with Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau measuring it slightly lower, at 6.3.

The epicenter of the quake was about 75 kilometers from Taiwan’s eastern coast at a depth of approximately 17 km. Witnesses reported buildings shaking in Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan, but no damage was recorded. - RT.



Tectonic Summary - Seismotectonics of the Philippine Sea and Vicinity

The Philippine Sea plate is bordered by the larger Pacific and Eurasia plates and the smaller Sunda plate. The Philippine Sea plate is unusual in that its borders are nearly all zones of plate convergence. The Pacific plate is subducted into the mantle, south of Japan, beneath the Izu-Bonin and Mariana island arcs, which extend more than 3,000 km along the eastern margin of the Philippine Sea plate. This subduction zone is characterized by rapid plate convergence and high-level seismicity extending to depths of over 600 km. In spite of this extensive zone of plate convergence, the plate interface has been associated with few great (Magnitude greater than 8.0) ‘megathrust’ earthquakes. This low seismic energy release is thought to result from weak coupling along the plate interface (Scholz and Campos, 1995). These convergent plate margins are also associated with unusual zones of back-arc extension (along with resulting seismic activity) that decouple the volcanic island arcs from the remainder of the Philippine Sea Plate (Karig et al., 1978; Klaus et al., 1992).

South of the Mariana arc, the Pacific plate is subducted beneath the Yap Islands along the Yap trench. The long zone of Pacific plate subduction at the eastern margin of the Philippine Sea Plate is responsible for the generation of the deep Izu-Bonin, Mariana, and Yap trenches as well as parallel chains of islands and volcanoes, typical of circum-pacific island arcs. Similarly, the northwestern margin of the Philippine Sea plate is subducting beneath the Eurasia plate along a convergent zone, extending from southern Honshu to the northeastern coast of Taiwan, manifested by the Ryukyu Islands and the Nansei-Shoto (Ryukyu) trench. The Ryukyu Subduction Zone is associated with a similar zone of back-arc extension, the Okinawa Trough. At Taiwan, the plate boundary is characterized by a zone of arc-continent collision, whereby the northern end of the Luzon island arc is colliding with the buoyant crust of the Eurasia continental margin offshore China.


USGS plate tectonics for the region.

Along its western margin, the Philippine Sea plate is associated with a zone of oblique convergence with the Sunda Plate. This highly active convergent plate boundary extends along both sides the Philippine Islands, from Luzon in the north to the Celebes Islands in the south. The tectonic setting of the Philippines is unusual in several respects: it is characterized by opposite-facing subduction systems on its east and west sides; the archipelago is cut by a major transform fault, the Philippine Fault; and the arc complex itself is marked by active volcanism, faulting, and high seismic activity. Subduction of the Philippine Sea Plate occurs at the eastern margin of the archipelago along the Philippine Trench and its northern extension, the East Luzon Trough. The East Luzon Trough is thought to be an unusual example of a subduction zone in the process of formation, as the Philippine Trench system gradually extends northward (Hamburger et al., 1983). On the west side of Luzon, the Sunda Plate subducts eastward along a series of trenches, including the Manila Trench in the north, the smaller less well-developed Negros Trench in the central Philippines, and the Sulu and Cotabato trenches in the south (Cardwell et al., 1980). At its northern and southern terminations, subduction at the Manila Trench is interrupted by arc-continent collision, between the northern Philippine arc and the Eurasian continental margin at Taiwan and between the Sulu-Borneo Block and Luzon at the island of Mindoro. The Philippine fault, which extends over 1,200 km within the Philippine arc, is seismically active. The fault has been associated with major historical earthquakes, including the destructive M7.6 Luzon earthquake of 1990 (Yoshida and Abe, 1992). A number of other active intra-arc fault systems are associated with high seismic activity, including the Cotabato Fault and the Verde Passage-Sibuyan Sea Fault (Galgana et al., 2007).

Relative plate motion vectors near the Philippines (about 80 mm/yr) is oblique to the plate boundary along the two plate margins of central Luzon, where it is partitioned into orthogonal plate convergence along the trenches and nearly pure translational motion along the Philippine Fault (Barrier et al., 1991). Profiles B and C reveal evidence of opposing inclined seismic zones at intermediate depths (roughly 70-300 km) and complex tectonics at the surface along the Philippine Fault.

Several relevant tectonic elements, plate boundaries and active volcanoes, provide a context for the seismicity presented on the main map. The plate boundaries are most accurate along the axis of the trenches and more diffuse or speculative in the South China Sea and Lesser Sunda Islands. The active volcanic arcs (Siebert and Simkin, 2002) follow the Izu, Volcano, Mariana, and Ryukyu island chains and the main Philippine islands parallel to the Manila, Negros, Cotabato, and Philippine trenches.

Seismic activity along the boundaries of the Philippine Sea Plate (Allen et al., 2009) has produced 7 great (Magnitude greater than 8.0) earthquakes and 250 large (Magnitude greater than 7) events. Among the most destructive events were the 1923 Kanto, the 1948 Fukui and the 1995 Kobe (Japan) earthquakes (99,000, 5,100, and 6,400 casualties, respectively), the 1935 and the 1999 Chi-Chi (Taiwan) earthquakes (3,300 and 2,500 casualties, respectively), and the 1976 M7.6 Moro Gulf and 1990 M7.6 Luzon (Philippines) earthquakes (7,100 and 2,400 casualties, respectively). There have also been a number of tsunami-generating events in the region, including the Moro Gulf earthquake, whose tsunami resulted in more than 5000 deaths.

