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July 28, 2014

Young man

Filed under: Uncategorized, legal — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 11:56 am

It was to be a journey of self-discovery, a four-month cycling trip through rural America with pit stops in the country’s musical heartlands.

So on May 15, Toronto’s Iain Gerrard packed a patch kit, campfire grill and other bits and bobs and left his home on the South Kingsway on his 18-speed Brodie racing bike.

For Gerrard, it was to be a trip to help him decide what he’d do with his life. Would the 23-year-old with the shock of brown hair and grey eyes pursue a career in music? He had a reputation for pulsing DJ mixes that would enliven home parties and raves.

Or would he pursue a career in journalism after years of walking the streets of his west-end Swansea neighbourhood, peppering neighbours with questions and sharing oddball quotes from Mark Twain, his favourite writer.

For Gerrard, like so many youth today, there was a frustrating uncertainty when it came to thinking about his future. He had a diploma in audio engineering from a local Toronto school, but he still lacked a decisive direction.

So after several years spent washing dishes in a Toronto restaurant and working in a local juice factory, with cash squirrelled away for the odd motel and shower and bike repair, Gerrard — 6-foot-3 and rail-thin — charted his route. He planned stops in Detroit, the home of Motown; St. Louis, a blues hotbed and the former gateway to the U.S. Midwest; and Memphis, where the likes of Elvis Presley got his start.

Other layovers were scheduled for New Orleans and Nashville, cities steeped in the roots of rock ’n’ roll, gospel and soul, before returning to Canada, hopefully with a clear-eyed vision of his future and a better understanding of a polarized country where, in cities such as Memphis, the battle flag of the Tennessee Confederate army is still hoisted in a public park.

“It’s not all about the music, the south also has an incredible history,” Gerrard wrote on a journal entry on his blog, Round Trip. “Since its (sic) been colonized by the Spanish, French, and the British all those each left a little bit behind resulting in a diverse culture that is rich in all measurable ways.”

What better way to travel through America, Gerrard figured, than through small towns and hamlets on a bike, digesting the sights and smells of a road less travelled.

Iain first found his way into my own home as a six-year-old scamp, picking up small five-pound weights and trying to impress his friends with feats of strength. More than a decade later, I was on assignment in Afghanistan, feeling alone, wondering whether the stories I was reporting were worth the risks of the job, when word came from Toronto.

An avid news reader, Iain had been smitten by a story I filed about an upstart school in Kabul that was teaching kids how to skateboard. He sent a message through family that he’d loved the story and was desperate for more information about the school.

The spirits of a supposedly seasoned foreign correspondent were lifted by an 18-year-old teenager.

Gerrard’s father William said it’s no surprise that his son would take off on such a cycling trip by himself.

“Iain was always challenging himself to face his fears,” he said.

Last year, during a family vacation to a cabin in rural Quebec, Iain told his parents he wanted to spend the night by himself on an island across the lake from his family, despite the presence of bear, moose and wolves.

“He had his guitar and sang as loud as he could to keep the animals away,” William said. “He did it, and went to sleep for a bit. He only came back across the lake to the cabin when he woke up with a bullfrog sitting on his face.”

Perhaps the first lesson Gerrard learned this spring after crossing the U.S. border in Detroit was that while the U.S. might be the battleground for venomous political debate, it’s still a place where a visitor can find kindness from strangers.

He knocked on the door of a home on the shore of Lake Erie, asking if he could pitch his tent on the property.

“The family said, ‘Absolutely not, come inside and stay with us,’ ” Jean Gerrard, Iain’s mother, said Thursday morning in her backyard. “Iain stayed there for three days, the second day the family gave him their Jet Ski to go out and have fun on the lake. He was the kind of guy who really clicked with people he made a connection with.”

After Detroit and St. Louis, Gerrard navigated his way to Memphis, visiting Elvis’s grave and the motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down. He stopped in a music store to buy a cheap ukulele.

“He was writing a song a day on the trip,” William said. “He was saying he wanted an instrument to start putting his lyrics to music so he got that guitar.”

