Archive

Archive for December, 2013

Thai reform plans but protesters still threaten poll – News and views for Thursday 26 December

December 26th, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.

26-12-2013 thaireform

  • Thai PM unveils reform plan but protesters still threaten poll
  • Why Corporations Might Not Mind Moderate Depression
  • China unveils anti-graft plans, focus on protests, reforms
  • Defiant Turkish PM Erdogan in major reshuffle – “Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced a major cabinet reshuffle after three ministerial resignations over a corruption inquiry… One of those who quit, Environment Minister Erdogan Bayraktar, had urged Mr Erdogan to step down himself. Police are investigating allegations of illicit money transfers to Iran and bribery for construction projects.”
  • The NSA on Trial – “Ever since Edward Snowden’s revelation that the National Security Agency was collecting and storing data on every phone call every American makes and every text every American sends, the Obama administration has maintained that the program is fully lawful, and that it has been approved repeatedly by all three branches of government. This defense has always been misleading. Since the program was developed, approved, and applied in secret, it had never been subject to public scrutiny or adversarial judicial testing. Now it has, and it has failed dramatically. As of this week, all three branches have called for substantial reforms of the program, and a federal judge has seriously questioned its constitutionality.”
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Extending life seems ominous- News and views for Wednesday 25 December

December 25th, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.

  • The Ukraine-Russia deal – “The Ukraine-Russia deal involves politics as much as economics. This column argues that the economics of the deal will eventually lead to problems for one or both.”
  • When I’m Sixty-Four – “More seriously, given limited natural resources, already aging populations, spreading megacities, a dearth of jobs in the developed world, severe strains on health services, disappearing pensions and growing inequality, the idea of radically extending life (initially for the rich, one assumes) seems ominous — even if human adaptability and ingenuity are always underestimated.”
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Amex fined after staff misled customers

December 25th, 2013 Comments off

American Express will pay $75.7m in fines and reimbursements to customers, after regulators found that its salesforce misled customers over the benefits of numerous credit card insurance products.

Some 335,000 Amex customers will receive compensation as a result of a settlement announced on Christmas Eve with three US regulators.

via Amex fined after staff misled customers – FT.com.

Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

Bigger governments mean happier people- News and views for Tuesday 24 December

December 24th, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.

24-12-2013 happiness

Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Israel’s racism – News and views for Monday 23 December

December 23rd, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.

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  • The migrants aren’t the problem- Israel’s racism is – “Israeli public opinion is being shaped by a grotesque Knesset member who has become a joke and a former MK whose party didn’t get enough votes to make it into the legislature. If it weren’t so sad, we’d be laughing until we cried. But now our tears should be over the unbelievable fact that these two marginal characters, these clowns, MK Miri Regev (Likud) and Michael Ben Ari, have, with their hateful incitement, succeeded in dictating the national agenda on the issue of African migrants and asylum seekers. From now on we’ll have to choose: Either you support the refugees, or you support the state (and the longtime residents of south Tel Aviv). Who decided that? Regev and Ben Ari.”
  • Bad Times for Big Brother – “Preventing terrorist attacks is a critical and complex job. But as the advisory report rightly emphasizes, a free society must have another kind of security as well: the security of its citizens from the “fear that their conversations and activities are being watched, monitored, questioned, interrogated, or scrutinized.” Without this security, “individual liberty, self-government, economic growth, and basic ideals of citizenship” all are jeopardized.”
  • In No One We Trust – “As the trust deficit persists, a deeper rot takes hold: Attitudes and norms begin to change. When no one is trustworthy, it will be only fools who trust. The concept of fairness itself is eroded. A study published last year by the National Academy of Sciences suggests that the upper classes are more likely to engage in what has traditionally been considered unethical behavior. Perhaps this is the only way for some to reconcile their worldview with their outlandish financial success, often achieved through actions that reveal a kind of moral deprivation. It’s hard to know just how far we’ve gone down the path toward complete trust disintegration, but the evidence is not encouraging.”
  • Real Tree or Artificial Tree? – “But in a holiday season where the focus is often on whether we are naughty or nice, what choice of tree has greater environmental impact?”
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Choosing your barrister and your PR

December 22nd, 2013 Comments off

The wonderful world of litigation continues to fascinate me so I was intrigued by this reference in London’s Sunday Telegraph to some of the sideshow shenanigans surrounding the recent London case of Nigella Lawson, Charles Saatchi and their former servants accused of fraud:

2013-12-22_saatchilegalprThere it was in black and white, the role that PR spinners now play in trying to get favourable coverage for their clients in the reporting of court cases.

It reminded me of my only sortie into this field many years ago when John Elliott, then of Elders and Fosters brewery fame, was facing some kind of charge or whatever after falling a little from financial grace and I offered, and he accepted, my services to him on a success fee only basis only to find the case quickly thrown out before I had any chance to spin my brilliance. That confirmed my suspicion of the whole judicial system but he did buy me a very fine lunch.

 

Categories: Lobbying and PR Tags:

Global warming is the most boring subject on earth – News and views for Sunday 22 December

December 22nd, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.

22-12-2013 sizzle

  • Climate Change Is ‘Bo-Ho-Horing’ – “Has the climate change ‘brand’ been ruined? Scientist-turned-filmmaker Randy Olson says that the problem with trying to raise awareness about global warming is that it’s the most boring subject on earth…  It [Al Gore’s documentary] made a ton of money which made some people think that suddenly the topic was unboring. Which produced a spate of climate documentaries that were all boring, and eventually resulted in an Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker friend saying to me they all blend together — all the same shots of melting glaciers, polar bears, carbon emissions … blah, blah, blah. By 2008 another friend was at a gathering of indy film distributors in which they were saying, “\’no more environmental documentaries!’, there’s no audience for them. And by 2010 a producer friend of mine said, ‘Even the Green Channel doesn’t want ‘green programming’ ‘.”
  • Missing J. D. Salinger – “Phantom evidence for the military and sexual influences on an elusive writer, in a maddening new biography.”
  • Queen Trapping Nut Thieves Among News Corp. Trial Nuggets
  • Turkey’s Erdogan says ‘dark alliances’ behind graft inquiry – “Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan denounced ‘international groups’ and ‘dark alliances’ on Saturday for entangling Turkey in a corruption scandal that has exposed deep rifts between him and a U.S.-based Muslim cleric who helped him rise to power. Sixteen people, including the sons of two ministers and the head of state-owned Halkbank, were formally arrested on Saturday, local media said, in a corruption inquiry that Erdogan has called a ‘dirty operation’ to undermine his rule.”
  • The civil war within Turkish political Islam – “The increasingly open and dramatic power struggle between Erdogan and the Gulen movement, who were formerly close allies, is an important story, but not one that’s easy to follow, especially since much of it remains shadowy and under-the-surface… On Thursday, in the latest development, Erdogan announced a sweeping purge of the police force, charging that it has been infiltrated by a “criminal gang” engaged in a “political plot” against him, his government, and Turkey. It’s no secret to anyone who this “criminal gang” is supposed to be. Even people with no love for Erdogan have been increasingly alarmed by the way the Gulenists were building up their own version of a Deep State inside the police, the judiciary, and other arms of govenment, as well as education, the mass media, and business.”
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Kids learning the truth about Santa – News and views for Saturday 21 December

December 21st, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.