More information on regional seismicity and tectonics

- USGS.




SOLAR WATCH: Sunspot 2321 Erupts With Magnetic Filament - Incoming Coronal Mass Ejections; Minor G1 Geomagnetic Storm Predicted For April 21-22!



April 19, 2015 - SPACE
- A slow eruption off the southeast limb hurled a coronal mass ejection (CME) into space on Sunday. So far the plasma cloud appears to be headed away from our planet. Attached video by LASCO C2 captures the CME leaving the sun today.


WATCH: Southeast Limb CME - April 19, 2015.






Yesterday, April 18th, a magnetic filament attached to sunspot group AR2321 erupted, producing a C5-class solar flare.

A movie from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the filament splitting the sun's atmosphere as it hurtles away from the blast site.


WATCH: Filament Eruption/Earth Directed CME -  April 19, 2015.




Part of the escaping filament formed the core of a faint CME, which is now heading almost directly for Earth. The cloud should reach our planet during the late hours of April 21st. In combination with a solar wind stream already en route, the impact could spark geomagnetic storms around the poles on April 22nd, Earth Day.

This is a minor CME launched by a minor C-class flare, so it is natural to expect only minor storms when the CME arrives. Indeed, that is probably what will happen. It is notable, however, that the intense geomagnetic storm of March 17, 2015, was triggered by a C-flare/CME combo only a little more intense than this one. The "St. Patrick's Day Storm" reminds us that any CME impact can produce a significant disturbance. Auroras for Earth Day, anyone?


WATCH: Geomagnetic Storm Category G1 Predicted

Highest Storm Level Predicted by Day:
Apr 20:  None (Below G1)   Apr 21:  G1 (Minor)   Apr 22:  G1 (Minor)

THIS SUPERSEDES ANY/ALL PRIOR WATCHES IN EFFECT

NOAA Space Weather Scale descriptions can be found at
www.swpc.noaa.gov/noaa-scales-explanation

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



Sunspots

The sun is peppered with so many spots, observers are beginning to notice them at sunrise--no filters required. Jett Aguilar "spotted" the dark cores this morning when the sun came up over Quezon City, the Philippines:




"At sunrise on April 19th I took an image of the sunspot-spotted sun rising over the Sierra Madre mountains of Luzon," he says. "I used an unfiltered Canon 300 mm f/4 lens with a 2x Canon extender on a Canon 7D DSLR. Exposure was 1/2000 sec at f/45, ISO 100."




Photographers should take note of these settings. Most of the sunspots pictured above will remain visible for another 5 to 7 days, providing daily photo-ops at sunrise and sunset. Flares are likely, too. The largest sunspots in the image (AR2321 and AR2124) have 'beta-gamma' magnetic fields that harbor energy for M-class explosions.


Coronal Hole

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) is monitoring a hole in the sun's atmosphere--a "coronal hole." It is colored deep-blue in this extreme UV image of the sun taken by SDO on April 17th:




Coronal holes are places where the sun's magnetic field opens up and allows solar wind to escape. In the image, above, the sun's magnetic field is traced by white loops. Arrows show the flow of material out of the hole.

Holes in the sun's atmosphere are not unusual; they appear several times each month. A stream of solar wind flowing from this particular coronal hole will probably reach Earth on April 22--the same time as the CME discussed in the news item above.


Auroras

Yet another awesome aurora image captured by Zoltan Kenwell in Alberta, Canada. Photo was captured on Friday, April 17th.

"Another fantastic show on the prairies Friday morning. The first visual confirmation was just after 9 pm MST. From that time the aurora continued to build until about 10:30 pm. It then when nuts! Beautiful ribbons of light snaked back and forth across the sky!"

More imagery courtesy of Zoltan can be found at the link below. Thanks for sharing!

http://photos.infocusimagery.com/april_17_2015




Nice aurora photo captured on April 16th sent to us by Frédéric Peron in Québec,Canada. Thanks for sharing!




Image Details: Canon EOS 600D, f/2.8, ISO-1600, Exposure 10 seconds.


- Space Weather | Solar Ham.





INFRASTRUCTURE COLLAPSE: Plane Crashes At Independence Municipal Airport, Montgomery County, Kansas - No Injuries To The Passengers!

Witnesses at the airport say the plane had landing issues and then went off the runway. Witnesses say the plane broke off its landing gear,
then went into the grass with a bent wing.

April 19, 2015 - KANSAS, UNITED STATES
- An east wind contributed to a small aircraft crash-landing at the Independence Municipal Airport on Saturday morning.

Airport staff said the Cessna 195 spun around as it touched down on the runway, which is referred to as a “ground loop.”

No one was injured in the 9:30 a.m. incident. Four people were on the plane.

An airport maintenance person, who only gave his name as Joe, saw what happened.

“He was landing and the wind caught him and it turned him right off into the grass,” said the man. “He didn’t correct it quick enough and he just spun.”

The blue and white airplane’s left wing was bent upward after the accident. There was damage underneath as well, and the left wheel was torn off.

Gretchen Fisher, a flight instructor with Walter Aviation, said it can be very challenging for a pilot to land a plane without damage in such a situation.

“When things go wrong, they happen quickly and it’s hard to catch up on them,” she said.


Courtesy: John Butler Plane crash at Independence Municipal Airport, Saturday, April 18, 2015 

Independence Municipal Airport manager Jonathan Walter, right, helps unload a damaged Cessna 195 airplane after the plane spun around
on the runway Saturday in Independence.

