Sportscover Makes it Two Wins in a Row at the Insurance Awards

first_imgChief Executive Officer of Sportscover, Chris Nash, accepted the award at the function held at the Sydney Exhibition and Conference Centre.“We are extremely proud to have won this award for the second year in succession. It means a great deal to us to be recognised by our industry through this accolade. This is a tribute to our staff for their continued hard work, and to our broker network and clients for their tremendous support in helping us attain this great achievement,” Nash said. Sportscover was up against some strong competition for the award, with the other finalists being Brooklyn Underwriting Global Transport and Automotive Insurance.Touch Football Australia congratulates Sportscover on the award.last_img read more

4 days agoReal Betis coach Rubi urges calm: We’ll move forward

first_imgAbout the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your say Real Betis coach Rubi urges calm: We’ll move forwardby Paul Vegas4 days agoSend to a friendShare the loveReal Betis coach Rubi has urged calm after defeat to Real Sociedad.While admitting he was worried, Rubi dismissed talk of relegation.“Everything worries me, I don’t want to see Betis where it is now, I don’t want to see Betis suffering but I am convinced that we will finish in a good position and we will pass 50 points,” he said. “You can remind me when the season is over.”Rubi added: “My personal situation does not worry me, I am convinced that we will move forward.” last_img read more

Alberta waited 5 hours before telling Lubicon chief of spill

first_imgAPTN National NewsThe First Nations people living downwind from Alberta’s worst oil spill in over 30 years say their children are falling ill from the spill’s emissions.And their chief says the Alberta government just doesn’t care.APTN National News reporter Noemi LoPinto was there.last_img

High levels of bacteria found in raw meat dog foods

first_imgFeeding your pooch with raw meat could pose potential health risks as they contain high levels of bacteria, researchers have warned. A study by researchers from the University of Agricultural Sciences in Sweden showed that many raw meat products contain enterobacteriaceae species, which are indicators of faecal contamination and hygiene standards. Such food products can also cause health risks to people, particularly infants, elderly and those with poor immunity, the study said. Also Read – An income drop can harm brainA raw meat-based diet has become increasingly popular with dogs in recent years because it is seen as a “healthier natural alternative” to the widely available commercial products. But unlike commercial feeds, raw meat products are not heat treated or freeze dried to pasteurise, the research team added. For the study, published in the journal Vet Record, researchers took samples from 60 packs of raw meat samples that were analysed for bacteria, including enterobacteriaceae species – clostridium perfringens, salmonella and campylobacter. Nearly 31 samples (52 per cent) contained bacteria levels that exceeded the 5,000 bacteria per gram maximum threshold set by the European Union regulations, said the study. Escherichia coli was found in about a third of the samples. Clostridium perfringens, another marker of faecal contamination and hygiene standards, was found in 18 samples (30 per cent).last_img read more

Slogans black flags welcome Ravi Shankar at Patna airport

first_imgNew Delhi: Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who arrived in Patna on Tuesday for the first time after being declared BJP’s Lok Sabha candidate from Patna Sahib, was shown black flags by supporters of another BJP leader in Patna. Prasad, a resident of the Bihar capital whose late father was a state minister and leader of the Jansangh, was shown black flags by the supporters of RK Sinha, a Rajya Sabha member, who was hopeful of a ticket for the seat which is currently held by dissident MP Shatrughan Sinha. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’The sloganeering and protest by Sinha’s supporters led to a clash with BJP workers who had gathered at the airport to welcome the Lok Sabha poll debutant. Reports said that the clash erupted as Prasad landed at airport and Sinha’s supporters started raising slogans against him. Slogans of “Ravi Shankar Prasad- Go back, go back” welcomed the Union Minister as he exited the airport in Bihar capital. The protester, holding black flags also chanted “RK Sinha-Zindabad, zindabad (RK Sinha-Long live, long live). “Ye hawa hawai neta hain inke pass karyakarta nahi hain. Ek galat aadmi ko ticket diya gaya hai jo kabhi janata ke beech nahi raha. (He – Ravi Shankar Prasad – is a leader without any base. He doesn’t have workers. The ticket has been given to a wrong person who has never lived among people),” a protester said. The Union minister drove away while telling the posse of mediapersons who stood waiting at the airport, “I thank my party for considering me for this great responsibility. I will be giving my best shot. The BJPs commitment to nationalism and good governance will help Narendra Modi return to power.”last_img read more

Football The difference in Ohio States offense moving forward could be Mike

Ohio State redshirt sophomore running back Mike Weber (25) runs the ball in the first half in the game against Illinois on Nov. 18. Ohio State won 52-14. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorOhio State shouldn’t have needed a 30-point loss to a team that just lost at home to Purdue to know it needed to run the ball more.The Buckeyes have two of the best running backs in the Big Ten, and for some reason it took an embarrassing loss at Iowa for head coach Urban Meyer to figure out that J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber should touch the ball 30-plus times combined each game.It wasn’t surprising the Buckeyes went back to the ground game after being trounced against an inferior opponent, but Weber’s play has been surprising, and it’s what makes Ohio State’s offense even more dangerous moving forward.“If you can get the running game going, put a guy on a guy and execute pretty highly,” center Billy Price said, “then our running backs are lights-out speed, get out in open space, then good things happen.”Weber started the scoring against Michigan State with a 47-yard touchdown run, then topped that with an 82-yarder. The thought was: Maybe Weber is finally healthy and this is a running back that can hit long runs for scores.He scored twice Saturday in a 52-14 drubbing of Illinois. One was another long touchdown run of more than 40 yards.That thought of “Is this a new Mike Weber?” has additional supporting evidence, which would give Ohio State two legitimate homerun threats at running back.So why wasn’t he running like this before?“Weber is just 100 percent healthy,” Meyer said. “We were bragging about him all summer and then had the tough injury. But he’s doing very well.”Meyer said last week that Weber’s hamstring injury was severe enough to consider surgery. So maybe he truly is finally healthy and that’s what is making the difference in his game and perceived improved quickness since the Iowa game.No one has really been able to figure out Ohio State’s colossal conundrum against the Hawkeyes.“What just happened,” has been a repeating question for three weeks. Meyer raised it after a fourth-quarter comeback against Penn State. Fans and media asked it following a complete collapse against Iowa the week after, then it came up again in an annihilation of Michigan State the week after that.Still, no one really has a good answer for the Iowa game, especially after the blowout of a ranked Michigan State. Maybe fans can just chalk it up as an unexplainable letdown and hope that Ohio State team doesn’t show up again because this Ohio State team that clobbered Michigan State and kicked the snot out of a terrible Illinois team is pretty good — maybe playoff good.Weber is a major part of that.“If we get the running game going, everything else opens up,” Price said.Meyer and the offensive coaching staff have talked all year about the possibility of playing both Weber and Dobbins in a formation. That’s now possible. And what a better week to do that than against Michigan.Weber is averaging 13.5 yards per carry the past two games and has gained more than 100 yards in each. The offensive line has been making its case as one of the best units in the country, but the running backs are doing their job, like they have been all year.Weber’s production in the past two games is unequivocal to the first nine games, and it’s a welcomed addition.Meyer and the coaching staff somehow didn’t see the writing on the wall that the running game was always the team’s identity. But that gaffe by the staff might not matter because Ohio State is in the playoff picture, and if Weber’s performances the past two games are an indicator of a new Weber, he can make this offense College-Football-Playoff good. read more

Alabama man stable lost right kidney in TCI shooting

first_imgFacebook Twitter Google+LinkedInPinterestWhatsApp Turks and Caicos, June 26th 2017 – Providenciales – The good news is that Kevin Newman, an Alabama man who survived being shot in his abdomen early on Friday during an armed robbery along grace bay is stable.  The bad news is that he lost his right kidney in the shooting where he was shot once, and is in a medically induced coma.  Newman, according to family comments published in the NY Post was out looking for his son around 1:45am on Friday when he was approached by armed bandits looking to rob him. Police are now hunting down four men and have issued wanted posters, in connection to the case which has fuelled strings of angry commentary on social media and which has attracted the attention of popular news networks which are reporting on the crime.  Newman was here on holiday, with his family.  That family, led by wife, Tiffany Newman raised money on a Go Fund Me account and had Newman medically evacuated to Broward Health Medical Center in Florida by late Friday.  The Ministry of Tourism reported that they were willing to pay for the airlift, but the fast acting family had already raised the reported $15,000.  A Tourist Board staffer stayed by the side of the family throughout the ordeal, ensuring the entire family was flown back to the US as soon as possible to be with Mr. Newman.  Tiffany Newman told ABC News, ““It caused damage to his liver, but the main issue was that it hit his inferior vena cava and right kidney vein. He lost a very large amount of blood, so he received lots of transfusion… The surgeon also had to remove his right kidney, and his left kidney function is being monitored closely. “Up to news production time, no one was reported arrested for the crime.The Ministry of Tourism said, “We are shocked and saddened regarding the incident that occurred on one of our islands, in the early morning of June 23, involving a visitor to the destination. He and his family continue to be in our thoughts and prayers while doctors continue to monitor his recovery.A criminal act, whether against a resident or visitor, is never something taken lightly and there is a heightened and concentrated effort to identify the individual(s) responsible. The Turks and Caicos Islands are a popular and peaceful destination known for its pristine beaches and relaxed atmosphere and this type of occurrence sends a ripple through the entire community. The safety, of all those on the islands, are always our top priority and remains as such.  The Ministry of Tourism is in complete cooperation with our acting police commissioner who has increased visible security.  We ask that everyone cooperate with authorities as needed.” Facebook Twitter Google+LinkedInPinterestWhatsApp Electricity Cost of Service Study among the big agenda items at September 11 Cabinet meeting Related Items:#magneticmedianews Recommended for you #MagneticMediaNews The Luxury of Grace Bay in Down Town Provo ALERT # 2 ON POTENTIAL TROPICAL CYCLONE NINE ISSUED BY THE BAHAMAS DEPARTMENT OF METEOROLOGY THURSDAY 12TH SEPTEMBER, 2019 AT 9 PM EDTlast_img read more

