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Anti-abortion activist sign held aloft during a rally opposing federal funding for Planned Parenthood in front of the U.S. Capitol on July 28, 2015 in Washington, DC

Washington (AFP) – Anti-abortion activists’ secret footage of officials from the largest US family planning organization discussing use of fetal tissue for research has appalled conservatives, sparking fresh assaults against an iconic organization over abortion rights.

“A lot of people want intact hearts these days,” says Dr. Deborah Nucatola, director of medical services of women’s health organization Planned Parenthood, in a surreptitiously-filmed video in which she discusses the scientific demand for fetal tissue and the best abortion techniques for preserving vital organs.

“We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver — because we know that, so I’m not going to crush that part,” she says while picking at a salad and drinking red wine at a busy restaurant.

“I would say it’s probably anywhere from $30 to $100, depending on the facility and what’s involved.”

The video was first aired July 14 by the Center for Medical Progress and followed by more clips.

The work belongs to pro-life activist David Daleiden, who describes himself as an investigative journalist and who under a false identity devoted two and a half years to infiltrating health circles in a bid to prove that Planned Parenthood was involved in the “harvesting” of fetal organs.

His investigation rallied conservatives in Congress and on the 2016 presidential campaign trail, where historic enemies of Planned Parenthood jumped at the opportunity to help shutter the organization.

Planned Parenthood operates 700 US clinics, and 2.7 million patients walk through the doors each year for a multitude of medical services: contraception, HIV prevention, and screening for sexually transmitted diseases as well as cervical and breast cancer.

But it is the group’s abortion service that makes it a primary target of the religious right.

About one third of the one million annual US abortions are performed in Planned Parenthood facilities.

Public funding represented some 40 percent of its $1.3 billion budget last year.

According to decades-old law, federal funds may not be used for abortions except in rare instances. 

But Republicans say this distinction is illusory, arguing it is a fiction to claim that federal dollars which keep an organization’s lights on do not contribute to its abortion services.

Republican White House hopeful Senator Rand Paul and freshman Joni Ernst introduced a bill to eliminate all federal funding to the organization.

Nearly all Senate Republicans voted for the measure Monday, but Democrats blocked it.

Republicans argued the money would be redistributed to health centers that provided crucial women’s services such as cancer screenings.

Democrats shot back that the network would be overwhelmed by demand from women nationwide who could lose access to Planned Parenthood.

“Do you have any idea what year it is?” Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren boomed on the Senate floor.

“I simply can not believe that in the year 2015, the US Senate would be spending its time trying to defund women’s health care centers.”


– Abortion politics –


Daleiden and his associates posed as employees of a fake company, Biomax Procurement Services, claiming they were interested in entering the intermediary market between abortion clinics and medical research facilities.

Fetal tissue is in high demand in research centers. The material is provided only upon a patient’s written consent, and for-profit sale is prohibited, although compensation to cover costs is allowed.

But careless talk and a cavalier attitude by Planned Parenthood officials baffled some Democrats and plunged the group into damage control mode.

“The allegation that Planned Parenthood profits in any way from tissue donation is not true,” said its president Cecile Richards, who apologized “for the staff member’s tone and statements.” 

The storm has not abated. Republican governors of Florida and Texas have initiated investigations, as have two committees in the Republican-controlled Congress.

House Speaker John Boehner said the video made him want to vomit. Republican presidential candidates offered harsh words, including charges that Planned Parenthood broke the law. 

The Obama administration “does nothing to an organization that cuts apart and sells the body parts of dead babies,” former Texas governor Rick Perry said Friday.

Democrats, thrown on the defensive, have begun pushing back.

While initially calling the video “disturbing,” presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton took up Planned Parenthood’s cause, attacking Republicans for launching what she called “a full-on assault on women’s health.”

The White House Friday threatened to veto the abortion legislation.

But the case has boosted the pro-life movement, which has long battled at state level to increase restrictions on abortion clinics and believes ultimately it is possible to reverse the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in all 50 states.

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Two people are killed and 15 injured when a circus tent collapsed at a carnival in New Hampshire on Monday, local media reports

Washington (AFP) – Two people were killed and 15 injured when a circus tent collapsed at a carnival in New Hampshire, local media reported. 

The collapse occurred Monday amid severe weather warnings in the city of Lancaster in the northeastern US state, according to ABC affiliate WMUR. 

New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan said a state of emergency had been declared and said officials were helping after the accident. 

“State officials working to assist w/ the situation in Lancaster and will continue to monitor the situation closely,” Hassan said on Twitter. 