People look over and inspect the damaged wheel from a Cessna 195 airplane after wind caused a ground loop and the plane spun around
on the runway at the Independence Municipal Airport Saturday, April 18, 2015, in Independence, Iowa.

Crews at Independence Municipal Airport load a damaged Cessna 195 airplane on a flatbed after wind caused a ground loop and the plane spun
around on the runway Saturday, April 18, 2015, in Independence, Iowa. No injuries were reported.

Walter Aviation operates the airport and was holding a tail wheel fly-in/drive-in breakfast at the airport, which drew planes from Northeast Iowa and some surrounding states.

Fisher said a tail wheel plane includes a single wheel at the back of the aircraft with two more under the cockpit or wings. Other small aircraft have their third wheel under the nose of the plane.

“Tail wheel aircraft are harder to fly than your traditional aircraft,” said Fisher. The planes need to land at a lower speed than others.

“The desired direction is to land into the wind. When it’s off to the side, it becomes more tricky,” she said.

Independence’s airport has north-south runways, but Fisher said Saturday morning’s wind was coming directly from the east -- the hardest to land in. “It’s especially difficult if it’s a tail wheel aircraft,” she noted.

By 11:15 a.m., the damaged plane had been loaded onto a trailer and was being pulled to the edge of the airport by a pickup. After backing it into the grass, airport staff unloaded it from the trailer and it lay on the ground.

The pilot remained on the scene while workers moved the aircraft. He declined to talk about the incident or give his name. According to a database with the aircraft's number, it is registered to Donald Hedeman of Dubuque. - WCF Courier.



MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Extreme Drought, Water & Food Crisis - Dry Wells Plague California As Drought Has Water Tables Plunging; "Conditions Like Third-World Country"; Los Angeles Braces As Cotton Acreage Falls; Beverly Hills Must Cut Usage By 36 PERCENT; Wildfire Near Dam Threatens Homes!



April 19, 2015 - CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES
- Near California’s Success Lake, more than 1,000 water wells have failed. Farmers are spending $750,000 to drill 1,800 feet down to keep fields from going fallow. Makeshift showers have sprouted near the church parking lot.

“The conditions are like a third-world country,” said Andrew Lockman, a manager at the Office of Emergency Services in Tulare County, in the heart of the state’s agricultural Central Valley about 175 miles (282 kilometers) north of Los Angeles.

As California enters the fourth year of a record drought, its residents and $43 billion agriculture industry have drawn groundwater so low that it’s beyond the reach of existing wells. That’s left thousands with dry taps and pushed farmers to dig deeper as Governor Jerry Brown, a 77-year-old Democrat, orders the first mandatory water rationing in state history.

“The demand we’re placing on the aquifer and the deep bedrock drilling, which is going on at an alarmingly fast pace, is really scary,” said Tricia Blattler, executive director of the Tulare County Farm Bureau. “Folks are really concerned we’re not going to be able find water in the groundwater system much longer. We are tapping it way too quickly.”

Nowhere has lack of rain been felt more than in Tulare County, in a valley dotted with dairy farms and walnut orchards at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains. With 458,000 residents, it’s home to 1,013 dry wells, accounting for more than half of those that have failed in the state since January 2014.

Tulare Dust


Outside Porterville, in a dusty, unincorporated hamlet populated by many Latino citrus-farm workers, some residents use donated bottled water to drink and cook. About 40 people a day wash in the 26 showers set up in trailers next to the parking lot of Iglesia Emmanuel church. They lug nonpotable water home from county tanks for their toilets.

Annette Clonts began bathing at friends’ homes or sneaking middle-of-the-night showers at Lake Success’s recreation area after the well near her trailer ran low two years ago. When the lake showers started sputtering in November, she turned to those at the church.

“When you’re 400 yards from the lake and you have no water, you’re in trouble,” said Clonts, a 57-year-old retired cook.



A tractor kicks up dust in Los Banos, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images



The family of Angelica Gallegos, a 39-year-old Porterville resident, loads two barrels in a truck and drives to a fire station twice a week to stock up on water from a county tank. That keeps the toilet running at her mobile home.

Her expenses are up from buying paper plates, cups, wipes and napkins, said Gallegos, a supervisor at an orange-packing facility.

“We’ve got to find a way to survive, to hold on,” said Gallegos, who lives with her husband and two daughters. “Right now, we don’t have the money to drill a deeper well. You’re talking about $15,000.”

Digging Deeper

That’s the starting price for residential wells, which range from 30 to 150 feet (9 to 46 meters) and can cost as much as $45,000, said Blattler, the official with the county’s farm bureau. Agricultural wells, which are about 1,000 to 1,800 feet, run $250,000 to $750,000, she said. There are so many customers, they’ll have to wait as long as two years.

On top of the failed wells, for the second year in a row the federal government isn’t supplying Tulare and Fresno counties with their typical share from the network of dams, reservoirs and canals spanning the state.

That usually covers more than 50 percent of the water used by small towns and farmers, Blattler said.

Buying water from farmers who have rights to tap rivers is becoming more expensive as supplies run low, making wells the only source for many farms.

Tulare County issued 1,400 construction permits for wells last year, almost triple the 501 issued in 2013, according to county data. Permits doubled last year in neighboring Fresno County.

Local drillers and pump installers are being inundated with calls, creating lengthy wait lists. Business has doubled since 2012 at Kaweah Pump Inc., a well-drilling company in the Tulare County city of Visalia, said owner Bill Gargan, who’s had to hire 12 more people to keep up with demand. The company has a list with 42 drilling and about 200 pump jobs, he said. Gargan said his business has been operating 12 to 18-hour days, sometimes seven days a week.