Police in standoff with armed suspect in Hillcrest home

first_img Categories: Local San Diego News FacebookTwitter May 30, 2018 Posted: May 30, 2018 KUSI Newsroom Updated: 6:05 PMcenter_img KUSI Newsroom, SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — Police Wednesday morning surrounded a residence in Hillcrest and were negotiating with a distraught man who claimed to be armed with a shotgun.Officers initially responded around 7:45 a.m. to a dwelling in the 400 block of Pennsylvania Avenue where a caller reported a possible kidnapping, San Diego police Officer Steve Bourasa said.When officers arrived, two people in the residence came out, but a third person stayed inside, where he claimed to have a shotgun and a desire to harm himself, police said.Police were unable to confirm if the man had a shotgun, but as of 9:45 a.m., he was still refusing to exit the residence, Bourasa said. Negotiators were attempting to convince him to surrender peacefully.Motorists were asked to avoid the area near Fourth, Fifth and Pennsylvania avenues, portions of which were expected to be closed until the standoff ended. Police in standoff with armed suspect in Hillcrest homelast_img read more

Stabbing Draws Attention to People Living in Balboa Park

first_img Posted: August 6, 2018 00:00 00:00 spaceplay / pause qunload | stop ffullscreenshift + ←→slower / faster ↑↓volume mmute ←→seek  . seek to previous 12… 6 seek to 10%, 20% … 60% XColor SettingsAaAaAaAaTextBackgroundOpacity SettingsTextOpaqueSemi-TransparentBackgroundSemi-TransparentOpaqueTransparentFont SettingsSize||TypeSerif MonospaceSerifSans Serif MonospaceSans SerifCasualCursiveSmallCapsResetSave SettingsSAN DIEGO (KUSI) – The fatal stabbing of a man in Balboa Park has drawn attention to the people who are sleeping in San Diego’s most famous park and calling it home.Michael Klausing knows where the homeless live, because he’s one of them. He showed us the part of the park where the stabbing occurred and said he also knew the victim and the man accused of killing him, because like him, they were also living in Balboa Park.People who need more shelter aren’t just living on city streets. They’re also taking up residence in the city’s most beautiful park, under the trees and in the canyons.The open space is one attraction. So are the public restrooms that are open 24 hours a day. They’re a necessity for people who don’t have any other access to a toilet or a sink where they can wash up and try to keep themselves clean. Keeping the restrooms clean is another matter. Michael was as disgusted as we were to find a toilet in one restroom, clogged and overflowing with waste. Crews who work for the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation told us they routinely clean the park bathrooms four times a day, but clogged toilets are a daily occurrence. Maintenance workers said it was common to find the toilets stuffed with too much paper, cans or even clothing.Some visitors to the park have taken note. On the travel website “Tripadvisor,” 95% of the reviews of the park were positive, but we did find a few postings like this one; “I found there were a lot of homeless people hanging around and people exchanging drugs.”Camping in the city park is against the law, but it appears many people are living there, either in tents or under tarps. When we asked Michael, why did he think so many people were settling in, he told us, “I don’t know why more and more people are coming here Because they think it’s easier to stay here? I don’t know.”We asked the San Diego Police Department and the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to talk to us about the challenges of managing unsheltered people who are living in the park. A spokesperson for the Parks Department sent us a statement regarding the recent stabbing. The statement reads, “In light of the recent incident in the park this past weekend, rangers and park staff will remain diligent and continue to patrol park grounds and facilities and notify SDPD of any public safety concerns that may arise.” Sasha Foo, August 6, 2018 Sasha Foo Stabbing Draws Attention to People Living in Balboa Park Categories: Local San Diego News FacebookTwitterlast_img read more

Links Young Black Writers Awards Presentation

first_imgThe Metro DC LINKS will hold an awards presentation to introduce the winners of the Young Black Writers Contest. Three students from D.C. area schools will be honored and given monetary prizes. This awards presentation will take place at the WUSA 9 Broadcast house, located at 4100 Wisconsin Avenue N.W. from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. To attend, please contact Janet Terry at JTERRY@WUSA9.COM.last_img

Disgraced ExDetroit Mayor Seeks Trump Pardon

first_imgBy Sean Yoes, Baltimore AFRO Editor, syoes@afro.comKwame Kilpatrick, the former Detroit mayor who began his political career with so much promise, has spent the last seven years incarcerated, on a 28-year-sentence after being convicted of 24 felonies.Now, Kilpatrick is reaching out to Donald Trump for a presidential pardon.Kwame Kilpatrick, 48, the ex-Mayor of Detroit, is currently serving a 28-year sentence for corruption. He is currently being housed in the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia. (Facebook Photo)“Our country has always been the land of 2nd Chances!” reads the Facebook post signed by Kilpatrick. “I am hoping, confidently expecting, that I will have the opportunity to boldly move into the next season of my life; outside of these prison walls…I pray that I will receive the opportunity for Pardon/Clemency from the President of the United States as well.”Kilpatrick is seeking a Trump pardon, as the president has recently dangled the possibility of high profile pardons for Martha Stewart and Rod Blagojevich (former Gov. of Illinois), both former contestants of Trump’s former reality show, “The Apprentice.” Last month, Trump posthumously pardoned Jack Johnson, the first Black heavyweight champion of the world. Early this month he pardoned Alice Johnson, who was convicted of drug charges, after being lobbied by Kim Kardashian West.Kilpatrick, a Democrat, was first elected Mayor of Detroit in 2001, at the age of 31, the youngest mayor in the city’s history. But, Kilpatrick resigned his office in 2008 after being convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice revealed through a text messaging scandal between Kilpatrick and Christine Beatty, his chief of staff, (the duo were engaged in an extramarital affair). Kilpatrick was sentenced to four months in jail and released on probation after serving 99 days.In 2010, he was sentenced to 18 months to five years in state prison for violating his probation. In 2013, Kilpatrick was convicted of 24 felonies (connected to his time as mayor), including wire fraud, mail fraud and racketeering and was sentenced to 28 years.“Yes, I have made some very bad decisions in my life. Yes, I betrayed my wife and family because of my own lust and sin. Yes, I failed to deliver on the promises and opportunities that was given to me by the people of Detroit, Michigan. And yes, I have been severely punished for it,” wrote Kilpatrick.  “My family has forgiven me. I have asked the people of the city of Detroit for forgiveness many times. And most Detroiters have forgiven me as well…I pray that I will receive the opportunity for Pardon/Clemency from the President of the United States.”A Trump pardon of Kilpatrick would wipe out his convictions, clemency would shorten his prison sentence.If he served his full sentence, the earliest Kilpatrick, who is married with three children, could be released from prison is 2037 at age 67.last_img read more

Boko Haram strengthens ties with IS group

first_imgNigeria’s Boko Haram extremists are strengthening ties with the Islamic State group, as shown by reports that Nigerian militants are fighting in Libya, recent arrests in Lebanon and India and the blocking of thousands of suspected extremists from leaving Nigeria.Boko Haram pledged allegiance to IS in March and in June was declared its West African province. More than 1,000 people have been killed in the insurgency since President Muhammad Buhari was elected in March and pledged to halt the 6-year-old Islamic uprising blamed for the deaths of some 20,000. Also Read – Nine hurt in accident at fireworks show in French resortAn estimated 80 to 200 Boko Haram fighters are in the Libyan city of Sirte, according to Nigeria analyst Jacob Zenn, in The Sentinel magazine of the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation.Algerian security forces believe Boko Haram fighters have joined other militants in northern Niger, he wrote.“The openness of migration routes from Nigeria through eastern Niger to Libya makes travel … fairly straightforward, and the Islamic State can easily afford to pay smugglers to carry militants (and weapons) along that route,” wrote Zenn.Further evidence of Boko Haram’s links with IS is the arrest on August 15 by Lebanese authorities of hard-line IS cleric Ahmad al-Assir at Beirut airport. They said he planned to fly to Nigeria on a forged Palestinian passport with a Nigerian visa.last_img read more