The National Weather Service said severe thunderstorms were expected in the area on Monday evening.

Lancaster is about 100 miles (144 kilometers) from New Hampshire state capital, Concord.




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Paris Saint-Germain defender Maxwell during the French Trophy of Champions match against Lyon at Saputo stadium in Montreal on August 1, 2015

Paris (AFP) – The new Ligue 1 season begins on Friday with Paris Saint-Germain expected to win a fourth straight title and the rest of France just hoping they won’t run away with the championship.

Last season, PSG eventually won the league by an eight-point margin but Lyon did at least push them all the way into May.

However, right now the prospect of such a close-run campaign seems slim, with Laurent Blanc’s side likely to be even stronger than the team that won every domestic trophy available last season.

Yohan Cabaye has left for Crystal Palace, but the rest of the squad remains intact and Eintracht Frankfurt goalkeeper Kevin Trapp and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Benjamin Stambouli have joined.

Angel di Maria is also set to sign from Manchester United as PSG target the Champions League as well as continued domination at home.

“Each year the demands get bigger and bigger,” said Blanc recently.

“We are trying to improve the team with that in mind, but it is becoming difficult. 

“We are competing with some big European clubs who have no reason to envy PSG, in terms of finances or in terms of history. But we are now one of those big clubs.”

Crucially, no other club within France can even dream of competing financially with Paris, although Lyon, who have reached a deal to sign di Maria’s teammate the Brazilian defender Rafael, are the best equipped.

They finished second last season to return to the Champions League group stage after four years away and will inaugurate a new 60,000-seat stadium in early 2016.

Nabil Fekir, last season’s young player of the year, recently committed his future to the club and Lyon are hopeful last season’s 27-goal leading scorer Alexandre Lacazette will accept the offer of a new, improved contract.

However, OL’s pre-season preparations were overshadowed by injuries, including to playmaker Clement Grenier, and poor results.

A limp display in losing 2-0 to PSG in the Champions Trophy in Montreal compounded a miserable warm-up period, and did nothing to suggest they can compete for the duration of a season.

“We will have a budget of 170 million euros (£119.5m, $186.7m) this year. We have invested 450 million euros in a stadium. We have done that to win trophies and compete with PSG,” said bullish Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas, but he had a warning for his players.

“The lads are looking at each other as individuals more than in the past. Before they were a group of mates, now it is a team of stars with big salaries.”


– Talent departs –


The rest of the league must live with the financial reality of modern football, which means even Marseille cannot compete with sides from the bottom end of the Premier League who are dripping in the riches of England’s television deal.

Monaco have sold Geoffrey Kondogbia and Yannick Ferreira Carrasco to Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid respectively. However, they have a host of intriguing new recruits including Italy forward Stephan El Shaarawy, on loan from AC Milan.

Marseille have been shorn of Dimitri Payet, Andre-Pierre Gignac, Andre Ayew, Giannelli Imbula and Jeremy Morel. 

But they have kept enigmatic coach Marcelo Bielsa and have adopted an interesting recruitment policy of their own, not least by signing two men looking to kickstart stalled careers in Abou Diaby and Lassana Diarra. 

Bordeaux have the boost of an impressive new stadium, while Africa Cup of Nations specialist Herve Renard is now in the dugout at Lille.

But Lille are one of the clubs who have been powerless to stop English outfits plundering their talent.

They lost Idrissa Gueye to Aston Villa, who have also snapped up Lorient’s Jordan Ayew, Jordan Amavi of Nice and Jordan Veretout from Nantes for a combined total of over 40 million euros.

Those are crazy figures for comparatively impoverished French clubs, as Caen president Jean-Francois Fortin acknowledged.

“The financial capacity of French clubs is, undeniably, not the same as that of the English,” he said after losing midfielder N’Golo Kante to Leicester City, despite Marseille also putting in an offer.

“I would have liked to see him continue his career in France. For financial reasons, both for the player and for me, it is not possible.”

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dump truck trash

Private Equity is a big force in the investment scene. There are nearly 4,000 of these firms in the US, and they’ve invested in about 13,000 companies. They’re considered the “smart money” because of their acumen, insider knowledge, and ability to time the markets, which they have to in order to profitably exit their their long-term illiquid investments.

OK, even the smartest among them got caught with their pants down last year when the oil price crashed. And those that invested in natural gas drillers have been regretting this move for years, after the natural gas price crashed in 2009 without ever really recovering since. Fracking, which boomed thanks to a near endless flood of money from Wall Street, including PE firms, has dished out costly lessons in return.