On a quiet stretch of highway outside Memphis, headed south to the Louisiana border with the ukulele strapped to his rucksack, Gerrard’s journey was cut short. He died instantly on July 14 when he was hit by a transport truck.

A night before his death, Gerrard wrote his final song, “Kentucky Rain.”

Rain keeps on blowing, Mississippi River keeps on flowing, and I just keep on travelling by and by

Storm clouds filled with thunder, but they won’t get me under, Ill just sit here and pray for clearer skies

I can’t stand the pain, when I’m dreaming of Tennessee sunshine but I’m stuck with Kentucky rain.

Pain it tests me, my woman left me, cried so hard now my eyes are empty, so I hit the road and headed for the coast.

I didn’t leave too much behind, just a couple of friends, an empty bottle of wine, maybe we’ll meet again someday.

For his grieving family and others in Swansea, the past week has been spent remembering Gerrard, whose love for composing original electronic dance music, writing, and mornings spent fly fishing may only have been eclipsed by his attachment to Glasgow’s famous Celtic soccer team.

At visitations on Tuesday and his funeral the following day, Gerrard was remembered by friends and family as a youth who never stopped asking the fundamental question of journalism: Why?

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July 26, 2014

EU reaches preliminary deal on Russia sanctions

Filed under: Uncategorized, management — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 9:00 pm

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union ambassadors have reached a preliminary deal on stepped-up sanctions against Russia, targeting its access to European capital markets and trade in the defense sector, dual-use goods and sensitive technologies.

EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic says the proposals were transmitted Friday to EU officials to codify into regulations, with the ambassadors scheduled to meet again Tuesday to review the results. She said EU member states must decide whether the measures need to be approved by a summit meeting of the trade bloc’s 28 member countries to go into effect fast cash loans.

The ambassadors also ordered EU-wide asset freezes and travel bans for an undisclosed number of Russians and pro-Russian Ukrainians who are accused of undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty. The names of those affected should be made public later Friday.

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July 25, 2014

Oil falls on worries about US gasoline demand

Filed under: Canada, marketing — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 5:52 am

The price of oil fell near $102 a barrel Thursday, erasing gains from the day before.

Benchmark U.S. crude for September delivery dropped $1.05 to $102.07 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Wednesday, the Nymex contract gained 73 cents after the Energy Department reported a far larger drop in U.S. crude inventories than what analysts had expected.

Brent crude for September delivery, a benchmark for international oils, fell 96 cents to $107.07 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

The price of oil has stayed above $100 a barrel after a civilian jetliner was shot out of the sky last week over a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists and as Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip added to risks of instability in the Middle East.

A day after being buoyed by signs of strong demand for oil from U.S. refineries, traders reversed course and worried about weakness in demand for gasoline.

The U.S. data Wednesday showed oil supplies fell by 3.97 million barrels for the week ended July 11. Analysts had expected a drop of 2.6 million barrels, according to a survey by Platts. But gasoline supplies rose by 3.4 million barrels, almost three times the increase that analysts were looking for.

“The main factor causing the renewed decline in U.S. crude oil stocks is the still record-high rate of crude oil processing by U.S. refineries, though they are clearly turning more crude oil into refined petroleum products at present than is actually needed,” the Commerzbank analysts’ note said, highlighting weaker U.S. gasoline demand.

In other Nymex trading:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to $2.84 a gallon.

— Heating oil was flat at $2.87 a gallon.

— Natural gas gained 8.5 cents to $3.85 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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July 23, 2014

Bodies of plane crash victims leave Ukraine; U.K. experts receive

Filed under: Canada, technology — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 3:32 pm

KHARKIV, UKRAINE—Two military aircraft carrying the first bodies of victims of the Malaysia Airlines crash left the embattled plains of eastern Ukraine Wednesday, while British investigators began work on a pair of “black boxes” to retrieve data on the flight’s last minutes.