Screening of The Accidental Prime Minister cancelled in Kolkata

first_imgKolkata: The screening of “The Accidental Prime Minister” was on Friday cancelled at a Kolkata theatre due to security reasons amid protest demonstrations by youth Congress activists, police said. The film, directed by Vijay Ratnakar Gutte, released on Friday. It is based on a book with the same title written by Sanjaya Baru, who was media advisor to Manmohan Singh when he was Prime Minister. Baru’s book was published on April 20, 2014. Also Read – 3 injured, flight, train services hit as rains lash BengalActor Anupam Kher portrays the role of Singh while Akshaye Khanna stars as Baru. According to the viewers at the Hind Cinema near central Kolkata’s Chandni Chowk area, the show was cancelled after screening for just 10 minutes on its opening day. “The afternoon screening of ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ has been cancelled due to security reasons. There was an agitation by a certain group outside the hall,” a senior officer of Kolkata Police said told IANS. Also Read – Speeding Jaguar crashes into Mercedes car in Kolkata, 2 pedestrians killed However, he could not confirm whether the next shows of the film will be screened as scheduled. State youth Congress leadership claimed the content and the title of the film is derogatory towards Singh and other senior leaders of Congress and demanded that the film be banned. “The tile of the film itself is derogatory. What did the filmmaker want to imply by calling Manmohan Singh an accidental prime minister? Close to 100 activists of youth Congress in Kolkata protested in front of the theatre. It is good the screening has been stopped,” Bengal Youth Congress President Shadab Khan told IANS. Asked whether forcing to cancel the screening of a film can be termed as violation of freedom of speech, the leader said sentiments of the party workers have been hurt by the film. “The agitation was held as the sentiments of our activists were hurt. However, we are not planning any other agitations here as of now,” he added.last_img read more

Travel agents are integral to our business Deals and more to celebrate

first_img Wednesday, May 3, 2017 Tags: Promotions, Travel Agent Day Share Posted by Travelweek Group center_img << Previous PostNext Post >> TORONTO — Tour operators including Transat, Air Canada Vacations, Goway and more are showing their appreciation for their retail partners with prizes and incentives in celebration of Travel Agent Day.With Transat, three travel agents will win a seven-night all inclusive vacation to one of these Karisma resorts: Azul Beach Resort The Fives Playa del Carmen, by Karisma; El Dorado Royale; and El Dorado Seaside Suites. In addition, agents will earn $30 Bonbon rewards on South, Europe and cruise packages. Three agents will earn $150 Bonbon rewards on all their bookings. For more information, consult Get Connected.Air Canada Vacations is giving away 10,000 ACV&ME points to three agents and five $250 gift cards. “Our trade partners are vital to our business, growth and success,” said George Platanitis, Vice President, Sales & Partnerships, Air Canada Vacations. “We value our partnerships and focus on celebrating and honouring agents throughout the year.”Agents can sign up for the ACV&ME loyalty program at aircanadavacations.com/agents to be automatically entered in the draw. The winners will be announced on May 31.Club Med has launched a special contest to thank its travel partners for their involvement, expertise and loyalty. From May 3 – 17 using the Club Med Check app agents are invited to test and improve their knowledge of the brand and face off against colleagues and fellow travel agents through mini-games for the chance to win a Club Med getaway. The agent who gets the highest aggregate score will win a seven-night stay for two at Club Med.“The launch of this application is a great opportunity to give life to our new signature ‘Club Med, Amazing You’, specifically to our travel partners” said Jacinda Lowry, National Sales Director, Club Med. “We want to thank them and reward their knowledge of Club Med with this contest, available through an innovative and intuitive program. We are going to amaze you!”Agents can download Club Med Check app available through the Apple Store and Google Play. Agents enter their email address and create a password, then enter the code: AGAN and start the game.Club Med also says agents can subscribe to its travel agent-dedicated website, clubmedagents.ca, as well as the Club Med Agents’ Facebook page: facebook/clubmed.english for contest details.Goway is sending coffee cards to all agents who book and deposit a Goway package May 3 -5. All agents who book in this period will also go into the draw to win a ‘Spa Day.’ One winner will be chosen.In a world of online this and “there’s an app for that”, today’s client is often lost in options, some of which are highly questionable, says Goway. That’s where the value of a travel agent lives. “Travel agents are integral to our business,” says company founder Bruce Hodge.  “We wouldn’t be where we are today without them. At Goway, we work with agents from all over North America from small home-based agencies to large consortia. The most successful agents we have seen are those who take the time to learn what their clients are really looking for, never stop learning themselves, and are truly passionate about what they do but sometimes their efforts go unrecognized.”Porter Airlines has launched a month-long contest in honour of Travel Agent Day on May 3, to recognize travel agents for their commitment to passengers and to Porter. “Travel agents represent our brand and support our passengers throughout the travel experience. They are an essential part of our success,” says Robert Deluce, president and CEO of Porter Airlines.More news:  Onex paying big to get WestJet and that will send airfares soaring, says CWTTravel agents can register their Porter and Porter Escapes bookings on flyporter.com/agent from May 3 – 31 for the chance to win prizes including one of three weekly prizes of 25,000 VIPorter loyalty points, and one of two grand prizes of a weekend getaway for two to New York or Toronto (includes Porter flights for two, hotel stay and more). Weekly winners will be randomly selected on May 10, 17 and 24. Grand prize winners will be randomly selected on June 8. Travel agents must have a valid IATA or TICO number registered with Porter Airlines or Porter Escapes.In addition to the contest, Porter is providing travel agents, along with a companion, 30% off their next Porter flight. Book May 3 – 24 for travel completed by June 28.Totalstay has a two-fold incentive for agents. All agents who make a totalstay booking May 3 – 10 will have their names entered into a draw to win a 1-night hotel stay in the Canadian destination of their choice. Also during this time, agents who find one of 150 maple leaves hidden on the totalstay.com website have a chance to win a Canadian-themed gift basket in a prize draw. Totalstay has some 165,000 hotels and 10,000 destinations. Agents can log into their account at totalstay.com to check availability and to book online, or speak to doreen.lynch@totalstay.com for more information.Now in its sixth year, Travel Agent Day has come a long way since its humble beginnings in Colleen Lorenzen’s office in Saskatoon. As the agent credited with coming up with the idea in the first place, Lorenzen, Operations Manager at Uniglobe Carefree Travel, says that Travel Agent Day was actually inspired by another group of professionals – secretaries.“One day our sales rep from Staples came in and was giving everyone a carnation for Secretary Day, and I thought if secretaries can have a day then so can we,” she says. “As a manager, we are always looking for ways to thank our staff for the great work that they do.”Before it was widely recognized as ‘Travel Agent Day’ in 2011, Lorenzen – who at the time sat on the board for the Canadian Institute of Travel Counsellors (CITC) – acknowledged the hard work of her agents each year on the first Wednesday in March by bringing in lunch, flowers and the like. Word of Lorenzen’s efforts spread to other CITC members, who all asked if they could do the same thing in their own offices. And the rest, as they say, is history.“Because I didn’t have a budget to get the word out, I started a Facebook page,” says Lorenzen, “and then at our Uniglobe Conference, I started to talk about it to suppliers and emailed them to let them know about TAD. Some of our suppliers took to the idea right away while others came onboard each year.”Today, Lorenzen’s Facebook page has close to 3,000 likes and features a steady stream of relevant industry tips and stories, exclusive agent offers, and humourous memes and videos. Open to anyone, facebook.com/TravelAgentDay is used to “promote the value of travel agents,” says Lorenzen, who also encourages agencies to post pictures of how their offices are celebrating TAD.“I think that some people don’t really know what it is that we do and it’s our job to let them know what we can do for them and why they should use us,” she adds. “Our suppliers are great and they continue to support us as they know that we’re on the frontlines selling their products.”More news:  Transat calls Groupe Mach’s latest offer “highly abusive, coercive and misleading”In fact, many of them take TAD beyond just one day, launching agent-exclusive offers throughout the month and, in some cases, throughout the year. TravelBrands has launched a nine-month campaign that includes a monthly draw for 100,000 Loyalty points and a grand prize of one million points. Air Canada Vacations is also celebrating agents with double the ACV&ME loyalty points on Canada and Europe bookings for the entire month of May, while The Travel Corporation will be treating some of its top agents to a celebration event on May 3.Anytime the travel industry takes notice of its frontline agents is a good thing, says Marco Pozzobon, Director, Marking, Communications and Partnerships at the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA), especially since the Internet and OTAs are still taking a significant chunk of market share. But he says that consumers are now returning to agents, whose role in the industry remains as relevant as ever.“There may have been a brief period in recent history when most consumers believed travel agents were no longer needed. But we’ve seen that attitude starting to change,” he says. Even more, adds Pozzobon, the fact that we are living in the age of information makes travel agents more relevant than ever. “They’re able to cut through the clutter of the Internet, qualify the customer and propose customized itineraries while guaranteeing the best return on the investment.”The Internet will never go away, but there is a way for agents to co-exist with it and carve out their own niche, says Joe Gyuro of Kelowna, a former agent, general manager and co-owner of Mission Park Travel. He envisions a “new world order” where a compromise can be reached so that agents still have a role in the marketplace. “Maybe no longer doing simple transactions, point to point,” he notes, “but evolving into true professionals who can handle complex arrangements.”Gyuro says that as fewer agents will be needed, their expertise will have to be of a higher standard. This involves recognizing where they are the strongest and doing their best to gain that market share.“This could be complex international travel, adventure travel, special experiences travel, group travel or special needs travel. They must make contacts with similar parties around the world and use those contacts to make their travel arrangements unique and memorable. That will lead to repeat business and world of mouth acclaim,” he adds.The travel industry will continue to change, as Gyuro has seen throughout his illustrious 40-year career. “However, as the public sees how complex their arrangements can be, there will always be a segment who sees the value in guidance. There will always be a core group who would rather have an expert do what needs to be done than do it themselves.”And as long as there are travel agents there will always be Travel Agent Day, if Lorenzen has her way. She hopes to see TAD evolve to the point where it becomes part of the yearly calendar (“like Mother’s Day”), which would be the ultimate acknowledgement of a profession that many still believe is becoming obsolete.“The job is much harder than it used to be as we need to know more and stay on top of things that are happening around the world,” she says. “But travel agents will always adapt and continue to get better in this fast moving industry.” “Travel agents are integral to our business”: Deals and more to celebrate Travel Agent Daylast_img read more

