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Eyes in the sky help to keep Hajj pilgrims safe

Sat, 2017-09-02 03:00

JEDDAH: Arab News took to the skies with the Royal Saudi Air Force on Friday for a bird’s-eye view of pilgrims and the measures in place for their safety and security.
The 90-minute flight took place in one of the Air Force’s VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) jets piloted by Maj. Majed Salem Al-Ghamidi.
The Air Force has two tasks during Hajj, Al-Ghamidi said. The first is assisting Hajj Security Forces in carrying out the security plan designed for the comfort of pilgrims, and the second is close observation of the holy sites from the air.
Our flight on Friday began at 11 a.m. and we flew over Mina, Jamarat Bridge and Makkah, including the Masjid Al-Haram and the roads leading to it. We noted a smooth flow of pilgrims on all routes, even on Jamarat Bridge and in train stations, and only limited traffic at the bus stations.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Abduallah bin Mohammed Al-Zahrani, leader of the VTOL jet squadron participating in Hajj 2017, said the Air Force played a major role in monitoring the safety of pilgrims and working with other agencies in helping them. These included the Ministry of Interior represented by Hajj Security Forces, the Ministry of Hajj and Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, who are supervising project development at the holy sites, along with the Saudi Red Crescent Authority (SRCA), the Ministry of Health and guests of the Ministry of Information.
Al-Zahrani said all the participating aircraft were taking off vertically, and pilots were working around the clock.

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Sign language most common language among Hajj pilgrims 
Pilgrims throng Mount Arafat for peak of Hajj
Millions gather in Arafat for Hajj climax

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Honest Hajj pilgrim returns bag with cash and jewelry

Sat, 2017-09-02 03:00

JEDDAH: A pilgrim who found a bag containing cash and jewelry has been praised for his honesty after he handed it over to authorities.
Lutfi Mohammed Abdulkarim, from Egypt, was looking for pebbles to perform the rami Al-Jamrat ritual in Mina when he found the unattended bag. He asked around, but could not find the owner.
Inside the bag, as well as the valuables, Abdulkarim found an ID card suggesting it belonged to a Nigerian woman. He handed the bag over to officials from King Salman’s Hajj and Umrah Program, of which he is a guest.
Ahmed Jailan, a member of the program’s Sharia committee, said: “The pilgrim is with us in the program after one of his sons, a police officer, was killed in his country. He is of high moral standards and a good example of the guests of the program.”
The bag and its contents will be returned to their owner, Jailan said. “This emphasizes the meaning of solidarity and cooperation.”
He said he hoped all pilgrims would follow such a good example.
Meanwhile, Palestinian pilgrim Abdullah Mohammed Sharaka’s grief at losing his 14-year-old son was replaced by pleasure and joy when he and his wife arrived in Makkah as guests of King Salman’s Hajj and Umrah Program.
Sharaka said King Salman’s generosity had healed the wounds of many Palestinians who had been living in bitterness after losing children, brothers, fathers or mothers. His son, Ahmed, was shot dead by Israeli soldiers for throwing stones.
Sharaka said he could not express his pleasure when he was selected for the Hajj and Umrah Program. He found it hard to believe as he was walking in the districts of Makkah and the holy sites.
He said he would pray for King Salman, asking Allah to keep him and bestow security on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Main category: 
Humanity in the heart of Saudi holy sites during Hajj
Smartphones, social media transforming image of Hajj
Hajj pilgrims return to Mina for ‘stoning of Satan’ ritual

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Floods, Nukes, & Pitiful Payrolls Spark Best Week For Stocks In 2017

Flood Schmud, Missiles Schmissiles, Jobs Schmobs…


Gold gained the most after today’s dismal jobs data…


After a crazy run the last few days into month-end, Nasdaq slipped notably lower after the pitiful payrolls print… All major indices closed lower post payrolls


Stocks gained on the day though, thanks to overnight pumping, with Trannies tumbling into the close to leave small caps best on the day. Nasdaq record high close…


And despite Hurricane Harvey, North Korean Missiles, and Dismal Jobs, stocks soared on the week…

A crazy week:

  • Nasdaq +2.75% – best week since Dec 2016
  • S&P +1.5% – best week in 4 months
  • Trannies +2.8% – best week in 3 months
  • Gold +2.6% – best week since April 2016

FANGs and Biotechs led Nasdaq…


VIX was down for the 3rd week in a row…VIX was crushed back to a 10 handle.


