Friday, August 1, 2014

"Scorched Earth": How Israel Converted 40% Of Gaza Into A Wasteland Of Rubble


http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-07-31/scorched-earth-how-israel-converted-40-gaza-wasteland-rubble
"Scorched Earth": How Israel Converted 40% Of Gaza Into A Wasteland Of Rubble

Submitted by Tyler Durden on 07/31/2014 19:44 -0400


Moments ago, after weeks of relentless humiliation for John Kerry, Israel and Hamas agreed to yet another 72 hour ceasefire - one which if the previous "ceasefires" are any indication, will be broken within hours if not minutes. Regardless, Kerry, who cobbled this agreement after much "hard work" alongside the UN's Ban Ki-moon, was ecstatic: "We urge all parties to act with restraint until this humanitarian ceasefire begins, and to fully abide by their commitments during the ceasefire," Kerry and Ban said. "This ceasefire is critical to giving innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence."

What Kerry did not say is that the ceasefire is merely an extended occupation by the IDF: as Reuters reported, the ceasefire statement said "forces on the ground will remain in place" during the truce, implying that Israeli ground forces will not withdraw. Which also assures that it is only a matter of time before yet another stray rocket is launched into Israeli fields, before the IDF retaliates by blowing up another school or hospital allegedly housing Hamas rockets, and so on.

However, while this too ceasefire will come and go, something far more insidious is taking place in Gaza : as the Daily Beast reports, "The Israeli military, relentlessly and methodically, is driving people out of the 3-kilometer (1.8 mile) buffer zone it says it needs to protect against Hamas rockets and tunnels. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the buffer zone eats up about 44 percent of Gaza’s territory."





To be sure, Israel has been quite clear about its intentions and has given Gazans plenty of advance notice:

It’s not like Israel didn’t plan this. It told tens of thousands of Palestinians to flee so its air force, artillery and tanks could create this uninhabitable no-man’s land of half-standing, burned-out buildings, broken concrete and twisted metal. During a brief humanitarian ceasefire some Gazans were able to come back to get their first glimpse of the destruction this war has brought to their communities, and to sift through their demolished homes to gather clothes or other scattered bits of their past lives. But many were not even able to do that.

They will have a chance to do so again for the next three days, or whenever the ceasefire is broken again which will come first.

In the meantime, constant shelling and bombing have converted nearly half of Gaza into a inhospitable wasteland:

What that means on the ground is scenes of extraordinary devastation in places like the Al Shajaya district approaching Gaza’s eastern frontier, and Beit Hanoun in the north. These were crowded neighborhoods less than three weeks ago. Now they have been literally depopulated, the residents joining more than 160,000 internally displaced people in refuges and makeshift shelters. Apartment blocks are fields of rubble, and as I move through this hostile landscape the phrase that keeps ringing in my head is “scorched earth.”

The author of the original article reflects on a world that may as well have emerged from a TS Eliot poem:

In Beit Hanoun the systematic destruction mirrors Al Shajaya. I walk past old men and teenagers trying to lift cinderblocks and slabs of stucco with their bare hands, sometimes in search of a mattress and other times in search of a relative.

The desert of demolition only becomes more vast as I get closer to the Israeli border. Individually razed homes and stores give way to gray and white plains of obliterated walls with hills of contorted iron bars and broken-up slabs. Here the bodies are hidden under the new landscape and it will take more than a brief pause in fighting to unearth the gruesome extent of the town’s suffering.

“Scorched earth,” historically, means destroying land to deprive the encroaching enemy of its use. Israelis shy away from using the phrase to describe what they are doing because, in Israel, it brings to mind the strategy of the Nazi retreat from Russia at the end of the Second World War.
For Israel, there is a perverse strategy in leveling everything in their path: the practice of systematically flattening neighborhoods is focused on saving the lives of Israeli soldiers, who might otherwise be more exposed to hit-and-run attacks. "Israel is more sensitive than any other country in the West to the death of its soldiers," says Hebrew University political scientist Yaron Ezrahi "The death of [Palestinian] civilians is a moral crisis but is without political impact."