Loophole lets you tap Big Oils cash stash… Big

first_img“Loophole” lets you tap Big Oil’s cash stash…Big Oil made out like bandits when gas prices hit $4.How about using this little-known “loophole” to get some of that cash back?And not just a tiny stock dividend either — this can pay you up to three times the income most stocks or bonds pay. Even though this move has nothing to do with the stock market.Watch this video below for details. It was apparent, at least to me, that not-for-profit sellers were about in both the metals and their respective shares again yesterday.The gold price was up about twelve bucks or so just a few minutes before 9:00 a.m. in London yesterday morning…and that was the high tick of the day.  From there, the price swooned five dollars or so before almost regaining its old high shortly before 1:00 p.m. GMT…about twenty-five minutes before the Comex opened at 8:20 a.m. in New York.From that secondary high, the gold price got sold off about a percent, with the low of the day [$1,714.90 spot] coming at 9:45 a.m. Eastern time.  The subsequent rally ran into a not-for-profit seller at precisely 11:00 a.m…and from that point, the gold price got sold off about five bucks into the close of electronic trading at 5:15 p.m.The gold price closed at $1,721.90 spot…down 20 cents from Friday.  Net volume was very light at 94,000 contracts, give or take a thousand or so.In fits and starts between the Sunday night open…and its high of the day a few minutes before 9:00 a.m. in London…the silver price rose about 45 cents.  But, once again, the moment that it broke through the $34 spot price level, a not-for-profit seller showed up and sold it down about two bits.The price more or less stayed at that level until precisely 1:00 p.m. in London [twenty minutes before the Comex opened]…and then selling began anew, with the low of the day coming at 10:15 a.m. in New York.And, like gold, the subsequent rally in silver ran into a not-for-profit seller at precisely 11:00 a.m. Eastern as well.  The subsequent rally ended shortly after the Comex closed for the day…and silver traded sideways for the rest of the Monday trading session.Silver closed the Monday trading day at $33.72 spot…up the magnificent sum of 13 cents.  Net volume was a rather small 25,000 contracts.The dollar index gapped down about thirty basis points right at the open on Sunday night in New York…recovered most of that within an hour…and then rolled over…hitting its low of the day [78.62] at 8:45 a.m. in London [3:45 a.m. Eastern]…which happened about ten minutes before the high tick of the day in both metals.From that low, the dollar index steadily gained back about 40 basis points of its loses by the close of trading late in the New York afternoon…and the index closed a few basis points above the 79.00 mark…and is still heading higher as of this writing, which is 11:04 p.m. Eastern.The dollar index finished unchanged from its Friday afternoon close in New York.A cursory glance at the Kitco gold chart above shows that the gold price was rather reluctant to head south as the dollar headed north…and the last two sell offs of the day [7 and 11 a.m. Eastern time] look like the handiwork of not-for-profit sellers, as every time they stopped selling, the price rose.  Ditto for silver…and platinum.The gold stocks gapped up at the open, but one or more not-for-profit sellers used the opportunity to beat the stocks into the red by 10:15 a.m. Eastern…and the moment that the subsequent rally made back into positive territory, there was someone waiting to sell it off once again.It’s as plain as day that the gold stocks would have finished in the black if it wasn’t for this indiscriminate selling.  Sprott Asset Management’s John Embry and I [plus many others] are in full agreement on this one…that ‘da boyz’ are not only dicking with metal prices themselves, they are managing share prices as well.The HUI closed down 0.47% yesterday.The silver shares were a mixed bag yesterday…and Nick Laird’s Silver Sentiment Index actually close up 0.04%.(Click on image to enlarge)The CME’s Daily Delivery Report showed that only 10 gold contracts…but a rather large 127 silver contracts…were posted for delivery tomorrow.  In silver it was, as usual, Jefferies as the short/issuer…and the Bank of Nova Scotia and JPMorgan as the big long/stoppers…receiving 108 of those issued contracts.  UBS stopped 14 contracts.We’re about half way through February…and 585 silver contracts have already been delivered so far this month.  This goes along with the 1,600 of so that were delivered in January.  These are amazing amounts for these two months which, as I’ve said before, are not normal delivery months for silver.Both Ted Butler and myself would love to be flies on the wall over at Jefferies these days, as they’ve been the short/issuer on just about every one of these 2,200+ contracts delivered since the beginning of the year.  That’s 11 million ounces dear reader…over five days of world silver production in total…and that ain’t chopped liver.The link to yesterday’s Issuers and Stoppers Report is here.There were no reported changes in GLD yesterday…but over at SLV, authorized participants withdrew 1,360,461 troy ounces of silver.There was a small sales report from the U.S. Mint yesterday.  They sold 1,500 ounces of gold eagles…500 one-ounce 24K gold buffaloes…and 25,000 silver eagles.  The month-to-date totals aren’t worth mentioning…and the mint isn’t even close to selling a million silver eagles yet this month.Friday was pretty slow over at the Comex-approved depositories, as they didn’t receive a bar of silver…and only shipped 46,522 ounces of the stuff out the door.  The link to this little bit of activity, is here.On Friday I forgot to check the short interest in silver over at the shortsqueeze.com website.  I normally check it every day, but with the Commitment of Traders Report…and the Bank Participation Report to write about in Saturday’s column as well, it just never crossed my mind.  However, silver analyst Ted Butler didn’t forget…and this is what he had to say about what he saw…“The first big development this week is one that caught me by surprise, although perhaps I shouldn’t have been completely surprised. I’m speaking of the new report on the short position in shares of SLV, as of the close of business January 31st. Where I was girding for an increase in the short SLV position (since we climbed nearly $4 in price for the two week reporting period), instead there was a very big decline in the short position of more than 35%. The short position in SLV declined by 9.4 million shares (ounces), from 26.6 million to under 17.2 million shares. This is the biggest two-week reduction in the SLV short position in my memory…and the first I can recall when silver prices were advancing. The decline in the SLV short position brought it down almost 50% from the high-water mark of over 36 million shares in the spring of 2011. Here’s the link to SLV’s short position over at shortsqueeze.com.”“I admit to doing a double-take when I first glanced at the numbers. As I previously reported, towards the end of December, I received a very threatening letter from lawyers representing BlackRock, the sponsor of the SLV, demanding that I cease defaming their client on the shorting SLV issue. By coincidence, on the same day I received the letter, I got a call from a fellow subscriber and friend (who is a European money manager) and when I told him about the letter, he told me that it probably meant that BlackRock was taking this very seriously and would move to get the SLV short position reduced, despite the threatening tone of the letter to me. I told my friend that I thought (and hoped) that he was correct and we would see if we were correct in future short reports as they were released.”“I can’t help but feel that the most plausible explanation for the dramatic reduction in the SLV short position (especially on rising prices) is as my European friend predicted, namely, that BlackRock came to realize that the shorting of SLV was fraudulent and manipulative and they were working to eliminate it. Of course, I don’t want to be overly optimistic…and if we witness future big increases in the short position of SLV, that would indicate [that] we were back to the old fraud and manipulation in the shorting of those shares. But let’s take it one day at a time and reserve judgment on whether we go back to the bad old ways of short selling in SLV.”Before heading into the stories I have for you today, here’s the chart of the U.S. M3 money supply updated as of Friday’s close.  It’s a pretty sick looking puppy…and if this continues for any length of time, we’ll see the Fed begin QE3 pretty quick, as deflation is not on their play list.  I thank Nick Laird for sending it to me.(Click on image to enlarge)Being a typical Tuesday column, I have a lot of stories for you today.  I hope you have time to skim them all.Life isn’t about finding yourself…it’s about creating yourself. – Author UnknownIt was apparent, at least to me, that not-for-profit sellers were about in both the metals and their respective shares again yesterday, as both gold and silver…and the shares…would have had a much better time of it they hadn’t made an appearance.  There was nothing free market about Monday’s price action.But since volumes were pretty light, it wasn’t difficult to shove the metal prices around…and as I noted further up, silver was not allowed to closed about $34 spot again.In about ten days we have option expiry for the March contract…and I’m wondering whether or not JPMorgan et al will take the opportunity to lean on the metals as we head into that date.  We’ll find out soon enough I would think.Overnight, both metals declined as the dollar continued to rise…and the moment that London opened for business, both metals got sold off a bit more.  As of 5:04 a.m. Eastern time, gold is down a few dollars and silver is down about 30 cents.  The dollar index is up just a bit over 25 basis points…and appears to have topped out about an hour before London began trading.  Volume in both metals is starting to get up there…and it’s obvious that the ‘inflate, or die’ news from the Bank of Japan had no impact on the gold price, at least not for moment.  Jim Rickards is right…currency wars it is…and it’s only a matter of time before the precious metal prices begin to reflect that.That’s it for today.  I’ll see you here tomorrow. 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But its infuriating to use The system is compris