Treasury yields were up across the board today.. on weak jobs data? but ended the week mixed (30Y higher in yield, belly lower)…

NOTE – the yield curve (2s10s) was flatter for the 5th week in a row.

But it was the shortest-end of the curve that was most troubled as the debt ceiling panic really started to build…


FX markets were a little wild today as Payrolls and ECB jawboning sent EURUSD swinging wildly…


The Dollar Index rose on the week (best week in the last 4)


Yuan was the strongest against the greenback on the week and JPY weakest…


Bitcoin surged over 12% this week (up7 weeks in a row) to a new record high…


But Bitcoin Inv Trust tumbled 21% following Andrew Left’s appearance on CNBC…


WTI sank on the week (fifth weekly drop in a row)… RBOB gasoline futures spiked over 14% on the week (roll-adjusted) – the biggest week since Hurricane Irene in July 2011…


Having survived a flash crash effort Wednesday night, precious metals surged back to close the week on their highs…


And equity investors have another excuse to BTFD – equity dividend yields are higher than bond yields once again…


But Gold remains 2017’s big winner…

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Russia accuses US of ‘direct threat’ to diplomats’ immunity

Fri, 2017-09-01 22:35

MOSCOW: Russia’s foreign ministry on Friday accused the US authorities of threatening the “security” of Russian citizens and violating its diplomats’ immunity with a planned FBI search of the San Francisco consulate.
“The demands of the US authorities create a direct threat to the security of Russian citizens,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement.
“American special services intend on September 2 to carry out a search of the consulate in San Francisco including of the apartments of employees who live in the building and have immunity.”
The United States on Thursday ordered Russia to close its consulate in San Francisco as well as two annexes in Washington and New York, in a tit-for-tat response to Moscow’s forced reduction of US diplomatic staff in their country.
The State Department said the decision was made “in the spirit of parity,” adding that the closures needed to be completed by Saturday.
Zakharova said that the FBI had ordered diplomats to leave their accommodation for 10 to 12 hours with their families including young children and babies.
“We are talking about invasion into a consulate and the accommodation of diplomatic staff, what’s more they are being chucked out so that they don’t get in the way of the FBI agents,” Zakharova said.
“We express a resolute protest over Washington’s actions that ignore international law, and as is customary in diplomatic practice, we reserve the right to take retaliatory measures. That’s not our choice. They are forcing us into it,” Zakharova said.
Earlier Friday presidential aide Yury Ushakov was quoted by TASS news agency as describing the latest US measures as “a kind of illegal takeover.”
“We will think how to respond,” he added.
The latest US move came as a September 1 deadline was reached for Washington to comply with a Kremlin demand to slash staff numbers at its Russian diplomatic mission by 755 personnel.
The fresh diplomatic spat is the latest twist in tortured ties between the US and Russia, which have slumped to their lowest point since the Cold War following the Kremlin’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

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Petition To Label George Soros A “Domestic Terrorist” Has 80,000 Signatures

In less than two weeks, a petition demanding that billionaire investor George Soros be declared a “domestic terrorist,” and that authorities seize his multibillion-dollar fortune, has garnered nearly enough signatures to force the Trump administration to issue a formal response.

The petition, which has attracted 80,000 signatures so far – just 20,000 shy of the 100,000-signature threshold where a response would be required – accuses Soros of being guilty of sedition by financing groups that help support violent Antifa counter-protesters and other dangerous leftist groups.

Last week, we reported that a similar petition, this one asking that President Donald Trump declare Antifa to be a terrorist group, had reached the threshold. The petition is still awaiting a formal response, but in one promising development, Politico reported today that the Department of Homeland Security had described the group’s actions as “domestic terrorist violence” in private memos.

Over the past week, the mainstream media narrative has turned decidedly against Antifa, with the Washington Post, Bloomberg and the Atlantic publishing stories criticizing the group’s violent tactics.

Specifically, the Soros petition accuses the Hungarian-born billionaire of using the “Alinsky model” of terrorist tactics to destabilize the US social order. Saul Alinsky was a Chicago-based community organizer who wrote the infamous “Rules for Radicals,” a book meant to be a guide to aid leftists in the violent overthrow of the US government.

