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, February 07, 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.

February 06, 2019 Edition.
It is all the go in the US under Trump. Nuclear treaties to withdraw from, polar vortices, trade negotiations and the ever looming Mueller special investigation. The chaos seems to persist and the Democrats are trying to work out just how high they can raise the taxes on almost everyone. The Wall is still not agreed so an emergency action looms.
Brexit remains in chaos and an extension of time seems likely.
In Australia the pre-election feeling is rising as the parties circle each other. An outbreak of independence and resignations is adding to the excitement! Labor is still ‘London to a brick’ on to win…  

Major Issues.

Zali can take Warringah as I took Wentworth

By Kerryn Phelps
28 January 2019 — 12:00am
The federal seats of Wentworth and Warringah are neighbours without a land border, separated by the spectacular stretch of water that provides the grand entrance to Sydney Harbour. Both have national parks as you enter the Heads, followed by prime waterfront real estate stretching as far as the eye can see.
On the outer edges of both electorates there are world-famous beaches including Bondi and Manly and the Aussie beach culture that comes with it. In many ways, the seats are remarkably similar. I should know. I was born at Manly Hospital, grew up on the northern beaches and was a GP in Mosman before setting up a practice in Double Bay 20 years ago.
In electoral terms both have traditionally voted Liberal at a federal level, but last year’s Wentworth by-election showed that the mood had changed because of dissatisfaction and, frankly, disgust with the incumbent Coalition government.

'No one has a clue ... except the person who pressed the wrong button': A history of some of the worst 'fat finger' trades

By Eric Lam
28 January 2019 — 10:15am
An 83 per cent plunge in storied Singapore-listed stock Jardine Matheson last Thursday has traders pointing to the most likely culprit: a fat finger.
Shares of the 186-year-old conglomerate plummeted in pre-market trading before bouncing right back to eventually trade higher as the session progressed. A spokesperson for the firm said it was aware an electronic trading error had occurred, while Singapore Exchange Ltd. said the bourse is looking into the stock slide.
The episode is just the latest reminder for investors that even as global financial systems become ever faster and more complex, things can still go rapidly awry thanks in part to simple human error.
Here's a look at a few recent examples that show nobody is perfect -- whether they're a human or a computer algorithm:

BuzzFeed, and the bursting digital media bubble

By John McDuling
28 January 2019 — 12:00am
Not that long ago, BuzzFeed was considered digital media's great success story. The $US1.7 billion ($2.4 billion) valued, viral content upstart had cracked the internet code and was destined for an IPO that would have captivated the media world.
Now, it is under fire from its critics, shedding jobs, and facing an uncertain future, including in Australia.
Whatever you think about its content (despite a push into hard news, it's still best known for its lists and quizzes) BuzzFeed is probably the defining media company of the Facebook era.

Give economists a PC and they start making more sense

By Ross Gittins
28 January 2019 — 12:00am
Economies turn down and back up, but one of the biggest, long-running economic stories of our time is the way the digital revolution is disrupting one industry after another. So let me tell you how it’s changing the academic study of economics.
You probably imagine the economic research carried out in universities is terribly theoretical and impractical. It used to be, but not anymore.
You can trace the progress of academic e-digonomics by looking at who’s been awarded the Nobel memorial prize in economic sciences from about 2001 onwards, and what they did to deserve it. Of course, there’s usually a long delay between when you make your seminal contribution and when you get your gong.

Battle for Warringah pits competing Liberal forces against each other

  • 8:08AM January 28, 2019
The contest for the seat of Warringah, held by former prime minister Tony Abbott, will tell us a lot about the extent to which the hard right of the Liberal Party really does represent “the base”. Or will its narrow cast agenda ignite the real Liberal base, in a backlash unseating the former PM? Led by traditional Liberal voters who are not out of step with mainstream values in the way parliamentary reactionaries clearly are.
For years now the reactionaries within the Liberal Party, egged on by out of touch conservative commentators lecturing micro audiences in small echo chambers, have argued that they are the custodians of the Liberal Party “base”.
Climate change scepticism, doubts about pricing carbon (even though doing so is a market liberal solution), conservative opposition to same sex marriage. The list goes on. These are the issues they honestly believe mainstream Liberals believe in.

Lancet warns of 3 biggest risks to humanity: obesity, hunger, climate change

  • January 28, 2019
Obesity, hunger and climate change are the biggest threats to the world population, a new report says, calling for a plan and trillions of dollars to thwart the dangers.
A $US1 billion ($1.4bn) fund and action strategy targeting food policy and production are needed urgently to support health, the environment and economic well-being, said the report by the Lancet Commission on Obesity.
The three problems are caused by methods of agricultural production, transport, urban design and land use that will take an enormous toll on the population and planet, the commission said.

Bridging the trust gap

Gemma Felicity Acton
  • 12:00AM January 28, 2019
In a year that began with Barnaby Joyce’s scandalous mixing of politics and pleasure, wrapped up with Andrew Broad’s sordid sojourn to Hong Kong and exposed — courtesy of the rolling banking royal commission — the mass hoodwinking of our citizens over decades, you’d be forgiven for expecting Australians to have emerged from 2018 a more sceptical people.
Yet that was not the case — indeed, far from it. In Edelman’s annual assessment of the trust level of citizens of 27 countries released this week, not only had Australia’s rating improved by 8 points to 48, we came in second (only to Hong Kong) in terms of the biggest leap up the ranking.
A score below 50 denotes distrust while one of 60 or above indicates trust, so at 48, the overall vibe here is still one of suspicion. Given that China has topped the list both this year and last with scores safely entrenched in the 70s, it’s also fair to question some of the research methodology. Nonetheless, there are some interesting observations to be made about how sentiment is tracking in Australia.

The press conference that could shake markets

By Stephen Bartholomeusz
Updated28 January 2019 — 1:58pmfirst published at 1:30pm
The sustainability of the New Year bounce back in stock markets may be determined by what Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome Powell, says or doesn’t say after this week’s meeting of the Fed’s open market committee. The potential for a continuation of the surge, or another sell-off, may hinge on his post-meeting press conference.
While the markets’ focus on these meetings generally tends to be on what the Fed says about interest rates, the two-day meeting that concludes on Wednesday is unlikely to produce any surprises on that front.
There’s no expectation that the Fed will announce another rise in short-term rates at this meeting or, indeed, until much later in the year.

Business conditions book biggest fall since GFC: NAB survey

  • January 29, 2019
The economic environment in Australia sharply deteriorated towards the end of last year, according to National Australia Bank’s latest business conditions survey, in the biggest monthly weakening in the index since the global financial crisis.
NAB’s monthly survey showed business conditions — which gauge the health of company trading, profits and employment — slumped 9 points, suggesting a significant slowing in the economy will persist into the New Year.
The local dollar dipped on the release of the data at 11.30am (AEDT), slipping from US71.67c ahead of the numbers to US71.42c. The bearish indicator also weighed on the local bourse, with the S&P/ASX200 extending its fall to fresh intra-day lows.