first_img But it’s infuriating to use. The system is comprised of not one, but two 7-inch screens. One’s a touchscreen, while the other isn’t. One is hidden from the sun under a hood; the other is invisible in the glare of sunlight. There are still a few physical controls, too… but only for some of the least often used things, like adjusting the auto-climate control, not for common things like changing the radio station. These problems haven’t gone unnoticed by the automotive and technology press, which regularly deride the companies for falling so woefully short in the design department, letting gimmicks substitute for building it right. But that’s because these companies have taken on a herculean task, trying to build complex operating systems and third-party apps… a job that is best tackled by thousands of engineers as it is with Windows at Microsoft, iOS at Apple, and Linux’s hordes of volunteers and foundations. With quite a bit of time logged behind the wheel of a Tesla, which boasts an amazingly easy to use, single giant touchscreen, it’s shocking to use the competition’s systems. They’re hastily assembled messes of whiz-bang features that don’t really work. In the age of the iPhone, that’s just not acceptable. And it’s an experience so bad that it’s beginning to hurt people’s perceptions of the traditional automotive companies, driving customers elsewhere or at least to opt for fewer features. But I don’t make this point just to rant. It’s to demonstrate two things: First, we’re nowhere near the end of the technological ramp. Even some of our most expensive and advanced technologies are absolutely awful. Anyone who’s tried to use one of those brand-new state health exchanges—actually, pretty much any product Oracle makes (and the company made quite a few of those health exchanges, I might add)—or Nissan’s new telematics system can attest to that. Add in all the other frustrating and inefficient aspects of our lives, and it’s abundantly clear there are still a great deal more technological advances to be made, letting alone the giant markets like health care and education that have only been grazed by tech so far. Second, the success or failure of a technology has increasingly less to do with what it’s capable of. More and more often, it’s about how realistically accessible its benefits are. As buyers get used to the more elegantly designed and intuitive generation of smartphones and tablets, they expect the same simplicity in other areas. I’m not saying that some minimalist mantra is taking over the corporate world or our home lives. We’re not going to start sitting down to dinner on tatami mats, using only one pair of shoes, and eschewing the big comfy chairs in the conference room. Rather, buyers are becoming savvier in understanding that a system’s design and the ease of use of its features are just as important a consideration in buying technology as its capabilities. Better design can mean more productivity gains, or lower costs, or both. (For end users, it can also mean they don’t go off on rants about their awful new cars and just get that much closer to never buying a traditional vehicle again…) And the companies that are embracing better design for their products seem to be winning the war for customers. The iPhone’s staying power amidst a cadre of competitors with lots of whiz-bang new features is an obvious example. So is Salesforce.com, which competes with big and expensive systems from Oracle and SAP by offering a “no software” pledge and easy-to-use website. The result: meteoric increases in revenue as Salesforce’s customers opt for less over more. Or take a service like Dropbox. Despite an onslaught of fierce competition from giants like Google and Microsoft, the “little folder-sharing company that could” has been growing like a weed—official numbers are few and far between for the still-private company, but most surveys show it with penetration rates 2 to 10 times that of its larger rivals. Success in technology involves more complexities than investing in the commodities with which we may be more familiar. If you dig a hunk of iron out of the ground, chances are your iron is a lot like everyone else’s. Sure, there will be minor variations in the quality or the cost of extraction, but at the end of the day, it’s just a hunk of metal. The same goes for a retail company selling brand-name products, like a car dealer selling the same Jetta as the next guy. The market sets the price, quality is irrelevant (it’s the same thing), and you spend your life trying to differentiate on service alone. Once upon a time, Amazon’s pair of shoes was no different than Foot Locker’s. That led to “showrooming,” where a customer walked into Best Buy, picked out a TV or stereo, then bought it on his or her smartphone from Amazon for 12% less. Even though it pioneered the practice, Amazon saw the threat of showrooming to its own business, as more and more brands started to control channel prices. Amazon can bully the poorly run book publishers into letting it set the price, but not Microsoft on the Xbox. Amazon’s advantage was lost when it couldn’t be cheaper, and so the company shifted gears and started making products of its own. From Amazon Basics cables that cost a fraction of those ripoffs at Walmart, to the Kindle readers and tablets, to original movies and series made just for its Prime subscribers, Amazon has moved beyond its status as just a middle-man retailer and also become a maker and marketer of products… products it hopes are superior enough to win and retain customers better than my Nissan radio will. That new focus has helped Amazon grow from $5 billion behemoth into a $20 billion a quarter juggernaut over the past five years: Sounds great on paper… and done well, it’s the kind of thing that gets you talking about and recommending a car to others. Problem is, it never works. The system was designed with good intent but is both horribly buggy and poorly designed. Neither my wife’s nor my phone can reliably connect. When they do, the simple act of making a phone call almost never works—the other day, an attempt to call out froze the whole system and I had to “reboot” the car at a stop light just to get my radio back. Remember those old jokes about what if Microsoft made cars? Seems life is starting to imitate art. Worse still, to make those more advanced apps work at all, we must install a middle-man application called Nissan Connect. It runs in the background on our phones and is supposed to make connections to the car better. But it doesn’t. My phone recognizes the car maybe 1 out of 10 times. My wife’s sees it half the time, but it won’t ever let her connect regardless of recognition, because she apparently doesn’t have a paid subscription—to a service that cannot be signed up for anywhere we can find and for which I would never imagine anyone would pay. Instead of honing the experience and making it work, the engineers seem to have spent their time adding in hidden features for future monetization. Worse still, the navigation system lags, missing turn indicators, and crashing along with everything else. Thus, the “infotainment” system—or “telematics” as the car industry likes to call it internally—is beyond useless: it’s borderline dangerous. Now, these features were all of a few hundred dollars of the total cost for my Rogue, included with a bunch of other options. It’s just simple software, so it makes sense it would be pretty cheap. Here’s what’s amazing: the company charges $7,000 extra to get the same options on an Infinity SUV (and about $5,000 on the Pathfinder, which is really just a bigger Rogue). I know because despite my frustration with the infotainment portion of the system, we absolutely love the cameras and sensors. For those alone we started looking at Nissan’s luxurious sister line to replace our other car. That exorbitant add-on pricing sent us across the street to the Acura dealership, where we picked up an MDX. It’s a great truck that hauls all our people and stuff in luxury and style. And it, too, sports an awful electronics system. Unlike the Nissan, I’m able to connect without a problem every time. Pandora works flawlessly, with full control over the app without the need for any special manufacturer application. Nothing ever crashes. It’s Honda reliable, as it should be. It even looks pretty cool. Earlier this week, David Galland emailed you a link to a speech I gave in San Antonio. In it, I covered three of my favorite stock picks for today and why I like those companies. The central theme behind all of it was—no surprise to longtime readers—growth. No matter how good a technology is, no matter how revolutionary, no matter how complex… if you cannot find buyers, then it matters little to me as an investor. However, those companies with a formula to steadily increase revenues quarter after quarter can surmount almost any market and overcome all sorts of hurdles. Figuring out which technologies will sell well is one of the most overlooked aspects of finding great investments. But how do you know which will sell and which won’t? The answer to that question begs another. Have you ever noticed how much awful technology exists in the world? I do. Maybe I’m just too close to the subject, but I make it a point to personally check out every new technology I can manage to try safely, and to get a demo of or data on whatever I cannot use myself. So maybe that’s why I see it all the time. Take automotive technology, for instance. I’m not talking engines and shocks and struts right now. This isn’t another lecture on Tesla’s game-changing innovations. I’m talking about the electronics in every other car on the road. This year I’ve bought two new cars. Both suck. For those not familiar with that technical term, I mean to say that their usefulness, and thus marketability, is impeded by substandard design. The first, a Nissan Rogue, is a wonderful car in many ways. We love the 360-degree cameras, lane-drift warnings, blind-spot detectors, and other safety features that have saved us from bumps and bruises many a time already. (Driving in Puerto Rico, where we spend most of our time, is hazardous to your health and paint job.) But it also has a navigation system and “apps.” The radio has morphed into a hub for accessing Google, Pandora, and other services.center_img The company’s digital media sales, largely fueled by the Kindle product line, have now grown to be as big as the entire company’s revenues at the beginning of this shift. Product design and differentiation is not the be all and end all for achieving the kind of success needed by a technology company that pays back for shareholders. There’s still a whole host of other factors that must properly align—the classic mix of people, promotion, and the other “Ps” of success that Doug Casey has espoused for years in natural resources investing, as well as a few that are unique to the technology markets, such as Intellectual Property. But when evaluating the prospects for success or failure of a new technology, it all begins with understanding the product and its target market: Who will buy it? How many of them are there? How much will they pay? How does it stack up to the competition? And so on… That’s the first and most important difference between finding great technology vs. finding a company that makes for a great investment: the quality and usefulness of its products. However, it’s the least appreciated or understood… which is why we’ve written an all-new guide on how to evaluate speculative investments in the technology sector. Modeled on Doug Casey’s classic 8 Ps formula, it’s a step-by-step manual to the process we use when starting our own due diligence on a potential investment. We’re making it available completely free, no strings attached. Click here and give it a read for yourself. At a minimum, it will help you understand how we’ve racked up market-beating returns year after year in Casey Extraordinary Technology. And if we’ve done our job with it, then it will help guide you through exploring the sector on your own, let you avoid some bad investments, and hopefully allow you to find your own personal Amazon, Salesforce, Netflix, or Google, and garner some 1,000%-plus gains to show for it.last_img read more

