Over 50 Killed In Gaza As Israel Shelling Is “Fiercest Since 1967 War”

While the world’s attention is focused on the tragic events in Ukraine, the fighting in Gaza has entered its 13th, and most deadly day, with at least 50 Palestinians killed on Sunday by Israeli shelling in a Gaza neighborhood, where “bodies were strewn in the street and thousands fled for shelter to a hospital packed with wounded, witnesses and health officials said.” Reuters reports that the mass casualties in Shejaia, in northeast Gaza, were the heaviest since Israel launched its offensive, since expanded to a land offensive including tanks and troops. This has brought the total dead count on the Gaza side to over 400.

A few hours later, Israel agreed to a two-hour humanitarian truce in Shejaiya. The ceasefire was supposed to last from 13:30 to 15:30 local time an Israeli military spokesman said. But a BBC team on the ground reported an exchange of fire less than an hour after the truce began.

According to elderly locals, today’s Israeli shelling was the fiercest they had seen since the 1967 Middle East war, when Israel captured Gaza. Shifa hospital’s director, Naser Tattar, said 17 children, 14 women and four elderly were among the 50 dead, and about 400 people were wounded in the Israeli assault.

Gaza’s Health Ministry officials said at least 385 Palestinians, many of them civilians, have been killed in the 13-day conflict and about 2,600 have been wounded.

 

On Israel’s side, two civilians have been killed by cross-border fire and five soldiers have died in fighting. More than 50 Israeli troops have been wounded, hospital officials said.

 

Thousands fled Shejaia, some by foot and others piling into the backs of trucks and sitting on the hoods of cars filled with families trying to get away. Several people rode out of the neighborhood of 100,000 in the shovel of a bulldozer.

 

Video given to Reuters by a local showed at least a dozen corpses, including three children, lying in rubble-filled streets, though the footage could not be verified independently.

An AFP reporter comments on the ground:

Meanwhile the IDF is denying all responsibility for the mass killings of civilians, instead saying it had warned the locals to evacuate in advance:

Furthermore, the IDF released the following schematic to explain the layout of local militants and rockets within Shejaiya.

In other developments surrounding Gaza, the BBC reports that:

  • Hamas claims it carried out a major attack on Israeli forces in Gaza, causing multiple casualties. There is no comment from the Israeli military on this
  • There has been almost constant shelling by Israel in the past few hours, with tanks and troops reported on the move
  • Hamas is continuing to fire rockets into Israel, with one landing in the city of Ashkelon
  • UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is due to arrive in Qatar later to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Perhaps most disturbing, and something which has gotten zero coverage compared to the ongoing chaos in Donetsk, is that Israel’s Government Press Office on Saturday warned foreign journalists it was not responsible for their safety in the Gaza Strip, where the Jewish state has launched an offensive against Palestinian militants.

“Gaza and its vicinity are a battleground. Covering the hostilities exposes journalists to life-threatening danger,” an e-mailed Government Press Office (GPO) statement said. “Israel is not in any way responsible for injury or damage that may occur as a result of field reporting.”

 

The GPO, which accredits journalists based in Israel, many of whom also cover events in the Palestinian Territories, charged Islamist group Hamas was using journalists as human shields and advised reporters to take “every possible precaution.”

In other words, if there are no foreign journalists covering the atrocities in Gaza, that would be ideal. In the meantime, it is best to distract the public’s attention with some speculation that the Separatist rebels in Ukraine are doing the same, and try to provoke fury there, but not here.

Below are some photos documenting the sheer destruction in Shejaiya:


 

The district of Shejaiya came under heavy Israeli bombardment overnight, Palestinians say

 

The Israeli military says the ground offensive has been expanded to destroy a Hamas tunnel network

 

An air strike early on Sunday morning killed four people, including two children, according to medics

 

Israelis who support the offensive faced off with those against it in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening

Finally, the reason why it is all about to get much worse, is that in an interview with Cannel 2 TV, the Israeli Minister of Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz said the military may take control of Hamas-controlled territory for several months to “dismantle the terror army.” Needless to say such an act would provoke a firestorm, literally, of desperation from Hamas which would almost certainly lead to the deaths of thousands of innocent bystanders in the latest sharp escalation of a conflict that goes back countless years.




via Zero Hedge http://ift.tt/1mtko4p Tyler Durden

How Iraq Was Demolished By Washington’s Intervention, Incoherence And Arrogance

Authored by Dahr Jamail, via Contra Corner blog,

For Americans, it was like the news from nowhere. Years had passed since reporters bothered to head for the country we invaded and blew a hole through back in 2003, the country once known as Iraq that our occupation drove into a never-ending sectarian nightmare. In 2011, the last U.S. combat troops slipped out of the country, their heads “held high,” as President Obama proclaimed at the time, and Iraq ceased to be news for Americans.

So the headlines of recent weeks – Iraq Army collapses! Iraq’s second largest city falls to insurgents! Terrorist Caliphate established in Middle East! – couldn’t have seemed more shockingly out of the blue. Suddenly, reporters flooded back in, the Bush-era neocons who had planned and supported the invasion and occupation were writing op-eds as if it were yesterday, and Iraq was again the story of the moment as the post-post-mortems began to appear and commentators began asking: How in the world could this be happening?