Australia gets worse in world corruption survey by Transparency International

By David Rising
Updated 30 Jan 2019 — 8:09 AM, first published at 7:55 AM
Berlin | Australia has slipped significantly in an annual corruption survey in which Denmark and New Zealand come out on top and the US has been knocked out of the 20 "cleanest" countries.
Watchdog group Transparency International said its Corruption Perceptions Index for 2018 released on Tuesday showed more than two-thirds of countries scoring below 50, on its scale where 100 is very clean and zero is very corrupt.
Since 2012, only 20 nations had significantly improved their scores, including Argentina and Ivory Coast, which scored 40 and 35 respectively, up from 35 and 29.

Widows and elderly to be caught by Labor's franking credit crackdown

Updated 29 Jan 2019 — 5:13 PM, first published at 2:15 PM
A new analysis on Labor's proposed crackdown on share portfolio franking credits has found women will be disproportionately affected by the change, including elderly voters and widows.
RMIT University professor of economics Sinclair Davidson used Tax Office taxation statistics for the 2015-16 financial year to measure the impact of Labor's plans – a move designed to raise an estimated $55.7 billion over a decade.
Franking credits for company tax paid would still be available for shareholders to avoid double taxation and Labor softened the policy last year to introduce a new guarantee to protect more than 300,000 low-income full and part pensioners.

Housing is an orderly adjustment, not a bursting bubble

By Brian Hartzer
30 Jan 2019 — 11:45 PM
If you picked up a newspaper over the summer break, you'd have been hard pressed to avoid a doom and gloom story about the housing market.
According to several commentators, the Australian housing market is in all kinds of trouble: regulators (and potentially, the royal commission) have over-reacted, banks are 'afraid to lend', too much new supply is coming on line, and prices are tumbling with no end in sight.
For Australians whose primary asset is often their home, it all sounds a bit scary.
It is important to remember there is no one single property market.  Heather McNeill
But is it?

Taxpayers foot bill for roadshow attacking Labor's franking credit policy

By Eryk Bagshaw
31 January 2019 — 12:00am

Talking points

  • Under dividend imputation rules, Australians are given franking credits on the dividends they receive for the shares they own in order to avoid company profits being taxed twice.
  • Because the company has already paid tax on its earnings, its dividend payments to shareholders come with credits that reduce the individual’s tax bill every year.
  • Most workers have incomes that are high enough to ensure they still pay tax after the dividend credits are counted.
  • But when the individual has little or no income other than dividends, he or she ends up being owed money by the Australian Tax Office and then receiving it as a cash refund.
Retirees unhappy with Labor's plan to remove cash payments for excess franking credits are free to vote for another party, shadow treasurer Chris Bowen has declared, as the opposition doubles down on the policy in the face of criticism from the government. 

Employers warned over privacy breaches when staff take domestic violence leave

By Anna Patty
31 January 2019 — 12:05am
Employers have been warned to keep staff records confidential to avoid inadvertent privacy breaches and of potential liability for discrimination if they fail to grant employees at least five days of unpaid domestic violence leave.
Employment lawyer Fay Calderone, from Hall and Wilcox, said the introduction of domestic violence leave into the National Employment Standards had the potential to trip up some employers who were not across the changes. Under the NES, all employees, including part-time and casuals, are entitled to five days unpaid family and domestic violence leave each year.
The warning comes as the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union reaches an in principle agreement with multinational defence and aerospace company, Thales Marine Division, to provide 10 days of paid domestic violence leave for some workers as part of a new enterprise agreement. The union claims it is the first agreement of its kind in the manufacturing industry.

No reprieve as house prices continue to fall in first month of 2019: Corelogic

Updated 01 Feb 2019 — 10:38 AM, first published at 10:00 AM
The property downturn that has been centred around Sydney and Melbourne is now infiltrating other capital cities with a summer break and new year offering no reprieve from the weak market conditions witnessed at the end of 2018.
Property prices in every capital city across the country except Canberra fell in January, including Hobart where values declined by a slight 0.2 per cent, after surge in prices by 20 per cent in the last two years alone.
In Darwin, property values fell 1.7 per cent in January and 2.8 per cent over the quarter, while in Perth prices fell by 1.1 per cent over the month. Adelaide and Brisbane prices dropped by 0.3 per cent.

Alarm bells to waken voters from summer slumber

By Shane Wright
1 February 2019 — 12:00am
There was a collective stretch of arms across the country on Tuesday morning. It was the stretch of millions of people, preparing to leave the summer holidays and head into work. Alarms went off, lunches were made and tap-on cards for public transport were  found.
The alarm for the political year also sounded with Scott Morrison and ministers in Queensland where the Prime Minister delivered a speech heavy on the economy while showering cash on some obviously deserving voters who just happen to find themselves living in key marginal seats.
Morrison was there after Bill Shorten's bus trip up the Queensland coast. He similarly found deserving voters in marginal electorates desperate for a bit of love, attention and taxpayer-funded largesse.

Labor franking shake-up plan could spark buybacks, special dividends

By Clancy Yeates
1 February 2019 — 12:08am
The spectre of a changes to dividend taxes under a Labor government has sparked fresh predictions that  some of Australia's largest companies could pay special dividends, or launch off-market share buybacks to get funds back to shareholders before the policy is put in place.
The federal opposition has vowed if it wins this year's election, from July it will a situation where taxpayers receive a cash refund if they receive tax breaks on their dividends that reduce their tax bill below to zero.
The potential impact of Labor's change has already affected share prices, and Tribeca Investment Partners portfolio manager, Jun Bei Liu, said companies sitting on large franking credit balances included Woolworths, BHP Billiton, Fortescue Metals Group, and Harvey Norman.

Chris Bowen’s so wrong: our listicle shows you why

  • 12:00AM February 1, 2019
I hadn’t heard the term “listicle” until I was reading about the downsizing of digital media outfit Buzzfeed. Evidently it just loves a listicle — an article based entirely on a list. Mind you, the topics of these lists sound pretty childish and fatuous.
So let me put together a serious list based on the serious policy ­errors Labor’s Treasury spokes­man Chris Bowen has made by proposing to cancel cash refunds for excess franking credits.
• Paying too much attention to advice from the former treasure­r and prime minister Paul Keating is a big mistake. Keating’s view of the world is that if he didn’t introduce it, it must be wrong.

Why RBA governor Philip Lowe is the third man in this year's federal election

Updated 01 Feb 2019 — 3:51 PM, first published at 12:00 AM
The Third Man is a classic film noir. Starring Orson Welles, written by Graham Greene and directed by Carol Reed, it's set in post-war Vienna and involves Cold War espionage, a rampant black market, blackmail, murder, and a famous pursuit through the city's sewers.
That doesn't match the job description or a typical day in the life of Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe, but he is emerging as a sort of Third Man between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten as Australia's pre-election politics heats up.
In any tight contest, an RBA-mandated movement in interest rates – either way – could tip the electoral balance, and there are likely to be four more Reserve Bank board meetings between now and an election, due by May 18.

