Kashmir valley, the most beautiful part of India or rather I should address it as a heaven in the entire world. This paradise always remains in controversy for one or the other thing be it an indo-pak fight or terrorist attacks or the politicians. This time also the place is in controversy. Are you people guessing the subject matter? Yes, you got it right. The final match that took between India and Pakistan for the Champion’s Trophy, 2017 is the issue this time.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)
CHARLOTTE AMALIE, V.I. — The United States Virgin Islands is best known for its powdery beaches and turquoise bays, a constant draw for the tourists who frequent this tiny American territory.
Yet away from the beaches the mood is ominous, as government officials scramble to stave off the same kind of fiscal collapse that has already engulfed its neighbor Puerto Rico.
The public debts of the Virgin Islands are much smaller than those of Puerto Rico, which effectively declared bankruptcy in May. But so is its population, and therefore its ability to pay. This tropical territory of roughly 100,000 people owes some $6.5 billion to pensioners and creditors.
Now, a combination of factors — insufficient tax revenue, a weak pension system, the loss of a major employer and a new reluctance in the markets to lend the Virgin Islands any more money — has made it almost impossible for the government to meet its obligations. In January, the Virgin Islands found itself unable to borrow and nearly out of funds for basic government operations.
The sudden cash crunch was a warning sign that the financial troubles that brought Puerto Rico to its knees could soon spread. All of America’s far-flung territories, among them American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, appear vulnerable.
“I don’t think you can say it’s a crisis, but they have challenges — high debt, weak economies and unfunded pensions,” said Jim Millstein, whose firm, Millstein & Company, advised Puerto Rico on its economic affairs and debt restructuring until this year and has reviewed the situation in Guam and the Virgin Islands. He called the combination of challenges in the territories “a recipe for trouble in the future.”
For decades, these distant clusters of islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific have played critical roles as American listening posts, wartime staging grounds, practice bombing ranges and even re-entry points for astronauts splashing down in the Pacific.
The military presence buoyed their small economies, and a federal tax subsidy made it relatively easy for them to issue bonds. Over the years, they have collectively borrowed billions of dollars to build roads, run schools, treat drinking water and fund hospitals.
Congress has generally relied on the Government Accountability Office to monitor the financial health of the territories, but it did not intervene over the years when the auditors brought back reports of “formidable fiscal challenges” or “serious internal control weaknesses” on the islands. Not, at least, until Puerto Rico went over the edge.
Now the G.A.O. auditors are back, re-examining the debt and repayment ability of each territory, amid concerns that other crushing debt burdens may have escaped notice. An agency spokesman, Fuller O. Griffith, said it would report by the end of the year on “federal options to avert the future indebtedness of territories.” It is not clear what those options will be.
“Washington can’t appropriately manage its relationship with the states, much less the territories,” said Matt Fabian, a partner at Municipal Market Analytics.
Even the states are not immune, despite their legal status as sovereigns. Illinois, stuck in political gridlock, is just days from entering its new fiscal year without a balanced budget, in violation of its own constitution. The ratings agencies warn that Illinois’s bond rating is in peril of being downgraded to junk. Once that happens, as the territories show, hedge funds move in and economic management becomes a series of unpleasant choices.
American Samoa, one of the smallest territories, lost one of the biggest engines of its economy in December when a big tuna cannery closed after being required to pay the federal minimum wage. Moody’s Investors Service then put the territory’s debt under negative outlook, citing its fragile economy.
In the Northern Mariana Islands, the depleted public pension fund was wreaking such fiscal havoc in 2012 that the territory declared it bankrupt, but the case was thrown out. The government then tried cutting all retirees’ pensions 25 percent, but the retirees have been fighting the cuts, and the fund is nearly exhausted anyway.
Even Guam, which enjoys the economic benefit of several large American military installations, has been having qualms about its debt after Puerto Rico’s default.
“Puerto Rico’s troubles provide a teachable moment for Guam,” said Benjamin Cruz, the speaker of the legislature, who recently helped defeat a proposal to borrow $75 million to pay tax refunds. “Spending borrowed money is too easy.”
But the debt dilemma is now most acute in the Virgin Islands — the three main islands are St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John — where the government has been struggling ever since a giant refinery closed in 2012, wiping out the territory’s biggest nongovernment employer and a mainstay of its tax base.
Its troubles began to snowball last July, when Puerto Rico defaulted on most of its debts.
Last August, Fitch downgraded the Virgin Islands’ debt to junk, citing the territory’s chronic budget deficits and habit of borrowing to plug the holes, like Puerto Rico.
More downgrades followed, and in December, Standard & Poor’s dealt the territory a rare “superdowngrade” — seven notches in one fell swoop — leaving it squarely in the junk-bond realm. That scared away investors and forced it to cancel a planned bond offering in January.