Iraqis, of course, lacked the luxury of ignoring what had been going on in their land since 2011. For them, whether Sunnis or Shiites, the recent unraveling of the army, the spread of a series of revolts across the Sunni parts of Iraq, the advance of an extremist insurgency on the country’s capital, Baghdad, and the embattled nature of the autocratic government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki were, if not predictable, at least expectable. And as the killings ratcheted up, caught in the middle were the vast majority of Iraqis, people who were neither fighters nor directly involved in the corrupt politics of their country, but found themselves, as always, caught in the vice grip of the violence again engulfing it.

An Iraqi friend I’ve known since 2003, living in a predominantly Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad, emailed me recently. He had made it through the sectarian bloodletting of 2006-2007 in which many of his Sunni compatriots were killed or driven from the capital, and this is the picture he painted of what life is now like for him, his wife, and their small children:

“All the dangers faced by Iraqis from the occupation – arrests, torture, car bombs, and sectarian violence – those killings have become like a toy in comparison to what we are facing these days. Fighting has spread in all directions from the north, east, and west of Baghdad. Much of the fighting is between the government and Sunni insurgents who have suffered a lot from the injustice of Maliki’s sectarian government.”

As for his daily life, he described it this way:

“As a result of this fighting, we can’t sleep because of our fear of the uncertainty of the situation, and because of the random arrests of innocent Sunni people. Each day I awake and find myself in a very hard and bad situation and now am trying to think of any way I can to leave here and save my family. Most of my neighbors left back when it was easier to leave. Now, we have both the U.S. and Iran helping the Iraqi government, and this will only make the fighting that is going on across Iraq much worse.

“Life in Iraq has become impossible, and even more dangerous, and there is now no way to leave here. To the north, west, and east of Baghdad there is fighting, and with so many groups of Shiite militias in the south, it is not safe for us to go there because of the sectarianism that was never here before the invasion. The price for bus tickets has become very expensive and they are all booked up for months. So many Iraqi families and I are trapped in the middle now.”

“Every day, the Iraqi army is raiding homes and arresting many innocent people. So many dead bodies are to be found at the Baghdad morgue in the days following the mass arrests in Sunni areas.”

He concluded his email on a stark note, reminiscent of the sorts of things I regularly heard when I was in Iraq covering the brutal results of the U.S. occupation. “Horror, fear, arbitrary arrests, indiscriminate bombing, killing, an uncertain future – this is the new democratic Iraq.”

And don’t for a second think that this summer it’s just Sunni communities who are living in fear. Claims of massacres and other atrocities being carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the group spearheading the Sunni revolt across the northern and western parts of the country, abound along with well-documented accounts of their brutal tactics against Shiites.

In one incident, according to witnesses, ISIS forces kidnapped at least 40 Shia Turkmen, blew up three Shia mosques and another Shia shrine, and raided homes and farms in two Shia villages near the city of Mosul. And that’s just to start down a long list of horrors. Meanwhile, the sectarianism shredding the social fabric is being stoked further by the posting of images online that show at least 10 ancient Shiite shrines and mosques destroyed by ISIS fighters.

The Disintegration of Iraq

As for myself, I can’t claim to be surprised by the events of recent weeks. Back in March 2013, on a visit to the embattled Sunni city of Fallujah (twice besieged and largely destroyed by U.S. troops in the occupation years), I saw many signs of the genesis of what was to come. I was at one point on a stage there alongside half a dozen tribal and religious leaders from the area. Tens of thousands of enraged men, mostly young, filled the street below us, holding up signs expressing their anger toward U.S.-backed Prime Minister Maliki.

Having written about the myriad human rights abuses and violations Maliki’s regime was responsible for, I was intimately familiar with the way the bodies, dignity, and rights of much of the Sunni population in Fallujah’s province, al-Anbar, had been abused. That same month, I had, for instance, interviewed a woman who used the alias Heba al-Shamary and had just been released from an Iraqi prison after four grim years.

“I was tortured and raped repeatedly by the Iraqi security forces,” she told me. “I want to tell the world what I and other Iraqi women in prison have had to go through these last years. It has been a hell… I was raped over and over again. I was kicked and beaten and insulted and spit upon.” Heba, like so many Sunnis the Maliki regime decided to detain, torture, and sometimes execute, had been charged with “terrorism.”

That very month, Amnesty International released a report that highlighted what it called “a grim cycle of human rights abuses” in Iraq. When I was in Baghdad, it was common to hear Maliki referred to in many areas as “worse than Saddam [Hussein].”

In late 2012, the young among the politically disenfranchised Sunni population began to organize peaceful Arab Spring-style rallies against the government. These were met with brute force and more than a dozen demonstrators were killed by government security forces. Videos of this went viral on the Web stirring the already boiling tempers of youths desperate to take the fight for their rights to Baghdad.

“We demand an end to checkpoints surrounding Fallujah. We demand they allow in the press [to cover the situation]. We demand they end their unlawful home raids and detentions. We demand an end to federalism and gangsters and secret prisons.” This was what Sheikh Khaled Hamoud Al-Jumaili, a leader of the demonstrations, told me just before I went on stage that day. As we spoke, he clutched a photograph of one of his nephews killed by Maliki’s forces while demonstrating in the nearby city of Ramadi. “Losing our history and dividing Iraqis is wrong, but that and kidnapping and conspiracies and displacing people is what Maliki is doing.”

As I wrote at the time, the sheikh went on to assure me thatmany people in Anbar Province had stopped demanding changes in the Maliki government because they had lost hope. After years of waiting, no such demands were ever met. “Now, we demand a change in the regime instead and a change in the constitution. We will not stop these demonstrations. This one we have labeled ‘last chance Friday’ because it is the government’s last chance to listen to us.”