How conservatives stole the Liberal Party

By Peter Hartcher
2 February 2019 — 12:00am
Remember Cory Bernardi? The Liberal senator from South Australia who declared a "conservative revolution" during Malcolm Turnbull's prime ministership? He quit the party two years ago to start his own, Australian Conservatives. And he waited for all the other disgruntled right-wing Liberals to join him.
He's still waiting. Instead, the defections and departures are all occurring at the other end of the Liberal Party spectrum, among the moderates. The conservatives feel no urge to leave. They've made themselves pretty comfortable.
Malcolm Turnbull is at home writing his memoir. Tony Abbott is still in the Parliament. Peter Dutton is running again but Julie Bishop is considering her options, as they say in the classics.

'2019 could turn out to be a bumpy ride for everyone', say economists

By Eryk Bagshaw
2 February 2019 — 12:01am
Australia faces a one-in-five chance of going into a recession during the next term of government, as China and the US face economic slowdowns and workers' wages go nowhere fast, compounding historically high levels of household debt.
The verdict, from The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age Scope economic survey of 18 leading market, academic and industry economists, will spark concerns among both Labor and Liberal leadership teams, as both parties head into the May election vowing to fight over their economic credentials.
The economists found that many of the risks were beyond the control of Australian policymakers - as "global financial markets enter a secular bear market phase," spooked by $350 billion worth of trade tensions between the world's two largest economies.

Flawed morality of the middle class hurts Liberals

  • 12:00AM February 2, 2019
The Morrison government faces a revolt of the middle class — or at least a section of the middle class that is moralistic about climate change, compassionate in its politics, well-off in income terms and alienated from the Liberal Party it once supported.
Try this for a novel idea: these alienated progressive Liberals now backing independents in leafy wealthy seats have been since time immemorial part of the core Liberal base — now a lost part of that base — that once made these seats pure blue in Liberal loyalty.
The Morrison government, ­befitting its pragmatic nature, must act. The government is planning to pump more money into the Emissions Reduction Fund to enable it to keep conducting ­reverse auctions in coming years with one political goal — to ensure the 26 to28 per cent emissions ­reduction target by 2030 is manifestly achievable and to kill off the argument to the contrary.

Markets have already factored in a federal Labor victory

By Eryk Bagshaw
3 February 2019 — 12:01am
Financial markets have already factored in a Labor victory in the looming federal election, as the Coalition struggles to make up ground in the polls and business becomes accustomed to the prospect of Bill Shorten as Prime Minister.
A Sun-Herald and Sunday Age survey of 18 leading economists has urged voters to deliver whoever wins government a clear majority to ensure reforms can get through Parliament and deliver investment certainty.
The Scope panel found that confidence was likely to decline in the months leading up to the expected May poll, with firms delaying business decisions until after the election.

Relocation of regulator to Barnaby Joyce's electorate plagued its performance, Senate inquiry finds

By Eliza Berlage
2 February 2019 — 5:18pm
The forced relocation of the Australia's pesticides regulator from Canberra to Armidale, spearheaded by former agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce, has plagued its performance, a Senate inquiry has found.
The Senate committee report has found the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines authority's controversial move exacerbated previous concerns about safety and efficiency and caused a loss of scientific expertise.
It said the relocation to Armidale, where Baranaby Joyce lives, "has caused considerable disruption to staff and severely weakened the authority's ability to operate effectively and efficiently".

Experts fear state of economy in election year

By Shane Wright
2 February 2019 — 12:15am
Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten can only hope some of the nation's leading experts have got it wrong on how the Australian economy will play out this year.
The latest Scope survey for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age suggests an economy that is going to slow, suffer from a drop in house prices and force the Reserve Bank into considering - but probably avoid - a cut in official interest rates.
In an election that will be dominated by claims and counter-claims about who are the better economic managers, our Scope economists are unlikely to be swayed one way or the other.
Instead, they worry about things either out of the control of our local MPs, such as Donald Trump's trade war with China, or about trends already well entrenched, such as the nation's tumbling house prices and stagnant wages.

January was Aust's hottest month on record

The Bureau of Meteorology says January's heat was unprecedented, with Australia sweltering through its hottest month on record.
Dominica Sanda
Australian Associated Press February 1, 20195:00pm
Australia has recorded its warmest January on record with more than 200 sites across the nation setting records for warmest average maximum temperatures.
The mean temperature in January, averaged across the country, exceeded 30C for the first time ever for any month, the Bureau of Meteorology says.

Royal Commissions And Similar.

Please Mr Hayne, heal the system

  • 8:13AM January 28, 2019
Just four more sleeps until royal commissioner Kenneth Hayne delivers his final report to the Government. Many of the nation’s bankers may be spending those nights staring, not sleeping.
After 12 months of grisly, gripping hearings into misconduct in the banking, superannuation and financial services industries, we can’t wait to see what he comes up with, especially since the likely next Treasurer, Chris Bowen, has committed Labor to implementing everything, sight unseen, while the less likely, but still possible, Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, will be hard pressed not to do the same.
Hayne will no doubt use up some forests opining about executive remuneration and probably recommend changes, although it’s hard to see what legislation could be brought to bear on this. But as he wrote in the interim report: “the … premise … that staff and intermediaries will not do their job properly … without incentive payments, must be challenged.” So challenge it he presumably will.

What you need to know about Australia’s royal commission

After 11 months of public hearings, the royal commission’s interim report highlighted problems relating to financial advice, including sales culture, the effectiveness of the Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) reforms, and grandfathered commissions. The themes identified in the report were:
  • Culture and incentives. Issues on how industry participants were paid and motivated by a “sales above all” culture, e.g. calculation of bonuses and other incentives
  • Structural issues surrounding financial advice. Consideration of consequences stemming from or appearing to stem from vertical integration (where an entity manufactures and sells financial products while also advising clients which of their products to buy/use) of some financial services entities.
  • Conflicts of interest and duty. Issues about the confusion of roles and responsibilities, e.g. mortgage brokers and aggregators and about FOFA’s treatment of conflicts of interest that can and should be managed
  • Effectiveness of Regulators. Consideration of what responses regulators such as Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) can and should be making in relation to the highlighted types of conduct.

Big four banks just creating piles of money

  • 12:00AM January 29, 2019
As the final report of the royal commission into financial services nears, top bankers should at least be relieved the real source of their power — the ability to create money out of thin air — will be ­unaffected.
The terms of the royal commission were set to avoid deeper questions about the structure and role of banks, an issue of extraordinary importance which receives almost no public attention.
Yet, somewhat mysteriously, one by one central banks around the world have started revealing how money is really created, destroying the furphy that banks are “intermediaries” lending deposits out to borrowers.