“It will probably take us six months to get all those finished,” Gargan said. “They keep coming every day.”

Eric Borba, a 53-year-old dairy farmer in Porterville, said he’s been waiting since November to have a pump installed in a well he put in last year. Six of about 30 wells on his property aren’t pumping.

He said he may have to close the farm, which his grandfather started almost a century ago.

“At some point we don’t have an option,” Borba said. “With no water, you can’t do anything.” - Bloomberg.


Los Angeles braces as cotton acreage falls

Dry, cracked earth runs between wilting cotton plants on an abandoned farm near Firebaugh, California.  Phil Hawkins | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Drought and water shortages could push California's cotton acreage to its lowest levels since the early 1930s, and that could become a problem for yet another industry that the state currently dominates—high-end apparel manufacturing. (Tweet This) California accounts for most of the U.S. production of an economically important, high-end type of cotton called Pima. A reduction in the crop could spell trouble for the local apparel makers—many of them in Los Angeles—that are already bracing for the state's first mandatory water reductions.

"There's going to be some major impacts into our company, primarily as a result of the water problems that California is having," said Jeff Shafer, CEO of Agave Denim, which makes and processes denim jeans and other apparel in LA area factories and laundries. "I expect laundries will have less water available to them and will likely have price increases, or surcharges for water consumption."

Pima cotton, also known as extra-long staple cotton, is used mostly in high-end clothing including jeans, dresses and shirts as well as home goods such as towels and bed sheets. It commands a higher price than so-called Upland cotton, which is the most commonly produced cotton in Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi, the Carolinas and Alabama.

The drought has not yet pushed Pima prices higher, thanks to a holdover of supply that still exists overseas and elsewhere, but higher prices could be coming.

California represents about 95 percent of the U.S. Pima cotton production. And in Los Angeles, apparel overall ranks first among all industries with nearly 3,000 companies—including design, manufacturing and wholesaling, according to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. The city is the nation's second-most important textile manufacturing area, after the Carolinas.

Approximately 75 percent of the premium denim market comes from Southern California, according to the California Fashion Association, an industry trade group.

American Apparel is headquartered in Los Angeles and has cutting, sewing, knitting, manufacturing, dyeing and finishing facilities in the area. Besides Agave, other major clothing companies with a significant LA design or manufacturing presence include Guess, True Religion and Trina Turk.

Up to 2,900 gallons of water are used to produce an ordinary pair of jeans, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Agave's Shafer said one way the industry is cutting back on water is using an ozone process for jeans, which is considered "an eco-friendly process, as opposed to bleach." Moreover, Shafer said companies are incorporating recycled cotton and polyester materials into fabrics, as well as blending with Lyocell, a form of rayon that is created with wood pulp.

The USDA forecasts California's Pima production will drop to 155,000 acres this season, down 26 percent from 210,000 acres a year ago. That would represent the lowest California cotton acreage since 1932.

"It's a matter of limited water we have and where we put it," said Mark Watte, who farms cotton, almonds and other crops in California's drought-stricken San Joaquin Valley. "Cotton is quite a ways down in the pecking order. Our tree crops is where the water goes first."



WATCH: Mega-drought in California.




Watte cut his cotton acreage this year by about 50 percent to 500 acres, meaning it will account for just one-sixth of the family farm's total acreage. The farm has historically had 60 percent of the acres growing cotton.

"Last year we were able to cobble together water and limped to the finish line," said Watte. "This year we will have significant acreage that will not be farmed in the summer."

Mark McKean, who has been growing cotton since the 1970s, said his farm in Riverdale, California, is "going to be at zero (water) allocation this year. I will be pretty much 100 percent groundwater this year, the way it's looking."

So far this year, two cotton gins in California's Central Valley have shut down due to falling production levels. There are about 30 gins remaining in the Golden State, down from about 65 gins five years ago. The majority of California's cotton crop is exported to mills for processing and returned as fabric and yarn.

Government figures show U.S. Pima prices were at $1.5073 per pound in March, down roughly 10 percent from year-ago levels. Upland cotton prices have declined 23 percent over the same period, but those declines reflect global markets, especially China, which is holding large cotton surpluses.- CNBC.


California drought water-use rules could force 36% reduction on Beverly Hills

Under the new proposed mandate, Los Angeles and Beverly Hills are by far the most prominent and largest cities in a list of areas
given the most dramatic reduction level. Photograph: Gary Calton/PR

Billionaire-studded Beverly Hills will be ordered to cut water usage by 36% under a tough new mandate proposed by regulators on Saturday to try to help parched California cope with its extreme drought.

Los Angeles will have to reduce usage by 16%; the more environmentally conscious San Francisco will only have to reduce its water consumption by 8% after doing more in the last year to cut use voluntarily, according to the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).

The framework of new emergency water conservation regulations was announced on Saturday as the proposed outline of efforts to conform with Governor Jerry Brown’s executive order, issued on 1 April, that California must cut water use in urban areas by 25% in the next year. Emergency regulations for agriculture in the state are still under discussion.

On Saturday a table of targets – backed up with heavy potential fines for water companies – was issued to cover different cities and counties.

The framework will be open for comments before a further draft is drawn up and then the final version of the regulations is issued next month. Reductions will then have to be achieved by the end of February 2016.

“We don’t know when it [the drought] will end,” Felicia Marcus, chair of the SWRCB, said on Saturday.

“Californians need to step up; we don’t even know if it will rain or snow much in the next year.”