“What comes next,” I asked him, “if they don’t listen to you?”

“Maybe armed struggle comes next,” he replied without a pause.

Maliki’s response to the Fallujah protests would, in fact, insure that the sheikh’s prediction became the region’s future.

The adrenaline-pumping energy on stage and in the crowd that day mixed electric anticipation and anxiety with fear. All of this energy had to go somewhere. Even then, local religious and tribal leaders were already lagging behind their supporters. Keeping a lid on the seething cauldron of Sunni feeling was always unlikely. When a tribal sheikh asked the crowd for a little more time for further “diplomacy” in Baghdad, the crowd erupted in angry shouts, rushed the stage, and began pelting the sheikhs with water bottles and rocks.

In pockets of that crowd, now a mob, the ominous black flags of ISIS were already waving vigorously alongside signs that read “Iraqis did not vote for an Iranian dictatorship.” Enraged shouts of “We will now fight!” and “No more Maliki!” swept over us as we fled the stage, lest we be hit by those projectiles that caught the rage of the young, a rage desperate for a target, and open to recruitment into a movement that would take the fight to the Maliki regime.

Enter ISIS

Funded by Arabian Gulf petrodollars from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, among other places, and for a long while supported, at least implicitly, by the Obama administration, radical Islamist fighters in Syria opposing Bashar al-Assad have been expanding in strength, numbers, and lethality for the last three years. This winter, they and their branches in Iraq converged, first taking Fallujah, then moving on to the spring and summer debacles across Sunni Iraq and the establishment of a “caliphate” in the territories they control in both countries.

It was hardly news that ISIS, a group even the original al-Qaeda rejected, had a strong presence in Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke of the situation defensively last fall in attempting to explain Washington’s increasingly controversial and confused policy on Syria, the rebels, and the regime of Bashar al-Assad they were trying to fell. He described the “bad guys” as radical fighters belonging to ISIS and al-Qaeda-affiliated groups, calling them the lesser part of the opposition in that country, a statement that even then was beyond inaccurate. He went on to describe those “bad guys” as having “proven themselves to be probably the best fighters… the most trained and aggressive on the ground.”

Of course, Kerry claimed that the U.S. was only supporting the “good guys,” another convenient fiction of the moment.

Fast forward to just a few weeks ago: in a meeting with Syrian opposition leader Ahmad al-Jarba, Kerry proposed arming and training supposedly well-vetted “moderate” Syrian rebels to help take the battle to ISIS in Syria but also in Iraq. “Obviously, in light of what has happened in Iraq,” he said, “we have even more to talk about in terms of the moderate opposition in Syria, which has the ability to be a very important player in pushing back against [ISIS’s] presence and to have them not just in Syria, but also in Iraq.”

The confusion of this policy remains stunning: Washington hopes to use “moderate” Syrian rebels, in practice almost impossible to separate from the extreme Islamists, “in pushing back against” those very Islamists, while striking against the Assad regime which is supporting – with air strikes, among other things – the Maliki government which Washington has been arming and supporting in Iraq. The U.S. has already invested more than $25 billion in support for Maliki – at least $17 billion of which was poured into the Iraqi military. Clearly that was money not well spent as that military promptly collapsed, surrendering a string of cities and towns, including Tal Afar and Mosul, when ISIS and other Sunni insurgents came knocking.

More aid and personnel are now on the way from Washington. The Obama administration already admits to sending at least an extra 750 Marines and Special Operations troops into Iraq, along with missile-armed drones and Apache helicopters. It is now pushing hard to sell Iraq another 4,000 Hellfire missiles. The Pentagon insists its troops in Baghdad are either guarding the huge U.S. embassy or serving in an “advisory” capacity to the Iraqis, but is also claiming that its forces need “flexibility” in order to carry out their missions. As a result, there are already plans for U.S. pilots to fly those Apache attack helicopters there.

While Washington might be at odds with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the crisis in Ukraine, the Obama administration is undoubtedly breathing a sigh of relief that Russian military aid, including fighter planes, is now flowing into Baghdad. Blurring opaque political alliances further, Iran has supplied Iraq with ground attack jets, has drones carrying out reconnaissance missions over the country, and Iranian Kurds could be joining the fight on the ground.

Considering all these twists and turns of the Iraqi situation, political analyst Maki al-Nazzal shared these thoughts with me, which are increasingly typical of Sunni opinion: “Iraq is still suffering from the U.S. occupation’s sins and now self-operating to remove the cancer the U.S. planted in its body. Iraqi nationalists and Sunni Islamists have had enough of being wasted through 11 years of direct and indirect occupation and so revolted to correct by guns what was corrupted by wrongful politics.”

Meanwhile, the ongoing crisis has sent the government in Baghdad into free-fall just as the opportunistic Kurds of northern Iraq have called for a referendum in the next two months to address a long-fostered desire to become an independent country. Given all of this, hopes for any kind of Sunni-Shia-Kurdish “unity” government that could save the country from collapse have been repeatedly dashed. Making matters worse, with thousands of Iraqis being slaughtered every month and the country coming apart at the seams, even the Shiites in the country’s parliament seem deadlocked. “Things are moving faster than the politicians can make decisions,” a senior Shiite member of parliament told a reporter.