So, even the ultimate “smart money” can get carried away by its own hype. But recently, they’ve been doing something else: they’ve been dumping existing investments at record pace.

In the second quarter this year, exit volume by US-based PE firms “exploded” to $125 billion, according to a report by the Private Equity Growth Capital Council. This includes sales to the public via IPOs and to “strategic and financial investors,” such as corporations.

It brought the first-half exit volume to $195 billion, up 46% from the same period in 2014 and up a stunning 275% from the same period in 2013. Something is going on, and they want out.

And they’re not going to slow down anytime soon, “as corporate acquirers clamor for deals,” according to The Wall Street Journal:

On Monday, McGraw Hill Financial agreed to buy SNL Financial LC, the data provider backed by New Mountain Capital LLC, for $2.2 billion. That came on the heels of a $2.35 billion deal launched by WPX Energy Inc. for First Reserve-backed RKI Exploration & Production LLC.

They figured out, in an environment where nearly all assets are overpriced, it’s a great time to sell.

They already waited too long exiting their oil-and-gas investments, which now have started to collapse under the weight of debt and negative cash flows. Instead of struggling to salvage parts of their portfolio companies during restructuring or bankruptcy proceedings, they should have exited in 2013 and early 2014, when exuberance about oil covered up even the depression among natural gas drillers.

But elsewhere, things are still hopping. And it’s high time to get out before the energy debacle and the turmoil at the riskiest end of junk bonds spread more deeply into the PE firms’ portfolios.

And there have been eager buyers: the unsuspecting public via funds that invest in IPOs; and corporations that are buying everything in sight.

Corporations have been buying back their own shares. They’ve been buying privately held companies, including those dumped by PE firms. And they’ve been buying each other in the most awe-inspiring wave of mergers and acquisitions the world has ever seen. The higher the price and the premium, the better. Corporations have become the relentless bid.

And they’re funding this binge with cheaply borrowed money. Junk bonds have seen rough waters recently, with investors getting re-spooked by the energy debacle, and issuance is down so far this year, compared to last year. But high-grade bonds are still booming though the first ripples have appeared.

US corporations issued a total of $802.9 billion in investment-grade bonds this year through July, according to Dealogic, up 27% from the same period in 2014. The most ever.

Of that, $701.7 billion were issued in the US, the highest ever, up 32% from the prior record set during the M&A bubble in 2007 (a now paltry $531.3 billion).

The average deal size jumped 33% from last year to $672 million, also the highest ever.

US stock marketYet, even in this rosy scenario, there were problems in July. For seven trading days early in the month, as the turmoil around China and Greece percolated through the markets and as commodities spiraled into a rout, no investment-grade bonds were issued at all. But then the floodgates opened. During the week ended July 17, a “blockbuster $46.9 billion” in investment-grade bonds were issued, according to S&P Capital IQ’s LCD.

In total, $130 billion in investment grade bonds were issued in July, despite the shuttered first week, the highest volume on record for a July, “dwarfing the $47 billion printed” in July 2014 and the $69 billion printed in July 2013. LCD:

July’s blockbuster issuance is owed predominantly to large M&A-driven deals. Earlier on in the month, Charter Communications printed a $15.5 billion bond offering in six parts, as it sought funds to complete its $80 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable. This was the largest deal of the month.

During a year fueled by M&A action, the Charter bond issue ranked fourth in size, so far this year, behind Actavis ($21 billion in March), AT&T ($17.5 billion in April), and AbbVie ($16.7 billion in May).

Other mega bond deals hailed down in July: CVS Health placed a $15 billion offering to fund its acquisition of Omnicare and Target’s pharmacy businesses. UnitedHealth sold $10.5 billion in bonds for its purchase of Catamaran. Intel sold $7 billion in bonds for its acquisition of Altera. Etc. etc.

Corporations are buying everything in sight, offering huge premiums on top of the already insane valuations, and they relentlessly bid for their own shares, no matter what the price, and they do all this with cheaply borrowed money, even the smart money is dumping assets at record pace.

PE investments are largely illiquid. Exits take months and sometimes much longer to pull off. PE firms know that the window of opportunity will eventually close, and they can’t wait for the last minute.

Corporations are on the other side. Their angle is financial engineering and oligopoly building; to perfect this game, they’ve become the ultimate dumb money. But it doesn’t matter to their executives; they’re rewarded for financial engineering. And when the party is over, stockholders and bondholders pick up the tab.

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Chelsea striker Radamel Falcao during the FA Community Shield match against Arsenal at Wembley Stadium in north London on August 2, 2015

London (AFP) – It is a reflection of Chelsea’s dominance last season that although they are yet to strengthen their squad, they remain strong favourites to retain the Premier League title in 2015-16.

Arsenal, third last season, appear better-equipped for a title tilt, while Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool have spent big in the hope of closing the gap on Chelsea, who finished eight points clear of outgoing champions City in May.

But with their title-winning side intact, Jose Mourinho’s men are widely perceived as the team to beat.

“Throughout the Premier League there is strength now because a lot of clubs are buying big players, not just the top clubs,” said Mourinho, who hopes to repeat his feat of leading Chelsea to successive titles in 2005 and 2006.

“At the moment, we are champions of the toughest league in the world, so we know how difficult it is going to be to repeat the achievement, but we are ready for the challenge and we will enjoy the challenge.”

With Asmir Begovic having replaced Petr Cech as reserve goalkeeper and Radamel Falcao taking the place of Didier Drogba, Chelsea’s squad is materially the same as it was last season.

However, Diego Costa’s troublesome hamstrings, which caused him to miss Sunday’s Community Shield loss to Arsenal, and some leggy pre-season performances have given their rivals reason for optimism.

That 1-0 Community Shield win, coupled with the arrival of Cech, has encouraged belief at Arsenal, back-to-back FA Cup-winners, that their 12-year wait for a league title may be approaching an end.

With a world-class goalkeeper backing up a settled defence and a midfield that bristles with guile and inventiveness, the only weak spot is up front, where Arsene Wenger must choose between the not particularly prolific trio of Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck.

Another team brimming with midfielders and short on strikers is United, with Louis van Gaal having added Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay to a department of his squad that already included Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini, Juan Mata, Ashley Young and Adnan Januzaj, not to mention the departing Angel di Maria, whose place in the squad could go to Barcelona’s Pedro Rodriguez.

Falcao, Nani and Robin van Persie have also left, but as a Champions League qualifying play-off looms, goalkeeper David de Gea’s future remains up in the air.


– Financial behemoth –


With a new £5.1 billion ($8 billion, 7.3 billion euros) domestic television rights deal kicking in next year, Premier League clubs have not been shy in splashing out.

The biggest transfer to date has been Raheem Sterling’s £49 million switch from Liverpool to City, after a protracted transfer saga that opposition fans are unlikely to forget in a hurry.

Despite falling short in defence of their title, City have kept faith with manager Manuel Pellegrini, but with the club hierarchy continuing to flutter their eyelashes at Pep Guardiola and last season’s Golden Boot-winner Sergio Aguero short of fitness after the Copa America, doubts remain.

Shorn of Sterling and the emblematic Steven Gerrard, Liverpool have brought in seven new players, among them Christian Benteke, James Milner and Roberto Firmino, but ahead of an opening-weekend trip to Stoke City, where they were humiliated 6-1 on last season’s final day, manager Brendan Rodgers is also under pressure.

For all the title contenders’ big-money moves, it is the transfers involving England’s mid-ranked clubs that have emphasised the Premier League’s transformation into a financial behemoth and none more so than Yohan Cabaye’s £10 million switch from French champions Paris Saint-Germain to Crystal Palace, who finished 10th in 2014-15.

With even the smaller teams now boasting budgets that put them on a par with all but the very biggest European clubs, a whole host of sides — among them Tottenham Hotspur, Southampton and Everton — will have designs on the European places.

Stoke and Swansea City will hope to build on impressive campaigns, while Palace, Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland finished last season dreaming of better things after successful managerial changes.

West Ham United, Newcastle United and Leicester City have new managers — respectively, Slaven Bilic, Steve McClaren and Claudio Ranieri — as well as Watford (Quique Sanchez Flores), who were promoted from the Championship alongside Bournemouth and Norwich City.

“It’s not rocket science,” says Bournemouth’s affable 37-year-old manager Eddie Howe.

“Bournemouth are not going to be able to compete with those top clubs, but when you put 11 players on the pitch, it’s not really about money.”

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Jeb Bush

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Monday repeated a goal of 4% GDP growth and said the fact that left-leaning economist Paul Krugman disagreed with him on its plausibility “warms my heart.”

I think we can grow our economy at 4% instead of this anemic 2%,” Bush said in response to a question at the Voters First Forum in New Hampshire, which featured 14 GOP presidential candidates.

“You think we can get to 4% GDP?” moderator Jack Heath asked, interjecting.

“Absolutely,” Bush said. “And the fact that Paul Krugman disagrees with me warms my heart.

“The fact is we can grow at that rate. It will require fixing a few really big complex things, the tax code, how we regulate, embracing the energy revolution with a North American strategy that will allow for high wage jobs to be created in our own country and fixing entitlements — along with moving from a broken legal immigration system to an economic driver. All those things could allow us to grow at a faster rate.”

After Bush raised eyebrows with the promise during his campaign announcement speech in June, Krugman immediately cast skepticism on the vow, writing it was akin to promising that every American could “lose as much weight as he or she wants, without any need for dieting or exercise.”

Mr. Bush’s economic promises reflect more than self-aggrandizement,” Krugman wrote. “They also reflect his party’s habit of boasting about its ability to deliver rapid economic growth, even though there’s no evidence at all to justify such boasts. It’s as if a bunch of relatively short men made a regular practice of swaggering around, telling everyone they see that they’re 6 feet 2 inches tall.”

Bush has defended the claim amid criticism from Krugman and others, citing 4% growth in the state of Florida during his time as governor. Nationally, GDP growth has averaged about 2.2% since the US recession ended midway through President Barack Obama’s first year in office.

Here’s the clip:


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Karachi (AFP) – Pakistan on Tuesday executed a convicted killer whose supporters say was a juvenile at the time of his crime, despite strenuous objections from rights groups and the United Nations.

Shafqat Hussain was hanged shortly before dawn at a jail in Karachi for killing a seven-year-old boy the city in 2004, his brother and a prison official told AFP.

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elderly old man retirement beach

Is there a (meaningful) correlation between the rise of people working past retirement age and the paltry amount of income they’re able to earn on their lower-risk savings accounts?


People over the age of 65 are a growing portion of the labor force participation rate and they’re increasingly unwilling (or unable) to stop working. This is, in part, an unintended consequence of the Fed’s ZIRP policy over the last 7 years.

It’s also partially a health story – there is a large and growing body of scientific research that suggests working is healthier than a sedentary lifestyle as we grow older. Keeping the mind sharp and remaining in a position where others are counting on you can have a salutary effect on your mental and physical health.

Additionally, we’re living longer and the costs of retirement living and healthcare are only headed in one direction. It makes perfect sense that those who are able to earn income and stave off drawing down their savings for a few extra years would want to do so.

In CLSA’s new Greed & Fear note, Christopher Wood pairs the ideas of lower interest income and higher rates of labor participation among the older demo:

While the total labour participation rate has fallen from a peak of 67.3% in 2000 to 62.6% in June, the labour participation rate for Americans aged 65 or above has risen from 12.5% to 18.8% over the same period (see Figure 12).

As for older people, GREED & fear’s view is simple. Many elderly people who can afford to retire do not want to. While in many instances those who do want to retire cannot afford to. The Japanese style collapse in interest income in America since the implementation of zero rates is clearly one issue here. Thus, interest income accounted for only 8.3% of total personal income in May, down from 11.5% in 2007 (see Figure 13). While in absolute terms, total personal interest income has declined by 9% since peaking in September 2007.

Screen Shot 2015 08 03 at 2.43.47 PM


Greed & Fear
CLSA – July 31st 2015

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remittance volume

Over the past few centuries, the world has become increasingly globalized. Immigrants are pouring into developed countries like the US, where many jobs pay higher rates than in their home markets.

As migrants shuffle around the globe, they have family members and friends back home who they continue to support through cross-border money transfers, called remittances.

Three remittance companies — Western Union, MoneyGram, and Ria — have dominated this market for years, operating a combined 1.1 million retail locations across 200 countries to facilitate cash pickups. However, digital-first players are emerging, leveraging mobile and online platforms to compete with the legacy firms on scale and fees. Fees remain a huge pain point for migrants sending money home, and offering lower fees gives startups a huge advantage.

In a new report from BI Intelligence, we size the total remittance market, the countries on both the send and receive sides that dominate remittance volume, and how remittances differ depending on payment mechanisms. We also look at the top challenges faced by remittance companies and what factors digital-first remittance startups are capitalizing on to disrupt the traditional remittance model.

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Here are some of the key takeaways:

In full, the report:

To access the full report from BI Intelligence, sign up for a 14-day trial here. Members also gain access to new in-depth reportshundreds of charts and data sets, as well as daily newsletters on the digital industry.

BII Top 10 Remittance Sending Countries 2014 

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