The failed bond deal meant there was not enough cash to pay for basic government operations in February or March. As a stopgap, the territory diverted its workers’ pension contributions.
The Virgin Islands’ governor, Kenneth E. Mapp, said he had no intention of defaulting on any bonds.
“I didn’t ask anybody for debt relief, so don’t put me in the debt-relief boat,” Mr. Mapp said in an interview at Government House, the ornate seat of the territorial government, perched on a hillside overlooking the lush palms and bougainvillea of the capital, Charlotte Amalie, located on St. Thomas.
Still, Mr. Mapp is contending with many of the same problems that proved too much for Puerto Rico, driving it in May to seek bankruptcylike protection under a new law for insolvent territories, known as Promesa. Puerto Rico is now embroiled in heated negotiations over how to reduce its roughly $123 billion in debts and unfunded pensions.
When Congress drafted the Promesa law last year, it made it possible for the other American territories to seek the same kind of help.
Now, even though the Virgin Islands maintains it has no intention of defaulting on its debts — and has even given creditors new protections — the mere prospect of bankruptcy has spooked the markets, putting borrowed money beyond the territory’s reach and greatly limiting its options.
In something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, by giving territories the option to declare bankruptcy, Congress seems to have made such an outcome more likely.
“That innocuous provision, when sent to the bond market, said, ‘Here’s an escape valve for your debt obligations,’” said Mr. Mapp. “That changed the whole paradigm.”
The problem is that in Puerto Rico, Promesa is turning out to shred the many legal mechanisms that governmental borrowers use to make their debts secure. These include liens and allowing creditors access to the courts.
“Under Promesa, all the security structures are dissolving,” Mr. Fabian said.
Investors who thought they were secured creditors before now find themselves holding moral obligation pledges, which are not enforceable.
After the Virgin Islands’ bond offer fell through in January, the fuel supplier to its electric authority stopped shipments, saying it had not been paid; the authority was already in court with its previous fuel supplier, which had not been paid either.
Then came the House of Representatives’ plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Mapp saw the federal money that the Virgin Islands relies on for its public hospitals going up in smoke.
Mr. Mapp scrambled. He reactivated a five-year economic plan that had been languishing and pushed higher taxes on alcohol, cigarettes and soft drinks through the legislature. He fought for a permanent electric rate increase. He got $18 million in new federal funds for health care. He struck a deal to tax Airbnb rentals.
He hired collection agents to go after delinquent property and income taxes. He scheduled auctions for delinquent properties. He hired a team to work on the pension system, which is in severe distress, with only about six years’ worth of assets left.
Until recently, the pension system was chasing high returns by investing in high-risk assets, like a $50 million placement in life viaticals — an insurance play that is, in effect, a bet that a selected group of elderly people will die soon. It also made loans to an insolvent inter-island airline, a resort that went bankrupt, and a major franchisee of KFC restaurants. The territory’s inspector general has declared the loans illegal.
Mr. Mapp said he hoped to start restructuring the pension system in the fall. Already, he said, the government had stopped diverting the workers’ pension contributions, as residents began filing their tax returns and payments in April. The tax payments eased the immediate liquidity crisis.
Recently, he met with the Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, to discuss possible incentives to attract tech business to the Virgin Islands. And he hopes to return to the capital markets.
“The fact that we didn’t complete the sale in January gives the impression that our market access is constrained,” said Valdamier O. Collens, the territorial finance commissioner.
Investors have nothing to worry about, said the governor. For decades, the Virgin Islands has used a lockbox arrangement that makes default all but impossible.
Merchants collect sales taxes and send the money to a trustee for the bondholders. Not a cent goes to the territorial government, including the pension fund, until the bond trustee gets enough to make all scheduled bond payments for the coming year.
“We have no access to the moneys before the bondholders are paid,” Mr. Mapp said. “These moneys are taken out of the pie before the pie is even in the oven. Our debt has never been in jeopardy.”
But in Puerto Rico, such lockbox arrangements have turned out to be one of the thorniest disputes of the bankruptcy proceedings. And Mr. Collens, the finance commissioner, is all too aware that the same dynamic could upend the Virgin Islands, too.
“We know that there has been a contagion effect with Puerto Rico,” Mr. Collens said. “The market saw that by the stroke of a pen, Congress could create a Promesa for the rest of the territories.”
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)
Iran’s Rouhani backs Qatar, rejects ‘siege’
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani voiced support on Sunday for Qatar in its confrontation with Iran’s rival Saudi Arabia and its allies, saying a “siege of Qatar is unacceptable”, the state news agency IRNA reported.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of support for Islamist militants, an allegation Qatar denies.
They have since issued 13 demands including closing Al Jazeera television, curbing relations with Iran, shutting a Turkish base and paying reparations.