No wonder the Iraqi army won’t stand its ground when facing ISIS fighters, who are more than willing to die for their cause. What exactly is it to die defending? And it’s not just army troops who are refusing to put their lives on the line for Nouri al-Maliki. Powerful Sunni tribal leaders in Iraq’s volatile Anbar Province are also refusing to fight for Maliki, too. In a recent interview, Sheikh Hatem al-Suleiman, head of the Dulaimi tribe, insisted that Maliki was more dangerous than the ISIS fighters, adding, “I believe that Maliki is responsible for ISIS coming to Iraq.”

Washington’s man in Baghdad for so long, Maliki himself now adds to the crisis by refusing to budge, no matter the pressure from his former patrons and Shiite religious leaders.

The Nightmare of Ordinary Iraqis

The disintegration of Iraq is the result of U.S. policies that, since 2003, have been strikingly devoid of coherence or any real comprehension when it comes to the forces at play in the country or the region. They have had about them an aura of puerility, of “good guys” versus “bad guys,” that will leave future historians stunned. Worst of all, they have generated a modern-day Middle Eastern Catch-22 in which all sides are armed, funded, and supported directly or indirectly by Washington or its allies.

Meanwhile, ISIS and other Sunni insurgent groups have effectively tapped into the tens of thousands of angry young men I saw in Fallujah last year and are reportedly enjoying significant popular support (as, in some cases, the best of a series of terrible options) in many of the towns and cities where they have set up shop.

In all of this, the nightmare for ordinary Iraqis has only been accentuated. I recently received an email from a friend in Fallujah, a city now occupied by ISIS after having been brutally shelled by the Iraqi military earlier in the year. At that time, hundreds were killed and even Fallujah’s main hospital was hit. Tens of thousands of people in the city, including my friend, had to flee for their lives. He has now been a refugee for months and summed up his life this way:

“Words cannot explain what we are suffering now. I do not believe what is happening to us. Imagine a life lived in permanent fear, with shortages of all-important services like electricity, water supply, fuel, and food in the very hot Iraqi summer and during the fasting month of Ramadan.

“The most important part of the whole story is that all of these tragedies are happening – and let me say with sadness, are happening while we are now refugees and deprived of our houses and belongings. Fleeing Maliki’s bombardment, we travelled to Anah City [northwest of Fallujah and closer to the Syrian border] seeking safety, but now Anah has become unsafe and was attacked twice by Syrian helicopters, which killed five Fallujan civilian refugees. Everything in our life is sad and difficult. We are under the control of senseless criminals.”

As Iraq’s disintegration into darkness progresses, it sickens me to think of all the Iraqis I met and became friends with, who have since been killed, disappeared, or have become refugees. What is left of Iraq, this mess that is no longer a country, should be considered the legacy of decades of U.S. policy there, dating back to the moment when Saddam Hussein was in power and enjoyed Washington’s support. With Maliki, it has simply been a different dictator, enjoying even more such support (until these last weeks), and using similarly barbaric tactics against Iraqis.

Today, Washington’s policies continue in the same mindless way as more fuel is rushed to the bonfire that is incinerating Iraq.




via Zero Hedge http://ift.tt/Ui00fG Tyler Durden

Value in France – Who Would have Thought?

By: Brad Thomas and Chris Tell at: http://ift.tt/146186R

Nowadays France is better known as the country which has managed to take incomprehensible, anti-growth, anti-sanity, bureaucratic policies, layer them on top of existing, mind-numbing socialist stupidity and have their citizens think it all as ordinary as chocolate cake.

It’s enough to induce a guy to reach for Xanax, if just to quell the anxiety. It was obviously enough for Gerard Depardieu to become a Russian… which is saying something!

It is therefore with much surprise that Brad told me this afternoon about a company he has on his radar… a French company.

Let’s dig deeper and take a look.

Veolia Chart 1

Veolia (VIE) is a French company involved in utility and public transportation businesses. They provide drinking water, waste management services, manage and maintain air conditioning systems, and operate road and rail passenger transport systems. Veolia is yet another one of Europe’s “deep value” large cap stocks.

Given the chart above, it doesn’t take much to work out that it is highly unlikely to be crowded on the long side, and certainly isn’t popular with the investing public. As a result Veolia isn’t expensive – that’s for sure. The big question is, just how cheap is it?

  • It trades below book value (0.86)
  • Its price to sales is a mere 0.3x.

Perhaps these low valuations have been warranted up until now, as earnings at Veolia have collapsed over the last 6 years due to the global financial crisis and European debt crisis. Take a look at the following chart:

Veolia Chart 2

Veolia – Price to Book Ratio (Red) and Operating Income (Yellow)

However, what has happened in the last 6 years is history. The “million dollar question” is what will the next 6 years bring? It appears that the long term downtrend in earnings estimates has been broken. Analysts are starting to factor in a turnaround in the fortunes of the company. Earnings estimates have begun to rise after enjoying a continual downtrend since the end of 2007.

Veolia Chart 3

Veolia – 12 month Forward EPS Estimates

As with most large cap deep-value situations, what is required is lots of time for the turnaround to occur. Perhaps the “secret” to investing in deep-value situations isn’t so much the view about the underlying investment, but rather how that view is applied.

One way of applying this view is via ultra-long term warrants trading in Europe. A warrant is similar in most aspects to an option. On most large cap stocks in Europe one can get warrants with an expiration of December 2020. I think that these are great instruments to apply long term views as they provide ample time for a turnaround to play out, and they mentally encourage investors to not think about what will happen to the stock within the next 6.5 years, but rather to where the stock price is likely to be at expiration of the option (December 2020).