Pro-Russian rebels shot down two Ukrainian fighter jets, Kyiv’s defence ministry said, as fighting flared again in the east.

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The Dutch government declared a day of national mourning as the country prepared for the arrival of the first bodies in the afternoon. The crash on Thursday killed all 298 people — most of them Dutch citizens — aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

Ukraine and western nations are pressing the pro-Russian rebels who control the crash site to allow an unfettered investigation, something Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would use his influence to achieve. Though confident that a missile brought down the aircraft, U.S. officials say Russia’s role remains unclear.

Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch said Wednesday that Dutch authorities had delivered the plane’s voice and data recorders to the agency’s base at Farnborough, southern England, where information will be downloaded. Experts will also check for signs of tampering.

Two military transport planes, one Dutch and one Australian, departed Ukraine at midday, heading for Eindhoven air base where the flights will be met by Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and hundreds of relatives.

For one grieving mother, the arrival of the bodies marked a new stage of mourning and brought to an end the pain of seeing television images of victims lying in the undulating fields or in body bags being loaded into a train.

“If I have to wait five months for identification, I can do it,” Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand, whose son, Bryce, and his girlfriend Daisy Oehlers died in the crash, said before setting off for Eindhoven. “Waiting while the bodies were in the field and in the train was a nightmare.”

Dutch government spokesman Lodewijk Hekking said about 60 coffins were expected, but the number wasn’t immediately confirmed.

There was confusion as well about how many of the 282 corpses which the rebels said they have found were on the train which arrived in Kharkiv, a government-controlled city, on Tuesday.

Jan Tuinder, the Dutch official in charge of the international team dealing with the dead, said that at least 200 bodies were aboard the train and that more remains could be found once the body bags are examined fully.

The Dutch Safety Board announced that it will lead an international team of 24 investigators, and said unhindered access to the crash site — controlled by pro-Russian separatists — is critical.

“At the moment, there are no guarantees for the investigators’ safety” at the scene, the board said, adding that it “and other parties” are working to get access to the site and to secure it.

Rebel leader Pavel Gubarev wrote on his Facebook page that his men had retreated Wednesday from the villages of Chervona Zorya and Kozhevnya, which are on the Russian border about 45 kilometres from the scene of the crash. Gubarev said 30 rebels had been injured.

Wreckage of the Boeing 777 fell on territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists who have been battling the Kyiv government since April. U.S. officials say the plane was probably shot down by a missile, most likely by accident.

The European Union on Tuesday imposed sanctions against more Russian individuals but refrained from targeting entire sectors of the Russian economy while waiting for clearer evidence of Moscow’s role in the disaster.

Senior U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday that Russia was responsible for “creating the conditions” that led crash, but they offered no evidence of direct Russian government involvement.

The officials, who briefed reporters Tuesday under ground rules that their names not be used, said the plane was likely shot down by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. The officials cited intercepts, satellite photos and social media postings by separatists, some of which have been authenticated by U.S. experts.

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July 22, 2014

CitiMortgage seeks $4.5 million in lawsuit against Chicago bankers

Filed under: Canada, mortgage — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 12:36 am

CitiMortgage is suing two Chicago bankers, Steve and John Calk, alleging a mortgage bank the brothers operated that dissolved in 2012 contained inaccuracies in residential loan underwriting documents.

CitiMortgage, which is based in O’Fallon, Mo., is seeking more than $4.5 million in damages in the breach of contract lawsuit filed in federal court in St. Louis Monday.  

Since 2004, CitiMortgage purchased 4,790 loans from Chicago Bancorp, once one of the largest privately held retail mortgage banks in the country, according to court documents. 

Steve Calk was president and co-owner of Chicago Bancorp, and John Calk was vice president and co-owner before Chicago Bancorp dissolved in late 2012. Steve Calk now is founder, chairman and CEO of The Federal Savings Bank in Chicago, which also is named a defendant in the lawsuit, and John Calk is vice chairman. 

Eighteen loans Chicago Bancorp sold CitiMortgage over the last decade contained inaccurate information or material misrepresentations that included misrepresenting a borrower’s income, employment or debt, according to the lawsuit. In one loan Chicago Bancorp sold CitiMortgage, the lawsuit alleges a borrower provided a false Social Security number belonging to another individual. “Chicago Bancorp sold (CitiMortgage) at least 18 loans … that were underwritten and/or originated based upon materially inaccurate information or on material misrepresentations,” CitiMortage’s lawsuit alleges. 

CitiMortgage alleges its contract with Chicago Bancorp required Chicago Bancorp to repurchase loans that CitiMortgage deemed did not meet the requirements set out in the contract instant payday loans. After Chicago Bancorp dissolved, CitiMortgage alleges that The Federal Savings Bank continued Chicago Bancorp’s business of originating mortgage loans with Chicago Bancorp’s employees, and Chicago Bancorp’s assets were transferred to The Federal Savings Bank and its holding company, National Bancorp Holdings. 

“Chicago Bancorp and the other defendants made the transfer of Chicago Bancorp’s assets with the actual intent to hinder, delay and prevent (CitiMortgage) from collecting amounts due to it in payment of repurchase claims against Chicago Bancorp,” CitiMortgage alleges in the lawsuit. 

A CitiMortgage spokesman and an attorney representing the Calks, The Federal Savings Bank and National Bancorp both declined to comment on the lawsuit. 

The new lawsuit isn’t the first time the parties have litigated over home loans. CitiMortgage sued Chicago Bancorp, the Calks, The Federal Savings Bank, and National Bancorp Holdings in February 2012 in federal court in St. Louis alleging 11 loans contained inaccuracies, and CitiMortgage sought more than $2 million in damages in that case. In a summary judgment this year, Judge Catherine Perry approved CitiMortgage’s motion for summary judgment in its favor on 9 of the 11 loans in dispute. 

 

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July 20, 2014

B&G Foods and Google are big market movers

Filed under: marketing, technology — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 9:04 am

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks that moved substantially or traded heavily Friday on the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq Stock Market:

NYSE

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD), down 74 cents to $3.83

The semiconductor maker reported second-quarter financial results below expectations along with lower-than-expected guidance.

B&G Foods Inc. (BGS), down $1.20 to $29.62

The food and household goods maker reported second-quarter profit below Wall Street expectations and lowered its full-year outlook.

Knoll Inc. (KNL), up $1.18 to $18.15

The furniture and accessories company reported a boost in second-quarter profit and revenue, exceeding Wall Street expectations.

Key Energy Services Inc. (KEG), down $1.34 to $7.03

The oil well and energy services company revised its second-quarter financial outlook and now expects to report a loss.

Nasdaq

Google Inc payday loans. (GOOG), up $21.35 to $595.08

The Internet giant reported a boost in second-quarter revenue and profit, despite an extended slump in advertising prices.

Skyworks Solutions Inc. (SWKS), up $6.53 to $52.87

The semiconductor company reported third-quarter profit above Wall Street expectations and set better-than-expected guidance.

Gentiva Health Services Inc. (GTIV), up $2.49 to $17.96

The home health company rejected a partial stake offer from Kindred Healthcare and said it received a buyout offer elsewhere.

RealPage Inc. (RP), down $4.74 to $16.68

The rental property management software company cut its revenue outlook citing weak leasing activity and low vacancy rates.

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July 18, 2014

Paradowski names Edinger executive creative director

Filed under: small business, uk — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 5:56 pm

Marketing agency Paradowski has named Jake Edinger its new executive creative director. 

Edinger, who previously was group creative director at ad firm Hughes Leahy Karlovic in St. Louis, replaces Brad Hauck in the role. Hauck left Paradowski in June and now is creative director at 2e Creative in St. Louis. 

Edinger is one of 17 new hires to Webster Groves-based Paradowski’s account management, creative, production and digital teams since January. The agency has nearly doubled its employee roster in the past two years, the firm said in statement announcing the hires.  