Providers face crackdown on chemical restraint of elderly

  • 12:00AM January 29, 2019
Aged-care providers face a crackdown over the misuse of anti­psychotic drugs to dope nursing home residents after new standards were amended almost two years after the Department of Health was warned that the issue was a priority.
The development of new standards, released late last November and which are already in force, contained no reference to the significant problem of “chemical restraint” through inappropriate drug prescriptions and neither did more detailed guidance notes for providers.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has announced antipsychotic drugs — developed to treat severe schizophrenia — and other psycho­tropics will be a key focus of the inquiry, particularly as they are associated with an increased risk of falls, stroke and death.

CYBG CFO Ian Smith warns of distortions from Hayne

29 Jan 2019 — 11:00 PM
The chief financial officer of Britain's sixth-largest bank has warned of unintended consequences flowing from recommendations made by Commissioner Kenneth Hayne in the banking royal commission final report, due to be handed to the government on Friday.
Ian Smith, the chief financial officer of Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank (CYBG), told The Australian Financial Review that although a tougher regime was necessary to stop bad behaviour inside the banks, any proposed changes had to be thought through carefully and monitored.
Regulators have hit Britain's banking sector with massive amounts of reform following the too-big-to-fail policy responses brought about by the global financial crisis. While much of that was overdue, measures have also led to distortions in the lending market and emboldened an aggressive new breed of customer advocate who can do more harm than good.

Sedated sister of VC hero like a ‘zombie’

  • 12:00AM January 30, 2019
An 88-year-old blind woman in a Queensland nursing home has been sedated on a potent combination of three psychotropic drugs, including medication that experts say should never be given to the elderly and another that is banned for older patients in the US.
Gwenda Britton, the sister of one of Australia’s most decorated soldiers, Keith Payne VC, has lived in the Blue Care Bluehaven Lodge residential aged-care facility in Ingham since October 2017.
Family members and friends who have raised concerns with the nursing home manager and her local doctor say the cocktail of drugs she was given have left the mother of four looking and sounding like a “zombie”.

Most delirium patients on drugs that worsen the condition

Up to 73% are on medicines associated with delirium, according to one study
30th January 2019
Three-quarters of patients hospitalised with delirium are taking medications that are potential contributors, an Australian study shows.
The finding suggests a need for more rigorous medication reviews and deprescribing efforts, according to the authors.
Many of the drugs are “almost discretion­ary”, notes senior author Professor Libby Roughead, an expert in the quality use of medicines at the University of SA’s School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences.

The end of banking as we know it: a report of Tolkien proportions

By Jessica Irvine
31 January 2019 — 12:00am
On the eve of the climactic battle scene of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the hobbit Pippin and the wizard Gandalf stand atop the parapets of Gondor, wearily regarding the powerful forces gathering across the battlefield in Mordor, which lies shrouded in dark clouds.
“It’s so quiet,” says Pippin.
“It’s the deep breath before the plunge,” replies Gandalf, who then pronounces: “This will be the end of Gondor as we know it.”
“It’s the deep breath before the plunge,” says Gandalf. Banking as we know it is about to change forever.

No night checks carried out on nursing homes after 5pm

  • 12:00AM January 31, 2019
The government agency responsible for carrying out unannounced “spot checks” on nursing homes did not make a single visit after 5pm in the past 18 months and did not conduct any surprise audits on weekends or public holidays in ­almost half a year.
Australian Aged Care Quality Agency chief executive Nick Ryan told a Senate estimates hearing in October that the body, which was replaced by a new watchdog on January 1, performed such visits on a “frequent basis” but answers to questions on notice suggest otherwise.
Despite thousands of spot checks each year, in 2017-18 no ­unannounced visits were made outside business hours and only 10 began on a weekend or public holiday. In the five months to the end of November, there were no after-hours visits and none on weekends or public holidays.
1 February 2019

It’s time for action on aged care, not more talk

Aged Care The Hill
Posted by Dr Linda Calabresi
Happy New  Year. Hopefully you managed some sort of break over the summer holiday season and you’re all ready to face another year in the interesting, unpredictable and challenging world of general practice.
Aside from the issue of pill-testing at music festivals, 2019 media attention has also, so far, been focussed on the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality, which is due to start hearing submissions in early February. No doubt it’s a pretty big deal. 
In addition to inviting submissions from the general public in relation to the experience of residents of aged care, the commission has also written to almost 2000 aged care facilities asking them to supply comprehensive information on any instances of substandard care since 2013.

Royal commission risks missing mark on deeper issues

  • 12:00AM February 2, 2019
On the day the draft report of the royal commission into financial services was released last year, banks’ share prices jumped around 3 per cent. “The banks have gone to the edge of what is permitted, and too often beyond that limit (as a result of) greed — the pursuit of short-term profit at the expense of basic standards of honesty,” the former High Court justice Ken Hayne wrote, adding that “pursuit of profit has trumped consideration of how the profit is made”.
The report was rhetorically damning but investors, it seemed, didn’t see anything that would threaten the lush rivers of gold flowing into the financial services sector, which, at 9 per cent of GDP, is growing and the largest sector of the economy by a big margin.
Release of the final report next Monday afternoon will prompt a deluge of solemn press releases as banks, lobby groups, and politicians whirr into action, all earnestly promising to “rebuild trust”. The royal commission has been a bonanza for lawyers and the booming corporate spin sector, but I’m suspicious much ultimately will change.

National Budget Issues.

Memo to Scott Morrison: it's the economy, stupid

By Tony Walker
27 January 2019 — 11:43pm
Here’s a question for Liberal Party political strategists and the party’s enablers in the conservative media: what have the puerile culture wars got to do with the welfare of a centrist country and the interests of individual voters?
The short answer is: not much.
Here we might fall back on a political cliche courtesy of James Carville, Bill Clinton’s political adviser in his 1992 presidential campaign.
“It's the economy, stupid.’’

Super taking the pressure off government support for aged

  • 12:00AM January 28, 2019
The Australian government spends less on the aged than ­almost any other advanced country because of the additional support provided by superannuation.
An OECD survey of welfare and health spending shows Australia relies more on private contributions than most other countries, with government spending much less in cash outlays, but more in the direct provision of services.
The study shows government “social spending” is only 17.8 per cent of GDP, well below the OECD average of 20.5 per cent. Canada, The Netherlands and Switzerland are the only high income advanced countries with a smaller public sector contribution. Australian government spending on health and welfare is below the US (18.7 per cent of GDP) or Japan (21.9 per cent), although both are often described as having weak social safety nets.

RBA banks on wages growth

  • 12:00AM January 28, 2019
This week’s inflation report will mark three full years with the Reserve Bank’s preferred measure languishing below 2 per cent, the bottom of its target band.
Governor Philip Lowe has said the Reserve Bank could get inflation back to the 2-3 per cent target range more quickly by cutting interest rates further but says the risks from encouraging further household indebtedness are not worth taking when patience will eventually bring the desired result.
The bank is instead pinning its hopes on the strength of employment to generate a lift in wage settlements that forces companies to start lifting prices.