These ultra-long term warrants bring in a different dimension of diversification/risk to a portfolio. Many investors think of diversification as spreading risk over a number of positions/assets. Few look at diversifying risk by going across varying time frames. As an example, what happens to Veolia in the next 12-24 months may well have little to do with what happens to it in 6.5 years time!

Another aspect to these long term warrants when applied to deep value situations (in this case Veolia) is where the stock price will be in 6.5 years time has little to do with where the market will be at that time. This is because the stock price is so depressed, and there is such negative sentiment towards it, that if something “less worse” than expected occurs to the company within the next 6.5 years the stock is likely to advance materially higher.

Of course warrants do have drawbacks. These mainly relate to more practical aspects, such as:

  • On which platforms can one trade the warrants
  • How to get bid/offer prices
  • How to determine whether or not the option is expensive or reasonably priced.

For many retail investors these practical aspects are overwhelming, perhaps this is why very few actually bother to trade them. In doing so they forgo huge potential gains with relatively little risk.

Brad is sending trading ideas like the above to our Capex Asymmetric Trader members on a weekly basis. You can learn more on how to profit from long-term, low-risk, big payoff value trades here.

Have a good weekend!

– Brad and Chris

 

“Value investing is at its core the marriage of a contrarian streak and a calculator.” – Seth Klarman




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Three More Cases Of Most Deadly Form Of Plague Found In Colorado

It has been quite a week for geopolitics: first the BRICs openly defied the legacy developed world system with the formation of a BRIC bank and the creation of a $100 billion currency reserve, promptly followed by the latest and most severe round of US sanctions against Russia, followed even more promptly by the tragic disaster of flight MH 17 which sadly will turn out to be nothing but yet another provocative attempt to unleash war and change the Russia-European energy balance of power, masked by public fury at the death of several hundred innocent bystanders. And speaking of innocent bystander deaths, nothing tops Israel’s decision to roll out the tanks into Gaza just hours following the Ukraine tragedy, and sending the death count on the Gaza side soaring and well into the 300s. All in all – a very disturbing week, which however nobody who was looking at the S&P 500 would realize.

It has also been a very busy week for viral epidemiologists, who have been following the ongoing Ebola epidemic in West Afrca, which has claimed over 600 lives by now and has become the worst Ebola breakout in history, with anxiety and dread. But what may soon be even bigger news is what we reported a week ago, namely that a Colorado man is infected with the rarest and most fatal form of the pneumonic plague, an airborne version that can be spread through coughing and sneezing.

Shocked by this development, the state was working to investigate the source of exposure and to identify those who may have been exposed through close contact with the individual, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said in its statement. “Any individuals exposed will be recommended for antibiotic treatment.” Alas, that may be futile, because while untreated plague is fatal, antibiotics have to be given within 24 hours of the first symptoms to reduce the chance of death. Symptoms of the disease include fever, headache and chest pain, along with a pneumonia that develops rapidly causing shortness of breath, chest pain and bloody mucus, according to the CDC.

Since there is no vaccine available for plague in the US, one can understand why the authorities are doing their best to prevent a panic: Colorado officials recommended that residents keep pets away from wildlife, especially dead rodents. The plague can spread from animals after a large die-off of prairie dogs, when fleas with the bacteria seek new hosts, according to the state. “The message we’re trying to get out is that the plague bacteria is present here in Colorado, and to take necessary precautions to avoid getting infected.”

Alas, the message appears to not have gotten out in time. According to Bloomberg, things in Colorado are about to get worse as three more plague cases have been found in Colorado, a week after the first infection of the deadliest form of the disease was reported in the state in a decade.

The man initially reported with pneumonic plague on July 11 is hospitalized. Two of the new cases also had pneumonic plague, while the third had a milder form. All four cases may be linked to the original man’s dog, which died from the illness, state health officials said. Or they may not.

The good news is that the people newly-found to be infected were treated with antibiotics, recovered, and are no longer contagious. Health officials suspect the dog that died may been exposed to plague-infected fleas from a prairie dog or rabbit, said Jennifer House, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment department.

The bad news, is that the last time we heard about a case of plague in Colorado, that too was supposed to be the last one. But that won’t prevent the authorities from attempting to talk down the spread in cases:

There are three main types of plague. Septicemic plague occurs when the bacteria proliferates in the bloodstream. Bubonic plague takes hold underneath the skin. Pneumonic plague, the most serious, can be spread through coughing and sneezing and occurs when the bacteria enters the lungs.

 

Plague in all of its forms usually infects an average of seven people yearly in the U.S., and is found mostly in the western states of Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease is transmitted by fleas, which pick up a bacterium called Yersinia pestis in infected animals such as chipmunks, prairie dogs, ground squirrels, mice and other mammals.

 

“While this is not a daily, weekly, or monthly occurrence, it isn’t without precedence,” said Jim Siedlecki, director of public information of Adams County, where the original victim lives, in a telephone interview. “A case of plague where fleas and prairie dogs are involved isn’t earth shattering for Colorado.”

What about four cases?