Everything has this Alice in Wonderland feel to it

first_imgEverything has this Alice in Wonderland feel to it After a little bump up at the 6 p.m. open on Thursday evening in New York, the gold price chopped sideways in Far East trading on their Friday morning before developing a negative bias starting around 1:30 p.m. Hong Kong time.  There was a bit of rally once the a.m. London gold fix was in at 10:30 GMT—and from there it traded flat until JPMorgan’s HFT boyz and their algorithms showed up at the 8:30 a.m. EST job numbers report.  The low tick appeared to come about ten minutes after the 1:30 p.m. COMEX close—and the price edged unevenly higher for the remainder of the electronic trading session. The high and low ticks were reported by the CME Group as 1,200.00 and $1,162.90 in the April contract. Gold finished the Friday session in New York at $1,168.70 spot, down $29.30 from Thursday’s close.  Net volume was pretty big at 185,000 contracts.  And as big as the volume was, I was expecting somewhat more than that. The silver equities followed a similar pattern, with their lows coming at 13:40 p.m. EST as well.  From there they recovered a little into the close.  Nick Laird’s Intraday Silver Sentiment Index closed down 6.09 percent. In silver, ‘3 or less’ U.S. banks hold 3,865 COMEX contracts on the long side—and 17,364 contracts on the short side, for a net short COMEX position of 13,499 contracts.  [This compares to the 18,968 contracts these ‘3 or less’ banks held net short in February’s BPR.]  JPMorgan currently holds both long AND short contracts in silver, but it’s a 100 percent certainty that they are net short a minimum of 15,000 contracts, which is more than the March net short position on its own.  The other two U.S. banks that could be on the long side would be HSBC USA and Citigroup. Also in silver, ’12 or more’ non-U.S. banks are net short 22,734 COMEX futures contracts, an improvement from the 28,753 COMEX futures contracts they were short in February’s BPR.  And in silver, as in gold, it’s my opinion that Canada’s Scotiabank is net short about 80 percent of this amount all by themselves.  As I’ve been saying for many months, it’s also my opinion that Scotiabank is now the big silver short on the COMEX, but with JPMorgan not far behind.  Between them I’d guess they’re short more than 30,000 but less than 35,000 COMEX contracts. Here’s the BPR chart for silver.  Note in Chart #4 the blow-out in the non-U.S. bank short position [blue bars] in October of 2012 when Scotiabank was brought in from the cold.  Also note August 2008 when JPMorgan took over the silver short position in Bear Stearns—the red bars.  It’s very noticeable in Chart #4—and really stands out like the proverbial sore thumb in chart #5. As you can tell from the RSI traces, we’re already oversold in gold—and fast approaching it in silver and platinum. Can we go lower from here?  I suppose, but as I said further up—and Ted mentioned in the quote of the day—once the Managed Money traders decide that they’re full up on the short side, the bottom will be in.  And as I said, once that occurs, JPMorgan et al can “huff and puff” all they want, but it won’t matter, as the law of diminishing returns comes into play rather quickly—and they know it. So we wait some more. As far as I can see in all directions, it’s wall-to-wall ugly out there—and I see no way that the current economic, financial and monetary situation is going to resolve itself quietly.  Everything has this “Alice in Wonderland” feel to it at the moment—and there’s some sort of Potemkin village down every rabbit hole I look—dead ends in all directions. How long the world can continue to muddle along in this state remains to be seen, but whatever end awaits us, it won’t be pretty. And when this situation does resolve itself, it would be a reasonable assumption that the precious metals will be sporting new prices—and the price management scheme in the COMEX futures market will be relegated to the dustbin of history. China and Russia, either individually or collectively, are certainly in a position to end it any time they wish—and as I’ve said on numerous occasions, they may do so if it’s in their best interests.  And the moment that they, along with the other “hewers of wood—and drawers of water” on Planet Earth decide to rise up against the current Western establishment—and put their markers down on this 21st century form of enslavement, there will certainly be a New World Order, but it won’t be the one that the current powers-that-be have in mind. See you on Tuesday. The price action in silver was the same, but different.  The price began to ‘drift’ lower starting shortly before lunch in Hong Kong—and got smacked below the $16 spot mark at 9 a.m. sharp in London trading.  I would guess that a decent sized short position was put on at that point.  From there it rallied into the jobs report—and although the HFT boyz huffed and puffed, the low tick of around $15.75 spot, which came minutes after 12 o’clock noon EST, was the best they could do.  From there it rallied rather impressively into the close—and well off its low. The high and low ticks were recorded as $16.235 and $15.745 in the May contract. Silver finished the Friday session at $15.925 spot, down 27.5 cents from Thursday’s close.  Net volume was only 40,300 contracts.  A lot, yes, but like gold, I was sort of expecting more than this, so maybe this was all that JPMorgan et al could entice the technical funds traders in the Manged Money category into going short.  I’ll have more on this in The Wrap. The palladium chart looked similar, except the $810 low tick came shortly after 9:00 a.m. in New York—and it recovered a decent amount shortly after that, before chopping sideways into the 5:15 p.m. close of electronic trading.  Palladium finished the Friday session at $816 spot, down only 7 dollars. The platinum price was manhandled by the HFT boyz almost exactly the same as gold.  So much so in fact, that their respective daily charts are virtually interchangeable.  Platinum was closed down $19 on the day to $1,157 spot. The second and third photo are ones I cropped for maximum visual impact, as there was too much sky—and there was a fence in the foreground of photo #2 that I couldn’t get rid of any other way, but you can see a bit of it in photo #3.  These were taken as a left-to-right 2-photo collage from the top of the mesa where the Sedona airport is situated—and overlooks part of the town.  It’s an absolutely spectacular setting—and I’d never seen anything like it before—and I’ve been around. Here’s the 5-minute gold tick chart.  It goes all the way back to the close of COMEX trading on Thursday.  The Friday session starts at the 16:00 mark, as this chart is done for Mountain Standard Time, so you have to add 2 hours for EST.  Note the huge volume spikes when the HFT traders spun their algorithms.  The ‘click to enlarge’ feature really helps here. I thank Brad Robertson for sending this. In palladium, ‘3 or less’ U.S. banks are net short 8,285 COMEX futures contracts.  They’ve held this size of short position almost continuously for the past five months running.  They are net short a bit more than 25 percent of the entire futures market in this metal. Also in palladium, ’12 or more’ non-U.S. banks are net short 3,085 COMEX futures contracts, that’s an increase from the 2,370 contracts they were net short in February’s BPR.  These non-U.S. banks are net short 12 percent of the COMEX futures market between them.  And unless they’re acting in collusion, their short positions are immaterial. Here’s the BPR chart for palladium updated with the March report’s data.  Just look at the long positions vs. the short positions held by the U.S. banks in Chart #5.  You couldn’t make this stuff up!  You should note that the U.S. banks were almost nowhere to be seen in the COMEX futures market in this metal until the middle of 2007—and they became the predominant and controlling factor by the end of Q1 of 2013, where they remain today.  I would bet that JPMorgan holds the vast majority of the U.S. banks’ short position—and maybe all of it.  Palladium as well.  And how about silver? Along with yesterday’s Commitment of Traders Report came the companion Bank Participation Report [BPR] for the month of March.  And as I said in yesterday’s missive—“This is data extracted directly from the COT Report, which shows the COMEX futures contracts, both long and short, that are held by the U.S. and non-U.S. banks as of Tuesday’s cut-off.“ In gold, ‘3 or less’ U.S. banks are net short 38,437 COMEX gold contracts, or 3.84 million troy ounces.  That’s an improvement from the 5.67 million troy ounces that they were short in February’s BPR. Also in gold, ’22 or more’ non-U.S. banks were net short 51,151 COMEX futures contracts in gold, or 5.15 million troy ounces, which is down from the 7.63 million ounces they were short in February’s BPR.  And I’m still of the opinion based on CFTC data from October 2012, that Canada’s Scotiabank holds about one third of the non-U.S. bank short position all by itself. Here’s Nick’s chart of the Bank Participation Report for gold going back to 2000.  Charts #4 and #5 are the key ones here.  Note the blow-out in the short positions of the non-U.S. banks [the blue bars in chart #4] when Scotiabank was outed in October of 2012. Along with a couple of Wall Street investment houses, these are “da boyz’—the sellers of last resort—and you can call them what you like.  Until they decide, or are instructed to stand back, the prices of all four precious metals are going nowhere—supply and demand fundamentals be damned! As Jim Rickards so correctly put it, the price management scheme is now so obvious, they should be embarrassed about it. I have a very decent number of stories for you today—and I hope you have enough time left in your weekend to read the ones that interest you the most. I’m still of a mind that there may be 40,000 long contracts of non-technical funds in the managed money category not likely to be liquidated on lower prices. So it’s hard for me to see where all the selling will come from that would enable the big commercial shorts to buy back significant numbers of short contracts. After all, the commercials can’t buy COMEX silver (or gold) contracts from the ether; there must be a contract sold for every contract bought. Nothing would make me happier than to see the big silver commercial shorts run out of room to rig prices lower because of a lack of technical fund selling capacity, but I also know how crooked these commercial shorts are—and must consider that if they are stuck, they are likely to resort to extreme measures rather than go down without a fight (to lower prices). A wild card here is that if JPMorgan is as heavily long physical silver as I imagine, they could always survive and prosper on higher silver prices despite holding a big short position. If your physical long position is much larger than your paper short position, that means you are net long and not afraid of higher prices. – Silver analyst Ted Butler: 28 February 2015 Today’s pop ‘blast from the past’ is from about 50 years ago.  