Budget focus now on saving government, not the bottom line, says Deloitte Access

By Shane Wright
29 January 2019 — 12:01am
The Morrison government is now more focused on protecting its electoral chances than the nation's finances with claims it is going on a pre-poll spending spree based on a short-term boost in tax collections.
Deloitte Access Economics said in a quarterly report out on Tuesday that Scott Morrison is looking to buy back disappointed voters, with the government sitting on $9.2 billion worth of tax cuts and handouts that were included in the December mid-year budget update but not announced.
Deloitte Access partner Chris Richardson said the government had promised $16 billion in extra spending and tax cuts in the past six months, the biggest short-term spend by a government since Kevin Rudd in 2009 in the depths of the global financial crisis.

Growing assets and planned surpluses to aid Morrison's net debt pledge

By Shane Wright
29 January 2019 — 12:32pm
Scott Morrison's "goal" to eliminate Australia's net debt is straight from the Peter Costello school of budget management.
On April 21, 2006, the then treasurer declared "debt-free day" as Australia cleared its net debt, the first time it had been in that position since 1976.
In a major speech on Tuesday, the Prime Minister will outline how he hopes that a date in 2028-29 will be similarly marked as "debt-free day".

Inflation lifts to 0.5pc in December quarter

  • By James Glynn
  • January 30, 2019
Australian inflation rose solidly in the fourth quarter of last year, spurred by a big jump in tobacco prices that more than offset a drop in petrol costs.
Still, core inflation remained benign, likely ruling out any near-term increase in interest rates by the Reserve Bank of Australia.
The Australian dollar jumped from US71.54c to US71.80c on the news.
The consumer price index rose by 0.5 per cent in the fourth quarter and was up 1.8 per cent from a year earlier, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday.

Health Issues.

'Kids are dying': Calls for Headspace to publish waiting lists

By Dana McCauley
26 January 2019 — 11:45pm
Mental health experts have called on Headspace to make its waiting lists public amid concerns that suicidal teens are dying while waiting up to three months to see a psychologist.
Ian Hickie, who was one of the founding directors of Headspace, called on the national youth mental health service to publish waiting lists for its 110 centres, saying politicians should be forced to confront the brutal reality of their struggle to keep up with demand.
"People have died on those waiting lists, and they continue to suffer great harm on those waiting lists, just like they do in hospitals," Professor Hickie said.
"In mental health, we don't like to discuss it."

'Surprising' result from study into what women want in abortion care

By Daniella White
28 January 2019 — 12:00am
When abortion provider Marie Stopes Australia embarked on new research to try to improve abortion services for women, it thought patients would be most concerned about receiving high quality care.
But Canberra research being conducted with the Australian National University has shown women are most concerned about a compassionate approach to their care.
Marie Stopes thinks abortion care in Australia and across the world could be revolutionised because of the ongoing research.

Urbanisation making us more vulnerable to pandemics

By Yan Zhuang
27 January 2019 — 3:30pm
Researchers found that a simulated influenza pandemic infected more people more quickly in 2016 than 2006. This image is day 46 of the simulation.
Forget congestion and unaffordable housing, increased urbanisation has a less expected downside: it makes Australia more vulnerable to pandemics.
Concentration of our populations in major cities and increased international air travel are creating conditions ripe for pandemics to spread faster and infect more people, according to new research from the University of Sydney.

We’ll have a cure for cancer within a year, Israeli scientists claim

Israeli scientists have made an astonishing claim about their ability to soon treat disease that kills millions of people worldwide every year.
Ben Feuerherd
NY Post January 30, 20196:29am
A team of Israeli scientists claim they will likely develop a cure for cancer in the next year, The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday.
The new treatment is being developed by Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies under the leadership of CEO Dr. Ilan Morad, according to the report.
“We believe we will offer in a year’s time a complete cure for cancer,” said Dan Aridor, chairman of the company’s board.

'We may not find a cure but we will be closer because of this': the long road to cure Parkinson's

By Kate Aubusson
30 January 2019 — 12:00am
Nikki Blackwood was washing the dishes on maternity leave the first time her body stopped doing what it was told. Her right foot arched and her toes curled under.
"I thought, 'This is a bit strange. My body is doing this and I’m not controlling it,” said the 35-year-old new mother and investment bank manager.
She found brushing her teeth and writing became a struggle as her right arm would move in a haphazard manner and she soon began to use her left arm to control her right.

Unhappy, unhealthy lives aren't fair exchange for higher incomes

By Ross Gittins
30 January 2019 — 12:00am
In his Australia Day address, social researcher Hugh Mackay said that "the Australia I love today – this sleep-deprived, overweight, overmedicated, anxious, smartphone-addicted society – is a very different place from the Australia I used to love".
He identified three big changes: the gender revolution, increasing disparity in wealth, and social fragmentation.
He approves of the first, but laments that we’re "learning to live with a chasm of income inequality" and that social fragmentation means Australians are become "more individualistic, more materialistic, more competitive".

Mentally ill patients left waiting for emergency care

By Dana McCauley
30 January 2019 — 12:05am
One-third of mentally ill patients seeking help at emergency rooms across Australia are forced to wait unreasonably long periods to receive the care they need, according to a new Productivity Commission report.
The report, released on Wednesday, showed timely access to mental healthcare in emergency rooms was at just 68 per cent nationally in 2016-17, with "timely" meaning seen within 10 minutes for patients in an emergency, 30 minutes for "urgent" cases, one hour for "semi-urgent" and two hours for "non-urgent".

‘Restore health insurance rebate’

  • 12:00AM January 30, 2019
Australia’s health insurance sector is calling for the industry rebate to be restored to its original level as it warns that without further reforms to address rising healthcare costs, participation could drop to 30 per cent in the next decade.
The industry’s peak body, Private Healthcare Australia, has pitched in its 2019-20 budget submission a case to return the health insurance rebate — which has slipped to about 25 per cent — to 30 per cent for low and middle income earners.
Rachel David, chief executive of Private Healthcare Australia, said it was the first time the industry had publicly pushed for the rebate to be restored, adding it was time to put a “line in the sand”.

New data shows growing health gap between rich and poor

By Stuart Layt
31 January 2019 — 1:00am
If you are from a lower socioeconomic area, you are more likely to contract a disease and die, according to the latest health data. And the rich-poor health gap is widening.
The report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released on Thursday found there was a direct link between someone’s socioeconomic level, and their likelihood of developing three major chronic conditions: cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease and diabetes.
It found where someone sat on the economic ladder affected their likelihood of dying from a chronic condition once it developed.
AIHW health group senior executive Lynelle Moon said the data highlighted that social factors played a crucial role in people’s personal health.

Household medications send thousands of Australians to hospital

By Aisha Dow
31 January 2019 — 12:01am
Household medications are sending more Australians to hospital than vehicle crashes, as the nation’s ageing population increasingly turns to handfuls of tablets to treat their multiple ailments.
An estimated 400,000 people are landing in emergency departments each year after overdosing or experiencing other negative side-effects from their drugs, according to a report commissioned by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.
In some cases, people were being accidentally given drugs that should not be combined, or that could worsen pre-existing medical conditions.

