Quote Of The Year

Quote Of The Year - Paul Shetler - "Its not Your Health Record it's a Government Record Of Your Health Information"

Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Macro View – Economics, and Politics and the Big Picture. News Relevant To E-Health And The Health Sector In General Among Other Things.

January 31, 2019 Edition.
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Trump is slowly losing his grip I believe and the Wall seems as far off as ever. Elsewhere his policies are unravelling and Ms Pelosi is making his life hell.
Brexit marches on. Due for some resolution by the time you read this.
In Australia rats are leaving the sinking Morrison ship in droves, while one rat is running to join. What an amazing mess!
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Major Issues.

Why are Australia's large cap fund managers failing to beat the index?

20 Jan 2019 — 11:00 PM
Jack Bogle, the father of index investing who passed away on Thursday, would not have been surprised to see that Vanguard's market cap weighted fund managed to beat about 85 per cent of the 100 large cap Australian fund managers in 2018.
The year was another humbling one for the active funds management community, which has struggled to convince investors from trillion dollar sovereign funds to individuals with small balances, that they can add value over and above the fees they charge.
Their argument in the years leading up to 2018 was that cheap and easy money made it harder to pick stocks and fuelled an exodus into passive funds. Their sentiment was that mindless investing would be punished when volatility returned to the market.
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Rate cut now a 50-50 call for RBA's December meeting

20 Jan 2019 — 11:00 PM
The Reserve Bank of Australia's ability to raise interest rates has become almost an impossible task in the eyes of the futures market, which now sees the prospect of an interest rate cut at the last meeting of 2019 as a 50-50 scenario.
A plunge in consumer confidence by the most in more than three years because of softening expectations about the economy and household finances, forecasts of a deeper downturn in residential property prices, and elevated concerns around household debt have detracted from the economy's reasonable growth and improving employment conditions.
Thursday's labour force survey is expected to show jobs growth of 18,000 in December, keeping the unemployment rate flat at 5.1 per cent, according to Bloomberg.
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Positions vacant: the nation needs economists (women preferred)

By Ross Gittins
21 January 2019 — 12:04am
Never in the field of economic conflict was so much analytical effort devoted to so few... as in Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe’s one-man crusade to save the economics profession.
This latter-day Lord Kitchener wants more young Australians studying economics at high school and university, then enlisting as economists in the holy war against economic inefficiency.
His message: Your country needs you. Opportunity cost is being flouted on every hand, yet we have just 3000 professional economists fighting the tide of economic illiteracy.
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Get ready for 'culture war' focused on national identity

By Sean Kelly
21 January 2019 — 12:05am
As the new political year hauled itself to its feet, our brave prime minister boldly declared, “I won’t be dragged off to the right or left or intimidated by the shouting”.
Within days, the Opposition Leader had hit back hard, by declaring he would do exactly the same thing. "Some days I'd like to put the Greens with Tony Abbott and a few of the right-wing in the Liberal Party in the same room, tell them to sort it out, and the rest of us can just get on and cook a snag on the barbie."
Got that? Both men are in the centre. They’re not interested in pesky culture wars. Scott Morrison went on to say that the people he spoke to worried about “everyday life” - incomes, childcare and private health insurance. Bill Shorten followed his own declaration – which was, I am sad to report, about Australia Day - by saying he was keen to “get on with the rest of the issues”, like wages, childcare and private health insurance.
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The crucial data to watch as Australia's housing downturn unfolds

By David Scutt
21 January 2019 — 11:55am
Australian home prices have now been falling for over a year, led by increasingly steep falls in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia’s largest and most expensive housing markets.
Many suspect the falls will continue for some time yet with the only real area of debate being just how large the peak-to-trough falls will be.
The downturn has already left its mark on residential construction, leading to large declines in building approvals and activity, especially for apartment building, along with a decline in employment across the sector.
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Australian Foundation Investment Co sells shares to beat Labor franking change

  • January 21, 2019
The nation’s largest and oldest listed investment company, Australian Foundation Investment Co, has dumped shares in BHP and Rio Tinto to capture the value of franking credits for its mostly elderly, retired shareholders before the dividend imputation system is ripped up by a future federal Labor government.
And the Melbourne-based Australian Foundation Investment Co investor will immediately distribute much of those funds to its own shareholders, declaring on Monday a special dividend of 8 cents per share to be paid in late February as it races to get the money into the hands of its shareholders so to beat any devaluation of the franking brought on by a change in government.
The company also revealed that its 130,000 investors was were asking why they were being punished for its investments in some of Australia’s largest companies. “This is going to hurt a lot of people who are saying ‘I’m not rich, I’m not wealthy and why am I being forced to go on a higher tax bracket through this?’,’’ Australian Foundation Investment Co chief executive Mark Freeman told The Australian.
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Business, insurers at odds with Coalition's 'problematic' climate policy

Updated 21 Jan 2019 — 12:09 PM, first published at 20 Jan 2019 — 11:00 PM
Last week global business leaders warned the World Economic Forum in a survey organised by insurance giants Zurich and March McLennan that climate change was the gravest risk facing the plant, eclipsing short term risks of political and economic instability.
"Of all risks, it is in relation to the environment that the world is most clearly sleepwalking into catastrophe," the survey of 1000 business people, policymakers and academics conducted by Zurich and March McLennan warned ahead of the forum's annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
If that reflects the views of Australian business leaders, the Morrison government - which downgraded climate targets as a priority in August - could become the second Coalition government in little more than a decade to be wrong-footed by the politics of climate change during a bout of extreme weather.
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7 warnings that tell you it's time to sell your assets

By Mark Draper
Updated 22 Jan 2019 — 9:28 AM, first published at 9:15 AM
The days of the buy and hold strategy​ are long gone. Regular changes to technology, regulation, consumer tastes and competitors can turn today's hero investments into tomorrow's dogs.
Successful investing involves not only buying assets for a reasonable price, but knowing when to sell.
The term "red flag" is referred to by professional investors as events that act as an early warning signal to sell.
Investing in energy was a one-way bet according to many in 2007-08 when the price was around $150 a barrel. Now it's about $60. 
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Fears of mass exodus: Liberals brace for more MPs to quit before election

By Michael Koziol
21 January 2019 — 11:45pm
Liberals fear former minister Craig Laundy will be the next Coalition federal MP to quit politics ahead of the election, as questions linger over a number of senior figures in the wake of a likely election loss.
Jobs Minister Kelly O'Dwyer's shock resignation at the weekend has strengthened expectations of further departures, particularly by marginal seat holders and allies of dumped prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Sources also regarded Immigration Minister David Coleman and former foreign minister Julie Bishop as prime candidates to leave early, while long-serving MP Kevin Andrews hosed down talk he should resign.
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Was Vanguard's Jack Bogle too successful?