The other new hires are: Julia Ahrens, Rashida Nebbitt, Stephanie Drucker, Colleen Ewell and Karen McKinley, who joined its account management team; Ryan Bennett, Jake Eshelman, Natasha Zerjav and Dan Rayfield, who joined the creative team; and Corey Welch, Luke Thomas, Tim Pickett, Kevin Olsen, Derek Yeager, Keith Walter and Henry Roberts, who joined its digital team Online payday loans

Paradowski’s clients include Brown Shoe, Monsanto and Central Bancompany.

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July 17, 2014

300 vials labeled influenza, dengue found at lab

Filed under: Canada, finance — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 3:36 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — The same federal scientist who uncovered forgotten vials of smallpox earlier this month also found over 300 undocumented vials at the same lab, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

FDA officials say the vials list the names of other contagious viruses and bacteria, including dengue, influenza and rickettsia. Previously the government only announced it had recovered six glass vials of smallpox dating from the 1950s.

The freeze-dried smallpox samples were found in a building at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, that has been used by the Food and Drug Administration since 1972.

The find was disturbing because for decades after smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980, world health authorities said the only known samples left were safely stored in super-secure laboratories in Atlanta and in Russia.

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July 15, 2014

Authorities seize 67 giant African snails hidden in luggage at LAX

Filed under: marketing, technology — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 12:40 pm

LOS ANGELES —Two picnic baskets packed with 67 live giant African snails were seized by federal authorities at Los Angeles International Airport, authorities said Monday.

The shipment of snails, which weighed a total of more than 35 pounds and were reportedly intended for human consumption, was apparently the largest seizure at LAX of the mollusks, which are sometimes fried and served as a snack.

The snails were discovered in two picnic baskets, which weighed more than 35 pounds, said Lee Harty of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

They arrived from Lagos, Nigeria, she said.

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In the past, federal inspectors have discovered one or two of the large snails hidden in luggage, but this marked “the first time this pest has been encountered in such large quantity and as a consumption entry” in Los Angeles, said Todd C. Owen, director of field operations for the customs agency.

Giant African snails, also known as land snails, can live as long as 10 years and grow as big as a rat. They can carry parasites harmful to humans.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture deems the large snails as a damaging species because they consume more than 500 types of plants.

But when the snails can’t find fruits and vegetables to eat, they can gnaw through plaster and will “eat paint and stucco off of houses,” the customs agency said.

The incident remains under investigation.

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July 13, 2014

Thousands evacuate north Gaza after Israeli warning

Filed under: finance, small business — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 9:08 pm

GAZA, PALESTINE—Israel briefly deployed troops inside the Gaza Strip for the first time early Sunday as some 4,000 people fled southward from the northern part of the territory in the face of Israeli threats to step up attacks there.

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Neither Israel nor Palestinian militants show signs of agreeing to a cease-fire to end their weeklong conflict, despite calls by the United Nations Security Council and others that they lay down their arms. With Israel massing tanks and soldiers at Gaza’s borders, some fear the latest Israeli threats could signal a wider ground offensive that would bring even heavier casualties than the 166 Palestinian deaths already registered.

“All our ground forces are ready,” a senior Israeli military official said Sunday. “We have been training for this. We will exploit our ability the moment a decision is made to do so.”

Early Sunday, Israeli naval commandos launched a brief raid into northern Gaza to destroy what the military described as a rocket-launching site, an operation it said left four of its soldiers slightly wounded.

The Israeli air force later dropped leaflets warning residents to evacuate their homes ahead of what Israel’s military spokesman described as a “short and temporary” campaign against northern Gaza to begin sometime after 12 p.m. The area is home to at least 100,000 people.

It was not clear whether the possible attack would be confined to stepped-up airstrikes or whether it might include a sizeable ground offensive — something that Israel has so far been reluctant to undertake.

As the ultimatum drew near, hundreds fled Beit Lahiya, one of the communities the Israeli announcement affected. Some raced by in pickup trucks, waving white flags.