Precisely. And yet the ordinary [Palestinian] civilians, those who have never fired a gun in their lives, lives which sadly have zero "political impact" this is a tragedy beyond words:

When Rania Haels got within 60 feet of the debris that was once her family home in Al Shajaya on Saturday, a machine-gun on top of a nearby Israeli Merkava tank started firing. Probably these were warning shots pumped in her direction, but the 42-year-old mother of seven ran for her life. Now she stays with her family in an overcrowded parking garage in Gaza City and spends her days sitting in a public park full of refugees displaced by the Israeli push.

“We lost our homes and so now we live in the streets,” said Haels, holding a toddler in her arms who clings to her pastel-patterned hejab. “This war has destroyed me.” She says at least she knew where her home was. Some of her neighbors could not find their homes as they walked down streets made unrecognizable by the wreckage and horrifying by the presence of death.

Rashid al Delo and his 11 children were, like Haels, blocked by Israeli machine-gun fire when they tried to return to their home near the bombed-out Wafa Hospital in Al Shajaya. But despite the dire reality, al Delo, who used to work in Israel but has been unemployed these last 15 years, is determined to salvage his life.
At least they are not dead. However, with every passing day the probability of their survival declines. What is most tragic, however, is that regardless of who is to blame for the ongoing war which is merely the culmination of a middle-east conflict that has continued for thousands of years and whose origins are lost in the sands of time, the international community, so vocal when it comes to the pretense of humanitarian intervention in any other part of the world, is so remarkably incapable to do anything for the ordinary Palestinians who face not only the obliteration of their homes but systematic eradication. All the while the world screams but does nothing.

Why? So that a few rich men can promote their military interests and get even richer: a reason as old as the world itself.

Russia And Germany Allegedly Working On
Secret "Gas For Land" Deal




http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-07-31/molotov-ribbentrop-20-russia-and-germany-allegedly-working-secret-gas-land-deal

Russia And Germany Allegedly Working On Secret "Gas For Land" Deal
Submitted by Tyler Durden on 07/31/2014 14:50 -0400

While many were amused by this photo of Putin and Merkel during the world cup final showing Europe's two most important leaders siding side by side, some were more curious by just what the two were scheming:





Thanks to the Independent, we may know the answer, and it is a doozy, because according to some it is nothing shy of a sequel to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact: allegedly Germany and Russia have been working on a secret plan to broker a peaceful solution to end international tensions over the Ukraine, one which would negotiate to trade Crimea's sovereignty for guarantees on energy security and trade. The Independent reveals that the peace plan, being worked on by both Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin, "hinges on two main ambitions: stabilising the borders of Ukraine and providing the financially troubled country with a strong economic boost, particularly a new energy agreement ensuring security of gas supplies."

Amusingly, this comes on the day when the WSJ leads with "On Hold: Merkel Gives Putin a Blunt Message. Germany's Backing of Russia Sanctions Marks Breach in Pivotal European Relationship" in which we read that " Angela Merkel spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin for at least the 30th time since the Ukraine crisis erupted. She had a blunt message, according to people briefed on the phone conversation: Call me if you have progress to report in defusing the conflict. That was July 20. The two leaders haven't spoken since."

They may or may not have spoken since, but it is not because Putin has "no progress to report" - it's because the two leaders have come to a secret agreement which will hardly make Ukraine, or most of Europe, not to mention the UN, happy as it requires that Crimea be permanently handed over to Russia in exchange for Russian gas, which has been cut off for a month now due to non-payment by Kiev.

Here is how the deal came to happen:

Sources close to the secret negotiations claim that the first part of the stabilisation plan requires Russia to withdraw its financial and military support for the various pro-separatist groups operating in eastern Ukraine. As part of any such agreement, the region would be allowed some devolved powers.

At the same time, the Ukrainian President would agree not to apply to join NATO. In return, President Putin would not seek to block or interfere with the Ukraine’s new trade relations with the European Union under a pact signed a few weeks ago.

Second, the Ukraine would be offered a new long-term agreement with Russia’s Gazprom, the giant gas supplier, for future gas supplies and pricing. At present, there is no gas deal in place; Ukraine’s gas supplies are running low and are likely to run out before this winter, which would spell economic and social ruin for the country.