I remember it well, as it was from 1966—my last year in high school.  Anyone of my vintage should know it—and the group—instantly.  The link is here.  And while I’m at it, here’s another one of their hits, this one from 1967. Today’s classical ‘blast from the past’ is one I’ve wanted to feature for ages, but could never find a recording on youtube.com that I liked—and I still haven’t, so the one here will have to do.  It’s the incomparable Dutch violinist Janine Jansen playing the fiddle in Ralph Vaughan Williams classical composition “The Lark Ascending“.  I heard it on CBC-FM yesterday—and figured the time was right.  The link is here. Well, it turned out as I feared—and it’s a given that the technical funds in the Managed Money category pitched the rest of their long positions and went massively short in both gold and silver yesterday, especially in gold.  That’s the only reason that prices went down yesterday.  We’ll have to wait until next Friday’s COT Report to see the numbers. I’m guessing that “da boyz” will show up at the open on Sunday evening to press their advantage further, but it appears that we’re at, or close to another major bottom.  The next two trading days should tell us a lot.  If you’re looking to “place your bets”—I would guess that the time is at hand. Here are the 6-month charts for all four precious metals. In platinum ‘3 or less’ U.S. banks are net short 5,226 COMEX futures contracts—and that’s down from the 7,522 contracts they were net short in the February BPR. Also in platinum, ’17 or more’ non-U.S. banks are net short 8,469 COMEX contracts, down from the 9,782 they were collectively short in the February BPR.  It’s a given that only one or two of these non-U.S. banks hold a material short position in this metal, at least compared to the gross and obscene short positions held by the ‘3 or less’ [more likely ‘2 or less’] U.S. bullion banks.  That means that the short positions of the remaining 15 banks are not material, unless they’re all trading together on cue—and it’s impossible to know that. Here’s the BPR chart for platinum—and please note that the banks were never a factor in platinum until mid 2009.  Now look at them.  If you want to know why the platinum price isn’t going anywhere, despite the supply/demand fundamentals, look at the total long positions the banks have vs. their collective short positions.  Palladium too!  That tells you all you need to know.  The banks are net short 20 percent of the entire COMEX futures market in platinum. As bad as the shares performed yesterday—and for the entire week, you have to wonder who was buying everything that was being sold. For the week, the HUI declined by 13.29 percent—and the silver stocks by 11.76 percent.  Ouch!  I thank Nick Laird for providing that data last night. Gold gave up all its gains for 2015 as well. The CME Daily Delivery Report showed that zero gold and 17 silver contracts were posted for delivery within the COMEX-approved depositories on Tuesday.  Once again it was JPMorgan stopping 11 of those contracts in its in-house [proprietary] trading account.  The link to yesterday’s Issuers and Stoppers Report is here. The CME Preliminary Report for the Friday trading session showed that gold open interest for March fell by 5 contracts—and is now down to 148 contracts outstanding.  Silver’s March o.i. also declined by 5 contracts—and it stands at 951 contracts remaining, minus the 17 posted above.  One has to wonder how many of these remaining contracts are owned by JPMorgan.  So far they’ve stood for delivery on more than 50 percent of the March silver contracts that have been issued. I have more to say about this in my comments on the COT Report—and the companion Bank Participation Report further down.  Ted will certainly be revisiting this issue in his weekly review today as well. There was another very decent withdrawal from GLD yesterday, this time an authorized participant removed 143,981 troy ounces.  And as of 6:51 p.m. EST yesterday, there were no reported changes in SLV.  It will be very interesting to see what withdrawals are forthcoming from these two ETFs next week. There was no sales report from the U.S. Mint. Month-to-date the mint has sold 6,500 troy ounces of gold eagles—1,500 one-ounce 24K gold buffaloes—and 587,000 silver eagles.  That puts the silver/gold sales ratio at 73 to 1. There was a lot of in/out gold movement at the COMEX-approved depositories on Thursday, as 171,852 troy ounces were reported received—and 49,890 troy ounces were shipped out the door.  The link to that activity is here. It was a bit quieter in silver, as 482,282 troy ounces were shipped in—and 111,735 ounces were shipped out.  The ‘in’ action was at Scotiabank—and the ‘out’ movement was at Brink’s, Inc.  The link to that action is here. Both Ted and I were hoping for a little bit of improvement in yesterday’s Commitment of Traders Report, but we were both shocked to see huge improvements in both gold and silver—but there was absolutely nothing in the price action during the reporting week to justify the numbers that were in the report. The only two reasons I can think of why this COT Report is this far out from what the price movements indicated it should be, is because the a correction was made because of prior reporting errors, or data was either accidentally or deliberately withheld. But the numbers are what they are. In silver, for positions held at the close of COMEX trading on Tuesday, the Commercial net short position declined by a chunky 2,435 contracts, or 12.2 million troy ounces.  The Commercial net short position is now down to 198.5 million troy ounces.  Because JPMorgan now has a long position of unknown size in silver to go along with their short-side corner, it was tough for Ted to nail down exactly what JPMorgan is net short, but I’m guessing between between 75 and 82.5 million troy ounces based on Ted’s thoughts yesterday—which are certainly open for revision in his commentary to his paying subscribers this afternoon. Ted said that the Big 4 traders decreased their short position by 1,500 contracts—and the ‘5 through 8’ large traders decreased their short position by the same amount.  The rest of the Commercial traders, Ted’s raptors, sold 600 long contracts. But it was under the hood in the Disaggregated COT Report where the real surprise was, as the technical funds in the Managed Money category decreased their long position, plus added to their short position to the tune of 8,503 contracts in total!  That’s a huge 1-week swing—and moves like that would normally affect prices far more substantially than what was shown in the reporting week.  That’s why this week’s COT Report in silver was such a surprise. As much as the silver COT Report was a surprise, there was an even bigger surprise in gold.  There, the Commercial net short position declined by a very chunky 12,307 contracts, or 1.23 million troy ounces.  The Commercial net short position is now down to 12.34 million troy ounces. Ted said that the Big 4 traders covered 3,200 contracts of their short position—and the ‘5 through 8’ didn’t do much, covering about 100 contracts.  The small commercial traders, the raptors, added 8,900 contracts to their already burgeoning long position. Under the hood in the Managed Money category, the technical funds sold 9,316 long contracts—and added 7,212 short contracts, for a 1-week swing of 16,528 contracts, or 1.65 million ounces.  Once again, activity such as this should have had a far bigger impact on prices than what occurred. Since the cut-off at the close of COMEX trading on Tuesday, “da boyz” have been taking small slices off the silver and gold salami every day since, culminating in the meat cleaver attack on Friday.  Without doubt, next week’s COT Report  will show huge improvements in the Commercial net short positions once again, especially in gold. The only unknown, as Ted and I were discussing, is just how willing the technical funds in the Managed Money category are prepared to go short on these ongoing engineered price declines.  They certainly did in gold yesterday, but with the blunted price action in silver, that may show that these traders don’t have any more long positions to sell—and aren’t prepared to short the silver market any further.  If that’s the case, then the bottom is basically in for silver. “Da boyz” can, like I said earlier, “huff and puff” all they want, but if the technical funds don’t have any longs left to sell—and aren’t prepared to go short any further than they already have, JPMorgan et al are stuck with the short positions they have—with no palatable way out. I’ll be more than interested in what Ted Butler has to say about all this as well. Here’s Nick Laird’s now famous “Days of World Production to Cover COMEX Short Positions” of the 4 and 8 largest traders in all physical commodities on the COMEX.  I note that the short positions of the Big 8 traders in silver has dropped from 156 days down to 141 days of world silver production.  How’s that for a short-side market corner? This is a head and shoulders shot of a Philippine tube-nosed fruit bat.  I didn’t take it. Here’s the 1-year U.S. dollar index chart, so you can see the flight to “quality” for yourself.  Doug Noland’s commentary this week is headlined “King Dollar Tipping Point“—and it’s further down in the Critical Reads section. The gold stocks gapped down big at the open—and continued lower until gold’s low tick, which came at 1:40 p.m. EST.  They rallied a bit from there, but some thoughtful soul/day trader bailed in the last few minutes before the close, taking the stocks back to almost their low ticks of the day.  The HUI got crushed to the tune of 7.47 percent. The dollar index finished the Thursday trading session at 96.35—and began to develop a slight positive bias about the same time that the precious metals began to develop a negative bias.  The rally gathered more steam shortly after London opened—and of course the index went vertical on the job numbers—and most of the gains were in by the London p.m. gold fix.  The 96.73 high came during the New York lunch hour—and it didn’t do much after that.  The dollar index finished that day at 97.72—which was up 137 basis points from Thursday’s close. How to Cash In on the Jackpot When Gold Recovers The smart money is circling the mining sector, with $8 billion cash in hand—and gold producers are starting to acquire undervalued assets. Is it a sign that the next gold bull market is underway? Maybe. But one thing’s for sure: beaten-down companies with ounces in the ground and great management teams have only one way to go: up. Free online event GOING VERTICAL. Click here to learn more and register. These three shots are the last from the Sedona area. This first is just a general shot on one of the many walks around the area—and you don’t have to go far to find a photo op in this place.  I must admit that this much red ochre colour in all directions was something I never quite got used to, although it made for spectacular photos.  Green grass seems to be easier both on the eyes—and the soul.  Don’t forget the ‘click to enlarge’ feature.last_img read more