By Stephen Bartholomeusz
22 January 2019 — 12:15am
When Vanguard founder Jack Bogle died last week it prompted an avalanche of tributes to a pioneer of index investing and a key figure in the development and re-shaping of modern equity markets.
While the praise was deserved, there’s an interesting question whether the sheer success of the revolution in investing he sparked represents a threat to the efficient workings of those markets.
Bogle didn’t invent the indexed fund but took an idea that had been confined to a relatively small number of institutional investors and made it accessible to ordinary investors.
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How to tell if your super fund is a dud

By Joanna Mather
22 Jan 2019 — 11:00 PM
By now it should be clear that being in a shabby superannuation fund is harmful to your wealth. But how to spot a dud? Start by digging out your most recent statement and look for an average yearly return figure for the past decade, says SuperRatings chief executive Kirby Rappell.
"That number should be about 6.2 per cent, which was the median for a balanced-style fund over the 10 years to June 30, 2018," he says. "It's the primary measure you're looking for because it is the return after fees."
Australians pay $30 billion in fees on their super every year. According to the Productivity Commission, a typical worker on a starting salary of $50,000 who enters a high-fee fund will retire with $100,000 less.
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Australian dollar seen at US60¢: Capital Economics

Updated 24 Jan 2019 — 6:56 AM, first published at 3:50 AM
The Australian dollar is set to drop more than 15 per cent in value this year against the greenback, in an "even more bearish" updated forecast from Capital Economics.
Capital Economics sees the local currency falling to US60¢ this year and hovering there through 2020; it previously forecast it at US65¢ for 2019 and US70¢ for 2020.
"While we have been negative on the prospects for the exchange rate for some time, we previously thought that relative interest rate expectations would prevent it from falling too far," Simona Gambarini, the firm's London-based markets economist, said.
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Rise of right-wingers heralds NSW's 'licorice allsorts' crossbench

By Alexandra Smith
24 January 2019 — 12:00am
Labor leader Michael Daley has been counting down the days to the state election since the day he took on the job. As of today, he would tell you, there are 59 to go.
With no time to spare, the Opposition Leader has been going at break-neck speed since he replaced Luke Foley 133 days out from the March 23 poll. And for the first time, senior Labor strategists say, there is serious hope.
All eyes are on the seats that could change the political landscape in NSW. With the Coalition holding just a six-seat majority, minority government is the most likely outcome. The Nationals will take a hiding in the bush and on the far north coast and in Sydney, Coogee and East Hills are the Liberals’ biggest worries.
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Academics pressured to pass struggling international students

By Henrietta Cook
23 January 2019 — 7:00pm
Academics say they feel pressured to pass struggling international students as concerns grow about universities enrolling students with little English.
One scholar said this “moral and ethical quandary” was behind his decision to leave Australia and find work overseas.
 “Once international student enrolment in our course surpassed 50 per cent, there was significant pressure to pass work which we would not have only a few years prior,” he said.
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Alcoa smelter ordered to power down as AEMO takes action amid Victoria, SA heat

Updated 25 Jan 2019 — 9:33 AM, first published at 24 Jan 2019 — 11:38 AM
Alcoa Australia was ordered to to cut the power usage at its majority owned Portland Aluminium smelter on Thursday evening as extreme heat pushed power demand in Victoria and South Australia beyond the power grid's available capacity.
The order came from the Australian Energy Market Operator via the Victorian transmission company AusNet Services, which tapped Alcoa first as the largest electricity customer in Victoria
The market operator said no residential or commercial load was lost, but Alcoa - majority owner of the Portland Aluminium smelter - was ordered to reduce its usage from about 7.10pm east coast time to about 8.50pm via the power system's emergency management processes.
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Embarrassed when my parents tried to fit in, now I understand

By Sasha Petrova
24 January 2019 — 4:29pm
It's two years ago, and Mum has insisted we do “something like real Australians”. So, we’re on the beach. My brother and dad are erecting a gazebo; Mum and I unpack the mini barbecue.
In broken English that slips into Russian when she can’t retrieve a word quickly enough, she tells me how she came up with this ingenious plan. The folding chairs and hot dogs, the gazebo. She savours that word "gazebo". You can tell she feels more Australian every time she says it. Even though her harsh Z and abrupt O cruelly betray her.
Plenty of Australians will flock to the beach on Saturday. Credit:Janie Barrett
She’s proud, though. The energy with which she recalls the shopping trip reminds me of the rambling but defiant way she told the story of our escape from the Soviet Union to church congregations years ago. I remember shrinking back in my seat when compassionate Christians turned to look pitifully at my brother and me. At least the beach is deserted, so nobody is here to witness this spectacle.
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We are awarding the Order of Australia to the wrong people

By Nicholas Gruen
24 January 2019 — 11:25pm
It's almost Australia Day and hundreds of us are in line for an award.
Sadly, as unpublished research by my firm Lateral Economics reveals, many will get it for little more than doing their job. And the higher the job’s status, the higher the award.
Governors General, High Court justices and vice chancellors of major universities would hope for the highest Companion of the Order (AC). Professors, public service departmental heads, senior business people should hope for the next one down – an Officer of the Order (AO). School principals would generally slot in next for Members of the Order (AM).
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When will politicians learn from the mistakes of past elections?

Updated 25 Jan 2019 — 4:09 PM, first published at 24 Jan 2019 — 4:45 PM
Three days after calling the 2013 election, Kevin Rudd unveiled what was supposed to be one of the killer blows of the campaign that had begun a few weeks after he was returned to the prime ministership in late June.
On August 7, it was announced that former Queensland premier Peter Beattie would be parachuted in to contest the Brisbane seat of Forde for Labor.
It was a truly cunning plan, in the best Blackadder tradition, to capitalise on Beattie's high recognition factor in the Sunshine State.
Like all such cunning plans, it went spectacularly badly.
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Why Australia Day will never be the same

25 Jan 2019 — 11:00 PM
For Australian champion Campdraft rider Ben Hall it's "the freedom of being able to own a property and run cattle and horses, and rear a family, and doing what you love doing".
Global urban environmentalist Xuemei Bai connects with it through an annual spring-time explosion of "wattle flowers in full bloom with different hues of yellow," long white beaches and an "infinitely clear blue sky".
Australian Ballet Artistic Director David McAllister feels it most when his dancers are on the international stage, "representing all that is great about Australia through our performance".
All have been asked to define what it's like to be an Australian in 2019 – that is, 118 years after Federation, 231 years after the founding of a British penal colony on Australia's east coast, and about 60,000 years since the original settlers arrived. Currently, Australia Day, January 26, commemorates the date when Captain Arthur Phillip landed at Port Jackson to start a convict settlement.
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'Highly unfortunate': Energy chief says system caught by surprise

By Cole Latimer
25 January 2019 — 7:37pm
Victoria's heatwave-induced power crisis has touched off a new round of criticism of the nation's energy system and calls for immediate action from the federal government to secure electricity supply for industry and consumers.
The Australian Energy Market Operator's (AEMO) worst-case scenario of a one in three chance of blackouts in Victoria came true on Friday as power was cut to 200,000 customers around the state.
Victoria's Energy Minister Lily D'ambrosio says the situation changed rapidly over the course of Friday as Victorians swelter in unrelenting heatwave conditions.
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Government's proposed federal ICAC 'a sham', says former senior judges

By Kate McClymont
26 January 2019 — 12:01am
An independent group of retired judges has slammed the government’s proposed Commonwealth Integrity Commission, describing it as a “deliberate political diversion designed to shield the public sector, and in particular politicians and their staff, from proper scrutiny and accountability.”
The committee of former senior judges, Anthony Whealy, David Ipp, David Harper, Stephen Charles and Paul Stein submitted a paper as part of a consultation process which said: “The government model falls disastrously short of providing an effective body to counter and expose corruption at a Federal level.”
One of the members, former Victorian Court of Appeal judge Stephen Charles, slammed the proposal to the Herald as a “sham commission”.
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What we get for our annual $60 billion bill to the rest of the world

By Ross Gittins
25 January 2019 — 12:15am
You’d be surprised what’s propping up our living standards
It’s the last lazy long weekend before the year really gets started, making it a good time to ponder a question that’s trickier than it seems: where has our wealth come from?
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, real GDP grew by 0.9 per cent in the June quarter 2018, which was above median market expectations.
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Four-time Olympian Zali Steggall launches bid to topple Tony Abbott in Warringah

By Peter FitzSimons & Bevan Shields
26 January 2019 — 11:45pm
World champion athlete-turned-barrister Zali Steggall has called time on Tony Abbott's "destructive and divisive" 25-year career in federal politics, launching a major bid to seize the former prime minister's blue-ribbon Sydney seat of Warringah.
Announcing her decision to contest this year's election as an independent, the four-time Winter Olympian said Mr Abbott was an "aggressive" national figure who had lost touch with the affluent electorate and deserved to be thrown out of Parliament for his role in the demise of Malcolm Turnbull, and views on the environment.
“I am in this to win it," Ms Steggall told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. "I want to beat Tony Abbott, who has been a handbrake on Australian progress on many fronts but particularly effective action on climate change.
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What will a China slowdown mean for the Australian economy?

By Jessica Irvine
26 January 2019 — 12:00am
When the world’s political and financial elite gathered in the Swiss chalet town of Davos in January 2016, the biggest topic of conversation was widespread abhorrence at the idea that TV star and businessman Donald Trump might nominate as a candidate for the US presidency.
“Embarrassing” was the word used by Dominic Barton, global managing director of business consultancy McKinsey.
 “Dangerous” warned businesswoman, Arianna Huffington.
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Australian economy on slippery slope to a fall

The Economist
  • 12:00AM January 26, 2019
There are two ways to film the ­banana-skin joke, said Charlie Chaplin. The first begins with a wide shot of a man walking down Fifth Avenue. Cut to the banana skin on the pavement. Go to a close-up as foot meets peel. Then pan out to reveal the man landing on his backside. Ha ha ha. The second version is like the first ­except in this one the man spots the banana skin and carefully sidesteps it. Blind to other hazards, he smiles to the camera — and immediately falls down an open manhole.
The second version is funnier, perhaps because it carries a deeper truth: a mishap avoided can lead to a greater calamity down the road. This seems to be a pattern in financial affairs. Japan dodged the banana skin of America’s 1987 stockmarket crash, only to disappear down a manhole a few years later. Emerging Asia brushed aside the Mexican crisis but imploded later on. Britain sailed through the dotcom bust in the early noughties, but was damaged by the subprime crisis.
This is why some analysts bel­ieve that Australia’s economy is overdue a fall. It shrugged off the global financial crisis of 2007-09. Indeed, it has dodged recession for 27 years, making fools of forecasters. But it has paid a price.
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Royal Commissions And Similar.

ASIC insiders fear legal warfare with banks could backfire

Updated 21 Jan 2019 — 11:02 AM, first published at 20 Jan 2019 — 11:00 PM
The banking royal commission could usher in years of legal warfare with the banks and largely end the big financial settlements used to police the industry, officials inside the Australian Securities and Investments Commission believe.
While ASIC has publicly embraced more litigation against the banks, sources close to the corporate regulator say its leadership is concerned royal commissioner Kenneth Hayne will push it too far towards litigation.
"In this environment, what Hayne says is going to be embraced by both sides of politics," a source said. "ASIC is ready to fight, but there are a lot of things you can't control when you end up in court."
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Method in the Morrison government's super madness

20 Jan 2019 — 11:00 PM
Although most participants in the country's $2.7 trillion superannuation industry have been flabbergasted as they've watched the Morrison government throw its enthusiastic support behind ever more outlandish schemes, cynics believe they detect some method in the seeming madness.
After all, what better way is there to deflect attention away from the most pressing and intractable problem facing the super industry – its failure to offer a decent retirement income product for Australians – than to promote a stoush between the $149 billion heavyweight Future Fund and the powerful industry funds?
Meanwhile, Canberra can continue to fumble with said failure – a problem it has been grappling with, unsuccessfully, for years.
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Aged care royal commission: Summer Foundation aims to amplify younger voices

21 Jan 2019 — 12:17 PM
A push is underway within disability advocacy circles to ensure younger voices are heard during the aged care royal commission on account of the over 50 people under 65 who enter these facilities every week.
Summer Foundation chief of staff Carolyn Finis said that over 6000 younger people in these facilities have traditionally been a "very hard population to reach".
She said it became clear to her that these people - often forced into facilities from hospital beds when their homes are no longer accessible - needed help after they sent a callout for those wanting to tell their stories.
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Sorry, Silent Generation, but the aged care royal commission won't help you

Those who are still young, healthy and living at home will be most affected by the outcomes of the commission - be they good or bad
Professor Joseph Ibrahim
21st January 2019
A surprising group of people stand to benefit from the aged care royal commission, whose hearings start today.
These are residents of nursing homes in the far future — people in their 50s and 60s, and their children.
How is that possible? All current nursing home residents the royal commission was established to help will have died before there is any substantive change.
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21 January 2019

Aged care probe warns industry over whistle-blowers

Aged Care Government
Posted by Julie Lambert
The royal commission into aged care has offered an assurance that it will protect vulnerable witnesses while warning the industry not to deter whistle-blowers.
Dr Timothy McEvoy, senior counsel assisting the commission, said the investigation would give weight to people with direct experience of the aged care system.
Healthcare care peak bodies, consumer advocates, industry groups and regulators will appear at the first substantive hearings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality to be held from February 11.
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Life for bankers will never be the same post-Hayne

Updated 21 Jan 2019 — 9:14 PM, first published at 9:00 PM
As the country's top bankers bid farewell to the ski-slopes of Aspen and Whistler and return to their desks this week, some will be consoling themselves that at least the banking royal commission — which so brutally exposed rampant misbehaviour in the financial sector — is now behind them.
Of course, they still have to withstand Commissioner Kenneth Hayne's final report — due to be delivered by the end of next week. But that should be relatively easy compared to the daily torture of having the industry's misconduct paraded before an incredulous public, let alone living with the dread that they might themselves be hauled into the witness box.
Once the commotion around the final report has died down, the fervent wish of bankers around the country is for their lives to return the halcyon pre-Hayne days — where their over-riding preoccupation was how to make even more money, both for their employer and for themselves.
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Aged care feels squeeze from costs, wait lists

  • 12:00AM January 22, 2019
The $18 billion aged-care system is under significant stress and increasingly corporatised, with previously unpublished government data revealing spending on nursing homes per capita has fallen for the first time in half a decade and wait times have more than doubled in a single year.
Just weeks before major ­witness hearings in the aged-care quality and safety royal commission begin in Adelaide, analysis from the Productivity Com­mission has been released today showing total taxpayer funding for bricks and mortar nursing home care rose just $224 million in the last financial year.
In last year’s budget, the ­Coalition stopped separately ­reporting funding for residential aged care and home care — which allocates money to older Australians so they can get support to stay at home longer — for the first time, obscuring the split between the two major strands of the aged-care portfolio.
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Aged care super cop to ‘sharpen focus’ on chemical restraints

  • 12:54PM January 22, 2019
The new aged care super cop says it will “sharpen its focus” on the use of physical and chemical restraints on elderly nursing home residents after reports early last week showed antipsychotics prescribed as sedatives are at their highest levels on record.
The Australian revealed the use of heavy drugs typically reserved for schizophrenia are still given to about a quarter of older people in residential care with other psychotropics such as benzodiazepines and off-label antidepressants also used for their restraining effects.
In a statement released this afternoon, Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner Janet Anderson said: “The recent questions and concerns raised about the use of restraints in the aged care sector has further sharpened our focus on this important area of care.”
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Try before you buy a good age-care option

By Rachel Lane
27 January 2019 — 12:10am
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety is getting underway in Adelaide — at the home of the Oakden facility, now referred to in the aged-care industry as "ground zero" — and we are hearing shocking stories of substandard care and abuse.
If you are considering aged care for yourself or a loved one, these stories are undoubtedly adding a lot of stress to an already stressful decision.
The most common questions I am getting from all over the country are, “How can I be sure that the residential aged-care facility I’m looking at is right for me?” and “How can I be sure that my parents will be properly looked after?”
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National Budget Issues.

Media Release

Consumers spend on ‘little luxuries’

21 January 2019
Spending growth from November to December was led by non-essential purchases according to the latest Commonwealth Bank Business Sales Indicator which shows overall economy-wide spending rose by 0.4 per cent but consumers are spending less on big ticket items.
Spending on transportation rose by 3.1 per cent, hotels and motels were up by 0.7 per cent and personal service providers, such as barbers and health and beauty, lifted 0.6 per cent.
On the other side of the coin, five of the 19 industry sectors saw sales fall in December, led by automobiles and vehicles (down by 1.3 per cent), mail and telephone order providers (down by 1.0 per cent), and government services (down 0.7 per cent).
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December quarter's auction clearance rates dismal: Corelogic

Updated 21 Jan 2019 — 1:47 PM, first published at 1:43 PM
The national auction clearance rate across the last quarter of 2018 fell to 43.6 per cent, compared to 62.3 per cent the previous year, new reporting from Corelogic shows.
Individual capital cities saw a decline in clearance rates except in Tasmania, which remained unchanged at 50 per cent. The largest fall in clearance rates were in Canberra, Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne.
Auction clearance rates are expected to remain subdued as more sellers lean towards private sales in a downturn as auctions can be expensive or wasted where there is little buyer interest.
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IMF, Josh Frydenberg warn of global economic slowdown

22 Jan 2019 — 12:00 AM
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has warned the economy is confronting global "storm clouds" this election year, as he pressed the case for the Coalition's belief in the "invisible hand of capitalism" being a better economic management style than Labor's "dead hand of socialism".
Coinciding with the International Monetary Fund cutting global growth forecasts for the second time in three months, Mr Frydenberg will use a speech on Tuesday that signals a government pivot on the economic outlook.
The Treasurer will say that international trade tensions, high global debt and contractions in the German and Japanese economies, as well as China's slowest growth since 2009, has "changed the global outlook".
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Chris Bowen touts $200b tax hike 'buffer' against global 'headwinds'

Updated 23 Jan 2019 — 4:29 AM, first published at 22 Jan 2019 — 11:45 PM
Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said he was concerned about risks to Australia from the slowing world economy, so Labor must implement all its $200 billion-plus in pledged tax rises to arm the federal government with a bigger fiscal "buffer" to counteract any global downturn.
In an hour-long interview with The Australian Financial Review at his family home in western Sydney on Tuesday, he also flagged that he would give the prudential regulator stronger powers to close underperforming superannuation funds and implement all recommendations by the Hayne royal commission into financial services.
Mr Bowen, who would be treasurer in a Shorten government if Labor wins the federal election expected in May, said curtailing tax breaks for investors in property and shares would be partly offset by his stimulatory tax cuts for low-to-middle-income earners who would spend more than wealthy consumers.
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More jobs for older workers than ever before

By Ross Gittins
23 January 2019 — 12:00am
 “Too old, too senior, too experienced, too expensive – heard ’em all. Ours is a society which does not value age and lived experience. Over 50? It’s the scrap heap for you.”
I can’t remember where I saw that quote, but I bet you’ve heard those sentiments many times. The media is always bringing us stories about people who, having lost their job in late middle age, find it very hard – even impossible - to get another one.
It’s understandable that people experiencing such treatment get pretty bitter about it. And it’s not surprising the media and the politicians take their complaints so seriously. The federal government has appointed successive age discrimination commissioners, and instigated various schemes offering subsidies to employers willing to hire older workers.
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Behind the market's change of heart on interest rates

By Clancy Yeates
23 January 2019 — 12:00am
While many of us were relaxing over summer, financial markets had a change of heart that could ultimately affect anyone with a mortgage or savings account.
I'm talking about the arcane corner of global finance where investors place bets on the likely direction of official interest rates. While markets are notoriously skittish, the moves in this area over the past month or so are notable.
After spending much of 2018 predicting that 2019 would be the year when official interest rates would edge up from a record low of 1.5 per cent, many investors are now doubtful the Reserve Bank will lift rates this year.
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Big business is tracking your spending habits as the mercury climbs

By Sumeyya Ilanbey
24 January 2019 — 12:04pm
As the temperature climbs, our spending habits drastically change. And big business knows it.
Businesses are increasingly tracking consumers' weather-dependent shopping habits to find their "sweet spots". 
"After 25 degrees it starts to kick up [but] once it goes above 35 it gets too hot then they go to shopping centres and cinemas," said Peter West, Australia managing director at soft drink giant Coca Cola Amatil.
"The sweet spot for us is certainly below 35 degrees."
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Budget risks in Morrison government's pensioner pork barrelling plan

Updated 25 Jan 2019 — 7:12 AM, first published at 24 Jan 2019 — 12:59 PM
The Morrison government has been accused of laying the ground for desperate vote buying and fiscal irresponsibility over secret preparations to potentially roll out one-off cash payments to pensioners and lower-income families before the election.
Economists and former government budget officials said the government risked repeating former prime minister John Howard's unsuccessful pork barrelling before the 2007 election, after The Australian Financial Review revealed the government had asked senior advisers to develop options for two one-off payments to groups who do not directly benefit from the $144 billion in legislated income tax cuts.
The unsanctioned leak to the Financial Review had the government on Thursday trying to figure out where the information originated.
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Health Issues.

China's gene-edited babies are real, and one more is on the way

By Kirsty Needham
22 January 2019 — 7:15am
Beijing: A second Chinese woman is pregnant with a "gene-edited" baby and is being medically supervised by local authorities, a Chinese government investigation has revealed.
Chinese researcher He Jiankui shocked the science world when he revealed the existence of baby twins, born to fathers carrying HIV, who had been altered genetically to make them HIV resistant.
Authorities in Guangdong province moved swiftly to investigate the claims amid a worldwide backlash. On Monday investigators announced their preliminary findings, confirming that out of eight couples who took part in He's research, two had become pregnant.
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This cancer is on the rise in young people, but screening starts at 50

By Kate Aubusson
22 January 2019 — 12:05am
In hindsight, Ben Bravery's symptoms were textbook.
The stomach cramps, the diarrhoea, constipation, night sweating, weight fluctuation and blood in the toilet bowl.
But he was only 28 and building a start-up in Beijing. How could someone so young have bowel cancer?
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Mental illness hits taxpayers for $7.3bn in welfare handouts

  • 12:00AM January 22, 2019
Welfare payments for people with mental health conditions and their carers cost taxpayers $7.3 billion each year, new analysis from the Productivity Commission shows.
The finding will form a central part of its inquiry into the economic impacts of psychological illnesses.
The total spend on mental health across state and federal governments and multiple services in 2016-17 was slightly more than $16bn. In addition, Australians with mental health conditions forked out almost $600 million from their own wallets to pay for services such as psychologists and prescription drugs that are only partly subsidised by taxpayers.
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An all-but-forgotten use of biological killers may help beat superbugs

22 Jan 2019
Bacteriophage viruses seek out and kill specific bacteria – even drug-resistant strains.
Sewage water samples from around Australia arrive at Monash University every three months.

Researchers blend the samples together to create a nasty cocktail. They then spike the mix with something that keeps doctors up at night – strains of bacteria most at risk of becoming multi-drug resistant.

They incubate the blend and leave it overnight, waiting for the next day to see what’s happened.
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Mediscare 2.0 claims ‘load of rubbish’, says Morrison

  • 12:00AM January 23, 2019
Scott Morrison has launched a pre-emptive strike against a union-led Mediscare 2.0 campaign, saying claims Medicare and Centrelink services had been privatised were “rubbish”.
Attempting to get on the front foot after Labor’s effective Medi­scare campaign in 2016, which then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull blamed for a worse-than-expected election result, the Prime Minister attacked unions for “promoting” Bill Shorten and using members’ money to push the ALP’s agenda.
After being read a new campaign on radio 4CA Cairns from the Community and Public Sector Union, which wanted voters to be aware Medicare and Centrelink services and jobs were “under threat from privatisation and ­labour hire”, Mr Morrison said: “What a load of rubbish. These are unions using union members’ fees to promote Bill Shorten … These union officials are using your union dues to go around pushing the Labor Party agenda.”
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History: Why most Nazis were high on crystal meth

With side effects including aggression, paranoia and delusions of power, suddenly WWII makes a lot more sense
23rd January 2019
Methamphetamine comes in many forms: ice, speed, even the fictional ‘Blue Sky’ — thank you, Breaking Bad — but have you ever heard of Pervitin?
That was the brand name for the unassuming pill dished out in the millions to the Third Reich's soldiers during World War II.
Labelled an “alertness aid”, pill-popping troops likened the class A drug to drinking litres of coffee. Even chocolate was laced with the patented methamphetamine.
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'Snake oil': the popular IVF therapy that has just been proven useless

By Kate Aubusson
24 January 2019 — 9:00am
A common IVF treatment marketed as a fertility booster and costing hundreds of dollars is useless and clinics should stop offering it, experts say.
The procedure known as 'endometrial scratching' does not offer women a better chance of taking home a baby after IVF, found the largest and most comprehensive trial of the treatment.
Professor William Ledger of IVF Australia steps through the fascinating process of in vitro fertilisation.
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Autism support scaled back as NDIS tries to rein in blowout

  • 12:00AM January 24, 2019
The average NDIS support package for children with developmental delays is now less than half what was budgeted and autistic children are also receiving less than expected, after a cost-cutting drive targeting three conditions.
Autism and developmental ­delays have consistently been ­listed by the agency in charge of the $22 billion scheme as being among the biggest “cost pressures” over the past few years.
The Weekend Australian revealed plans to target the conditions, mostly afflicting children, last May, after the National Disability Insurance Agency accidentally uploaded a new operational guideline to its website that would, if put into practice, remove one level of autism from automatic entry to the scheme.
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ALP will oblige private insurers to undergo a health check

  • 12:00AM January 24, 2019
Medicare would be sacrosanct under a Labor government, but the private health insurance industry can have no such assurance given Labor’s deeply held suspicion about its place in the health system.
For the moment, Labor simply is saying it would cap the annual premium increase to 2 per cent for two years while holding a Productivity Commission inquiry into the sector. But a discussion paper released by its health spokeswoman, Catherine King, late last year shows it expects the commission will review the full range of regulatory supports for the industry, including the $7 billion taxpayer subsidy through the private health insurance rebate.
The challenge for the industry will be to quantify its contribution to the efficiency and quality of the health system. Influential voices in the formulation of Labor’s health policy say government subsidies would be better directed to the private hospital sector than to financial intermediaries. If indeed Labor does win government, it may be surprised to discover that extensive preliminary work on such a proposal already has been prepared for the Coalition by the Department of Health.
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Bringing Medibank back to health

Medibank CEO Craig Drummond at the Sydney offices. Picture: John Feder.
  • 12:00AM January 26, 2019
When Craig Drummond stepped in to run Medibank in 2016, Australia’s biggest health insurer was losing customer share and drowning in complaints, so the former banker focused on a measure he knew would get results — executive remuneration.
He also made key changes in the executive ranks, introduced new milestones and set the groundwork for a cultural shift.
“What I felt when I walked in to the organisation is that it was a very purpose-driven company, a very diverse and respectful workplace, but it was very internally focused,” Drummond tells The Weekend Australian.
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International Issues.

Pelosi is winning battle with Trump because she's better at her job

By Doyle McManus
21 January 2019 — 7:12am
Washington: Nancy Pelosi is winning her showdown with President Donald Trump for one simple reason: She knows how to do her job better than he knows how to do his.
The House speaker is fond of three precepts; spend time with her and you'll hear them all. One is from Abraham Lincoln: "Public sentiment is everything. With it, nothing can fail; against it, nothing can succeed."
US President Donald Trump blasted Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday after she called his offer to end a partial government shutdown "a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives."
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Oxford scholars warned of security risks from China link-ups

By Camilla Turner and Greg Ritchie
21 January 2019 — 9:52am
London: The University of Oxford chancellor has warned of national security risks when academics collaborate with China.
Lord Patten, who was the last British governor of Hong Kong, said there should be a point of contact in the Government for university chiefs to turn to if they are concerned about a particular project.
Joint academic research projects in the field of humanities as well as the sciences could be pose security risks, he added.
"If the Government has anxieties about a company, then it should be possible for a university - if it is being offered research collaboration with that company - to ask somewhere in Government what's happening," Lord Patten told the foreign affairs select committee.
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'This is worse than Mugabe': Zimbabwe descends into chaos – again

21 January 2019 — 2:43am
Harare: Before the family of Kelvin Tinashe Choto knew he had been killed, social media in Zimbabwe was circulating a photo of his battered body lying on the reception counter of a local police station. Angry protesters had left him there.
The 22-year-old was shot in the head, one of at least a dozen people killed in the past week in a violent crackdown by security forces on protests against a dramatic increase in fuel prices.
Dozens of Zimbabweans have been shot. Others say they have been hunted down in their homes at night, with soldiers and masked men in plainclothes dragging them away, severely beating them and leaving them for dead.
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UK's May 'looking at amending' Ireland peace deal

21 January 2019 — 11:49am
London:  British Prime Minister Theresa May is considering solving a Brexit deadlock by amending a 1998 agreement that ended 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland after ditching attempts to negotiate a cross-party deal.
May's plan to amend the 1998 Good Friday Agreement would see the UK and Ireland agree a separate set of principles or add text to "support or reference" the 1998 peace deal, setting out how both sides would guarantee an open border after Brexit, UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper reported.
May suffered a heavy defeat in parliament last week when MPs rejected her deal for Britain's exit from the European Union by an overwhelming majority. Many object to a backstop arrangement that the European Union insists on as a guarantee to avoid a hard border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.
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Israel launches airstrikes on Iranian forces in Syria

By Ellen Francis
Updated21 January 2019 — 11:25amfirst published at 11:00am
Beirut: Israel says it is has launched airstrikes against Iranian Revolutionary Guards special forces, Quds, inside Syria.
Israel has also issued a statement warning Syrian armed forces not to try to harm Israeli territory or forces.
Meanwhile, Syria's state news agency SANA, says its military air defences thwarted "hostile targets" on Sunday night and shot down several of them.
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‘This story is accurate’: Buzzfeed defends story alleging Trump directed ex-lawyer to lie to Congress

The journalists who published explosive allegations about Donald Trump have stood by their reporting — but there are some things they refused to answer.
news.com.au January 21, 201911:33am
Buzzfeed has defended its explosive report alleging Donald Trump directed his then-personal lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a Moscow real estate deal.
Reporter Anthony Cormier and editor-in-chief Ben Smith defended the story, insisting their sources are “solid” and their story is accurate despite prompting a rare response from Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
On Thursday, Buzzfeed published the story, written by Cormier and colleague Jason Leopold, alleging that Mr Trump told Mr Cohen to lie to Congress about a Trump Tower project in Moscow. The President has repeatedly denied having any business dealings with the Russians.
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Five reasons why Donald Trump may be a one-term President

By Jennifer Rubin
Updated 21 Jan 2019 — 12:15 PM, first published at 9:12 AM
Washington | President Donald Trump's critics have repeatedly complained that when it comes to his rhetoric, attacks on Democratic norms and incompetence, "Nothing matters." We've learned in the last couple of months just how wrong that is: His approval has cratered; Democrats won the House with a 40-seat trouncing; Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to run rings around him; and Republicans now part with him on Russia policy matters - and a smaller number on reopening the government.
Court filings show that Paul Manafort continued to communicate with Trump's lawyers during the time he was supposed to cooperate with the special counsel. He allegedly gave private polling information to and discussed a Ukraine peace deal with Konstantin Kilimnik (i.e., colluded) during the campaign.
Rudy Giuliani seemed to acknowledge that Trump campaign staff may have colluded with Russians even if Trump did not - but then, collusion isn't a crime (or something).
US President Donald Trump blasted Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday after she called his offer to end a partial government shutdown "a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives."
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China's economy continues to slow

Jan 21, 2019
  • China’s economy grew by 6.4% in the year to December, the weakest pace since early 2009.
  • In 2018, GDP expanded by 6.6%, largely in line with the “around” 6.5% rate previously nominated by the government.
  • The major surprise from today’s data came from industrial output that accelerated noticeably, and unexpectedly, in the year to December.
  • Economists believe policymakers will continue to roll out targeted stimulus to help support the economy this year.


Chinese economic growth continued to slow in the final three months of 2018, expanding at the slowest year-on-year pace since the height of the GFC.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), GDP grew by 6.4% compared to a year earlier, the weakest increase since Q1 2009.
The result was in line with market expectations, and down from 6.5% in the year to September.
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China's economy slows to weakest rate since 2009

Updated 21 Jan 2019 — 1:36 PM, first published at 1:34 PM
Shanghai | China's economy slowed to its lowest rate of growth since the global financial crisis in the fourth quarter with official gross domestic product (GDP) up 6.4 per cent compared to a year earlier, in line with economists' expectations.
Full-year GDP data released on Monday showed China's economy grew by 6.6 per cent for the year, a slowdown from the previous year's growth but in line with forecasts. While China's previously reported GDP growth for 2017 was 6.9 per cent, the government revised this down to 6.8 per cent last week.
The annual growth rate for the fourth quarter GDP was 6.4 per cent, its slowest rate of growth since 2009. This compared to growth of 6.5 per cent in the third quarter
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China needs a grown-up foreign policy for a changed era

21 Jan 2019 — 11:00 PM
At the key 19th Party Congress in October 2017, Xi Jinping set out his signature policy – Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era – which, unusually early on in his term, was inscribed into the Party's Constitution as Xi Jinping "Thought". Socialism with Chinese Characters was Deng's contribution to the Party's corpus. Xi added "for the New Era".
While hardly something to be whistling under the shower, or humming driving to work, it was a singular theoretical and policy development. Essentially, Xi declared that China had succeeded with its 30-year quest to become a moderately prosperous economy. The Party had delivered unprecedented material well-being. In doing so, it had ensured its political legitimacy. It was now time to enter a new era. Quality of life and not just material growth was to be emphasised.
Substantially improving the environment, expanding services, especially health and aged care, moving up the value-added chain in manufacturing, and developing advanced technologies all became top policy priorities. Such is the nature of China's unique system of economic, political and social organisation, when the Party's leadership is united around a new policy direction implementation is swift and usually effective.
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Donald Trump made 8158 false or misleading claims in his first two years

By Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly
Updated 22 Jan 2019 — 4:40 AM, first published at 4:27 AM
Washington | Two years after taking the oath of office, President Donald Trump has made 8158 false or misleading claims, according to The Fact Checker's database that analyses, categorises and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president.
That includes an astonishing 6000-plus such claims in the president's second year.
Put another way: The president averaged nearly 5.9 false or misleading claims a day in his first year in office. But he hit nearly 16.5 a day in his second year, almost triple the pace.
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Xi Jinping warns Communist Party of 'serious dangers' as risks mount

By Peter Martin and Dandan Li
Updated 22 Jan 2019 — 8:47 AM, first published at 8:40 AM
President Xi Jinping stressed the need to maintain political stability in an unusual meeting of China's top leaders -- a fresh sign the ruling party is growing concerned about the social implications of the slowing economy.
Xi told a meeting of provincial leaders and ministers in Beijing on Monday that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) needed greater efforts "to prevent and resolve major risks," the official Xinhua News Agency said. He said areas of concern facing the leadership ranged from politics and ideology to the economy, environment and external situation.
"The party is facing long-term and complex tests in terms of maintaining long-term rule, reform and opening-up, a market-driven economy, and within the external environment," Xi said, according to Xinhua. "The party is facing sharp and serious dangers of a slackness in spirit, lack of ability, distance from the people, and being passive and corrupt. This is an overall judgment based on the actual situation."
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Two years on: Trump's 'dismal' report card

By Max Boot
21 January 2019 — 4:01pm
On January 20, 2017, President Donald Trump delivered a bleak inauguration address that warned of "American carnage". He has spent the past two years turning those words into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So much has happened that it's hard to keep it all straight. Every week, the Trump administration produces more news than previous administrations did in an entire year. It's not all bad: We haven't seen a new war or a recession. Conservatives can be happy about judges and tax cuts. But at what cost? A few stark themes have emerged from the past 730 days – the days of whine and poses. Trump's presidency so far can be summed up with four bleak words: racism; authoritarianism; incompetence; megalomania.
Racism: Trump said there were "very fine people on both sides" in Charlottesville, Virginia, equating neo-Nazis with their opponents. He insulted the intelligence of African-Americans such as LeBron James and Maxine Waters, Democratic congresswoman. He referred to Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren as "Pocahontas," because she claims Native American heritage. He said he wants immigrants from snow-white Norway, not from "shithole countries" in Africa.
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Ken Rogoff warns China slowdown could be its 'Minsky moment'

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
Updated 22 Jan 2019 — 11:06 AM, first published at 11:05 AM
Davos, Switzerland | China is in the grip of a dangerous downturn and may be forced to rescue large parts of its financial and economic system, the world's leading expert on debt crises has warned.
Harvard professor Ken Rogoff said the key policy instruments of the Communist Party are losing traction and the country has exhausted its credit-driven growth model. This is rapidly becoming the greatest single threat to the global financial system.
"People have this stupefying belief that China is different from everywhere else and can grow to the moon," said Prof Rogoff, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund.
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo throws down Davos gauntlet with call to populists

23 Jan 2019 — 9:34 AM
Davos, Switzerland | The Trump administration has issued a clarion call to populists, political "disruptors" and economic nationalists around the world, as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used his intervention at the World Economic Forum in Davos to try to unsettle the global liberal establishment.
But in a surprise development, recently elected populist Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, dubbed "the Trump of the tropics", struck a more emollient tone in his keynote speech, advocating open trade and greater investment into a newly business-friendly Brazilian market.
Mr Pompeo, speaking by videolink after the US administration's entire delegation withdrew from Davos because of the government shutdown, said the Brexit referendum and the elections of Emmanuel Macron in France, the Five-Star Movement in Italy and Mr Bolsonaro showed voters were "tuning out" to politicians who did not represent their interests.
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Ray Dalio aligned with view Federal Reserve needs rate rethink

By David Goodman
Updated 23 Jan 2019 — 3:43 AM, first published at 3:37 AM
Davos | The Federal Reserve and other major central banks are right to rethink their plans to tighten monetary policy in 2019 as global growth slows, according to the investors and former policy makers attending the Davos summit.
As the World Economic Forum's annual meeting got underway, billionaire investor Ray Dalio chastised monetary policy makers for an "inappropriate desire" to tighten monetary policy faster than the capital markets could handle, but expressed hope that they were now looking to shift more slowly.
"The US, Europe, China - all of those will be experiencing a greater level of slowing, probably a great level of disappointment," Dalio, the founder of hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, said on a panel. "There's a reasonable chance that by the end of that, that monetary policy and fiscal policy may have to become easier relative to what is discounted in the market."
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Guardians of democracy must beware the rise of populist authoritarians

Updated 23 Jan 2019 — 11:29 AM, first published at 10:53 AM
Authoritarianism is on the march. It is not only on the march in relatively poor countries. It is on the march in well-off countries, too – including, most significantly, the US, the country that defended and promoted liberal democracy throughout the 20th century. Donald Trump is a classic example of a populist would-be authoritarian. US institutions may halt his rise to the unbridled power he seeks. But the threat he poses seems clear.
How are we to understand this resurgence of authoritarianism? What form does it now take? What responsibility do elites bear for its success? These are among the most important questions Westerners confront. How we answer them will shape the world. If we abandon the cause, for which so much blood has been spilled, how can we expect others to believe in it? We would be handing the world to Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin and others who see the world as they do.
Erica Frantz of Michigan State University sheds a bright light on the ways of contemporary authoritarians in a short book, entitled Authoritarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know. This illuminates two main points.
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Xi Jinping warns China to be 'highly alert' for 'black swans', 'grey rhinos'

22 Jan 2019 — 7:00 PM
Shanghai | President Xi Jinping says he is concerned about China's slowing economy, US trade tensions and potential political instability, urging the country's top Communist Party officials to be "highly alert" to unexpected risks.
In a significant speech to hundreds of provincial leaders, politicians and military chiefs, China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong said the country faced "profound and complicated "changes on the international and domestic stage and more effort should be made to stabilise growth and offset risks.
"We have to be highly alert to 'black swan' [unexpected] incidents and also guard against risk of 'grey rhino'," Mr Xi said, referring to Chinese expressions for an unpredictable market event and an obvious threat that goes ignored.
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EU tells Theresa May that no Brexit deal means a hard Irish border

By Alastair Macdonald
Updated 23 Jan 2019 — 6:14 AM, first published at 6:06 AM
Brussels | British-ruled Northern Ireland will automatically have a "hard border" with its southern neighbour if Britain leaves the European Union without a withdrawal agreement, the European Commission's chief spokesman said on Tuesday.
The remark to reporters by Margaritis Schinas reflected the EU's position that Ireland, like other member states, would have to enforce EU customs and other checks on imports from Britain after Brexit in the absence of a special deal.
Responding to Schinas's comments, UK Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said Britain would do everything it could to prevent a hard border.
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Marechal 'no longer a politician', but most likely to challenge Macron

By Nick Miller
23 January 2019 — 10:50am
It wasn’t the content of Marion Marechal’s speech that drew a flock of French journalists to the uncomfortable wooden benches of the Oxford Union on Tuesday night.
For the most part, Marechal relayed familiar anti-immigration, "identitarian" far-right talking points: the theory that nations can’t survive unless they’re made up of people who all look and act the same.
No, confided Le Parisien’s man on the ground. The media were here because this 29 year-old, charismatic, thoughtfully-spoken extremist could well be the woman most likely to challenge Emmanuel Macron in the 2022 presidential election.
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'Absolutely out of control': former Trump staffer's book depicts White House chaos

By Philip Rucker
23 January 2019 — 4:32am
Washington: President Donald Trump watched on television, increasingly angry as House Speaker Paul Ryan criticised his handling of the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. He held the remote control "like a pistol" and yelled for an assistant to get the Republican leader on the phone.
"Paul, do you know why Democrats have been kicking your a--- for decades? Because they know a little word called 'loyalty'," Trump told Ryan, then a Wisconsin congressman. "Why do you think Nancy [Pelosi] has held on this long? Have you seen her? She's a disaster. Every time she opens her mouth another Republican gets elected. But they stick with her... Why can't you be loyal to your President, Paul?"
The tormenting continued. Trump recalled Ryan distancing himself from Trump in October 2016, in the days after the Access Hollywood video in which he bragged of groping women first surfaced.
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Guaido claims presidency in Venezuela, as Maduro cuts off diplomatic relations with US

By Mayela Armas & Joshua Goodman
24 January 2019 — 8:04am
Caracas: Backed by hundreds of thousands of protesters and the support of the US, Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaido has declared himself interim president, calling for free elections to end the rule of socialist Nicolas Maduro. In a strong rebuke, Maduro cut off diplomatic relations with the United States.
In a statement minutes later, US President Donald Trump recognised Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate interim president, and a Canadian official said Canada was preparing also to add its support.
Backed by thousands of protesters and the support of the United States, Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president.
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'Mortal danger facing society': Billionaire philanthropist unloads on China

By Saijel Kishan, Katherine Burton & Melissa Karsh
Updated25 January 2019 — 11:12am first published at 10:47am
Billionaire George Soros warned of the "mortal danger" of China's use of artificial intelligence to repress its citizens under the leadership of Xi Jinping, who he called the most dangerous opponent of democracies.
 “I want to call attention to the mortal danger facing open societies from the instruments of control that machine learning and artificial intelligence can put in the hands of repressive regimes,” the 88-year-old said on Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
"China is not the only authoritarian regime in the world but it's undoubtedly the wealthiest, strongest and most developed in machine learning and artificial intelligence."
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Venezuela and US standoff worsens, as world watches

By Mariana Zuñiga
25 January 2019 — 8:05am
Caracas: The United States and Venezuela were locked in a tense international standoff, as the Trump administration kept its embassy staff in the country despite an official order to eject them.
President Nicolas Maduro announces Venezuela will close its embassy and all consulates in the United States.
Moscow and Beijing have propped up the socialist South American state for years, investing billions through loans and energy deals and setting up what is now a dramatic global power play over Venezuela's future.
On Wednesday, Washington recognised Juan Guaido, head of the US-backed opposition, as the rightful leader of Venezuela, describing President Nicolas Maduro - a former union leader and bus driver accused of turning Venezuela into a narco-state - as a usurper.
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Donald Trump agrees to reopen government for 3 weeks, caving on wall demand

Updated 26 Jan 2019 — 8:53 AM, first published at 6:34 AM
Washington | In a major capitulation, Donald Trump will reopen the government for three weeks, shelving for now his demands for money for a border wall that prompted him to trigger a six-week shutdown that caused widespread hardship and risked tanking the US economy.
In a move that almost immediately drew fire from right-wing commentators who say he has betrayed promises to his political base, the president said he would shortly sign a bill to reopen the government until February 15.
"I will make sure that all employees receive their backpay very quickly or as soon as possible," he said outside the White House on Friday [Saturday AEDT] ending on its 35th day the longest government shutdown in US history. "It'll happen fast."
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How political Islam is shifting Indonesia's relations with us

By James Massola
25 January 2019 — 3:37pm
Jakarta: On paper, the two men couldn't be much more different.
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, widely known as Ahok, is an ethnically-Chinese Christian former governor of Jakarta who was released from jail on Thursday after serving nearly two years for blasphemy.
The other man, Abu Bakar Bashir, is an 81-year-old firebrand cleric and spiritual leader of the Bali bombers who is much better known to Australians.
Bashir was set for a shock early release from jail on Wednesday, though that move was scotched at the last minute after Indonesian President Joko Widodo faced a significant backlash from moderate supporters.
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China’s fictitious, mercurial economy

  • 12:00AM January 26, 2019
In its quarterly economic outlook this week, the IMF observed that these days, as in 2015-16, concerns about the health of China’s economy can trigger abrupt, wide-reaching sell-offs in financial and commodity markets.
How true. In fact an energy market analyst was moved to comment: “What we’re seeing in the market, call it for the last month or so, is that every day is almost a referendum on what China growth is going to look like in 2019.” He was talking about oil, but he might just as easily have been talking about other markets.
It is generally agreed that the health of China’s economy is pretty important to the world these days, and none more than Australia, which makes the fact that it’s almost entirely fictitious either worrying or reassuring, and I’m really not sure which.
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China takes swipe at US over technology hegemony

  • By Paul Hannon and Greg Ip
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • 12:00AM January 25, 2019
China’s Vice-President Wang Qishan has delivered a thinly veiled rebuttal of US attacks on its technology companies and policies at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting.
“It is imperative to respect ­national sovereignty and refrain from seeking technological hegemony,” Mr Wang said in a speech in Davos, Switzerland ­yesterday. He condemned “conducting, shielding or protecting technology-enabled activities that undermine other countries’ national security.”
Mr Wang didn’t specify what activities he was referring to, but the remarks appeared to be a response to escalating US pressure against China and its technology companies, notably Huawei.
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Trump's not just incompetent but shockingly out of touch

By Nicole Hemmer
26 January 2019 — 2:08pm
There is a moment in every political crisis when the balance tips, and a certain outcome becomes, if not inevitable, much more probable. The US government shutdown reached that point on Thursday, and by Friday, it had come to an end, at least for now.
Why the abrupt turnaround? A series of comments from the President and his administration on Thursday dealt a deadly blow to Trump’s position, because they showed the administration isn’t just incompetent - it’s shockingly out of touch.
For the past month, federal workers went without pay, an unsustainable situation in a country where 80 per cent of people live pay cheque to pay cheque. Unsurprisingly, a White House stocked with billionaires did not have a clear grasp on the challenges of this situation.
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I look forward to comments on all this!
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David.

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