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  • Surprising Academic Data on What Happens When Kids Learn the Truth About Santa
  • The Old King is Dead. Long Live the King! – “It’s time to realize that focusing on the horse race aspect of American presidential politics is precluding actual governance.”
  • Hockey’s massively dishonest budget fiddle – “It’s only in the full light of day, having had the opportunity to consider the full scale of Treasurer Joe Hockey’s, budget dishonesty that its gravity can be understood. Out of his $68 billion in additional accumulated deficits over the next four years, $54 billion comes from his forecasting fiddle and the rest is spending decisions he’s taken since being elected just over three months ago.”
  • Expected to be China’s biggest, Guangdong carbon mkt begins briskly
  • Chinese local government debt hits new high – “Local governments in China have taken on more new debt in 2013 than ever before as they use shadowy bonds to splurge on infrastructure projects, stoking concerns over potential risks to the nation’s financial stability.”
  • Government sees Pacific trade pact talks taking time – “Negotiations on a trade pact between a dozen countries around the Pacific Rim will take whatever time they need as the deal has to be both ambitious and comprehensive, U.S. trade representative Michael Froman said on Saturday.The U.S.-backed deal, which Washington had wanted to conclude this year, aims to establish a free-trade bloc stretching from Vietnam to Chile and Japan, encompassing about 800 million people and almost 40 percent of the global economy. But differences over farm tariffs between the United States and Japan have proved to be one of the major roadblocks and it will now not be finalized this year.”
  • The Terrible Twos Are Actually the Worst – “The rate of violence peaks at 24 months, declines steadily through adolescence and plunges in early adulthood.”
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Not such a silly Joe – Blocking ADM

December 21st, 2013 Comments off

Archer Daniels Midland’s (ADM), whose takeover of Australia’s Graincorp recently was blocked by Treasurer Joe Hockey, this week agreed to pay $54.3m to resolve civil and criminal charges that a subsidiary bribed government officials in Ukraine in return for tax refunds. The Financial Times reports that the deal with US authorities ends an embarrassing chapter for the company, which has sought to polish its image after pleading guilty in a high-profile price-fixing scandal in the 1990s. US authorities accused Alfred C Toepfer International, a Hamburg-based subsidiary, of paying $22m to Ukrainian officials to recover more than $100m in unpaid tax refunds.

In one scheme, Toepfer made payments to a shipping company in the port of Odessa for artificially inflated invoices, a piece of which was passed as bribes to Ukrainian officials, the US Securities and Exchange Commission alleged. One set of disbursements was disguised “as prepayments for feed barley”, its complaint said.

In another, the company drafted fake contracts with an insurance company that included false premiums that were paid to Ukraine officials.

Toepfer’s Ukraine office pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA and agreed to pay $17.8m in criminal fines, the Department of Justice said Friday.

ADM also agreed to pay $36.5m to settle the SEC’s civil charges of failing to prevent the illicit payments. Toepfer also paid an unspecified penalty to German authorities.

 

Categories: Economic matters Tags:

Bankers – they cheat us here, they cheat us there

December 20th, 2013 Comments off

Headlines from around the world this morning suggest that banks cheat us everywhere.

From Australia’s Fairfax papers:

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And on the other side the of the world comes this report from the European edition of The Wall Street Journal:

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Clipping the ticket of ordinary people’s savings appears to have no limit for the money managers.

And now, it seems, the Australian Coalition government is intent on aiding and abetting the robbery. The Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos today announced plans to undo changes made by the previous Labor government to protect consumers from greedy financial planners. One of the proposed changes would water down a provision obliging financial advisors to always act in the best interests of their clients.

The ABC reports that the Government also wants to remove the “opt-in” requirement, which forces financial advisors to contact fee-paying clients every two years to renew their contacts. It would also scrap rules requiring financial advisors to disclose how much they charge clients in annual fees.

The group representing industry superannuation funds is worried the changes will allow financial planners to once again receive sales commissions, paid for by banks and private super funds.

Industry Super Australia executive manager David Whitely says he particularly concerned about provision requiring advisor’s to act the best interest of clients.

“We’re very concerned that changes to the best interest test will result in creating loopholes which allow financial planners to once again receive sales commissions, ongoing fees, volume rebates and all sorts of other incentives to sell a product,” he said.

Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

The Pope and the magic of the full glass- News and views for Friday 20 December

December 20th, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.

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  • Pope Francis Rebukes “Marxist” Attack From Rush Limbaugh & Conservative Media – ” ‘Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended.” He added, “There is nothing in the exhortation that cannot be found in the social doctrine of the church.’ The Pope expanded on his critique of ‘trickle-down’ economics, noting that ‘The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefitting the poor. But what happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger nothing ever comes out for the poor’.”
  • World Bank president calls corruption ‘Public Enemy No. 1’ – “The development institution, which long shied away from tackling corruption because it wanted to steer clear of politics, on Thursday said it plans to hire more experts in the rule of law and other governance issues.”
  • Is ‘Master Kang’s’ Noodle Cooked? – “He’s been compared to a favorite Chinese snack, has been called a “great tiger,” and has been referred to by the vague-sounding appellation Mister Kang. What he isn’t called, at least on the censored Chinese social web, is his name, Zhou Yongkang. The hated former head of his country’s massive state security apparatus, and formerly one of the most powerful men in China, Zhou may now be in a lot of trouble: On Dec. 11, Reuters reported that he had been placed under virtual house arrest; in early December they reported his son Zhou Bin had been helping with a corruption investigation, possibly against his father. While the story hasn’t been officially confirmed, it does seem very likely that Zhou, who hasn’t been seen in public since October, is under suspicion. If Zhou falls, it will be one of the biggest purges since the Communist Party took power in 1949, with farther reaching consequences than the 2012 unraveling of former Chongqing Party Boss Bo Xilai.”
  • The politics of science fiction – “If historians or critics fifty years from now were to read most of our contemporary literary fiction, they might well infer that our main societal problems were issues with our parents, bad relationships, and death.”
  • Not Fit for the Next Crisis – Europe’s Brittle Banking Union
  • Months After Banning Fracking, France Now Has A Carbon Tax – “The French Parliament on Thursday adopted a budget for 2014 which includes a tax on carbon emissions from gas, heating oil and coal, according to a report in Platts… France’s adoption of a carbon tax is not the first environmentally friendly policy change the country has made recently. In October, France completed its ban on fracking, after a constitutional court upheld a 2011 law prohibiting the practice and canceling all exploration permits.”
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The wine man with the nose of a blood hound

December 19th, 2013 Comments off

The Man Who Duped Millionaires Into Paying Big Bucks For Fake Wine : The Salt : NPR.