In any event, we are confident that along with the surge in other tragic news from around the globe in the past week, this too will at most send the stock “market” to even higher all time highs.




via Zero Hedge http://ift.tt/1rsk3GY Tyler Durden

First Detroit, Now Flint Warns Bankruptcy “Train Is Headed For The Cliff”

Flint may be Michigan’s second city to plunge into bankruptcy unless retirees accept cuts in health benefits that threaten to unravel a balanced budget. As Crain’s Detroit reports, Emergency Manager Darnell Earley (Flint’s third emergency leader since it was placed under state control in 2011) warned “If we have no ability to mitigate the cost of retiree health care, that’s going to make it very difficult for the city to remain financially stable over the next few years.” As Eric Scorsone notes, “Flint’s at the forefront, but a lot of cities are on the same train, and that train is headed for the cliff.”


As Crains Detroit reports,

As Detroit draws worldwide attention for its record $18 billion bankruptcy, Flint demonstrates the plight of U.S. cities where unfunded post-retirement costs rival or exceed pension liabilities. In Michigan alone in 2011, municipalities had nearly $13 billion in health-care liabilities for retirees, compared with about $3 billion for pensions. Flint is among 17 cities and school districts under some form of state control.

 

More than 80,000 Flint-area residents were employed by GM in 1978. Now, that number is about 7,500, according to a 2011 report by Michigan State University. In the past two years, the municipal workforce has been cut 20 percent and employees have taken a 20 percent pay cut.

Emergency Manager Earley warns…

Like Detroit, which a year ago this week filed the largest U.S. municipal bankruptcy, Flint has struggled with loss of population, jobs and revenue. The birthplace of General Motors Co. has only half its population of 1960.

 

“If we have no ability to mitigate the cost of retiree health care, that’s going to make it very difficult for the city to remain financially stable over the next few years,” Earley said in an interview at City Hall. Without changes, retiree pension and health expenses would consume 32 percent of the $55 million general fund.

 

“You can stabilize things by making sure that you’ve got the best systems in place for delivering services,” Earley said. “We haven’t had that in Flint for a number of years. We haven’t had that in Detroit for a number of years.”

The retirees are not happy…

The city’s accumulated deficit is $12.9 million, though its budget is balanced through June 30, 2016. Allowing higher insurance co-pays and deductibles for retirees will save $5 million this year, Earley said. That would make retirees’ coverage equal to that of active employees, he said.

 

Retirees already have made wage and pension concessions, and now will pay hundreds of dollars a month for prescriptions and co-pays, their attorney, Alec Gibbs, said in an email. He said retirees on fixed incomes will face life-threatening choices.

 

“Think of the position that they are putting these guys in: Pay for your health-care costs and starve, or use your fixed and paltry income to eke out a painful, shortened life,” Gibbs said.

 

Blaming retirees is unfair, said U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, a Flint-area Democrat who founded the Center for Community Progress, a Washington, D.C.-based advocate for urban revitalization. More culpable, he said, are shrinking local revenue and the state’s cumulative $54.9 million reduction in aid to the city since 2003, according to the Michigan Municipal League.

 

“It’s a conspiracy of bad news,” Kildee said. “The state balanced its budget by unbalancing city budgets.”

This is systemic…

“If Flint were to go to bankruptcy, that would highlight that this legacy-cost problem has to be addressed more globally,” said Eric Scorsone, a Michigan State University economist. “Flint’s at the forefront, but a lot of cities are on the same train, and that train is headed for the cliff.”




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14 Reasons The White House’s “The World Is More Stable & Less Violent Than Ever” Meme Is A Lie

Submitted by Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse blog,

With a straight face, Barack Obama has been repeatedly telling us that the world is "more stable" and "less violent" than ever.  In fact, he believes that this is the best time in history to be alive because of how peaceful and stable everything is.  And of course Obama is more than happy to take credit for his role in bringing all of this "stability" about.  Just this week, his press secretary told the media that this administration has "substantially improved" the "tranquility of the global community".  Apparently these guys don't think that we will notice all of the violence, war and terrorism constantly raging all around us.  It would be wonderful if the planet actually was becoming a more peaceful place, but instead the exact opposite is happening.  The world is becoming increasingly unstable, and if we aren't really careful we could see World War III break out before too long. But if you listen to Obama, he makes it sound like we are living in an emerging global utopia.  The following is an excerpt from remarks that he made during a White House event in June…

[T]he truth of the matter is that for all the challenges we face, all the problems that we have, if you had to be — if you had to choose any moment to be born in human history, not knowing what your position was going to be, who you were going to be, you’d choose this time. The world is less violent than it has ever been. It is healthier than it has ever been. It is more tolerant than it has ever been. It is better fed then it’s ever been. It is more educated than it’s ever been.

You can watch video of him making those remarks below…

And as I mentioned above, a similar statement was made by White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Monday

"I think that there have been a number of situations in which you’ve seen this administration intervene in a meaningful way, that has substantially furthered American interests and substantially improved the, uh, you know, the – the tranquility of the global community."

In addition, posted below is video of Obama declaring that the world is "more stable" than it was five years previously during a speech to the United Nations last year…

It would be great if all of this stuff was actually true.  But I think that at this point not even Obama believes half the things that are coming out of his mouth.  He has told dozens of major lies while he has been in the White House, and the following are 14 reasons why Obama is lying when he claims that the world is "more stable" and "less violent" than ever…

#1 The downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 has brought Ukraine and Russia even closer to the brink of war.  The government in Kiev is blaming Russia and Russia is blaming the government in Kiev.  But Barack Obama does not seem too concerned about it.  During a speech on Thursday, he spent a mere 40 seconds addressing the downing of the plane before he began a 16 minute speech in which he told numerous jokes.

#2 If it wasn't for revolutionary Ukrainian groups funded by George Soros and the U.S. government (among others), the Ukrainian government may never have been violently overthrown and there might not have been a civil war in Ukraine at all.

#3 Relations between the United States and Russia are the worst that they have been since the end of the Cold War, and the economic sanctions that Obama just slapped on Russia are not going to help matters any.

#4 Israel has just launched a major ground offensive in Gaza, and many fear that a full-blown regional war in the Middle East could erupt at any moment.

#5 The civil war in Syria has been raging for several years now.  Thanks to the United States and Saudi Arabia, those seeking to bring down the Syrian government are very well armed.

#6 The civil war in Iraq continues to get even worse.  ISIS has already captured vast stretches of Iraqi territory and they are using American weapons to do it.

#7 The Kurds claim that ISIS is now using chemical weapons against them.  If this is true, it is really, really troubling news.

#8 The Iraqi government has told the United Nations that ISIS was able to steal 88 pounds of uranium from Mosul University.  Some experts are concerned that they may be able to use this material to create a dirty bomb (or worse).

#9 Barack Obama told us that we were "liberating" Libya, but instead we just transformed it into a war-torn wasteland that is constantly being fought over by warring militia groups.  Just this week, one of those militia groups launched a devastating attack on the main airport in Tripoli.  And the horrible fighting in Libya has spilled over into other nearby countries in North Africa such as Mali.

#10 Relations between the United States and Germany are at the lowest point that they have been since the end of World War II.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel was so furious when one U.S. spy was discovered recently that she expelled the top U.S. intelligence official from the country.  But Germany is far from alone.  The truth is that most of the rest of the world is sick and tired of our "Big Brother" behavior.

#11 Islamic terror group Boko Haram continues to cause havoc all over Nigeria.  The following is from a news report about an incident that happened earlier this week

Suspected members of the deadly Boko Haram Islamic sect on Monday attacked Dille village in Borno State, killed 45 people and torched several houses and shops and forced many people to flee into nearby hills for safety. The terrorists, it was gathered, came in a convoy of over 20 vehicles and motorcycles. According to one of the villagers, Njimtiku Papka, who spoke to journalists in Maiduguri on the phone, the terrorists on arriving the village started shooting indiscriminately at everyone in sight.

#12 The ongoing civil war in the Central African Republic has forced hundreds of thousands of people out of their homes.

#13 There is horrible fighting going on inside Somalia right now

A fierce and violent conflict erupted on the outskirts of Qoryoley district in Lower Shabelle between joint African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops and Somali National Army soldiers (SNA) against Al-Shabaab. The terrorist insurgents attacked an SNA and AMISOM military sitting in the town just outside Qoryoley when the battle initiated. Locals have reported to Shabelle that the fight also affected towns in the district like Maanyo Mudug, Farhanle and Abdi Ali.

#14 Things are not even stable in North America.  Horrific gang violence and warring between drug cartels in Central America and Mexico has been one of the factors that has caused millions of illegal immigrants to come pouring toward the United States.  Today, Honduras has the highest murder rate on the entire planet, and the Mexican drug war has claimed more than 120,000 lives since 2006.

Of course this is just a partial list.  The truth is that there are dozens of other conflicts that are happening all over the globe right now that could be added to this list.




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The Final Moments Of Flight MH-17: The Russian Side Of The Story

Yesterday, we laid out extensively what the official Ukrainian case was when it came to “proof” that Russian separatists had launched the Buk missile which allegedly took down flight MH-17; we also highlighted several glaring inconsistencies and questions that still remained open after the “incriminatory” YouTube clip release. So far, any international response has been muted to this hastily prepared evidence of Russian involvement, although the day is still young.

So what about the Russian side? Below we present the key arguments made by Russia to suggest that not it, but Ukraine, was responsible for taking down the Malaysian Boeing.

As reported earlier by RIA, the Russian Defense Ministry says it had intercepted the activity of a Ukrainian radar system on the day the Malaysian plane went down in eastern Ukraine, the ministry’s press service said Friday.

Throughout the day on July 17, Russian means of radar surveillance intercepted the operation of the Buk-M1 battery’s Kupol radar station located in the region of the populated area of Styla [30 kilometers south of Donetsk],” the press service said in a statement.

“The technical capabilities of the Buk-M1 allow the exchange of data on air targets between batteries of one battalion. Thus, the launch of rockets could have also occurred from any of the batteries deployed in the populated area of Avdeevka [8 kilometers north of Donetsk] or from Gruzsko-Zoryanskoe [25 kilometers east of Donetsk],” the ministry said.

Then we go to Itar-Tass which reported that civil flights in the air space of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions cannot be performed as the relevant communications infrastructure was destroyed there, a source from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) told ITAR-TASS on Thursday.

Kiev operates all air traffic control services and it is unclear how this plane (the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 that crashed in eastern Ukraine near the Russian border Thursday night. — ITAR-TASS) could appear in the area,” he said.

“During the combat actions in Donetsk’s airport the communication tower, a part of the united air control service was blown up,” he said adding that “planes cannot fly there.”

On July 8, Ukraine’s State Aviation Service banned all flights over the Donetsk and Luhansk regions aiming to provide “adequate safety and security for all flights of civil aircraft in favor of state aviation.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council took a decision to close the airspace over the area of the so-called anti-terror operation to commercial flights three days ago, Rosaviatsia reported.

This goes back to our post from last night in which we wondered just why and how did it happen that flight MH-17 diverted from its usual trajectory to fly over what was effectively restricted airspace.  This also is the topic of a follow up piece by Bloomberg released overnight in which it was noted that “Malaysian Air Flight Took Route Avoided by Qantas, Asiana:”

Qantas hasn’t used the route for a few months, said Andrew McGinnes, a spokesman for the Australian carrier, while Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific said it has been detouring for “quite some time.” Korean Air Lines Co. and Asiana Airlines Inc. said in statements they have been avoiding the area since March 3.

One hopes that all lingering questions about the flight path, and where the instructions to change it came from, will be answered when the contents of the flight black box are released.

And finally, as RT reported, the national governor of the Donetsk region, Pavel Gubarev, admitted that while the separatists indeed are in possession of one BUK missile unit, it is not operational, and even if it was, it would be unable to reach a height of over 30,000 feet without central radar guidance which the Donetsk region does not have, once again suggesting that a Surface to Air Missile, if indeed one was used, came from the Ukraine side. Surely it will be very easy for international monitors to validate this report.

We will ignore circulating reports of two Ukraine jets that may have followed the Boeing as there is, at least for now, zero direct or circumstantial evidence validating this story aside from one Twitter account which has since been deleted.

In brief the plot thickens, and all that matters now is whose propaganda, read media outlets, will be more persuasive although in reality even that is moot: in the echo chambers of ideology, most people already have their mind made up as to “who” the shooter was.




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What Recovery? US Macro Suffers Longest Streak Of Weakness Since Lehman

Despite the best efforts of The Fed, its apologists, and the commission-taking talking-heads to persuade the world that the US economy is picking up and set to reach escape velocity any minute… the fact is, the US economy (judged on data not fantasy) is hurting. Consensus expectations for 2014 US GDP growth have collapsed from over 3.00% to a mere 1.7% now. But what is more critical is the incessant bleating that data is picking up and suggests a 2nd half recovery… it doesn’t. US Macro surprise data has been negative for over 21 weeks… the longest such spell of disappointment since Lehman.

 

US GDP expectations are collapsing (and this is ‘pricing in’ a H2 recovery bounce)…

 

But recent data says H2 is anything but positively surprising…

 

US Macro surprise data has been negative for over 21 weeks… the longest such spell of disappointment since Lehman.

*  *  *

A glance at the chart above also shows something odd… US macro normally cycles back into the positive after dipping negative… as over-pessimism rotates to over-optimism – but this time the ‘bounce’ from over-pessimism failed in May.

US macro surprise data is considerably weaker than last year.

Charts: Bloomberg




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Stocks Are Severely Overvalued By Almost Every Predictive Metric

The stock market is overvalued by almost every known metric.

 

The single best predictor of stock market performance is the cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio or CAPE ratio. Most investors price a company based on its current Price to Earnings or P/E ratio. Essentially what you’re doing is comparing the price of the company today to its ability to produce earnings (cash).

 

However, corporate earnings are heavily influenced by the business cycle.

 

Typically the US experiences a boom and bust once every ten years or so. As such, companies will naturally have higher P/E’s at some points and lower P/E’s at other. This is based solely on the business cycle and nothing else.

 

CAPE adjusts for this by measuring the price of stocks against the average of ten years’ worth of earnings, adjusted for inflation. By doing this, it presents you with a clearer, more objective picture of a company’s ability to produce cash in any economic environment.

 

We have mentioned before that CAPE is the single most important metric for long-term investors. I wasn’t saying that for impact.

 

Based on a study completed Vanguard, CAPE was the single best metric for measuring future stock returns. Indeed, CAPE outperformed

 

1.     P/E ratios

2.     Government Debt/ GDP

3.     Dividend yield

4.     The Fed Model,

 

…and many other metrics used by investors to predict market value.

 

So what is CAPE telling us today?

 

The S&P 500 is currently at a CAPE of over 26.

 

 

 

 

The S&P 500 has only been at this level or higher a handful of times in the last 100 years. All of them have coincided with major market peaks.

 

This is not to say that the market has definitively topped or is about to Crash; but it does emphasize how overvalued the market is. Indeed, stocks are overvalued by just about every other metric you can imagine.

 

Warren Buffett’s favorite indicator for stocks (total market cap of stocks to GDP) is currently at its second highest level in 50 years with a reading of 125. The only higher reading the market has ever registered was in 2000 at the absolute peak of the Tech Bubble madness.

 

Other items that indicate the frothiness of the markets:

 

1)   We are on track for $2.51 trillion in Mergers and Acquisitions this year. This will be the largest amount since 2007.

2)   The stock market is currently sporting a Price to Sales of 1.7, even higher than it was at the peak of the Housing Bubble.

3)   The average bull market going back to 1921 is 62 months long. This current bull market is now in its 64th month.

4)   The VIX index (a measure of investor complacency or fear) is at an all time low. Investors today are even more complacent than they were in 2007 or 2000.

 

 

Suffice to say that of all the assets currently experiencing significant inflation, stocks are the biggest beneficiaries. They have been inflated to the point of being totally disconnected from reality.

 

This concludes this article. If you’re looking for the means of protecting your portfolio from the coming collapse, you can pick up a FREE investment report titled Protect Your Portfolio at http://ift.tt/170oFLH.

 

This report outlines a number of strategies you can implement to prepare yourself and your loved ones from the coming market carnage.

 

Best Regards

 

Phoenix Capital Research

 

 

 

 




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