California is suffering from a prolonged drought, with two-thirds of the state in extreme drought conditions and 41% suffering from the most serious classification issued by state authorities – “exceptional drought”.

The new proposals are likely to provoke opposition from urban water supply companies, which will be fined $10,000 a day if they fail to achieve the cuts.

After four years of drought, the state has warned Californians that they need to make “real lifestyle changes”.

A plan to voluntarily cut water use across the state by 20% failed, with most areas falling far short and some areas, particularly in southern California, increasing water consumption, Governor Brown said earlier this month, saying he had therefore been forced to issue an executive order. The state only managed to achieve a 9% reduction in water consumption.

Under the new proposed mandate, Beverly Hills is given the most dramatic reduction level, of 36%. Also included at that level are San Bernadino County, Coachella Valley, Modesto and Tahoe City. Not far behind, Newport Beach, Sacramento County and the city of San Bernadino would be told to cut water use by 32%.
Fresno, Burbank and Sonoma must slash water use by 28% under the latest proposal, with Napa and Palo Alto being told to reduce by 24%. At the lowest end of the spectrum, San Francisco and Santa Cruz will be required to cut water use by 8%.

San Diego and Santa Barbara will have to cut water consumption by 16% and San Jose by 20% if the framework ends up being mandated as outlined.

Under the proposals, householders would not be able to use hosepipes without shut-off mechanisms. Although hosepipes would not be banned outright, hosing sidewalks for cleanliness with potable water would be banned and only drip or micro-spray sprinklers allowed.

Restaurant and café-goers will only be given glasses of tap water upon request, not automatically upon sitting down. Many establishments have been doing so voluntarily.

The water restrictions will not be imposed on individual city and county authorities but on the water supply companies that services them.

The state is also encouraging people to recycle water from washing machines to flush toilets or water lawns. - The Guardian.


Wildfire near Southern California dam threatens 300 homes

A brush fire that broke out Saturday evening, April 18, 2015 burns in the Dam Prado Dam Flood Control Basin north of the city of Corona, Calif. Fire officials
said some trees caught fire in the forested basin and grew to at least 75 acres. Firefighters were hampered by rough terrain in the area. (AP Photo/Dan Cole)

An out-of-control wildfire that broke out in a forested basin near a Southern California dam triggered the evacuation of about 300 homes late Saturday, authorities said.

The fire, which was reported shortly after 6 p.m. in the Prado Dam Flood Control Basin and spread to 300 acres by early Sunday.

Capt. Mike Mohler of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said firefighters on the ground were hampered Saturday by difficult access to the raging blaze.

"The fire is fueled by thick brush in a riverbed that hasn't burnt in years," he said. "The fire is creating its own weather, so firefighters are having difficulty getting in there."

He said the flames were about a half-mile north of a residential area along the border of the cities of Norco and Corona. A mandatory evacuation was ordered for about 300 homes in the area.

"The fire is heading toward a populated area," Mohler said.

The fire, visible from State Routes 71 and 91, sent a large plume of smoke that could be seen miles away. The cause of the blaze was under investigation. - AP News.



GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - World Finance Leaders See Threats Ahead For Global Economy; Finland Could Tear Apart The Euro-Zone Project!



April 19, 2015 - GLOBAL ECONOMY
- The world's financial leaders see a number of threats facing a global economy still on an uneven road to recovery with U.S. and European officials worrying that Greece will default on its debt.

The finance ministers and central bank governors ended three days of meetings in Washington determined to work toward "a more robust, balanced and job-rich economy" while admitting there are risks in reaching that objective, the steering committee of the International Monetary Fund said in its communique Saturday.

Seeking to resolve Athens' debt crisis, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis held a series of talks with other finance officials on the sidelines of the meetings. The focus now shifts to Riga, Latvia, where European Union finance ministers meet next week.

The head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, said it was "urgent" to resolve the current dispute between Greece and its creditors. He said that while the international finance system had been strengthened since the 2008 crisis, a Greek default would still put the global economy into "unchartered waters" with its effect hard to estimate.

Draghi told reporters he did not want to even contemplate the chance of a Greek default on its debt. But French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said he thought any damage would be confined to Greece because euro zone countries had established measures to protect themselves from any spillover effects.

Seeking to assure financial markets, which fluctuated considerably on Friday over the possibility of a Greek default, Sapin said nothing had changed on the issue as a result of the weekend meetings. He said it was up to the Greek government to present credible, assessable solutions to its economic problems.

"The solution to the Greek debt crisis is in Greece," he said.

The head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, who had rejected suggestions that the IMF might delay Greek debt repayments, said she had constructive talks with Varoufakis and that the objective remained the same: to restore stability for Greek finances and assure an economic recovery.


International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC) Chair Governor of the Bank of Mexico Agust{ed}n Carstens, accompanied by International Monetary
Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde, speaks during a news conference after the IMFC meeting at the World Bank-International Monetary Fund
annual meetings in Washington, Saturday, April 18, 2015. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Greece is negotiating with the IMF and European authorities to receive the final 7.2 billion euro ($7.8 billion) installment of its financial bailout. Creditors are demanding that Greece produce a credible overhaul before releasing the money.

The country has relied on international loans since 2010. Without more bailout money Greece could miss payments due to the IMF in May and run out of cash to pay salaries and pensions.

The negotiations over Greece's debt have proved contentious, but all sides have expressed optimism that the differences can be resolved.

A number of countries directed criticism toward the U.S. for the failure of Congress to pass legislation needed to put into effect reforms that would boost the agency's capacity to make loans and increase the voting power of such emerging economic powers as China, Brazil and India.

Agustin Carstens, the head of Mexico's central bank and chair of the IMF policy panel, said "pretty much all of the members expressed deep disappointment" that a failure of Congress to act is blocking implementation of the reforms. The IMF panel directed IMF officials to explore whether interim solutions could be put in place until Congress acts.

The finance ministers urged central banks including the U.S. Federal Reserve to clearly communicate future policy changes to avoid triggering unwanted turbulence in financial markets.

The annual meetings of the IMF and its sister organization, the World Bank, take place Oct. 9-10 in Lima, Peru. - AP News.



How sleepy Finland could tear apart the euro project

Finland's stricken economy has been strangled by the euro just as much as Greece.

Finland is the unlikely stage for the latest turn in Greece’s interminable eurozone drama this weekend.

With events having decamped temporarily to Washington DC, Athens will be keeping half an eye on developments in Helsinki, where the Nordic state of just 5.4m people heads for the polls on Sunday.
In the five years since Greece’s financial woes were revealed to the world, it has been sleepy Finland which has emerged as the most trenchant critic of EU largesse to the indebted Mediterranean.
The outcome of the country’s general election could now determine Greece’s future in the monetary union

Getting tough on the Greeks

In a leaked memo seen last month, it was revealed that the Finns had already drawn up contingency plans for a Greek exit from the euro.

Although ostensibly a sensible measure for any finance ministry to contemplate, the document confirmed the Finns' position as the most uncompromising of the EU’s creditor nations.

The reputation is well-deserved.

At the height of Greece’s bail-out drama in 2011, Helsinki negotiated an unprecedented bilateral agreement with Athens, receiving €1bn in collateral in return for supporting a rescue deal.

A year later, the Finns were prime candidates to become the first dissenters to voluntarily break the sanctity of the monetary union. “We have to be prepared,” the country’s then foreign minister told the Telegraph three years ago.


Finnish PM Alexander Stubb meeting Germany's Angela Merkel last month.

Greece's current impasse is also partly a result of Finnish obstinacy.

Helsinki was one of the main obstacles to securing a long-term extension to Greece's bail-out programme under the previous Athens government late last year. The eventual compromise of a three-month, rather than six-month reprieve, has seen the new Leftist regime scramble desperately for cash since February.

With the situation in Athens deteriorating by the day, both Finland's prime minister and central bank governor have eschewed high-minded rhetoric about European unity, to insist creditors should be ready to pull the plug on Greece.

Strangled by the euro

But unlike its fellow creditor giant Germany, Finland is more economic laggard than European powerhouse.

Having been mired in a three-year recession, the country heads to the polls with economic output still 5pc below its pre-crisis levels.

Finland has suffered an economic downturn of almost Greek proportions.

The boon from falling oil prices and launch of eurozone QE will still only see the economy expand at a paltry 0.8pc this year, worse only to Italy and Cyprus.




Stagnating growth saw Finland stripped of its much coveted Triple-A sovereign debt rating last year. The International Monetary Fund now recommends a cocktail of structural reforms and fiscal consolidation that would make officials in Athens bristle.

"There is no sympathy for Greece any more, especially because our own economy is struggling," says Jan von Gerich, strategist at Nordea bank in Helsinki.

"If there was a refrerendum on a bail-out deal tomorrow, it would fail."

The tale of the Finnish economy proves competitiveness is not merely the plague of the southern Europe.

At the heart of the country's woes are stifling wages, which have risen by 20pc, while those in the crisis-hit countries of the south have slashed their labour costs.




Unemployment has shot up to nearly 9pc, while the country’s debt and deficit levels will both fall foul of euro-area limits this year.

Much like its fellow northern counterparts, Finland has also fallen into a demographic trap. It is now the fastest ageing country in the world, topping Japan in the race to get old.

Weak productivity and an ageing population, all trapped in the strictures of a monetary union, make Finland a microcosm for much of Europe' future economic woes, says Karl Whelan, a professor of Economics at University College Dublin.

“The future for growth in Europe appears to be Finnish” says Mr Whelan.

The euro has also robbed the economy of the freedom to devalue its currency - the tried and tested instrument the Finns have used to extricate themselves from the midsts of their deepest depressions.

The Finns were one of the first economies to follow Britain’s lead and abandon the inter-war Gold Standard in 1931. They also moved to a free floating exchange rate at the height of a banking crisis and deep recession following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 90s. In the aftermath of both episodes, the country was able to get back on its feet through reflationary export-led booms.

Faced with political and economic crisis in neighbouring giant Russia, the country’s current and likely outgoing premier Alexander Stubb, has bemoaned a “lost decade” under the monetary union.

Blocking another bail-out

The run-up to its last elections saw the unprecedented rise of the eurosceptic True Finns, who were ostracised from the coalition-making process for their fierce resistance to Greek aid.

This time round, the party - which has been re-branded as just The Finns - has taken a more subdued approach. The party's charismatic leader has refused to categorically state whether or not he would block a new debt deal in a bid to make the Finns more palatable to any future coalition partner.

Unprecedented among left-leaning parties in Europe however, Finland's Social Democrats now lead the charge against a third Greek bail-out.

But it is The Centre Party who are on course to become the largest in the parliament. The race for second place will be fought over by the Social Democrats and The Finns. Whatever the outcome, the position of finance minister will be occupied by the head of the junior coalition party.


The Centre Party's Juha Sipila is on course to become Finland's new Prime Minister

And should Greece need a third bail-out this summer, as the parlous state of its coffers suggests, then the Finns stand ready to throw sand in the wheels of a fresh agreement, says Moritz Kraemer, chief rating’s officer at Standard & Poor's.

“The Finns will have a very conservative line as before,” says Mr Kraemer.

“They want stringent conditions attached to any bail-out deal and could be put the test very quickly when the new parliament gathers at the end of the month. They might have something to vote on very soon.”

Any insistence on another preferential 2011-style deal from the Finns could cause another major political schism in Europe.

Unlike the first ad hoc rescue deals secured at the height of the crisis, the eurozone now as a bail-out mechanism in place through its European Stability Fund. Brussels will now be loathe to give the Finns any kind preferential creditor status over the rest of the eurozone, adds Mr Kraemer.

“It will be communicated to the Finns that they have to play by the rules,” says Mr Kraemer.

But the nature of the rescue mechanisms still gives disproportionate veto power to individual member states, says Mr von Gerich.

"Even the European Stability Mechanism needs unanimity among all member states unless there are really exceptional circumstances," he says.

The only saving grace for the prospect of another political crisis in the eurozone, is that Athens shows no signs of completing its existing bail-out, let alone agreeing a new deal.

"This is all for the day after tomorrow" says Mr Kraemer. "The task at hand is still to get Greece through to June, before anything new can be negotiated." - Telegraph.





INFRASTRUCTURE COLLAPSE: Plane Crashes Crash Lands In Puyallup, Washington - Pilot Was Not Injured!

The plane touched down in a Puyallup field. April 18, 2015.

April 19, 2015 - WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES
- A small plane crashed just after taking off from the THUN Field in Puyallup.

Witnesses reported seeing the plane crash Saturday morning in a field near the South Hill LA fitness.

For unknown reasons, the plane stalled shortly after takeoff. The pilot glided the plane into a field causing minor damage to the plane upon landing.







The FAA identified the aircraft as a Beech 33 Bonanza, and are looking in to what caused the plane to stall.

The pilot was uninjured in the crash.

WATCH: Small plane crash lands in Puyallup.



- KOMO News.



MIDDLE EAST CONFLICT: Showdown - Iranian President Warns Saudi Arabia, As Tehran Sends Armada Of Ships To Yemen; Alarming U.S. Officials! UPDATE: Iran Marks Army Day With Cries Of "Death To Israel, USA"!



April 19, 2015 - MIDDLE EAST
- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is harshly criticizing Saudi Arabia, warning that the Saudi royal family in Riyadh will harvest the hatred it is sowing in Yemen through its airstrike campaign and calling their involvement a 'disgrace.'

Since March 26, the Saudi-led coalition has been attacking Shiite rebels known as Houthis and allied fighters loyal to Yemen's ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Iran supports the rebels but denies providing any military support.

Addressing an army parade in Tehran, Rouhani said killing civilians in Yemen will bring neither power nor pride for Saudi Arabia. His speech was broadcast live on state TV Saturday.

"Other countries must learn from the Revolutionary Guards how to prevent conspiring in the region. We will do everything to achieve peace, stability and security and we will protect the un-protected in Yemen," said Rouhani.

President Rouhani of Iran.
Despite Iran's call for peace, it is being credited for also being involved in the Yemen conflict - but on the opposite side.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, the US army has foiled smuggling attempts from Iran to Yemen intended to transfer equipment to Houthi rebel fighters.

The Iranian government continues to deny that it has been helping the Houthi rebels who have caused President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.


Meanwhile, Iran presented on Friday a four-point plan to end the conflict that includes humanitarian aid, dialogue and the formation of a broad-based Yemeni unity government after a proposed cease-fire was already rejected by Saudi Arabia. - YNET News.



Iranian ship convoy moves toward Yemen, alarming US officials

U.S. military officials are concerned that Iran's support for Houthi rebels in Yemen could spark a confrontation with Saudi Arabia and plunge the region into sectarian war.

Iran is sending an armada of seven to nine ships — some with weapons — toward Yemen in a potential attempt to resupply the Shia Houthi rebels, according to two U.S. defense officials.
Officials fear the move could lead to a showdown with the U.S. or other members of a Saudi-led coalition, which is enforcing a naval blockade of Yemen and is conducting its fourth week of airstrikes against the Houthis.

Iran sent a destroyer and another vessel to waters near Yemen last week but said it was part of a routine counter-piracy mission.

What's unusual about the new deployment, which set out this week, is that the Iranians are not trying to conceal it, officials said. Instead, they appear to be trying to "communicate it" to the U.S. and its allies in the Gulf.

WATCH: Iran Reportedly Sends Navy Vessels Near Yemen Amid Airstrikes.


It is not clear what will happen as the convoy comes closer to Yemen. Saudi Arabia has deployed ships around Yemen to enforce the blockade, as has Egypt. An official said the ship convoy could try to land at a port in Aden, which the Houthis have taken over.

Although the U.S. is assisting with the Saudi-led air campaign, it is not participating in the naval blockade of Yemen, said U.S. Central Command spokesman Col. Pat Ryder.

However, the U.S. Navy is in the region and has already "consensually boarded" one Panamanian-flagged ship in the Red Sea on April 1 on the suspicion it was illegally carrying arms for the Houthis.

None were found, but the move raised alarm bells in Washington over an increasingly active U.S. military role in the conflict. The Pentagon indicated this week that more boardings could occur.

"We will continue to vigilantly defend freedom of navigation and to conduct consensual searches in an effort to ensure that drugs, human trafficking, weapons trafficking and other contraband are limited," Army Col. Steve Warren said on Monday.