“Tehran stands with the Qatari nation and government… We believe that if there is a conflict between regional countries, pressure, threats or sanctions are not the right way to resolve differences,” IRNA quoted Rouhani as telling Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, in a telephone call.
“The siege of Qatar is unacceptable to us… The airspace, land and sea of our country will always be open to Qatar as a brotherly and neighboring country,” Rouhani said.
Doha, whose neighbors have closed their airspace to Qatari flights, has said it was reviewing the list of demands, but said it was not reasonable or actionable.
Shi’ite Muslim Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia accuse each other of subverting regional security and support opposite sides in conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Adrian Croft)
Martyr Morteza Motahhari illustrated the terms of true fasting in his speech:
Experience one month of Ramadan and experience one real fast, just how that the prophet Muhammad(pbuh) and his household have told us to do.
What does it mean exactly?
First of all perform the appearances of the fast which is abandoning eating, drinking, sexual relation and some other things. Of course these items we are all aware of acting upon them. But we should perform on the fast that has been quoted as “especial fast” as well. Means during this month it shouldn’t be our mouths fasting only, our tongue should be fasting as well. In Ramadan try not to speak behind anyone’s back with your tongue. Try not to lie even it has a huge benefit for you. Because fasting is not just to avoid eating!
prophet Muhammad(pbuh) said:
There are too many people fasting, but…
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“When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’” (John 11:43-44)
I know there are different church traditions, regarding offering prayers for the dead, and I’m going to completely sidestep them all. I was raised Presbyterian, and I don’t ever recall being encouraged to offer prayers for the dead. But some time ago, during intercessory prayers, God conveyed, in my heart, with a great sense of urgency, to pray for someone whom had recently passed away. I stillkeep this person in prayer to this day.
Our eternal and almighty God hears prayers offered after the fact before the fact; therefore, I will even pray for the souls of the dead. God is…
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The giant replica of Noah’s Ark built by Creationist Ken Ham appears to be a failure on a truly biblical proportion. Built with contributions from public funds, Ham is blamed the dismal sales of “intolerant secularists” and the media who have spread lies about the attraction. It is a curious excuse since the Ark is symbol of ignoring doubters and critics to prevail with divine intervention.
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O historiador e pesquisador da UnB Fernando Horta criticou a incoerência do procurador Deltan Dallagnol, que criminaliza as palestras do ex-presidente Lula enquanto usa o cargo e as informações da Lava Jato para ganhar dinheiro dando palestras; “Interessante é que quanto pior ele pintar a corrupção no seu trabalho (criminalizando, vejam só, palestras) mais dinheiro ele faz dando ‘palestras’. De 30 a 40 mil ‘porcada’. Fazia mais de 90 mil por mês só aproveitando-se do cargo e das informações privilegiadas. (…) E depois vai para a igreja dizer-se bom cristão ou para a televisão vociferar contra o uso do estado para enriquecimento dos outros, claro”, diz Fernando Hora; “Basicamente, se você tirar o estado, Dallagnol morre de fome. E, pasmem, ele é o ídolo dos protofascistas liberais brasileiros. Aqueles que odeiam o estado e adoram a meritocracia”
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Someone you know — maybe someone you love — has “done you wrong.” You’re upset, angry, and hurt. What do you do? Some of your closest friends and confidants might tell you that you’re better off without that person.
Others, though, may advise you to “forgive and forget.” I cringe when I hear someone offer that advice. It’s seriously cringeworthy nonsense.
You’ve been betrayed. A trust has been broken. Is it even possible to forgive and forget?
I don’t think so. Not both.
The unfortunate truth is that you can’t change the past. Once words have been spoken, they can’t be unspoken. Once deeds have been done, they can’t be undone. All you can do is live in the present and strive for a better future. While it may be difficult, frustrating, and even painful, it’s for your own benefit to be forgiving.
Everyone make mistakes. I know I have. I’m…
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Any time that a person or more so a military, are in or flying above another Nation without the permission of that Nations government then you are an illegal intruder and you have declared war on that Nation. Syria’s President Assad has made it very clear that he considers the U.S. and their Alliance partners to be in his Country illegally and that he does not want them there. Even though I am an American citizen I cannot condone our actions in this Syrian Civil War nor with Syria’s inner-border conflict with the terrorist group called ISIS. We were never invited to step into this conflict within Syria’s borders and we should never have gone into that country, we have no right to be there. I will try to keep this article as short as I can yet I will do my best to explain my thoughts/beliefs as to why I believe as I do, for your consideration.
As I have written a few times before on this site that history shows within the Islamic world that it appears that about the only way to not have total chaos is if a rather brutal dictator rules their country. I personally do not like anything to do with brutality or with dictators, I am merely expressing an observation. I know that Syria’s President Assad is both of these elements yet I believe that the people of Syria as a whole were far better off six years ago than they are today. In Islamic countries there has been a civil war raging for about 1,400 years now between their two main sects and this hatred of each other still shows no sign of ending, ever.
Just like in Afghanistan the U.S. is in an Islamic country with our military and we have no exit strategy, as is the case in Syria. In Afghanistan the American tax payers have spent well over a trillion dollars to help bring peace to this tribal war-torn land and we have spilled the blood of many of our soldiers, and for what? In the long game our government has been trying to get the Taliban and to sit down with the very weak Government in Kabul to form a ‘sharing’ government, so why are we there? Unless a person is totally ignorant of reality they must know that once there is a ‘sharing’ government and the U.S. pulls out of the country that the Taliban will simply murder the civilian government people and everything will go back to the Taliban like it was 15 years ago. So, all of that gold and all of that blood spilled, for what? With all of this money the American government has spent in this country it is estimated that 90% of the civilians there only have one set of clothing, our occupation time there could have been spent in more productive ways.
Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, all far away countries that in the long run where our blood and gold have really accomplished very little to nothing. There is always one ‘positive’ to these military campaigns and that is the jobs provided by the ‘war-machine’ industry and of course the billions of dollars that go to the corporations leaders and to the people who are able to afford stock in these companies. To many government leaders in to many different countries seem to believe that their infrastructure must have a very strong weapons export economic base. People in these ‘second and third’ world nations (economically) need safe housing, schools, clothing and food. They need an infrastructure, roads, bridges, hospitals and jobs. I am sure that you noticed that these items I mentioned are the same exact things that the people of the economic powers also want and need, in most respects all people need and wish for the same things. The ‘Western Powers’ have a long history of setting up ‘war lords’ to rule small countries, then sell them a lot of weapons whom they use against their own citizens and then we wonder why their people hate us so much.
Now, back to the main line of thought, the situation in Syria. The Syrian President Mr. Assad has many economic and security issues within his borders and hundreds of thousands of people have died because of this Civil War that has been raging for the past six years. Back in the first term of U.S. President Obama when he had Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State the so-called Arab Spring started. Mrs. Clinton pushed Mr. Obama into trying to ‘help’ fire up the civil war in Libya to over through their dictator, look at the total mess that Libya still is. Egypt came next where we helped to over through their dictator then we got the Muslim Brotherhood who had to be over thrown by the Egyptian Army before Egypt became another Libya. Then Hillary set her eyes on removing President Assad from power in Syria, now look at what a disaster Syria has become.
The U.S. encouraged the Syrian citizens to revolt against President Assad and we have spent several billion dollars on training and supplying weapons to ‘moderate Islamist’ whom Assad calls terrorist, if the situation were reversed would we not call them terrorist? As we all know when we decided to pull out of neighboring Iraq we opened up a vacuum along their western border which made a very weak Iraqi government even weaker. We should have stayed longer just doing border control help while the government soldiers and police tried to keep the peace in the cities and the country’s interior. Our governments failures helped open up the eastern part of Syria and the western part of Iraq (both Shiite Islamic nations) for a new Sunni military army to step in and form their own government in these two countries. ISIS is a result of our governments ignorance of reality in this part of the world. We say we are in Syria to fight against this group of mass murderers and that we are not at war with Syria itself but that is an obvious lie. If we are training and supplying groups like the ‘Free Syrian Army’ who are fighting to bring Assad’s government down then we are in an ‘undeclared’ war with the Syrian government.
The Syrian government has many allies to help them fight the different intruders trying to over through them. Russia of course is their most powerful ally but they do have several more including other Shiite countries like Iraq, Iran and basically Lebanon through their proxy Hezbollah. The ethnic people know as Kurd’s are also fighting against ISIS but their case is a bit different because several hundred thousand Kurdish people have lived within these borders for thousands of years so in a sense they are fighting against ISIS and to a degree against the Syrian government in an attempt to keep and to achieve their own Nation. The recent episodes where we have shot down a Syrian jet fighter and a couple of Iranian drones has brought the U.S. closer to direct war with Syria, Russia and Iran. These events would not be a reality if we simply weren’t there. Some will say that we have to be there to fight ISIS but this is not true. The American people have spent our own money and blood in a Nation who has not attacked us or declared war on us and whom does not want us there. If the U.S. and our ‘Alliance’ partners were not there then Syria’s allies would have and could have taken our place with their bombers and their soldiers. But the real question is why are we doing what we are doing there? My question is, is it because of the trillions of dollars in war materials our economy produces and of course the jobs this creates for our economy? Could the reason partly be because of the friends our politicians have on the Boards of these companies, or is it because of the stocks that our Senators, Congressmen and women and also this President own in these companies?