As part of the deal, Russia would compensate Ukraine with a billion-dollar financial package for the loss of the rent it used to pay for stationing its fleets in the Crimea and at the port of Sevastopol on the Black Sea until Crimea voted for independence in March.

"Markets In Turmoil" Russell 2000 Plunges Most In Over 2 Years, Dow Down For 2014




"Markets In Turmoil" Russell 2000 Plunges Most In Over 2 Years, Dow Down For 2014
Submitted by Tyler Durden on 07/31/2014 16:05 -0400

The deer is back...



Stocks finally snapped and caught down to high-yield credit's warnings. The worst day for the Dow in 6 months, smashing through its 50- and 100-day moving-average. The Russell 2000 was worst on the day to end July down over 6% - its worst month since May 2012. The S&P's had almost its worst day in 6 months. Trannies dropped 3.4% on the week - the worst in 11 months. Stocks closed at the day's lows.

Full article with charts here: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-07-31/markets-turmoil-russell-2000-plunges-most-over-2-years

House Bill Proposes Puerto Rico Bankruptcy; S&P Downgrades PREPA Utility


http://blogs.barrons.com/incomeinvesting/2014/07/31/house-bill-proposes-puerto-rico-bankruptcy-sp-downgrades-prepa-utility/

July 31, 2014, 4:58 P.M. ET
House Bill Proposes Puerto Rico Bankruptcy; S&P Downgrades PREPA Utility

By Michael Aneiro

Puerto Rico’s nonvoting congressional delegate today introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that would allow Puerto Rico’s government-owned corporations to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, the same type of municipal bankruptcy protection Detroit sought last year. The move comes a month after the commonwealth passed the Puerto Rico Public Corporation Debt Enforcement and Recovery Act, which allows Puerto Rico’s public corporations to restructure their debts.

“I believe that amending the U.S. Bankruptcy Code to extend Chapter 9 to Puerto Rico is the most sensible and logical way to proceed,” wrote Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner. “My legislation would simply enable the Puerto Rico government to authorize its government-owned corporations to utilize the tried-and-true Chapter 9 procedure if it becomes necessary, under the expert supervision of an impartial federal bankruptcy judge, based on legal precedent established in Chapter 9 proceedings that have taken place throughout the nation.”

The fallout from the Recovery Act continued today as Standard & Poor’s banished the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to the depths of speculative grade, cutting PREPA’s credit rating to triple-C from single B-minus. (S&P also affirmed Puerto Rico’s general obligation bond rating at double-B.) S&P said the deep-junk rating indicates that PREPA’s debt is “vulnerable to nonpayment,” and said any adverse business, financial, or economic conditions could leave PREPA unable to pay its debts.

“We believe that the absence of an overarching solution to liquidity issues and the structural imbalance among its revenues, operating expenses and debt service commitments suggests an increasing likelihood that the authority will not be able to satisfy debt service obligations on time and will avail itself of the [Recovery Act] and restructure all or portions of its debt,” said S&P credit analyst Judith Waite in a statement.

Earlier this month, rival rating agency Moody’s Investors Service similarly cut PREPA’s rating into equally deep-junk territory.

Earlier today, PREPA sent out a statement saying its lenders have extended until Aug. 14 their agreements not to exercise remedies against PREPA as a result of the recent credit downgrades. Under the agreements, PREPA can continue to delay certain payments that were due in July while still making payments due to employees and suppliers. PREPA said it’s “having productive discussions” with its creditors and will continue “to evaluate various strategies” to achieve its financial and operational objectives.

“This latest show of support from our bondholders, bond insurers and lenders  provides us with additional time to evaluate all available options to ensure we are reaching the best possible outcome for our employees, customers, creditors and suppliers,” said PREPA Executive Director Juan F. Alicea Flores in a statement.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

The God with the keys



Portuguese Regulator Bans Short-Selling After Banco Espirito Santo Unveils Massive $5 Billion Loss



Portuguese Regulator Bans Short-Selling After Banco Espirito Santo Unveils Massive $5 Billion Loss

Submitted by Tyler Durden on 07/30/2014 16:46 -0400

Having waited until after the US equity markets closed, Portugal's troubled Banco Espirito Santo unveiled an enormous EUR 3.577 Billion loss - that is 15 times larger than the loss the bank suffered a year earlier. The data  - to end-June, before the crisis really got going - already shows notable deposit flight, a 73.1% plunge in banking income, and a EUR 3 billion collapse in repoable assets (i.e. liquidity). On the heels of this Portugal's securities regulator has enforced a short-selling ban on BES... we suspect they would not have done that if all was systemically well in Portugal.

