UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. humanitarian chief warned Tuesday that “the specter of famine” has returned to conflict-torn Yemen and for the first time singled out Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait for giving nothing to this year’s $3.4 billion appeal.
Mark Lowcock told the U.N. Security Council that famine in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, was averted two years ago because donors swiftly met 90% of the U.N.’s funding requirements, enabling humanitarian agencies to increase monthly aid from 8 million to 12 million people and save “millions of lives.”
Today, he said, the U.N. appeal has received only 30%, about $1 billion, leaving 9 million Yemenis to cope with deepening cuts to aid programs including food, water and health care.
Lowcock said Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait “who have a particular responsibility, which they have discharged in recent years, have so far given nothing to this year’s U.N. plan.”
Alluding to financial pledges that have not been turned into actual contributions, he said, “it is particularly reprehensible to promise money, which gives people hope that help may be on the way, and then to dash those hopes by simply failing to fulfill the promise.”
“Continuing to hold back money from the humanitarian response now will be a death sentence for many families,” Lowcock said. “So yet again, I call on all donors to pay their pledges now and increase their support.”
Yemen’s conflict has killed more than 100,000 people and created the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, with more than 3 million people internally displaced and two-thirds of the population relying on food aid for survival. Some 24 million Yemenis, or 80% of the country’s population, require some form of assistance or protection, according to the U.N.
U.N. special envoy Martin Griffiths told the council that “increased fighting, greater humanitarian needs and the COVID-19 pandemic” have taken their toll.
Lowcock said the situation has been made worse by escalating conflict in recent weeks, especially in central Yemen. “In August, more civilians were killed across the country than any other month this year,” he said.
Both Griffiths and Lowcock singled out the worrying situation in the province of Marib, where more than 1 million people have sought refuge since 2015.
Griffiths said a battle there would not only force those who sought refuge there to flee again but would have political implications, undermining “prospects of convening an inclusive political process that brings about a transition based on partnership and plurality.”
Lowcock condemned the closure of the airport in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, to U.N. and humanitarian flights by the rebel Houthis, who control the city and the country’s north, on the grounds of fuel shortages. The shortages are having severe humanitarian consequences, “but that doesn’t justify closing the airport,” he said.
Lowcock urged a rapid solution if aid workers are to remain safely in the north, and the U.N. is to maintain operations, including the scheduled delivery of 100 tons of humanitarian cargo by plane to Sanaa in the coming weeks.
US hits Iran court, judges with sanctions over wrestler
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Thursday hit an Iranian revolutionary court and several judges with sanctions in part for their role in the conviction and execution of a young wrestler.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo imposed the sanctions on two judges with Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court of Shiraz as well as three prisons where he said human rights abuses were rampant. The sanctions include asset freezes and ban Americans from doing business with the targets.
Pompeo said Judge Seyyed Mahmoud Sadati was being hit for his involvement in the case of 27-year-old wrestler Navid Afkari who was executed earlier this month despite worldwide appeals for clemency, including from President Donald Trump. Pompeo called the execution “an unconscionable act” that “must not be in vain.”
“The United States calls upon all nations to promote accountability for this regime by imposing sanctions like the ones announced today,” Pompeo said. “Too often, the Iranian regime targets, arrests, and kills the brightest and most promising Iranians, thereby depriving Iran of its greatest asset – the skill and talent of its own people.”
On Sept. 12, Iran executed Afkari, who was convicted of murder, despite an international outcry to stop the execution and following Trump’s plea. His case had drawn attention after a social media campaign portrayed him and his brothers, who remain in prison, as victims who were targeted because they participated in protests against Iran’s Shiite theocracy in 2018.
Authorities accused Afkari of fatally stabbing a water supply company employee in the southern city of Shiraz amid the unrest.
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3 ‘Strong Buy’ Stocks With Over 7% Dividend Yield
Markets are volatile, there can be no doubt. So far this month, the S&P 500 has fallen 9% from its peak. The tech-heavy NASDAQ, which had led the gainers all summer, is now leading the on the fall, having lost 11% since September 2. The three-week tumble has investors worried that we may be on the brink of another bear market.The headwinds are strong. The usual September swoon, the upcoming election, doubts about another round of economic stimulus – all are putting downward pressure on the stock markets.Which doesn’t mean that there are no opportunities. As the old saw goes, “Bulls and bears can both make money, while the pigs get slaughtered.” A falling market may worry investors, but a smart strategy can prevent the portfolio from losing too much long-term value while maintaining a steady income. Dividend stocks, which feed into the income stream, can be a key part of such a strategy.Using the data available in the TipRanks database, we’ve pulled up three stocks with high yields – from 7% to 11%, or up to 6 times the average dividend found on the S&P 500 index. Even better, these stocks are seen as Strong Buys by Wall Street’s analysts. Let’s find out why.Williams Companies (WMB)We start with Williams Companies, an Oklahoma-based energy company. Williams controls pipelines connecting Rocky Mountain natural gas fields with the Pacific Northwest region, and Appalachian and Texan fields with users in the Northeast and transport terminals on the Gulf Coast. The company’s primary operations are the processing and transport of natural gas, with additional ops in crude oil and energy generation. Williams handles nearly one-third of all US commercial and residential natural gas use.The essential nature of Williams’ business – really, modern society simply cannot get along without reliable energy sources – has insulated the company from some of the economic turndown in 1H20. Quarterly revenues slid from $2.1 billion at the end of last year to $1.9 billion in Q1 and $1.7 billion in Q2. EPS in the first half was 26 cents for Q1 and 25 cents for Q2 – but this was consistent with EPS results for the previous three quarters. The generally sound financial base supported the company’s reliable dividend. Williams has been raising that payment for the past four years, and even the corona crisis could not derail it. At 40 cents per common share, the dividend annualizes to $1.60 and yields an impressive 7.7%. The next payment is scheduled for September 28.Truist analyst Tristan Richardson sees Williams as one of the midstream sector’s best positioned companies.“We continue to look to WMB as a defensive component of midstream and favor its 2H prospects as broader midstream grasps at recovery… Beyond 2020 we see the value proposition as a stable footprint with free cash flow generation even in the current environment. We also see room for incremental leverage reduction throughout our forecast period on scaled back capital plans and even with the stable dividend. We look for modestly lower capex in 2021, however unlike more G&P oriented midstream firms, we see a project backlog in downstream that should support very modest growth,” Richardson noted.Accordingly, Richardson rates WMB shares as a Buy, and his $26 price target implies a 30% upside potential from current levels. (To watch Richardson’s track record, click here)Overall, the Strong Buy analyst consensus rating on WMB is based on 11 Buy reviews against just a single Hold. The stock’s current share price is $19.91 and the average price target is $24.58, making the one-year upside potential 23%. (See WMB stock analysis on TipRanks)Magellan Midstream (MMP)The second stock on our list is another midstream energy company, Magellan. This is another Oklahoma-based firm, with a network of assets across much of the US from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi Valley, and into the Southeast. Magellan’s network transports crude oil and refined products, and includes Gulf Coast export shipping terminals.Magellan’s total revenues rose sequentially to $782.8 in Q1, and EPS came in at $1.28, well above the forecast. These numbers turned down drastically in Q2, as revenue fell to $460.4 million and EPS collapsed to 65 cents. The outlook for Q3 predicts a modest recovery, with EPS forecast at 85 cents. The company strengthened its position in the second quarter with an issue of 10-year senior notes, totaling $500 million, at 3.25%. This reduced the company’s debt service payments, and shored up liquidity, making possible the maintenance of the dividend.The dividend was kept steady at $1.0275 per common share quarterly. Annualized, this comes to $4.11, a good absolute return, and gives a yield of 11.1%, giving MMP a far higher return than Treasury bonds or the average S&P-listed stock.Well Fargo analyst Praneeth Satish believes that MMP has strong prospects for recovery. “[We] view near-term weakness in refined products demand as temporary and recovering. In the interim, MMP remains well positioned given its strong balance sheet and liquidity position, and ratable cash flow stream…” Satish goes on to note that the dividend appears secure for the near-term: “The company plans to maintain the current quarterly distribution for the rest of the year.”In line with this generally upbeat outlook, Satish gives MMP an Overweight (i.e. Buy) rating, and a $54 price target that implies 57% growth in the coming year. (To watch Satish’s track record, click here)Net net, MMP shares have a unanimous Strong Buy analyst consensus rating, a show of confidence by Wall Street’s analyst corps. The stock is selling for $33.44, and the average price target of $51.13 implies 53% growth in the year ahead. (See MMP stock analysis on TipRanks)Ready Capital Corporation (RC)The second stock on our list is a real estate investment trust. No surprise finding one of these in a list of strong dividend payers – REITs have long been known for their high dividend payments. Ready Capital, which focuses on the commercial mortgage niche of the REIT sector, has a portfolio of loans in real estate securities and multi-family dwellings. RC has provided more than $3 billion in capital to its loan customers.In the first quarter of this year, when the coronavirus hit, the economy turned south, and business came to a standstill, Ready Capital took a heavy blow. Revenues fell by 58%, and Q1 EPS came in at just one penny. Things turned around in Q2, however, after the company took measures – including increasing liquidity, reducing liabilities, and increasing involvement in government-sponsored lending – to shore up business. Revenues rose to $87 million and EPS rebounded to 70 cents.In the wake of the strong Q2 results, RC also started restoring its dividend. In Q1 the company had slashed the payment from 40 cents to 25 cents; in the most recent declaration, for an October 30 payment, the new dividend is set at 30 cents per share. This annualizes to $1.20 and gives a strong yield of 9.9%.Crispin Love, writing from Piper Sandler, notes the company’s success in getting back on track.“Given low interest rates, Ready Capital had a record $1.2B in residential mortgage originations versus our $1.1B estimate. Gain on sale margins were also at record levels. We are calculating gain on sale margins of 3.7%, up from 2.4% in 1Q20,” Love wrote.In a separate note, written after the dividend declaration, Love added, “We believe that the Board’s actions show an increased confidence for the company to get back to its pre-pandemic $0.40 dividend. In recent earnings calls, management has commented that its goal is to get back to stabilized earnings above $0.40, which would support a dividend more in-line with pre-pandemic levels.”To this end, Love rates RC an Overweight (i.e. Buy) along with a $12 price target, suggesting an upside of 14%. (To watch Love’s track record, click here)All in all, Ready Capital has a unanimous Strong Buy analyst consensus rating, based on 4 recent positive reviews. The stock has an average price target of $11.50, which gives a 9% upside from the current share price of $10.51. (See RC stock analysis on TipRanks)To find good ideas for dividend stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.
Veteran Senate candidate responds to critics using photo of her tattoos
After a Republican super PAC in Texas posted a photo of Senate candidate MJ Hegar featuring her tattoos and calling her a “radical,” Hegar had a quick response on Twitter: the tattoos covered shrapnel wounds she received as an Air Force helicopter pilot in Afghanistan.
“A pro-Cornyn Super PAC is using a photo of my tattoos to make me seem ‘radical.’ That’s pretty funny to me,” Hegar tweeted on Thursday, referring to her opponent in the race, longtime GOP Senator John Cornyn. “You think I’m ashamed of them? They cover my shrapnel wounds from when my helicopter was shot down. They’re a mark of my service to our country. I’m damn proud of them.”
A pro-Cornyn Super PAC is using a photo of my tattoos to make me seem “radical.” That’s pretty funny to me.
You think I’m ashamed of them? They cover my shrapnel wounds from when my helicopter was shot down. They’re a mark of my service to our country. I’m damn proud of them. pic.twitter.com/HrqX68ZzKa
— MJ Hegar (@mjhegar) September 24, 2020
The PAC, Texans for a Conservative Majority, is not directly affiliated with Senator Cornyn’s campaign. Cornyn’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Hegar was awarded a Purple Heart after the Taliban shot down the medevac helicopter she was co-piloting, and she helped defend her fellow servicemembers despite injuries to her arm and leg.
“In Texas, foreign policy and national security is a kitchen-table issue because everyone has someone [they know] in uniform,” she told the Texas Tribune earlier this year.
Recent polling shows Hegar, who supports progressive policies like universal health care, trailing Cornyn by nearly 8 percent. Texas is increasingly being seen as a competitive state where Democrats have a chance to win in national races.
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