Thoughts of death: doctors can't predict who will suicide by asking

By Kate Aubusson
1 February 2019 — 1:46pm
Most people who died of suicide deny they experience suicidal thoughts to their doctors, a major study shows, prompting calls to overhaul the way we decide who gets treatment.
The findings challenge the widely-held assumption that psychiatrists can predict who will suicide by asking if they are preoccupied with thoughts of killing themselves.
More than 3000 people died by suicide in 2017, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Roughly 65,000 Australians attempt suicide every year.

Women at higher risk of breast cancer after childbirth

By Kate Aubusson
3 February 2019 — 12:00am
Women may be at increased risk of breast cancer for more than two decades after giving birth, new research suggests.
The findings come as a separate study found breast cancers diagnosed soon after childbirth were more likely to spread compared with cancers in women with no children.
It has long been proven that childbirth is protective against breast cancer across a woman’s lifetime. Less well-known is the slightly elevated risk of breast cancer that follows a woman’s first childbirth, though the causes and the how long this heightened risk lasts has been unclear.

International Issues.

Donald Trump, by preaching to the choir, hurts 2020 prospects

By Alexander Burns, Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman
Updated 27 Jan 2019 — 4:05 PM, first published at 3:53 PM
President Donald Trump's defeat in his border-wall standoff with Congress has clouded his already perilous path to a second term in 2020, undercutting Trump's cherished image as a forceful leader and deft negotiator, and emboldening alike his Democratic challengers and Republican dissenters who hope to block his re-election.
The longest government shutdown in history inflicted severe political damage on the president, dragging down his poll numbers even among Republicans and stirring concern among party leaders about his ability to navigate the next two years of divided government.
Mr Trump, close associates acknowledge, appears without a plan for mounting a strong campaign in 2020, or for persuading the majority of Americans who view him negatively to give him another chance.

Huawei, Cold War and the choice Australia doesn't want to make

By Kirsty Needham
28 January 2019 — 7:15am
Beijing:  Defence Minister Christopher Pyne is expected to use a speech in Singapore on Monday to warn that the world can't afford to be divided into Cold War blocs.
His address to an international security forum coincides with reports the Trump administration is seeking to do just that. Australia was likely the first ally to feel the pressure.
On Sunday, The New York Times published an investigation into Washington's campaign against Chinese telecommunications company Huawei that found US allies were being leaned on to exclude the company from their 5G networks: Poland had been warned that accepting Chinese technology in would result in a deal for a US troop base to be called off.

Roger Stone's indictment hits Donald Trump close to home

By Timothy L. O'Brien
Updated 26 Jan 2019 — 6:20 AM, first published at 6:18 AM
In Francis Ford Coppola's classic film trilogy about the inner workings of an organised crime family and its rivals, The Godfather, a pivotal scene involves a mobster named Frank Pentangeli ("Frankie Five Angels" to his friends) deciding to lie to Congress rather than betray his boss, Michael Corleone.
In Special Counsel Robert Mueller's indictment of Roger Stone, filed on Thursday in federal court in Washington, a pivotal scene involves Stone - a longtime adviser to President Donald Trump - advising an associate, Randy Credico, about to testify before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, that he should "do a 'Frank Pentangeli' before HPSCI in order to avoid contradicting" Stone's own testimony.
Stone allegedly also told Credico (identified as "Person 2" in the indictment) that "if you turned over anything to the FBI you're a fool" and that if you testify before Congress "you're a fool". Stone, according to the indictment, noted that "because of tromp" (sic) he couldn't refuse to testify on certain matters, but that the associate would get "indicted for perjury if you're stupid enough to testify".

US warning against Chinese drone technology monitoring Australian airports

By Latika Bourke
28 January 2019 — 9:34am
The Civil Aviation and Safety Authority is installing drone detection technology at Sydney Harbour and Australian airports, hiring a company the United States has previously warned could contribute to cyber attacks.
CASA has opted for a Chinese-developed technology called DJI Aerospace despite official US concerns the company could be sending drone-harvested data back to Beijing.
Passengers at London's Gatwick Airport have faced extensive delays after several drone sightings forced Britain's second busiest airport to shut its runway, disrupting plans of thousands of Christmas travellers.

The growing problem that could lead the world into a new kind of financial crisis

By Ben Wright
28 January 2019 — 9:00am
One particularly caustic attendee described this year's Davos as a "reunion of losers".
That might seem an odd thing to say given the Swiss mountain resort must have housed the greatest concentration of millionaires and billionaires anywhere on the planet over the past week. But he was alluding to how tarnished the company brands adorning the shop fronts along the promenade have become over the past year and the extent to which the mood of recent meetings has since proved misguided.
Back in the mists of 2017, Xi Jinping was being hailed as the man who could ensure the benefits of free markets and globalisation were delivered to the parts of the world they had not reached. On Thursday, George Soros branded China's leader the "most dangerous enemy" of open societies.

Trump doubts acceptable border security deal can be done

By Susan Cornwell & David Shepardson
28 January 2019 — 3:04pm
Washington:  President Donald Trump doubts politicians seeking to avoid another government shutdown can reach a deal on border security that he would accept, renewing his vow to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico.
The acting White House chief of staff has said President Donald Trump was prepared to shut down the government again if Democrats and Republicans could not reach a deal that satisfied his border security demands in three weeks.
Trump told the Wall Street Journal the chances were low that Congress could craft an agreement and avoid another closure of part of the US government in three weeks' time, when funding will expire.

Xi Jinping is the most dangerous enemy: George Soros

By George Soros
Updated 28 Jan 2019 — 4:30 PM, first published at 12:00 AM
The rapidly improving instruments of control that machine learning and artificial intelligence can produce are giving repressive regimes an inherent advantage. For them, the improving instruments of control are a help; for open societies they constitute a mortal danger.
I'll focus on China, where President Xi Jinping wants a one-party state to reign supreme. Xi is trying to consolidate all the available information about a person into a centralised database to create a "social credit system". Based on these data, people will be evaluated by algorithms that will determine whether they pose a threat to the one-party state. People will then be treated accordingly.

China using artificial intelligence to repress citizens, George Soros warns

By Saijel Kishan, Katherine Burton and Melissa Karsh
Updated 25 Jan 2019 — 2:56 PM, first published at 2:25 PM
New York | 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.
"The instruments of control developed by artificial intelligence give an inherent advantage of totalitarian regimes over open societies," the 88-year-old said on Thursday (Friday AEDT) 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."
The former hedge fund manager said China was developing a centralised database that would use algorithms to determine whether a person posed a threat to the one-party system. While the so-called social credit system was not yet fully operational, "it will subordinate the fate of the individual to the interests of the one-party state in ways unprecedented in history", Mr Soros said.

Kevin Rudd on US-China relations: This is a new and dangerous phase

By Kevin Rudd
Updated 23 Jan 2019 — 4:09 PM, first published at 4:00 PM
Last year represented a fundamental strategic turning point in the 40-year history of US-China relations. This is not just an American view; it is also the Chinese view. Just as it is my own analytical view based on 40 years of observation of this relationship, going back to the time when I was an undergraduate student at the Australian National University.
The nature of this change is that the United States, after 40 years of strategic engagement with China following China's decision under Deng Xiaoping to pursue a domestic policy shift toward economic reform and opening, has concluded that China is no longer a trustworthy strategic partner.
The analytical underpinnings of the period of engagement were that China, having embarked upon a series of economic, social, and some political reforms, was incrementally integrating itself into the American-led international rules-based order. This, in turn, was based on China's decision in 1978 to abandon its policy of support for communist revolutionary movements around the world. This change followed the abandonment of a decade-plus of political radicalism pursued by Mao during the Cultural Revolution. And it followed, perhaps most significantly, China's decision to embrace one series after another of market-based economic reforms, beginning with the introduction of price-based incentives in agriculture, then light manufacturing, then the services industry before extending across much of the rest of the Chinese economy.

Liberal democracy must fight back. A G10 is the right vehicle

28 Jan 2019 — 11:45 PM
In 1982, I was Malcolm Fraser's speechwriter. For a young man obsessed with politics, it was a brilliant job. But it was hard. Very hard. There wasn't much time for sleep and the travel was endless. That year I was carted along with the then prime minister on an official trip to China, the Philippines and New Zealand on the RAAF'S ageing Boeing 707. It was a gruelling trip, especially for Fraser who caught a bad bout of the flu as we arrived in China. He ground through meetings with the Chinese leadership pressing his eccentric agenda of a New International Economic Order.
The trip ended in Rotorua, New Zealand, to attend the South Pacific Forum, as it was then called. Attendance at the forum – it's now called the Pacific Island Forum – was and still is a must for an Australian prime minister. We have a deep interest in a stable, secure and prosperous Pacific and the forum is one of the vehicles we can use to achieve that.
But back in 1982 it was the only significant regional body we belonged to. We were, of course, in the United Nations and the Commonwealth but there was a growing sense in Australia that our fast-growing neighbourhood was taking off without us. We were outsiders in our own region. So during the 80s and 90s, Australian foreign policy makers became desperate to get into regional institutions. We helped to create one of them – APEC – which has been a catalyst for economic liberalisation, and it's succeeded.

Why investors need to be alert to China's moves on Taiwan

By Stirling Larkin
29 Jan 2019 — 9:30 AM
It is becoming clear that China has every intention of militarily reoccupying Taiwan within the next five years – this reality appears imminent and its conviction real.
For financial markets and global investors, this would have immediate and capacious consequences that remain poorly measured, woefully misunderstood and arrogantly discounted as a scenario that if it did happen, would be comparative only to Russia invading Crimea.
For those who hold such views, this would be a grand financial blunder.
These reoccupation intentions are by no means clandestine. In his conquest for absolute political dominance in China, President Xi Jinping said in October 2017: "Achieving full reunification of the motherland is necessary for realising the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation", which mimicked identically the words of Mao Zedong.

As Donald Trump slides in popularity, he retreats into Fox News fantasyland

By Greg Sargent
Updated 29 Jan 2019 — 9:25 AM, first published at 9:16 AM
A new Post/ABC News poll finds that most Americans believe President Donald Trump is failing spectacularly by many different metrics. Large majorities say he doesn't have the temperament to be president; lack confidence that he'll make the right decisions for the country's future; and (this one will really sting) say he isn't good at making deals.
At the same time, new reporting indicates that Trump's media and political allies are working overtime to erect a protective bubble around Trump, one designed to prevent him from grasping the most basic political realities of the moment.
This effort has two goals: To create an alternative narrative that portrays Trump's cave in the shutdown fight as a sign that he holds a strengthened hand, which in turn is designed to gird him to refuse real compromise in the next round of talks.

No longer safe: Researcher harassed by China in her own country

By Peter Hartcher
29 January 2019 — 12:00am
After a quarter-century of researching China, Anne-Marie Brady is a veteran of Chinese government spying and harassment.  "I was prepared for pressure in China," says the 52-year-old New Zealander, a well-regarded professor of political science at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. "But I always felt safe in New Zealand. So that changed." Last week she wrote to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern seeking police protection. It was her first direct appeal to Ardern, but her third in a series of pleas to escalating levels of officialdom.
First came the pressure on her university. Chinese officials demanded that her immediate superior stop her research. It might have worked – the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the mayor of Christchurch backed them up in an effort to appease Beijing.  They failed when the university vice-chancellor intervened on behalf of academic freedom. But it was just the beginning.
Next, her office was broken into in December 2017. As far as she could tell, nothing was taken. "I think it was meant to scare me, to show me people could come into my office." If so, it worked: "I felt this great dread," after the intrusion. "I reported it to security and there was no follow-up."

US charges China's Huawei with bank fraud, stealing trade secrets

29 January 2019 — 8:41am
Washington: The United States on Monday charged China's Huawei Technologies Co, its chief financial officer and two affiliates with bank and wire fraud to violate sanctions against Iran in a case that has escalated tensions with Beijing.
In a 13-count indictment filed in New York, the Justice Department said Huawei misled a global bank and US authorities about its relationship with the subsidiaries, Skycom Tech and Huawei Device USA, in order to conduct business in Iran.
In a separate case, the Justice Department also accused two Huawei subsidiaries of 10 counts of stealing trade secrets, wire fraud and obstructing justice for allegedly stealing robotic technology from carrier T-Mobile US Inc to test smartphones' durability.

US sanctions Venezuela state-owned oil company

29 January 2019 — 8:09am
Washington: The Trump administration imposed sanctions on Monday on the state-owned oil company of Venezuela, a potentially critical economic move aimed at increasing pressure on President Nicolas Maduro to cede power to the opposition.
The US move comes as Venezuela's self-declared interim president Juan Guaido reaches out to the military which has so far shown loyalty to Maduro.
US national security adviser John Bolton and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the measures against the company.

Robert Mueller probe is 'close to being completed,' acting AG says

29 January 2019 — 1:41pm
Washington: The special counsel's Russia probe is "close to being completed," the acting attorney general said on Monday in the first official sign that the investigation may be wrapping up.
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker's comments were a departure for the Justice Department, which rarely comments on the state of the investigation into whether President Donald Trump's campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.
"The investigation is, I think, close to being completed," Whitaker said on Monday at the end of an unrelated news conference in Washington. He said he had been "fully briefed" on the probe.

Stellar global growth to slow: report

Deloitte Access Economics is expecting more pedestrian global growth in 2019 and 2020, driven by an easing of growth in the United States and China.
Marnie Banger
Australian Associated Press January 29, 20199:25am
Australia's economy will be affected by slower global growth in the next two years, a leading economic forecaster predicts.
But conditions will ultimately be fairly rosy for Australian businesses and families as more jobs are created and companies gradually increase their capacity, according to Deloitte Access Economics.
In its latest Business Outlook, the economic adviser says global growth will slow as the impact of tax cuts in the United States starts to fade and China's slowdown continues.