He was the man with “the nose of a blood hound,” as one wine critic once put it.Rudy Kurniawan was once the toast of the fine-wine world, renowned for his ability to find some of the rarest — and priciest — wines in the world.

He was also, prosecutors allege, a fraud who duped some of the country’s wealthiest wine purchasers with counterfeit bottles of wine that he manufactured in his home laboratory.And on Wednesday, a Manhattan jury agreed, finding Kurniawan guilty of fraud in connection with selling counterfeit wines and of defrauding a finance company.

The sensational trial began Dec. 9 in a Manhattan federal court. Prosecutors have argued that Kurniawan used his exceptional palate to blend together younger wines with older French wines of poor vintage. He then slapped counterfeit labels on the bottles, prosecutors say, and passed them off as some of the rarest wines on Earth. When these bottles turned up at auctions, the excitement of coming across them often overshadowed bidders’ skepticism of whether they were the real thing.

Categories: Drinking Tags:

The US’s tiny taper – News and views for Friday 19 December

December 19th, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.

  • A Tiny Taper, In 2 Graphs – “In the past five years, the Federal Reserve has created roughly $3 trillion out of thin air. The Fed uses the money it creates out of thin air to buy bonds. The idea is to drive down interest rates, which encourages people and businesses to borrow and spend money. It’s called quantitative easing. The big news today is that the Fed will soon start creating slightly less money out of thin air every month. Starting in Januray, the central bank will go from creating $85 billion every month to creating $75 billion a month. In the context of the roughly $3 trillion the Fed has already created, this change is vanishingly small.

19-12-2013 taper

  • Intelligence Panel Recommends Limits On NSA Surveillance
  • Spying Run Amok – “Whatever we think of Snowden — self-aggrandizing creep or self-sacrificing crusader against creepy government spying or sociopath with stolen documents, as The Wall Street Journal put it, or someone who should ‘swing from a tall oak tree,’ as John Bolton told Fox News — it is absolutely clear that the N.S.A. went wild with technology that allowed it to go wild. These technological toys turn everyone into thieves.”
  • The Man Who Duped Millionaires Into Paying Big Bucks For Fake Wine
  • Tomas Piketty: Capital in the Twenty-First Century/Inequality and Capitalism in the Long Run: The Honest Broker – In his Helsinki lecture, Tomas made six major points:As growth rates decline in the Old World (Europe and Japan), we will once again see the dominance of capital: a greater proportion of the wealth of society will be held in the form of physical and other non-human-skill assets, and inheritance and position will matter more and individual effort and luck less.

    In fact, given relatively high average rates of return on capital and thus a large gap vis-a-vis the growth rate, wealth concentration is likely to reach and then surpass peak levels seen in previous history as the superrich become those who started wealthy and benefitted from compound interest and luck.

    America remains an exceptional puzzle: it looks, however, like it is headed for an even more extreme distribution of wealth than is the Old World.

    Remember, however: the evolution of income and wealth distributions is always political, chaotic, unpredictable–and nation-specific: not global market conditions but national identities rule wealth distributions.

    High wealth inequality is not due to any “market failure”: this is a market success: the more frictionless and distortion-free are capital markets, the higher will wealth inequality become.

    The ideal solution? Progressive global-scale wealth taxes.

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Miranda forgot that Natasha has got friends in high places

December 18th, 2013 Comments off

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I suppose there comes a time when you have done the Opposition to death and you have to turn on your own lot. Well Miranda certainly did this morning and with quite a vengeance.

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Yet the Tele’s fearless columnist forgot one thing. Natasha might once have been a dreaded Australian Democrat who opposed the GST. But, as the Beastie Boys put itI got friends in high places that are keeping me high. She married into the right kind of political family.

I mean, consider the connections. Her husband is described thus on his lobbyist firm’s website:

Ian Smith co-founded Bespoke Approach in July 2008 and since then it has been working with major domestic and international businesses on a range of complex projects across Australia and internationally. One of the company’s founding principle was based on Ian’s belief in the engagement of former senior politicians to assist companies develop corporate strategies.

Ian was a journalist before advising the South Australian Liberal Party from 1990 to 1992 and the Kennett Government in Victoria from 1992 to 1995. He established boutique consultancy Kortlang Melbourne in 1995 before it was acquired by Gavin Anderson & Company. As CEO of Gavin Anderson & Company (Australia) and a part of the company’s global executive board, he developed the largest and one of the most successful public affairs and financial communications companies in Australia.

And who else do we find as a founding owner of Bespoke Approach? Why,  none other than that epitome of the South Australian Liberal Party establishment, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs throughout the term of the Howard Government, from March 1996 until December 2007 and the Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party from May 1994 to January 1995, Alexander Downer.

His network with governments around the world remains unique and he has a reputation for his keen sensitivity to the cultural issues that can create unseen impediments to anyone trying to work across borders.

Who better than this team to help create an Ambassadorial vacancy so that there was a job for one of the girls?

Categories: Media, Political snippets Tags:

Edward Snowden and two great Orwellian truths – News and views for Thursday 18 December

December 18th, 2013 Comments off
HOME PAGE

News and views noted along the way.

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  • Orwell in America – “Orwell spent his life loathing intellectuals and state technicians like Edward Snowden. He was sure they would betray the people. Well, Orwell did not always get it right and in this particular matter there can be no doubt that – as the cliché goes – if he was alive today the greatest political commentator of the 20th century would be supporting the young American. For Edward Snowden recognized two great Orwellian truths; first that liberty depends on millions of private lives kept private. As a fully paid-up non-deceived realist, Orwell would have argued the difficult case as to the point at which state secrecy should end and private life begin. Second, Snowden recognized that the War on Terror is no war and the quicker we drop the impossible abstraction of it all the better. Far better that we stick to what is ordinary: ordinary law, ordinary war, ordinary security, ordinary guys. Far better too that we stick to ordinary presidents.”