“They are sending warning messages,” resident Mohammad Abu Halemah said. “Once we received the message, we felt scared to stay in our homes. We want to leave.”

Adnan Abu Hassna, a spokesman for the U.N. agency in charge of aiding Palestinian refugees, said eight schools were opened as temporary shelters, and about 4,000 people had moved in. He said more schools would be opened if needed.

Essam Al Sultan, 46, a farmer from Beit Lahiya said he had taken the decision to flee the area because the youngest of his eight children had been terrorized by the constant sound of explosions in and around their community.

‘For me I don’t fear death because we are dying every single moment of this war but I left because I want to protect my family,” he said.

Ignoring international appeals for a cease-fire, Israel widened its range of Gaza bombing targets Saturday to include civilian institutions with suspected Hamas ties. One strike hit a centre for the disabled, killing two patients and wounding four people. In a second attack, an Israeli air strike flattened the home of a cousin of Gaza police chief Taysir al-Batsh and damaged a nearby mosque as evening prayers ended, killing at least 18 people. Fifty were wounded, including al-Batsh himself, who had earlier received warnings that he was an Israeli target and had moved away from his own home.

On Sunday, hundreds chanting “God is Great” joined the funeral procession for 17 members of al-Batsh’s extended family who were killed. Among the dead were his cousin and her husband, along with the couple’s seven children, ranging in age from 13 to 28. A neighbour also was killed.

Mourners carried the bodies, wrapped in the green flags of the Islamic militant Hamas, through the streets on stretchers.

The attack reduced al-Batsh’s cousin’s home to sand and rubble. Ahmad al-Batsh, a nephew of the police chief, said Israel had not given a warning before the strike.

Hamas activists said the group’s military wing had asked the families of its members to leave their homes, after Israel targeted several such homes in a series of airstrikes.

On Sunday, Palestinians with foreign passports began leaving Gaza through the Erez border crossing. Israel, which is co-operating in the evacuation, said 800 Palestinians living in Gaza have passports from countries including Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S.

Rawan Mohanna, a 21-year-old chemistry major at the University of Texas, said she had arrived in Gaza with her family a month ago because her older sister was getting married to a Gazan.

“We got the wedding out of the way before all of this happened,” Mohanna said. Mohanna, who lives in Dallas, said her family is now returning to the U.S. with mixed feelings because her newlywed sister and other relatives were staying behind.

“We are so fortunate … that we have the right to travel,” she said. “People in Gaza, they can’t even leave, and that’s such a basic right. It’s stripped away from them. It’s bittersweet that we get to leave but they are still there and they can’t get out.”

Israel has launched more than 1,300 air strikes since the offensive began, military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said Sunday. Palestinian militants have launched more than 800 rockets at Israel, including 130 in the last 24 hours, the Israeli military said Sunday. Several Israelis have been wounded, but there have been no fatalities.

Israel has said it’s acting in self-defence against rockets that have disrupted life across much of the country. It also accuses Hamas of using Gaza’s civilians as human shields by firing rockets from there.

Critics say Israel’s heavy bombardment of one of the most densely populated territories in the world is itself the main factor putting civilians at risk.

The offensive marks the heaviest fighting since a similar eight-day campaign in November 2012 to stop Gaza rocket fire. The outbreak of violence follows the kidnappings and killings of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, the kidnapping and killing of a Palestinian teenager in an apparent revenge attack, and wide-ranging Israeli moves against Hamas militants and infrastructure in the West Bank.

Foreign diplomats also continued their efforts to end the bloodshed. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will fly to Israel for talks Monday and Tuesday with both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Meanwhile, the Arab League will meet Monday to discuss the offensive.

In the West Bank city of Ramallah, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he had appealed to U.N. Secretary-General Bank Ki-moon for “international protection” for the Palestinian people.

“The situation has become unbearable — hundreds of martyrs and thousands of wounded and huge destruction,” Abbas said. Despite forming a government with Hamas’ backing last month, Abbas’ influence in Gaza is minimal.

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