Here’s the petition’s full text:

“Whereas George Soros has willfully and on an ongoing basis attempted to destabilize and otherwise commit acts of sedition against the United States and its citizens, has created and funded dozens (and probably hundreds) of discrete organizations whose sole purpose is to apply Alinsky model terrorist tactics to facilitate the collapse of the systems and Constitutional government of the United State, and has developed unhealthy and undue influence over the entire Democrat Party and a large portion of the US Federal government, the DOJ should immediately declare George Soros and all of his organizations and staff members to be domestic terrorists, and have all of his personal an organizational wealth and assets seized under Civil Asset Forfeiture law.”

Soros, as Russia Today explains, has funded organizations and projects that have been criticized for their radical tactics. His Open Society Foundation, along with USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy, have been accused of fomenting revolutions to install US-friendly governments from Serbia, in 2000, to Ukraine, in 2014.

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Trump To Announce “Dreamer” Decision On Tuesday

After telling the press earlier on Friday that he would make his decission on whether to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), or “Dreamer” program this weekend, or Monday at the latest, moments ago the White House announced that the decision would be revealed on Tuesday instead. 

“We are in the process of finalizing that decision and those details, and we are actually going to make that announcement on Tuesday of next week,” the White House press secretary said on Friday afternoon. “The president’s priorities on immigration are to create a system that encourages legal immigration and benefits our economy and American workers. The president has been very clear, he loves people and he wants to make sure this decision is done correctly.”

As discussed yesterday, the White House has been grappling with the future of the Obama-era program that extends temporary deportation relief to certain undocumented immigrants who applied for work permits with the federal government.  Having promised during his presidential campaign to take a hard line on illegal immigration, so far the president has failed to move against the program, fearing a popular backlash.

A Fox News report on Thursday stated that Trump would announce the program’s end but would allow so-called “dreamers” currently in the program to stay in the U.S. until their work permits expire – which, for some, could be as long as two years. The White House promptly denied the Fox report.

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Note to lawmakers returning to work: It’s not gouging

Congress will return from recess with gasoline and diesel prices rising. The coincidence is dangerous.

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Russia urged to open war games to media

Author: AFPSat, 2017-09-02 03:00ID: 1504294212545685300VILNIUS: Gen. Ben Hodges, the commander of US ground forces in Europe, called on Russia Friday to expand media access to its upcoming military exercises, adding that Moscow’s statements c…

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Ford Touts ‘Positive’ Impacts Of Hurricane Harvey As August Auto Sales Slump

Earlier this week when we noted that Hurricane Harvey was likely to have destroyed more cars than Katrina (see post here), we concluded by predicting that auto OEMs would spin the utter devastation in Houston as a ‘positive’ for their inventory crisis.  Here’s what we said:

“Of course, when the auto OEMs report abysmal sales this Friday they will undoubtedly also tell you how Hurricane Harvey is great for long-term sales because of all the salvaged cars that have to be replaced.”

Now, fast forward just a couple of days and it’s almost as if Ford prepped their August sales call notes from our previous post.  Speaking to analysts this morning, Ford’s CEO gleefully touted all of the upside potential for the auto industry in the wake of Hurricane Harvey noting that replacement demand will be “a little more positive” than even he expected.

We think that the effect of the backfill of demand from Harvey, while we believe we can do that, but trend that a little more positive there as there’s going to be replacement demand in the secondary used market.


In terms of our overall impact in the month of August, from a new vehicle or fleet basis from Harvey and possible to say at this point we know it had some impact, which I think is further accretive. So we actually we had a pretty good August numbers, because there had to be some impact. We know as a percent of our internal targets of Houston used in the region which was far and away our weakest performance, if you would expect.

Of course, it’s somewhat difficult to understand exactly how an increase in salvage rates is supposed to solve your bloated inventory problem if you simply turn around and promise higher production…but maybe Ford is just better at math than we are.

Great question, we can’t accurately predict the production ramifications as we don’t really have an assessment yet of, both the existing vehicle car park and our dealer – and a real accurate assessment in our dealer inventory. There will be every indication at this point that we would have to add some production in the backfill process for getting inventory backfill and meeting customer replacement demand.

Finally, just to clarify exactly how positive Hurricane Harvey is for Ford, they estimate that roughly 200,000 – 1,000,000 cars were destroyed in Texas as a result of recent flooding.  Moreover, Ford’s market share is 33% higher in Houston than the rest of the country…which means they should disproportionately benefit from the surge in replacement demand that will inevitably come over the next couple of months, right?

Ironically, despite having perhaps the largest dealer presence of anyone in Houston, Ford notes that they only lost a couple thousand cars because they planned in advance and moved their dealer inventory to higher ground.  Presumably Ford is implying that GM and Toyota simply weren’t smart enough to do that?

First of all, the Houston, Houston is the fourth biggest market in the U.S. and it’s an incredibly important overall vehicle market and one that the Ford Motor Company and the Ford brand is very strong in. We have about 33% higher market share in Houston market than we do nationally. A lot of that is due to – as you say, because of a very rich truck mix, both light duty and super duty in that market. So, our recovery effort obviously is going to be very focused with the dealers on backfill and inventory making used vehicles accessible to them because the damage to both the existing car park and the inventory would affect used as well as new and, you know, we will be working along those lines.


We do believe that total losses in our dealer inventory are less than we initially feared, either because of pure luck or dealers making an effort to get the higher ground and advance to the store. And so, we think it’s in the low 1000s, but it’s impossible to accurately determine the number right now. But [indiscernible] we believe is lower than what we thought we have, on the existing car park I assume anywhere from 200,000 to a 1 million, I think it’s impossible to ascertain at this point.

In any event, auto sales for the month of August were predictably chaotic with Hurricane Harvey cutting out several selling days in one of the biggest markets in the country.  Ford and GM managed to ‘beat’ wall street estimates while everyone else missed.  That said, August sales numbers will likely be completely dismissed by investors.


And, even though it will be dismissed as noise, GM forecasts that the August monthly SAAR came in at 16.4 million, which nearly breached the lower bound of Ford’s plateau.


Meanwhile, GM boasted about ‘solving’ their inventory problem, with days of supply declining to 88 days from 104 days last month, while downplaying that fact that their incentive spending surged 21% MoM from 11.5% in July to 13.9% in August.



Finally, as always, all news is good news!

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Pakistan lets deposed PM travel abroad despite corruption charges

Sat, 2017-09-02 03:00

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived in London on Wednesday to be beside his wife Kulsoom Nawaz, who is undergoing treatment for throat cancer.
His political rivals at home view his travel as an attempt to avert the ongoing investigation against him over corruption, tax evasion, money laundering and other charges.
The Exit from Pakistan (Control) ordinance bars anyone federally accused on those grounds from leaving the country — a responsibility of the Interior Ministry.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Pakistan’s top autonomous watchdog for corruption and economic terrorism, has yet to file references against the Sharif family and incumbent Finance Minister Ishaq Dar following the Supreme Court’s July 28 ruling in the Panama Papers case.
The NAB is expected to file four references after Eid Al-Adha as the six-week deadline set by the court nears expiration, said an official source.
Tax returns, bank accounts and other data dating as far back as 20 years have been collected by the NAB from the Federal Board of Revenue, the State Bank of Pakistan, and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan to prepare the references.
The Sharifs and Dar have failed to appear before the NAB despite three call-up notices summoning them for questioning.
MP Maiza Hameed — campaigning with Sharif’s daughter Maryam Safdar to win the Lahore district NA-120 constituency, which was left vacant after Sharif’s ouster — told Arab News that the family “have their reservations about the verdict, and review appeals have been submitted to the court. That’s why they’re not appearing before the NAB until the court’s decision.”
Hameed said the Sharifs “haven’t been found guilty in any case, so why should their names be placed on the Exit Control List (ECL)?”
Political pundits say Safdar is being groomed as heir to her father’s party, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League — Nawaz (PML-N), and her current campaigning is an opportunity to prove her leadership skills.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the PML-N’s most vocal critic, says Sharif will not return to face anti-corruption charges.
But most PML-N members strongly believe that Sharif will fight the judicial battle to preserve his political legacy.
“Why would Sharif stay away from the country, where he is mostly loved by the people?” asked PML-N leader and former Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid.
“The circumstances aren’t similar to 2007, when military dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf ruled. At that time Sharif wanted to return, but he wasn’t permitted.”

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