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How big banks help the ticket clipping of the poor

December 18th, 2013 Comments off

Your neighborhood pawn shop is propped up by big banks.

From the Washington Post’s Wonkblog:

We usually think of payday lenders, pawn shops, rent-to-own stores and other high-cost loan operations as alternative forms of financing for people who are short of cash. But that’s merely a facade: They couldn’t operate without billions of dollars in cheap capital from the nation’s biggest banks.

Reinvestment Partners, a North Carolina-based non-profit that advocates for the underbanked, put out a report Monday laying out how the system works, and just how much money flows through it — $5.5 billion, to be precise.

Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

Shanahan doctors a devil’s debt number

December 18th, 2013 Comments off

Don’t let a billion get in the way of a good headline.

Two different versions of the gross debt figure in 10 years time

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Categories: Economic matters, Media Tags:

A ticket clipping update – Which bank?

December 18th, 2013 Comments off

From this morning’s Fairfax business pages:

An independent expert will investigate Commonwealth Bank’s online broker, CommSec, after the financial regulator found it pooled clients’ money and withdrew funds from client accounts for years without authorisation…

It follows findings by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission that the broker and another CBA subsidiary, Ausiex, was withdrawing client money for daily cash settlements and shifting the bank’s own money into client trust accounts.

Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

Catfish and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.- News and views for Tuesday 17 December 2013

December 17th, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.

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  • Battle Of The Bottom Feeder: U.S., Vietnam In Catfish Fight – “Negotiators hoped to have the TPP trade deal wrapped up by the end of the year, but that’s not going to happen. There are still many outstanding issues — like catfish — that need to be resolved.”
  • Fed Stimulus Blunted as Software Replaces Hardware
  • Why Inequality Matters – “In my view … the really crucial role of inequality in economic calamity has been political… What do the pre- and postcrisis consensuses have in common? Both were economically destructive: Deregulation helped make the crisis possible, and the premature turn to fiscal austerity has done more than anything else to hobble recovery. Both consensuses, however, corresponded to the interests and prejudices of an economic elite whose political influence had surged along with its wealth.”
  • The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder – “The Number of Diagnoses Soared Amid a 20-Year Drug Marketing Campaign.”
  • Secular Stagnation: Back to Alvin Hansen – “Here are some words from Hansen’s 1938 speech that ring true to me today: … ‘The problem of our generation is, above all, the problem of inadequate private investment outlets. What we need is not a slowing down in the progress of science and technology, but rather an acceleration of that rate. Of first-rate importance is the development of new industries. … Some small recovery must indeed arise sooner or later merely because of the growing need for capital replacement. But a full-fledged recovery calls for something more than the mere expenditure of depreciation allowances. It requires a large outlay on new investment, and this awaits the development of great new industries and new techniques. But such new developments are not currently available in adequate volume’…”
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Baling out university superannuation schemes

December 16th, 2013 Comments off

Snuck away in today’s Financial Review story on plans for a federal takeover from state governments of the administration of universities is an apparent costly rescue plan for the superannuation scheme for academics. The Fin report says:

The Abbott government is also poised to relieve NSW of the burden of $2 billion of unfunded obligations for superannuation schemes operated by NSW universities. The federal government will take responsibility for 80 per cent of the unfunded obligations of the defined-benefit schemes.

Academics, especially younger ones, should be grateful for the Commonwealth’s largesse for without it their retirement incomes are in big trouble.

16-12-2013 unisuper

The rather sad story of UniSuper is not one that has received much coverage in the mainstream news pages. Superannuation is a complex subject for journalists to cover and the couple of attempts I made to draw attention to the university problem aroused little interest and thus can be included in the “failure” category.

More successful are the efforts of financial consultant Daryl Dixon in his regular columns hidden away on the finance pages of The Canberra Times and The Australian. They are worth a read.

Defined benefit a time bomb

Daryl Dixon September 28, 2013 The Australian (subscription required)

Unisuper has acknowledged that its defined benefit superannuation fund is no longer prepared to pay all the benefits promised to members when they were forced to join this fund. Its latest chief executive, Kevin O’Sullivan, has indicated that a name change, including “target benefit” rather than “defined benefit”, will be considered. For younger members with many years of employment ahead, and nearly 7000 non commutable lifetime pensioners, a more suitable description could well be “uncertain benefits” scheme.

Public servants on steadier ground than academics

Daryl Dixon September 03, 2013 The Canberra Times

Defined-benefit funds CSS and PSS pensioners are highly unlikely to face the uncertainties plaguing UniSuper. A protection for public servants is that a breach of the Commonwealth’s statutory commitments would trash Australia’s credit reputation. Apparently tempted by the extra cash on offer, Australian National University employees have been keen to volunteer for one of the 230 early-retirement packages now on offer.

Uncertainty looms over uni’s staff pensions

Daryl Dixon August 06, 2013 The Canberra Times

Last month, the Australian National University joined other university and public sector employers in announcing it would shed a large number of jobs. The ANU will seek 230 volunteers to accept an early retirement package, offering cash inducements of between six and eight months’ salary depending on the staff’s length of service. These incentives will be paid, subject to Taxation Office approval, not as a tax-free voluntary redundancy pay-out but as an eligible termination payment instead, subject to less generous concessional tax arrangements.

More woes in Unisuper saga

Daryl Dixon June 24, 2013 The Australian (subscription required)

My most recent article highlighting the inadequate regulatory protection for university employees forced to join the UniSuper Defined Benefit Fund provoked a justified response from a reader.

It’s time to bail from UniSuper

Daryl Dixon June 08, 2013 The Australian

Where are the superannuation regulators when investors really need them, as the UniSuper defined benefit fund difficulties continue?

Pension time bomb ticking

Daryl Dixon March 11, 2013 The Australian

The federal government’s unfunded super liability for politicians, judges, public servants and military personnel now totals some $200 billion and continues to increase. This is more than 2.5 times the assets in the Future Fund set up by the Howard government to help fund these liabilities.

Regulators must act to end the UniSuper farce

Daryl Dixon March 05, 2013 The Canberra Times

University pensions authorities must now step in to protect the superannuation savings of university staff.