Full article here: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-07-30/portuguese-regulator-bans-short-selling-after-banco-espirito-santo-unveils-massive-5

Argentina Default Imminent as Talks Collapse

http://online.wsj.com/articles/argentina-bonds-rise-to-multiyear-highs-on-prospect-of-deal-1406728458

Argentina Default Imminent as Talks Collapse
Setback Sends Argentine Shares Down in After-Hours Trading

By NICOLE HONG, TAOS TURNER and MATT DAY CONNECT
Updated July 31, 2014 3:45 a.m. ET

Argentina faces default Wednesday for the second time in 13 years if it doesn't meet a deadline to make payments to a small group of bondholders. WSJ's Matthew Cowley explains Argentina's dispute with these creditors and the long-standing battle that stems from the country's default in 2001. (Photo: Getty Images)

Argentina teetered on the brink of its second default in 13 years after talks with bondholders collapsed late Wednesday.

The setback, after glimmers of hope in recent days that a last-minute agreement could be reached, immediately sent Argentine stocks plunging in after-hours trading.

Still, there remained the possibility that talks could resume and a deal could eventually be reached.

At a press conference after talks with a court-appointed mediator ended Wednesday, Argentine Economy Minister Axel Kicillof, who had led the country's delegation to New York, said "we won't sign an agreement that would compromise Argentina's future." A spokeswoman later said negotiations would continue, without giving a timetable.

"Default is not a mere 'technical' condition, but rather a real and painful event that will hurt real people," said Daniel Pollack, the mediator, in a statement late Wednesday. He added, "The full consequences of default are not predictable, but they certainly are not positive."

The development is the latest turn in a years long battle between Argentina and a small group of hedge funds that have demanded full payment for bonds the country defaulted on in 2001. Argentina has refused to pay, despite an order by a U.S. District Court judge requiring it to pay the hedge funds. The issue came to a head Wednesday as Argentina missed a deadline to make a payment it owed to other bondholders, because the court order had prevented such a move.

Bank ‘glitch’ leaves thousands without wages across Ireland


http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/bank-glitch-leaves-thousands-without-wages-across-ireland-1.1883670

Bank ‘glitch’ leaves thousands without wages across Ireland
Bank apologies for error affecting public and private sector workers


Rachel Flaherty

First published:
Thu, Jul 31, 2014, 10:27

Thousands of people, working in both the public and private sector, have not been paid their wages today.

Teachers, nurses, gardaĆ­, and also people working for private companies and civil servant pensioners have reported receiving payslips but no payments.

It is understood that people who inquired about the problem have been told there is a “glitch” in the bank transfer payroll problem.

A spokeswoman for Bank of Ireland confirmed there was a delay in processing payments last night.
“The Bank apologies profusely to those customers affected and wishes to reassure them that the credits will be in their account by first thing tomorrow morning,” she said.

“This delay only affected one file and the majority of BoI payments were processed in a timely manner.”

The spokeswoman could not confirm how many people had been affected by the error.
A source said many of people were in a “desperate” situation today with mortgages, car loans and health insurance payments scheduled to be taken out of their bank accounts.

People have reported receiving their payslips but no payments in their accounts, which are with different banks also including AIB and Ulster Bank.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice said it was a technical issues with Bank of Ireland that had caused their employees not to be paid.

He said Financial Shared Services, which handles the payments for many public servants, distributes pay through Bank of Ireland.

There are reports that the issue may be linked to the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) regulation. SEPA is a European Union system brought in to simplify electronic financial transactions including credit transfers and direct debits.

If you have been affected by the issue contact us at newsdesk@irishtimes.com