Officials fear a naval confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia could escalate what has become a proxy war between the two countries.

The U.S. has been supporting the airstrikes with intelligence and logistical support, and last week began refueling Saudi fighter jets. Administration officials say it is important to support Saudi Arabia.

Earlier this week, a senior State Department official said the U.S. would try to ensure that a United Nations Security Council arms embargo against Houthi leadership is enforced.

"We will be taking very careful look and examining very closely efforts to violate the embargo," senior State Department official Gerald Feierstein told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The deepening of the conflict comes as the U.S. hopes to reach a deal with Iran to roll back its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Officials say U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition has not affected the negotiations with Iran.

The conflict also threatens to complicate U.S.'s relations with Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, an Iran ally, criticized Saudi Arabia for its airstrike campaign during a visit to Washington this week.

U.S. officials say they are unsure why Iran is making the brazen move. One theory they have floated is that the Saudi-led coalition has effectively blockaded any air routes into Yemen and there are no other ways to resupply the Houthis.

Another theory is that Iran is trying to distract the coalition from another ship it has tried hard to conceal that is currently docked at Oman — a potential land route for smuggling arms into Yemen.

Yet another theory is that Iran wants to force a confrontation with Saudi Arabia that it believes it will win, because Iran views the Saudi military as weak and suspects the U.S. lacks the willpower to support its Gulf ally.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei last week on Twitter taunted Saudi Arabia, calling its military puny and smaller than Israel's. He also said the air campaign was tantamount to genocide of innocent Yemeni civilians and that the U.S. would also fail in Yemen.

U.S. officials say they hope the airstrikes will force Houthis to the negotiating table in order to restore stability in Yemen, where America faces a terrorist threat from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

“We're assisting the Saudis to protect their own territory and to conduct operations that are designed to lead ultimately to a political settlement to Yemen,” said Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Thursday.

“That's good for the people of Yemen, first and foremost. It's good for Saudi Arabia that doesn't need this on its southern border.  And … it's good for us, among other reasons, because of AQAP's presence in Yemen. But for that to occur, it'll require more than military action,” he added. - The Hill.



UPDATE: Iran Marks Army Day With Cries Of "Death To Israel, USA"!

A truck bearing the slogan 'Death to Israel' at an Iranian military parade, April 18, 2015 (screen capture: Reuters/YouTube)

Iran on Saturday marked Army Day with a military parade featuring new weapons systems, as well as a truck carrying a massive banner reading “Death to Israel.”

A televised broadcast of the parade was punctuated by repeated cries of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”

“If Israel makes a mistake,” the announcer on Iran television said during the broadcast, as heavy trucks carrying armored personnel carriers rolled past, “those in Tel Aviv and Haifa will not sleep at night, not one person.”

Broadcast on national television, military brass and political leaders, foremost President Hassan Rouhani, attended the procession south of the capital Tehran, which showcased the country’s military technologies.

Among the weapons systems paraded past dignitaries was a domestically produced version of the Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile, the Bavar 373.

Speaking at the event, Rouhani said Iran was adopting “a strategy of deterrence in order to prepare for peace and security in Iran and the Middle East.”

“Our method of action is defense and not offense,” he said.

Russia announced earlier this week that it would supply the S-300s to Iran shortly, having delayed delivery for several years. The announcement prompted bitter protests from Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu telephoned President Vladimir Putin, in vain, to ask him to cancel the deal.

Israel fears the S-300s would complicate any military intervention as a last resort to thwart Iran’s nuclear drive. It also fears Iran could supply the missile defense systems to Syria or Hezbollah, diluting Israel’s air supremacy over Syria and Lebanon.

On Friday, President Barack Obama said he was surprised the Russians had held back from going through with the deal for as long as they had.

Rouhani also harshly criticized Saudi Arabia Saturday, warning that the Saudi royal family in Riyadh will harvest the hatred it is sowing in Yemen through its airstrike campaign.

Since March 26, the Saudi-led coalition has been attacking Shiite rebels known as Houthis and allied fighters loyal to Yemen’s ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Iran supports the rebels but denies providing any military support.


WATCH: Iran marks Army Day with a joint military parade.




“What does bombing the innocent … Yemeni people mean? What goals are you pursuing? Will killing children bring power to you? You planted the seeds of hatred in this region and you will see the response sooner or later,” Rouhani said. “Don’t bomb children, elderly men and women in Yemen. Attacking the oppressed will bring disgrace … for the aggressors.”

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has already called the Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen “genocide” and a “major crime.”

Iran has presented a four-point plan to end the conflict that includes humanitarian aid, dialogue and the formation of a broad-based Yemeni unity government after a proposed cease-fire was already rejected by Saudi Arabia.

Rouhani also accused Saudi Arabia of providing weapons and funding to terrorist groups in the Middle East.

“What does providing financial assistance and weapons to terrorists in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq mean,” he asked.

Iran is supporting both Syrian President Bashar Assad and the Iraqi government in its fight against Sunni Muslim extremists, including the Islamic State group. Tehran says Saudi Arabia and several other Middle East governments support the Islamic State group.

Prominent lawmaker Alaeddin Boroujerdi, who heads the parliamentary national security and foreign policy committees, predicted that Saudi Arabia will find itself trapped in the Yemeni “quagmire.”

“We are so sorry that today Saudi Arabia and (its allies) have placed themselves in a quagmire and leaving it will definitely not be an easy task,” he told reporters Saturday. - Times of Israel.