Our unis are stealing their staff’s futures

Daryl Dixon February 05, 2013 The Canberra Times

UniSuper University staff may lose the retirement benefits that their super fund promised them. The fund is relying on the contributions of new younger members to help fund the larger benefits promised to older members.

Categories: Economic matters Tags:

Julia Gillard features at Brookings- News and views for Monday 16 December 2013

December 15th, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.

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  • The Path Forward for Improving Education – Julia Gillard writes: “Recently I sat down in the Brookings studio with colleagues from the Center for Universal Education to discuss trends and opportunities in global education. There has been much improvement in the global dialogue on the importance of education and I believe there are many opportunities to leverage in the near future.Our conversation touched on these opportunities and on the challenges that still remain. We discussed extending education and learning to marginalized groups—particularly girls—and the potential promise that new technologies offer in both streamlining our educational systems and as direct learning tools. I also discussed my work at Brookings, which focuses on measuring what is happening in schools in order to best improve them—a subject that I aim to address informed with my experience of building trust with teachers and other important stakeholders.”
  • Renminbi Rising?
  • Britain’s policy on Syria has just been sunk, and nobody noticed – “The final bankruptcy of American and British policy in Syria came 10 days ago as Islamic Front, a Saudi-backed Sunni jihadi group, overran the headquarters of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) at Bab al-Hawa on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey. The FSA, along with the Syrian National Coalition, groups that the United States and Britain have been pretending for years are at the heart of Syrian military and political opposition, has been discredited. The remaining FSA fighters are in flight, have changed sides, or are devoting all their efforts to surviving the onslaught from jihadi or al-Qa’ida-linked brigades.”
  • Asset bubbles loom over 2014 – “Cash is so cheap these days that investors have been borrowing and plowing them in assets from artwork to wine to bitcoins, betting that prices would rise. And rise they did, some even setting records, but market watchers are now warning that asset bubbles may be forming and could well burst in 2014.”
  • Socialism: Converting Hysterical Misery into Ordinary Unhappiness – “The Left wants to give people the chance to do something with their lives, by giving them time and space away from the market.”
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Phasing out antibiotics in livestock- News and views for Sunday 15 December

December 15th, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.

15-12-2013 antibiotics

  • FDA finalizes voluntary rules on phasing out certain antibiotics in livestock
  • North Korea ‘summons business people from China’ – “North Korean business people are being recalled from China following the execution of top official, Chang Song-thaek, says a South Korean report. Leader Kim Jong-un may be purging associates of Mr Chang, who was in charge of economic ties with China.”
  • Abe vows to protect freedom of skies at Asean summit – “Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed a strong concern over China’s newly declared air defense identification zone, vowing to secure freedom of aviation at a summit meeting between Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that began Saturday. He stressed the need for all countries to comply with international law in relation to the territorial dispute in the South China Sea, and said he wanted to build economic ties that are governed by law rather than power, and reward those who make honest efforts.”
  • Ozone Hole Won’t Heal Until 2070, NASA Finds – “SAN FRANCISCO — The banning of ozone-depleting chemicals hasn’t yet caused detectable improvements in the Antarctic ozone hole, new research suggests. Instead, changes in the South Pole’s ozone hole from year-to-year are likely the result of natural variations in wind patterns, researchers said here Wednesday (Dec. 11) in a press conference at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.”
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Corner cannabis store nears reality – News and views for Saturday 14 December

December 14th, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.

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  • Cut Down a Forest, Let It Grow Back, And Even 30 Years Later It’s Not the Same – “According to new research conducted along the Panama canal by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, even after enjoying 32 years in which to regrow, sections of formerly disturbed jungle never quite returned to its original glory of diversity. In fact, the researchers went to far as to label those regrown plots as relatively useless for biodiversity conservation.”
  • In 2 States, Corner Cannabis Store Nears Reality – “Starting early next year, any adult with a craving or curiosity will be able to stroll into a strip mall or downtown shop in Colorado or Washington State and do what has long been forbidden: buy a zip-lock bag of legal marijuana.”
  • Is Beijing about to Boot the New York Times? – “The Chinese government’s crackdown on Bloomberg and the “paper of record” reaches a head.”
  • Russia in Stagnation: Putin Speech Hints at Big Problems – “In his annual state of the nation address on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about the need to rein in corruption and called for technological progress. But he also hinted at the bigger problems that will plague his country in years to come.”
  • Call the FBI! China Is Trying To Steal America’s Seeds! – “In two apparently unrelated cases this week, federal prosecutors arrested citizens of China and charged them with stealing seeds that American companies consider valuable intellectual property. One case involves corn in Iowa; the other, genetically engineered rice in Kansas. Court documents filed in each case (corn hererice here) offer an entertaining mixture of Midwestern farming, alleged corporate espionage and a whiff of international intrigue.”
  • Take A Look At The Top Tweeted Moments Of The Year
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Is service work today worse than being a household servant? – News and views for Friday 13 December

December 13th, 2013 Comments off
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The danger of low inflation – News and views for Wednesday 11 December

December 11th, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.

 

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China Bans Shark Fin Soup From Official Banquets | ThinkProgress

December 10th, 2013 Comments off

China Bans Shark Fin Soup From Official Banquets | ThinkProgress.

China has banned shark fin soup and bird’s nest soup from official banquets, a move that’s meant to cut back on extravagances in government spending but that could have significant environmental benefits.

 

The ban is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s crack-down on corruption and lavish spending in the Chinese government, and also stipulates that cigarettes and expensive liquors are prohibited from official dinners. But the ban on shark fin soup, in particular, comes a year after the country pledged to ban the soup from official banquets and after several years of outcry from within China and throughout the world over the cruelty and grave environmental consequences of the dish.

Categories: Eating Tags:

News and views for Tuesday 10 December

December 10th, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.

10-12-2013 baangkokpost

  • Thai Prime Minister Dissolves Parliament, Calls New Elections – “Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved the country’s Parliament on Monday and called early elections in the face of anti-government protests that began last month. But protest leaders said their goal was to rid Thai politics of her family’s influence, and to that end, they want to replace Yingluck’s elected government with an unelected ‘people’s council.’ A government spokesman said a new vote would be held Feb. 2, but the date must be approved by Thailand’s Election Commission. Yingluck says she’ll remain as caretaker leader until a new prime minister is named. Yingluck won the 2011 election in a landslide, and is expected to win in any new vote.”
  • The Secret’s Out: Obama Acknowledges Existence Of Area 51
  • Japan PM Abe’s ratings slide after state secrets act
  • By George, Britain’s Austerity Experiment Didn’t Work! – “His effort to cure the patient by subjecting it to the equivalent of leeching—big cuts in government spending and higher taxes—a return to pre-Keynesian policies watched closely the world over, failed abysmally…. It produced a dearth of public-sector and private-sector investment that will hobble Britain for years to come. It even failed to meet its own targets of drastically reducing the budget deficit and bringing down Britain’s over-all debt burden…. The problem… is that the ‘hard work’ hasn’t paid off. After three and a half years of austerity, the outlook for the government’s finances doesn’t look any better than it did when Osborne entered office. In fact, it looks worse…”
  • Nobel winner declares boycott of top science journals – “Randy Schekman says his lab will no longer send papers to Nature, Cell and Science as they distort scientific process.”
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Real fake news – News and views for Sunday 8 December

December 8th, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.