China's rise to superpower status creates challenge of one world, two systems

By Martin Wolf
30 Jan 2019 — 10:01 AM
The accelerating breakdown in relations between China and the US is the most significant current event. How is this to be managed, given today's global interdependence?
Three recent pieces of evidence reveal alarm over the rise of China to its current status as the world's "junior superpower", in the words of Yan Xuetong of Tsinghua University. One is the campaign against Huawei, standard bearer for Chinese technological ambitions, which must be viewed in the context of the US trade war with China and its description of the latter as a "strategic competitor". Another is a paper from the free trade-oriented BDI, Germany's leading industry association, which labels China a "partner and systemic competitor". The last is the description of Xi Jinping's China by George Soros as "the most dangerous opponent of those who believe in the concept of open society".
This, then, is a point on which a nationalist US administration, German free-traders and a noteworthy proponent of liberal ideas agree: China is no friend. At best, it is an uncomfortable partner; at worst, it is a hostile power.

'Frustrating': Huawei Australia swept up in 'China bashing'

By Lisa Murray, Yolanda Redrup and Jacob Greber
Updated 30 Jan 2019 — 7:30 AM, first published at 29 Jan 2019 — 11:00 PM
Huawei's local chairman John Lord said the telecommunications giant had been swept up in a wave of anti-China sentiment after the US filed criminal charges accusing it of stealing American technology and evading sanctions against Iran.
US officials said the investigations into Huawei had been going on for years and as part of those, the FBI uncovered evidence of a bonus scheme at the company that rewarded employees for stealing information from other companies around the world.
In a move that heightens tensions between the US and China ahead of important trade talks later this week, and ratchets up Washington's global campaign against Huawei over security concerns, the Department of Justice unveiled the explosive charges on Tuesday (AEDT).

May's game of chicken: EU must reopen talks or face Brexit disaster

By Nick Miller
Updated30 January 2019 — 12:15pmfirst published at 11:30am
London: There seems little chance that Theresa May can deliver the new version of Brexit she just promised.
But she did promise it. At least it gives her something to do, other than twiddle her thumbs as the country hurtles towards the utter mess of a no-deal Brexit.
Her Brexit strategy seems to be ‘if you don’t ask you don’t get’, even when she has already asked, many times, and didn’t get.

Marise Payne air brushes China actions while US pulls no punches

  • January 30, 2019
Is Australia soft-pedaling too much on China?
Both the US and Australia are equally alarmed by Beijing’s growing belligerence on the global stage, but the contrast in the way the two countries talk about China is increasingly stark.
Consider what unfolded in Washington today.
On one side of town, the US Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, was giving a statement on the latest US intelligence assessments on China, while on the other side of the capital Foreign Minister Marise Payne was talking about Australia-US cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

Venezuela's crisis has split the world, this map shows

By Andres Martinez
Updated 31 Jan 2019 — 6:31 AM, first published at 6:27 AM
Buenos Aires | Support for duelling presidents in Venezuela has broken along traditional lines.
China and Russia, which have billions of dollars in loans to Venezuela, back President Nicolas Maduro.
As does Cuba, its political and military patron.
The US and most Latin American nations, which have felt the brunt of a migration crisis, back the head of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido.

China to push for US trade deal despite Huawei outrage

30 Jan 2019 — 8:00 PM
Shanghai | China will push ahead with high-level trade negotiations in Washington this week to avert an economically crippling trade war with the United States despite outrage at criminal allegations levelled against controversial telecoms giant Huawei.
While US-China rivalry now threatens to blow up into a technological trade war, there was no indication from Beijing on Wednesday it would abandon the next crucial round of trade talks as it sought to buoy confidence in the country's slowing economy, where the country's 1.4 billion people have begun Chinese New Year holidays.

Patience not a virtue for Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell

31 Jan 2019 — 11:45 AM
There are two possible conclusions to draw from the Federal Reserve's 180-degree turn, and neither of them is very comforting.
Just six weeks after raising interest rates, Fed chairman Jerome Powell kept US interest rates on hold as expected on Thursday morning, but then shocked the market by striking a surprisingly dovish tone in his accompanying commentary.
He indicated the central bank would be "patient" on further rate rises, and with the unwinding of Fed's massive post-crisis balance sheet.

Trump hails 'beautiful letter' from Xi after two days of trade talks

Updated 01 Feb 2019 — 9:00 AM, first published at 8:23 AM
Washington | Donald Trump has described as "beautiful" a letter sent to him by Xi Jinping as the US president talked up the prospects of deal with China before a March 1 deadline triggers as surge in tariffs.
After two days of intense talks in Washington between Mr Trump's top trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer and Chinese vice premier Liu He, the president said; "Now we're going to have a great trade deal...if it all works out."
"We've made tremendous progress," he added, saying that when he meets with Xi "every point will be agreed to".

God wanted Trump to be president, says Sarah Sanders

By Ben Riley-Smith
1 February 2019 — 8:04am
Washington: God wanted Donald Trump to become US president, the White House press secretary has said in an interview.
Sarah Sanders made the comment during a conversation with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), which was shown on Thursday.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, during an interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network, explained exactly who she thought was responsible for Trump’s presidency.

'Extrajudicial killing:' Court finds Syria liable for reporter's death

By Lawrence Hurley
1 February 2019 — 5:42am
Washington: A US judge has ruled that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government is liable for at least $US302.5 million in damages for its role in the 2012 death of renowned American journalist Marie Colvin while covering the Syrian civil war.
US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said in a ruling made public on Wednesday that the Syrian government "engaged in an act of extrajudicial killing of a United States national."
Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik were killed in the besieged Syrian city of Homs while reporting on the Syrian conflict.

ECB triggers significant increase in tighter global monetary policy

Updated 02 Feb 2019 — 8:04 AM, first published at 6:57 AM
The European Central Bank's decision to stop buying securities has led to a "significant tightening" in global monetary policy, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
The Council's Index of Global Monetary Policy increased to 5.72/10 this month from 3.44/10 in December.
The index tracks data from 54 countries around the world to highlight significant global trends in monetary policy which at the moment is highlighting "the unprecedented level of policy divergence" marked by the US Federal Reserve's lifting of rates while most of the rest of the world is cutting them.

It's a gold rush: Central banks stocked up reserves by 74 per cent

By Helen Chandler-Wilde
1 February 2019 — 1:02pm
The world's central banks bought more gold last year than at any time since President Richard Nixon ended the gold standard in 1971 as they used the metal to diversify their holdings.
Their gold stocks soared 74 per cent from 374.8 tonnes in 2017 to 651.5 tonnes - the second-highest total since records began. The only time it was higher was in 1967.
"Last year an incredibly large sum of gold was bought by central banks," said Alistair Hewitt, of the World Gold Council, which compiled the figures.
I look forward to comments on all this!

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