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Gold to Hit $2,000 by Year-End on More Fed Easing: Merrill

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© AP
Merrill Lynch has added its voice to the chorus of gold bulls who have been predicting that bullion will hit $2000 an ounce.

Francisco Blanch, Head of Global Commodity & Multi-Asset Strategy Research at the investment bank, says he expects the Federal Reserve to initiate an asset-purchasing program of as much as $500 billion in the second half of the year, which will drive spot gold much higher by the end of the year.

"We think that $2,000 an ounce is sort of the right number," Blanch said on CNBC Asia's "Squawk Box" on Thursday. "We believe that ultimately the Fed will be forced to do quantitative easing. If it happens in September, as our economists expect, we will get a rally sooner in gold. If it happens after the election (in November), we will get the rally a little bit later; probably we will touch $2000 an ounce sometime next year."

Spot gold was trading almost unchanged at $1,569.71 an ounce by 6.14pm GMT on Wednesday and inched up to about $1,572.80 in early Asian trade on Thursday. The metal has fallen nearly 20 percent since touching an all-time high of $1,918 in September last year, as a combination of Europe's debt crisis and concerns over global economic growth triggered a selloff in risk assets like commodities.

Phoenix

100 people dead after Nigerian tanker fire

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© AFP/STR
Hundreds of people crowded around as bodies are lifted into ambulances and police trucks.
More than 100 people who went to scoop up oil from an overturned tanker in Nigeria have been burned to death after the vehicle caught fire, according to officials.

About 50 people suffered severe burns.

"Early this morning a tanker loaded with petrol fell in Okogbe and people trooped to the scene obviously to scoop the spilled fuel and suddenly there was fire resulting in casualties," Rivers State police spokesman Ben Ugwuegbulam confirmed.

Hundreds of people crowded around as soldiers and emergency workers lifted bodies into ambulances and police trucks.

The fuel tanker was a pile of smouldering ash, twisted metal and melting tyres.

Fuel leaks and oil tanker accidents in Nigeria often draw huge crowds scrambling to scoop fuel, resulting in many deaths due to accidental fires.

Bizarro Earth

California Cities 'May Cease to Exist'?

Shuttered and padlocked businesses, Stockton, California
© Reuters/Kevin Bartram
Shuttered and padlocked businesses line Main Street in Stockton, California June 27, 2012
In a phenomenon that seems to be worsening with each and every hour, a widespread fiscal crisis in California is quickly propelling the state into bankruptcy, city by city.

Within a matter of only one month, three cities in California have officially sought bankruptcy protection, with a request out of San Bernardino on Tuesday being just the latest episode in recent surge of unfortunate fiscal news on the West Coast. Coming off of similar measures by way of officials in Stockton and Mammoth Lake, California is experiencing a departure into the deep end across the entire state that no authority seems ready to handle.

"There are likely to be more in the future, but it's hard to know, since a lot of struggling cities may manage to work things out,'' Michael Coleman, a fiscal policy advisor for the California League of Cities, tells the Los Angeles Times. "Some cities may not go into a bankruptcy, but they may dissolve. They may cease to exist.''

Stockton's seeking of bankruptcy protection this week marks the largest city in the state to do as such in the history of California. Going back to a Chapter 9 filing in 2008 out of the Bay Area city of Vallejo, however, it is a trend that hasn't gone unnoticed.

Question

13 Freaky Facts About Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th
© Anneka | Shutterstock
Are you superstitious? Plan to stay in tonight?
Does Friday the 13th freak you out? If so, hold on to your rabbit's foot extra tight, because there are three of these supposedly unlucky dates in 2012, though perhaps luckily, this Friday (July 13) is the last of them. Though, there's always some fear to be had next year, 2013.

Read on for 13 strange facts about this day of superstition.

1. This year is a special one for Friday the 13ths: There are three of them: Jan. 13, April 13 and July 13. The freaky thing? The dates fall exactly 13 weeks apart. That hasn't happened since 1984.

2. If that scares you, you may have paraskavedekatriaphobia (also known as friggatriskaidekaphobia). Those are the scientific terms for fear of Friday the 13th. Triskaidekaphobia is fear of the number 13.

3. It's not clear when or why Friday the 13th became associated with bad luck. The association may be biblical, given that the 13th guest at the Last Supper betrayed Jesus. His crucifixion was the next day, apparently a Friday. Or maybe 13 suffers from coming after the more-pleasing number 12, which gets to number the months, the days of Christmas and even the eggs in a dozen. (There are also 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 tribes of Israel and 12 apostles of Jesus.)

4. Whatever the reason, fear of 13 has spread far and wide: Hotels and hospitals often skip the 13th floor, and even airports quietly omit gate 13 sometimes.

5. The next year in which we'll have three Friday the 13ths is 2015. They'll fall in February, March and November.

Propaganda

Mainstream media in decline as they lose Americans trust

When it comes to Americans having trust in the mainstream media, the numbers don't lie. According to a recent Gallup poll, only 21 percent of Americans have confidence in television News. The decrease in viewership has become an alarming trend.


Bomb

Detroit-Windsor Tunnel reopens after bomb threat

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© Paul Sancya/AP
Authorities meet during a investigation of a bomb threat at the Detroit Windsor Tunnel Thursday, July 12, 2012.
An international commuter tunnel connecting Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, was closed for nearly four hours Thursday after a bomb threat was phoned in on the Canadian side. No explosives were found.

The Detroit Windsor Tunnel, a busy border crossing beneath the Detroit River, was shut down after a duty free shop employee on the tunnel's Canadian plaza reported receiving a call about a bomb threat shortly after 12:30 p.m.

The tunnel was eventually closed and traffic on both sides of the river was directed to the nearby Ambassador Bridge, which spans the river, tunnel executive vice president Carolyn Brown said.

Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Detroit police and other agencies flooded the plaza and entrance on the tunnel's American side.

Bomb-sniffing dogs from a number of federal and local agencies were called in, said Donald E. Johnson, head of Homeland Security for Detroit police.

Hourglass

More U.S. Cities Going Bankrupt Indicate Nation's Future

Stockton City Hall
© Getty Images
Washington can print money to forestall national collapse. States can leech off that currency stream. But for some cities, that have no such rabbits in their hats, the collapse is happening now.

When selecting a setting for his nbc sitcom The Office, Executive Producer Greg Daniels decided on Scranton, Pennsylvania, in part because the city is typical. The Emmy-winning show wanted to ridicule American corporate life, and needed a typical American city to let the mockery happen in. Scranton embraced The Office, and has enjoyed nationwide recognition as a result of the hit show's setting. But now, the former coal town is making headlines for a very different reason.

Last Friday, the city of Scranton sent out paychecks to its employees, as it does every two weeks. But these checks were for amounts significantly smaller than usual because Mayor Chris Doherty reduced all city employees' pay - including his own - to the state minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

After sending out Friday's checks, Scranton had only $5,000 left in the bank and still owed its 400 employees almost $1 million.

Arrow Down

Confidence in organized religion hits all-time low

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© gallup.com

Americans' confidence in religious institutions has hit an all-time low, with only 44 percent expressing a "great deal" of confidence in organized religion, according to a new Gallup survey.

This follows a downward trend since the 1970s, when 68 percent of Americans had a high degree of confidence.

Gallup cites two big blows to confidence in organized religion: 1980s scandals involving televangelists like Jim Bakker and the Catholic sex abuse scandal in the 2000s.

Perhaps as an outgrowth of the abuse scandal, Catholics lag far behind Protestants in their confidence in the church, by a margin of 10 percentage points.

Cowboy Hat

Jesus Supports the Second Amendment?

bible gun
American Family Association Executive Director and radio host Bryan Fischer was discussing the NRA's latest conspiracy theory, yesterday, about how the United Nations is supposedly plotting to take away guns and destroy American's Second Amendment rights though the Arms Trade Treaty.

During the discussion, Fischer claimed that Jesus preached the right to self-defense and therefore his teaching is "virtually the foundation of the Second Amendment."

Fischer said: "The Second Amendment is very important to us. Jesus, his teaching [is] virtually the foundation of the Second Amendment because, remember, one time he told his disciples 'look, the time is going to come when you're going to need a sword, if you don't have a sword, sell everything you've got and buy one, you're going to need one for your own protection.' So Jesus [was] legitimizing the use of the right of self-defense, endorsing the right of self-defense, and that's what is enshrined in the Second Amendment."

Heart - Black

Psychopaths in Action: Report says Joe Paterno and other Penn State leaders 'repeatedly concealed critical facts' and showed 'total disregard' to Sandusky's sex abuse victims

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© AP
From beyond the grave: Joe Paterno died in January and a letter that he wrote about the role of the sex abuse scandal is has been circulated among former players and students in recent days
Penn State's internal investigation into the Jerry Sandusky scandal found that top University officials including the long-beloved football coach Joe Paterno 'repeatedly concealed critical facts' about former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse of young boys.

A team of investigators, led by former federal judge and FBI director Louis Freeh, interviewed hundreds of people to learn how the university responded to warning signs that its once revered former defensive coordinator - a man who helped Hall of Fame football coach Joe Paterno win two national titles while touting 'success with honor' - was a serial child molester.

Mr Freeh said that the men showed 'total disregard' for Sandusky's victims, and treated them in a 'callous' way.

'The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized. Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky's victims until after Sandusky's arrest,' Mr Freeh said in a statement as the report was released.