8-12-2013 realfakenews

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Honouring Japanese cuisine – News and views for Friday 6 December

December 6th, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.

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  • UNESCO honor gives traditional fare boost – “The addition of “washoku” to UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage has government and food industry officials hoping the recognition will provide a boost to traditional Japanese food not just overseas but also at home, where its popularity is waning.”
  • What is Wrong with the EU? – “The result is that one of the most affluent economic areas of the world barely notices that one quarter of its population lives at risk of poverty. What is wrong with us?”
  • Perverse consequences of well-intentioned regulation: Evidence from India’s child-labour ban – “The most popular regulation against child labour is a ban against it. This column presents evidence from such a ban in India. Not only did the ban not reduce child labour, but it even increased it. The effects are concentrated among the poorest families. Therefore, policy reforms other than bans could be more effective in reducing child labour, and in improving the lives of children.”
  • The Pope Makes Enemies!: Thursday Absolute Idiocy Weblogging
  • GOP launches candidate training: How to talk to women – “The GOP doesn’t want another Todd Akin-like moment, when the Missouri Senate-hopeful dropped with a thud in polls after speaking on the campaign trail about “legitimate rape.” Sen. Saxby Chambliss later attributed some sexual assaults in the military on male hormones, sparking accusations that he was dismissing and making excuses for what’s emerged as a top-talked about criminal issue.”
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A quote for the day from Nelson Mandela

December 6th, 2013 Comments off

“What has become of our rationality, our ability to think? We have used our reason to make great advances in science and technology, though often using those for warfare and plunder. We have placed people on the moon and in space; we have split the atom and transplanted organs; we are cloning life and manipulating nature. Yet we have failed to sit down as rational beings and eliminate conflict, war and consequent suffering of innocent millions, mostly women, children and the aged.” — Address on receiving the International Gandhi Peace Prize, March 2001.

Categories: International politics Tags:

Launch of world’s largest vessel big step towards development of Australian LNG industry

December 6th, 2013 Comments off

Australia’s move towards becoming a major producer of liquefied natural gas has moved a step closer with the launching in Korea of the world’s largest floating vessel.

The vessel, called the Prelude, is so large that if stood up, it would be 1,601 feet tall, reaching higher into the sky than the Empire State Building. It won’t be able to travel under its own power but used as a floating island about 300 miles off the coast of western Australia.

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NPR of the US reports that the 600,000-ton Prelude will serve as a liquefied natural gas, or LNG, facility, which lets the company tap into the natural gas deep at sea. The gas will then be chilled into a liquid, which makes the gas easier to store and ship.

Smaller ships will come and pick up the natural gas and transport it to customers. Shell’s Prelude is so huge it can store enough liquefied natural gas (LNG) to fill 175 Olympic swimming pools. It will stay in place during stormy weather and is built to withstand a category five cyclone, according to the company.

The Prelude will allow Shell to tap into natural gas reserves that have previously been too expensive to extract, according to Kayla Macke, a U.S. spokeswoman for the company.

She declined to comment on the cost of the drilling project, but noted that Samsung, the South Korea company that built the Prelude, put the cost of the vessel at $3 billion back in 2011.

Previously, the world’s largest vessel was the Jahre Viking, an oil tanker that’s 1,504 feet long, according to Guinness World Records.

Macke says the Prelude will be similar to the offshore rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, adding there will likely to be around 100 workers who will perform two-week shifts at sea before heading back to shore.

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Banks and the rates scandal – News and views for Thursday 5 December

December 5th, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.

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European Union Fines Banks Billions For Rigging Interest Rates

December 5th, 2013 Comments off

From the European Commission’s press release Antitrust: Commission fines banks € 1.71 billion for participating in cartels in the interest rate derivatives industry

The European Commission has fined 8 international financial institutions a total of € 1 712 468 000 for participating in illegal cartels in markets for financial derivatives covering the European Economic Area (EEA). Four of these institutions participated in a cartel relating to interest rate derivatives denominated in the euro currency. Six of them participated in one or more bilateral cartels relating to interest rate derivatives denominated in Japanese yen. Such collusion between competitors is prohibited by Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and Article 53 of the EEA Agreement. Both decisions were adopted under the Commission’s cartel settlement procedure; the companies’ fines were reduced by 10% for agreeing to settle.

Joaquín Almunia, Commission Vice-President in charge of competition policy, said: “What is shocking about the LIBOR and EURIBOR scandals is not only the manipulation of benchmarks, which is being tackled by financial regulators worldwide, but also the collusion between banks who are supposed to be competing with each other. Today’s decision sends a clear message that the Commission is determined to fight and sanction these cartels in the financial sector. Healthy competition and transparency are crucial for financial markets to work properly, at the service of the real economy rather than the interests of a few.”

Interest rate derivatives (e.g. forward rate agreements, swaps, futures, options) are financial products which are used by banks or companies for managing the risk of interest rate fluctuations. These products are traded worldwide and play a key role in the global economy. They derive their value from the level of a benchmark interest rate, such as the London interbank offered rate (LIBOR) – which is used for various currencies including the Japanese yen (JPY) – or the Euro Interbank Offered Rate (EURIBOR), for the euro. These benchmarks reflect an average of the quotes submitted daily by a number of banks who are members of a panel (panel banks). They are meant to reflect the cost of interbank lending in a given currency and serve as a basis for various financial derivatives. Investment banks compete with each other in the trading of these derivatives. The levels of these benchmark rates may affect either the cash flows that a bank receives from a counterparty, or the cash flow it needs to pay to the counterparty under interest rate derivatives contracts.

See also European Union Fines Banks Billions For Rigging Interest Rates : The Two-Way : NPR.

Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

Fast casual restaurants for a political capital

December 5th, 2013 Comments off

I wonder if Canberra will follow suit? From the Washington Post website – Lunch wars: How fast casual took over D.C., and why the boom is fading

Washington, D.C., isn’t usually the first for food trends sweeping the nation… But there’s one culinary phenomenon for which D.C. is second to none: The rise of fast-casual restaurants, that category in between McDonald’s and Applebee’s, with an haute cuisine twist.

Seemingly every week, a well-designed new lunch spot opens up, or the third or fourth or fifth branch of an existing one, with impressively fresh ingredients and fast turnaround — Chop’t, Sweetgreen, Zoup, Chix, Thaaja, Newton Noodles, Vapiano, Potbelly, Cosi, Shophouse. They’re usually some version of the proven Chipotle model, with an assembly line of base (wrap or salad?), protein (chicken, beef, or tofu?) and veggies (pick four).

That’s no accident. Professional Washington had been under-lunched for decades, with limp cafeterias and high-powered white tablecloths and not much in between. A sustained employment boom has created a resurgent downtown full of affluent office workers, and perfectly matched the emerging style of food service — while still having lower costs than otherwise appealing markets such as San Francisco and New York City.

What does the new breed look like? Fast casual restaurants tend to have most of their technology in the front of the house, with customer loyalty apps and online ordering rather than complicated food preparation systems. They’re very often “all natural” and organic, and build advertising around where their ingredients come from (“Food with integrity,” is how Chipotle puts it). And they specialize in one cuisine, but aren’t sticklers for authenticity…

What does the new breed look like? Fast casual restaurants tend to have most of their technology in the front of the house, with customer loyalty apps and online ordering rather than complicated food preparation systems. They’re very often “all natural” and organic, and build advertising around where their ingredients come from (“Food with integrity,” is how Chipotle puts it). And they specialize in one cuisine, but aren’t sticklers for authenticity.

Categories: Eating Tags:

The price is not right: charting home prices across the globe – News and views for Wednesday 4 December

December 4th, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.

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  • Presidents and the Economy: A Forensic Investigation -“Democrats would no doubt like to attribute the large D-R growth gap to better macroeconomic policies, but the data do not support such a claim. Fiscal policy reactions seem close to ‘even’ across the two parties, and monetary policy is, if anything, more pro-growth when a Republican is president—even though Federal Reserve chairmen appointed by Democrats outperform Federal Reserve chairmen appointed by Republicans. It seems we must look instead to several variables that are mostly ‘good luck’.”
  • Chimps Are People, Too? Lawsuit Will Test That Question
  • Feeding the Bubble: Is the Next Crash Brewing? – “Central banks around the world are pumping trillions into the economy. The goal is to stimulate growth, but their actions are also driving up prices in the real estate and equities markets. The question is no longer whether there will be a crash, but when.”
  • Slashing Fossil Fuel Consumption Comes With A Price
  • A penny spent is a penny earned (by someone else): Measuring GDP – “GDP can be estimated by measuring either expenditure or income. Since a penny spent is a penny earned, both methods should give the same answer, but there is substantial measurement error in both estimates. This column presents a new method of measuring US GDP that blends these two estimates. According to the new measure, GDP growth is about twice as persistent as the current headline measure implies. The new measure also makes the current recovery look stronger, especially in 2013.”
  • Why do academics blog? It’s not for public outreach, research shows – “Blogging is touted as bridge between academia and the world but study finds it functions more like global common room.”
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

The rising cost of Christmas – News and views for Tuesday 3 December

December 2nd, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.

2013-12-02_12daysofchristmas

  • Cost Of Items In ’12 Days Of Christmas’ Tops $114,000
  • Russell Brand, Ed Miliband and the search for a popular left – “Ukip’s success shows that populist sentiment does not obey a simple left-right spectrum. Yet Miliband’s bet that the public will give his arguments a listen is a sign that the left is finding a voice again. It has yet to prove it is popular but it is no longer absent.”
  • Parents Of Sleep-Deprived Teens Push For Later School Start Times
  • Turning to Public to Back Investigative Journalism – “Uncoverage, a website that will be announced on Monday, will test whether the public cares enough about investigative journalism to pay for it. The site, to be at Uncoverage.com, will allow journalists and nonprofits to seek crowdsourced funding for both articles and topics like, for example, the Syrian war. Money for general topics will be split up among projects by the site’s editors.”
  • The evolving role of the Oxford English Dictionary –  “James Murray (1837-1915), the indefatigable editor who oversaw much of the first edition, was originally commissioned to produce a four-volume work within a decade; after five years, he had got as far as the word ‘ant’… When work began on OED3 in the mid-1990s, it was meant to be complete by 2010. Today, they are roughly a third of the way through and Michael Proffitt, the new chief editor, estimates that the job won’t be finished for another 20 years.”
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

An end to celibacy?

December 2nd, 2013 Comments off

From The New York Times:

Sex and the Single Priest by Bill Keller

The requirement that priests be celibate is not a doctrine but a cultural and historical aberration. The first apostles had wives. Catholic clergy were free to marry for the first millennium, until a series of church councils in the 12th century changed the rules, motivated in part by financial disputes. (Priests were trying to pass on church property to their children; the crude remedy was to deny them children.) …

As archbishop of Buenos Aires, the future pope befriended a radical and famously noncelibate bishop, Jeronimo Podesta, ministered to him on his deathbed, and remained close for years thereafter to Podesta’s widow, who recalls that they often discussed the issue of celibacy.

Francis’s intentions have been a subject of intense speculation in church circles since September, when Archbishop Pietro Parolin, a Francis confidant and second in command at the Vatican, told an interviewer that celibacy “is not a church dogma and it can be discussed because it is a church tradition.” Parolin qualified his remarks (“We cannot simply say that it is part of the past”), but his declaration that the subject “can be discussed” guaranteed that it would be.

Categories: Religion Tags:

A story about match fixing that is actually worth reading

December 2nd, 2013 Comments off

Sport is made for betting: What shits me about match-fixing ‘journalism’..

The anti-wagering media bandwagon has dozens of new members this week, all weighing in an industry they have absolutely no idea about. I’m all for getting the betting industry into the mainstream but it shits me no end when they roll out reports and celebrities who simply don’t have a clue what they are talking about and don’t bother to check basic facts which key arguments in their story. If this was the financial industry, making errors like this would have them in all sorts of trouble, but the same level of regulation doesn’t apply because finance stock markets are supposedly all legitimate and serious, whereas sports betting is just a bit of fun for people who can never win in the long-term… according to the media. 