A few months ago I wrote a check for 12000 but

first_imgA few months ago, I wrote a check for $12,000 but couldn’t figure out exactly why.The payment was to secure a place for my mother at Sligo Creek Center, in Takoma Park, Md. It’s a nursing home and rehab center owned by Genesis Healthcare.My mother was about to be discharged from Holy Cross Hospital, in nearby Silver Spring, after a fall. Medicare wouldn’t pay for her rehabilitation care.So before the Sligo Creek Center would let her through the door, I had to prepay for a month — $12,000 — or nearly $400 a night.Now, my mother had paid into Medicare her entire working life, and since she retired, the Social Security Administration has automatically deducted $130 for her basic Medicare premium from her $1,650 monthly check. On top of that, she pays about $300 a month for a prescription drug plan and supplemental “Medigap” insurance.But because of dueling rules and laws that have been well-known to Medicare officials and members of Congress for years, none of that covered my elderly mother when she needed care.This is a story of how money, outdated laws and federal budget rules can interfere with patient care and leave elderly patients vulnerable.The fallI found my mother lying on the floor of her apartment one evening in early January. I had stopped by because she didn’t return my calls. It was Wednesday, and she had fallen sometime in the previous 24 hours.She was awake, but confused. Her lips were chapped, her skin was too pink, and her thick white curls were a mess on her head. I needed help getting her up and into bed. When my husband and I couldn’t do it, we called the local fire department.There were no obvious injuries and she was speaking coherently, so I spent the night with her and tried to care for her the next day, thinking she just needed rest and food. But it soon became clear she needed medical help.She couldn’t walk, couldn’t even move her left leg. Her confusion was getting worse. Her doctor recommended I take her to the emergency room at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring.An ER doctor there examined her, saw that she couldn’t move her leg, couldn’t really even hold her body upright and had trouble with her memory. He said he would admit her to the hospital’s observation unit to figure out what was going on. He mentioned she might need rehab care to get up and walking again.The word observation triggered an alarm deep in my brain. I had read that patients on observation status sometimes weren’t eligible for rehab care, and I told the doctor that I was concerned.He said he and the hospital “do all they can to be sure their patients’ care is covered.” I was reassured.My mother spent four nights at Holy Cross. She was on IV antibiotics for an infection. She got nine X-rays, two MRIs, scans of her carotid arteries and lungs, and a CT scan. Hospital staffers drew blood no less than six times because they were concerned she might have had a mild heart attack or stroke that had caused her to fall.Administrative mazeOn the day they decided to release her, a social worker named Jay called to say the doctors were recommending she go to an inpatient rehab center — and then he said Medicare wouldn’t pay for it.My mother was caught in an administrative wonderland where she slept at a hospital for four nights, but the paperwork said she was an inpatient only one of those nights. Medicare’s rules, dating back to the 1960s, require people to spend three nights in a hospital before the federal program will pay for inpatient rehabilitative care.It would cost upward of $12,000 a month, Jay told me.I sped to the hospital in a rage. I demanded to know why they were releasing her when she still couldn’t walk. Further, I wanted to know, why were they calling her an “outpatient” when she was sleeping in their bed, under their blankets, wearing their hospital gown and being cared for by their staff.Here were some of the things a parade of social workers and nurses told me that day.The doctor couldn’t admit her as an inpatient because she didn’t have a qualifying diagnosis.Her status was changed from observation to inpatient on the third day because Medicare requires that.They could not change her status to inpatient for the entire stay because they didn’t want to be audited.She couldn’t go to acute rehabilitation, which Medicare pays for, because there was no evidence she had had a stroke or heart attack.They didn’t say much about her medical care. It was all about the rules.For the record, my mother has no money. She lives on Social Security. She has no car, no house, no savings. My siblings and I help pay her bills.And now they were saying she had to leave the hospital. But she obviously couldn’t go home.Holy Cross kept her one more night — at no charge — while we figured out where she could go. They said she could apply for Medicaid, and a social worker handed me a 17-page application. I picked a handful of rehab centers from a list, after a quick search of reviews on my iPhone. One was full, one rejected her because she was listed as “Medicaid pending,” and finally, Genesis Healthcare said they would take her — on the condition that I come by with a $12,000 check that day.So I did.Rules, rules, rulesSo now I was out $12,000 — borrowed from a home equity line of credit — and I wanted to know why.And here’s what I learned.Medicare, in its zillions of pages of guidelines and regulations, has two competing rules. The first says patients must spend three nights as a hospital inpatient to qualify for inpatient rehabilitation or skilled nursing care once they’re discharged. The second encourages hospitals to keep patients on observation status or risk being audited.The reason? Medicare pays more for short inpatient stays than short outpatient stays. But once a patient has been at the hospital for a number of days, that calculus flips, and outpatients end up costing more. So in its effort to control costs, Medicare forces hospitals to justify their decisions about inpatient and outpatient status.”It was always kind of assumed that when you go to the hospital, people know what hospital care is,” says Judy Stein, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Medicare Advocacy. “Hospital admission is when you’re admitted to the hospital.”Her group is leading a class-action lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services, seeking to give patients the right to appeal their status as observation patients.Stein says the use of observation status has grown dramatically in the past decade, in part because Medicare has become far more aggressive in going after hospitals the agency said were inappropriately — and expensively — admitting patients who didn’t need hospital care.A study in the journal Health Affairs found that the number of Medicare patients who spent three or more days in a hospital under observation rose 88 percent from 2007 to 2009. That increase came just after Congress authorized Medicare to use contractors to audit hospitals for overcharges. But the trend in observation care has continued.A report by the HHS inspector general found that in fiscal year 2014, more than 633,000 Medicare beneficiaries spent three or more days in the hospital but were considered outpatients, an increase of 8 percent over the previous year. A separate report found that in 2012, about 24,000 patients went to skilled nursing homes or rehab centers and had to pay their own way.New UnitHoly Cross built a dedicated observation unit around 2011, according to Yancy Phillips, the hospital’s chief quality officer, who spoke to me at length about the use of observation status.That was where my mother spent those four nights. She had her own room, with glass doors that were covered by a curtain. The nurses station was right outside her door. It looks like a cross between a traditional patient floor and the emergency room. Doctors came around at least once a day.Phillips says that Holy Cross has no financial motive to classify patients like my mother one way or another because Maryland law requires the same payment for the same services. It’s the only state with such rules.But the hospital still has to follow Medicare’s rules when it comes to inpatient and observation care.”There’s really no financial advantage to us except if we get the status wrong,” he said. “Medicare has come back to us and said, ‘No, no, no, this should not have been an inpatient.’ “When that happens, Medicare pays nothing at all.To avoid losing money, Holy Cross, like many other hospitals, uses “decision support” software — in this case a package called InterQual, sold by McKesson — that guides doctors or case managers in making the call on whether a person should be admitted or kept on “observation.”The programs are designed to ensure that hospitals don’t get dinged by Medicare for overcharging or providing inappropriate services.Phillips says doctors use their own judgment about whether a patient should be admitted. But he also acknowledges that InterQual is embedded in the electronic health record software used at Holy Cross. It was likely this program that concluded that my mother didn’t meet Medicare’s criteria for inpatient care.The thing about all this is that this problem is well-known to everybody involved.But lawmakers and Medicare haven’t taken action to fix it.A bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., have proposed bills multiple times that would simply require Medicare to count all the time patients spend in a hospital toward its requirements for nursing care.The House version attracted 162 co-sponsors from both parties, but neither bill has gotten a hearing on Capitol Hill or been close to a vote.Jonathan Blum, the former Medicare director at CMS, suggests another fix: Get rid of the three-night requirement altogether.”It’s really an artifact,” he said. “It was put in place as a budgetary control and it was designed when the average length of a hospital stay was seven, eight or nine days.”Everyone I talked with agrees that the root of the problem is money. There has been no formal analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, but most people believe that eliminating the three-night requirement would end up costing the government more money.”These are insurance rules. They’re policies. They can be changed,” says Phillips of Holy Cross Hospital. “But it would have enormous financial implications for the country. And we may have an appetite for tax cuts, but I don’t see that we have an appetite for something that would increase Medicare costs.”It’s not clear that it would cost more, however. Two pilot programs from the late 1970s showed mixed results from eliminating the three-night rule, with Medicare costs rising in Massachusetts, but falling in Oregon, according to an article in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.That article concluded, however, that the rule may be preventing patients from getting appropriate care.And that would have been the case with my mother, who couldn’t have written a $12,000 check to secure a rehab bed for herself.Two weeks into her therapy at the Sligo Center, my mother fell again. This time, she broke her hip and needed hip replacement surgery. Because she didn’t stay the whole month getting rehab care, I got a refund of about $6,000.Under Medicare’s rules, that surgery meant she was automatically eligible for post-surgical rehab care. So after she was released from the hospital, she went to a new center — no deposit required. Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.last_img read more