This week we have seen the sting by the Telegraph which, on the face of it, looks to be a tremendous piece of investigative work into fixing in English football. But the headlines around it are over-sensationalised yet again. Delroy Facey, a former player turned agent could never be described as a Premier League star, or for any of his clubs for that matter – he played 10 games for Bolton, scoring a single goal. He played professional football for 14 different clubs! He might have managed a few games at the highest level but that’s equivalent to calling me a star of Sky Sports News – I’ve been on twice for short interviews. 

… Will it ever end? Match-fixing will never be eradicated so why would the errors in reporting it ever be cleared up? The media only keep cutting costs meaning the only main thing they check for is whether they stand to be sued or not, and the general public show complete disdain for the truth by buying Murdoch-owned tabloids around the world… 

 

Categories: Betting Tags:

The five most memorable US political ads of 2013 – News and views for Monday 2 December

December 2nd, 2013 Comments off

Some news and views noted along the way.

2013-12-02_father'sson

  • 5 Most Memorable Political Ads Of 2013 – “It may have been an election off-year, but that didn’t stifle the creativity of political ad-makers in 2013… Politicians often use family members in campaign spots, but this one was particularly noteworthy: Sciortino’s father is a member of the Tea Party. The two engaged in a playful back-and-forth about their political differences.”
  • Work in the Age of Anxiety – The 40-Year Slump – “All the factors that had slowly been eroding Americans’ economic lives over the preceding three decades—globalization, deunionization, financialization, Wal-Martization, robotization, the whole megillah of nefarious –izations—have now descended en masse on the American people… The middle has fallen out of the American economy—precipitously since 2008, but it’s been falling out slowly and cumulatively for the past 40 years. Far from a statistical oddity, 1974 marked an epochal turn. The age of economic security ended. The age of anxiety began.”
  • Sistema – “There are any number of paths and initiations into sistema, the liquid mass of networks, corruptions and evasions – elusive yet instantly recognisable to members – which has ordered the politics and social psychology of Russian civilisation since tsarist times.”
  • Turning Good Economic Luck into Bad – “It is often difficult to understand how countries that are dealt a pretty good economic hand can end up making a major mess of things. It is as if they were trying to commit suicide by jumping from the basement. Two of the most extreme cases (but not the only ones) are Argentina and Venezuela, countries that have benefited from high prices for their exports but have managed to miss the highway to prosperity by turning onto a dead-end street. They will eventually have to make a U-turn and backtrack over the terrain of fictitious progress.”

Here we go again – the craziness of economic austerity

December 2nd, 2013 Comments off

Simon Wren-Lewis, an economics professor at Oxford University, and a fellow of Merton College writes on his blog mainly macro: Here we go again.

1) Government embarks on austerity, to try and maintain the confidence of the bond markets. We must preserve the AAA rating for our government’s debt, says the finance minister.

2) Austerity reduces demand, helping create flat or negative growth. As a result, deficit targets keep being missed. Additional austerity is imposed, and growth declines again.

3) Country loses its AAA rating, and the credit rating agency gives concerns about poor growth as an important factor for the downgrade.

4) This confirms our fears, says the finance minister. We must redouble our efforts to reduce our debt.

 

This will sound familiar to UK ears, but it is also what has just happened in the Netherlands.
Categories: Economic matters Tags:

Wendi’s crush on Tony – tomorrow’s Murdoch tabloid front page splash?

December 1st, 2013 Comments off

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Categories: Media Tags:

China and India spar over disputed territory – News and views for Sunday 1 December

December 1st, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.

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  • China, India spar over disputed border – ” China on Saturday urged India not to aggravate problems on the border shared by the two nations, a day after the Indian president toured a disputed region and called it an integral part of the country.”

2013-12-01_indiamapMaps from Wikimedia Commons

 

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Look at the policy document: no promise on education being broken

December 1st, 2013 Comments off

With all the angry words being reported about an alleged breach by the Coalition government of a political promise, off I went this afternoon to see exactly what the pre-election promises on education actually were. Having done so I can’t understand what all the fuss is about.

Here’s the relevant section. Read it and make up your own mind.

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1. Stable and Sustainable Funding

The Coalition’s Policy for Schools: Students First will deliver a stable, simple and sustainable approach to funding that gives schools, teachers and parents certainty for the future.

Fundamentally, we will work cooperatively with the State and Territory governments to ensure school funding arrangements provide stability and certainty.

a. Stable school funding

The Coalition will provide Australian schools, teachers, students and their parents with the funding certainty they deserve.

Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard made a mess of their attempts to deliver the ‘Gonski’ reforms. So far, they have agreed to five different funding models with five different jurisdictions.

Seven different deals have been entered into with the five governments of South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory and the two major non-government school bodies. No agreement has been reached with the governments of Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

The Coalition will:

  • ensure Commonwealth schools funding committed by Labor for school year 2014 will flow to all States and Territories irrespective of whether they have signed a deal with the Rudd-Gillard Government;
  • amend the Australian Education Act to ensure the States, Territories and non-government sectors keep authority for their schools; and
  • match the Commonwealth funding for schools committed by Labor over the forward estimates.

Our approach will provide schools and parents with the funding certainty they deserve. It means that the Coalition will match Labor dollar-for-dollar over the next four years.

There will be no cut to school funding under a Coalition government.

We will work cooperatively and constructively with all States and Territories to negotiate a fair and sustainable national funding model.

b. End the Control from Canberra

The Coalition will stop the Canberra schools takeover and stop Kevin Rudd’s blame game with the States and Territories about school funding.

We will dismantle all ‘command and control’ features imposed by Labor on the States, Territories and non-government schools and any new funding will not be conditional upon a deal which reduces their authority over schools or creates unnecessary red tape.

If elected, the Australian Education Act will be amended to remove any parts that allow the Federal Government to dictate what states and territories must do in their schools. This will ensure that the States and Territories remain responsible for schools and that non-government schools maintain their independence and autonomy.

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

Trial balloon season in US presidential politics

December 1st, 2013 Comments off

Long-Shot Candidates Look To Keep Hope Alive For 2016 : It’s All Politics : NPR.

It’s trial balloon season in presidential politics.

Not for the headline-devouring, top-tier prospects like Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie, but rather for the long shots and lesser-knowns who are floating their names for 2016. …

Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire, said many of these potential candidates are after one thing: free publicity.

“Politicians and public figures are taking advantage of the vacuum in presidential electoral politics right now,” Scala said. “When there’s a name floated, and if they’re at all prominent, it will get some coverage.”

Categories: Elections, US Election Tags: