Friday, January 31, 2020

Universal Credit: Inquiry into economics of benefit launches - how to share your views

The Economic Affairs committee has launched its inquiry into the economics of Universal Credit, it has been announced this week. The investigative committee in the House of Lords, which is charged with considering economic affairs, is inviting written contributions to its investigations.

READ MORE

  • Universal Credit: DWP gives UK roll out update

The deadline for submissions is next month, on February 29, 2020.

Lord Forsyth, Chairman of the Committee, said: “Our Committee will consider if the original objectives of Universal Credit are still fit for purpose and able to provide adequate and fair social security.

“We will then make our recommendations to Government in due course.

“To inform our work we want to hear from as broad a range of people as possible.

“If you have a view on Universal Credit, look at our call for evidence and let us know what you think.”

The Committee will examine whether Universal Credit is meeting its original objectives, and whether the policy summations reflected in its design “are appropriate for different groups of claimants”.

The inquiry will also examine the extent to which the six-in-one benefits system meets the needs of claimants in the current labour market, and the “changing world of work”.

The Committee have said they are looking to form as “diverse a range of views as possible”.

They add that hearing from a range of different perspectives means that select committees are better informed and can “more effectively scrutinise public policy and legislation”.

They are encouraging anyone with expertise or experience on the issue to share their views with the Committee.

The announcement, published on the Parliament website, adds that contributors should have the “full knowledge that their views have value and are welcome”.

The Parliament website states that people can email their submission via the email address economicaffairs@parliament.uk, and that they should include their name and contact details.

READ MORE

  • Universal Credit: Payments could be stopped if you don’t do this

The Committee says it is seeking answers to the following questions:

  • How well has Universal Credit met its original objectives?
  • Were the original objectives and assumptions the right ones? How should they change?
  • What have been the positive and negative economic effects of Universal Credit?
  • What effect has fiscal retrenchment had on the ability of Universal Credit to successfully deliver its objectives?
  • Which claimants have benefited most from the Universal Credit reforms and which have lost out?
  • How has the world of work changed since the introduction of Universal Credit? Does Universal Credit’s design adequately reflect the reality of low-paid work?
  • If Universal Credit does not adequately reflect the lived experiences of low-paid workers, how should it be reformed?

What is Universal Credit replacing?

Universal Credit is replacing the following benefits:

  • Child Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Working Tax Credit

A pilot scheme is currently taking place in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, for the movement of legacy benefits recipients who have not had a change in circumstances onto Universal Credit.

Source: Read Full Article

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Mind-blowing close-up of the Sun revealed by scientists – and it looks just like popcorn

THE MOST detailed pictures of the Sun ever taken have been unveiled by scientists.

Normally hazy and out of focus, our star's explosive surface can be seen in unprecedented detail in the photos, which were snapped by a new telescope in Hawaii.

The Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope captured features as small as 19 miles across, revealing what looks like a convulsing mass of popcorn.

This level of detail is remarkable considering the scale of the subject – the Sun is 865,000 miles across and 93million miles from Earth.

"These are the highest resolution images of the solar surface ever taken," Thomas Rimmele, the director of the Inouye solar telescope project, told the Guardian.

"What we previously thought looked like a bright point – one structure – is now breaking down into many smaller structures."

These smaller structures are blobs of super-heated gas, or plasma. Each 6000C bubble is about the size of Texas.

Bright areas show where the gas is rising from the surface, while the darker borders are regions where it's cooling and sinking.

The Inouye telescope is designed to help us stare into the Sun in greater detail than ever before.

Run by the US National Science Foundation, it's twice the size of the next largest solar telescope.

Scientists hope to use Inouye to better understand solar storms – colossal ejections of plasma from the Sun that can disrupt electronics on Earth.

France Córdova, National Science Foundation (NSF) director, said: "Since NSF began work on this ground-based telescope, we have eagerly awaited the first images.

"We can now share these images and videos, which are the most detailed of our Sun to date.

"NSF’s Inouye Solar Telescope will be able to map the magnetic fields within the Sun’s corona, where solar eruptions occur that can impact life on Earth.

"This telescope will improve our understanding of what drives space weather and ultimately help forecasters better predict solar storms."

One of Inouye's first tasks is to measure the magnetic field at the Sun's surface.

"It's all about the magnetic field," said Inouye director Mr Rimmele.

"To unravel the Sun’s biggest mysteries, we have to not only be able to clearly see these tiny structures from 93million miles away but very precisely measure their magnetic field strength and direction near the surface and trace the field as it extends out into the million-degree corona, the outer atmosphere of the Sun."


The Sun – all the facts you need to know

What is it, why does it exist, and why is it so ruddy hot all the time?

  • The Sun is a huge star that lives at the centre of our solar system
  • It's a nearly perfect sphere of hot plasma, and provides most of the energy for life on Earth
  • It measures a staggering 865,000 miles across – making it 109 times bigger than Earth
  • But its weight is 330,000 times that of Earth, and accounts for almost all of the mass in the Solar System
  • The Sun is mostly made up of hydrogen (73%), helium (25%) and then a number of other elements like oyxgen, carbon and iron
  • Its surface temperature is around 5,505C
  • Scientists describe the Sun as being "middle-aged"
  • The Sun formed 4.6billion years ago, and tt's been in its current state for around four billion years
  • It's expected that it will remain stable for another five billion years
  • It doesn't have enough mass to explode as a supernova
  • Instead, we expect it to turn a hulking red giant
  • During this phase, it will be so big that it will engulf Mercury, Venus and Earth
  • Eventually it will turn into an incredibly hot white dwarf, and will stay that way for trillions of years

In other news, scientists want to move the Sun and Solar System to save Earth from killer asteroids.

"Reverse" solar panels that generate electricity from the night sky have been invented by scientists.

And here's why some people still think the Moon landings were faked 50 years later – and the man who started the hoax theory.

What do you think of the Sun close-ups? Let us know in the comments!

Source: Read Full Article

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Singapore stock watch: CapitaLand, Dasin Retail Trust, Straco, Sasseur Reit, Medtecs, AsiaMedic

SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) – The following companies saw new developments that may affect trading of their securities on Wednesday (Jan 29):

CapitaLand: It has closed six malls in China – four in Wuhan and two in Xian – as required by local governments following the outbreak of the Wuhan virus, the property giant said on Wednesday morning. CapitaLand’s remaining 45 malls in China will continue to operate with shorter hours, while its office properties will be closed until Feb 9, 2020. Shares of CapitaLand fell $0.19 or 4.9 per cent to $3.70 at Tuesday’s close.

Dasin Retail Trust: The property trust has shortened business hours at its five malls in China as part of precautionary measures in view of the coronavirus outbreak and to “minimise contagious risk due to crowd gatherings”, it said on Tuesday night. Units of Dasin Retail Trust closed at $0.835 on Tuesday, down one cent or 1.2 per cent, before the announcement.

Straco Corporation: The tourism player, which derives 73 per cent of its revenue from China, has temporarily closed three attractions in the country to help prevent the spread of the Wuhan virus, it announced on Tuesday night. Straco Corp was the worst hit from outbreak jitters among Singapore-listed companies with China exposure. Its shares sank 6.5 cents or 10.6 per cent to close at 55 cents on Tuesday, before its announcement.

Sasseur Real Estate Investment Trust (Sasseur Reit): Its units tumbled on Tuesday after its manager announced that it has temporarily closed the trust’s four outlet malls in China as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus spread. Sasseur Reit’s sponsor also shuttered seven other outlet malls in the country. Units of Sasseur Reit ended trading at 78.5 cents, down nine cents or 10.3 per cent, after some 13.5 million units changed hands.

Medtecs International, AsiaMedic, Healthway Medical: Medical plays and glove makers made considerable gains on Tuesday as Wuhan virus fears spread. Shares in Medtecs advanced 65.4 per cent or 6.8 cents to 17.2 cents; AsiaMedic added 0.2 cent or 13.3 per cent to 1.7 cents, while Healthway was up 0.7 cent or 17.9 per cent to close at 4.6 cents.

Source: Read Full Article

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Boris Johnson gives green light for Huawei 5G infrastructure role

The Chinese state-owned tech firm Huawei has been designated a “high-risk vendor” but will be given the opportunity to build non-core elements of Britain’s 5G network, the government has announced.

The company will be banned from the “core”, of the 5G network, and from operating at sensitive sites such as nuclear and military facilities, and its share of the market will be capped at 35%.

“We are clear-eyed about the challenge posed by Huawei, which we today confirm is a high-risk vendor,” said a Whitehall source.

But the source insisted a “market failure” meant there was little alternative in the short term.

Why is Huawei controversial?

Huawei is a Chinese telecoms company founded in 1987. Officials in Washington believe the company poses a security risk because the Chinese government will make the firm engineer backdoors in its technology, through which information could be accessed by Beijing. Donald Trump has banned US companies from sharing technology with Huawei and has been putting pressure on other nations to follow his lead.

The UK has accepted there is some risk in working with Huawei, but security services do not believe it to be unmanageable. The UK government has agreed in principle to allow Huawei to be involved in building “non-core” parts of the UK’s 5G network. With a final decision expected within weeks, the head of MI5 had recently said he was confident the US-UK intelligence-sharing relationship would not be affected if London gave Huawei the nod.

Poland’s internal affairs minister, Joachim Brudziński, has called for the European Union and Nato to work on a joint position over whether to exclude Huawei from their markets, after an Huawei employee was arrested on spying charges.

Much of the doubt surrounding Huawei stems from founder Ren Zhengfei’s background in China’s People’s Liberation Army between 1974 and 1983, where he was an engineer. His daughter, Huawei’s senior executive Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in Canada in December 2018 over allegations of Iran-sanctions violations.

Huawei insists it has never been asked to build any backdoor into its technology by the Chinese government and has offered to sign a “no spy agreement” with countries adopting it. The trade rivalry between the US and China has intensified in recent years and the firm believes the White House is simply using it as a weapon in that larger fight.

Kevin Rawlinson

Officials feared banning the provider could have delayed 5G rollout by two to three years, increased the cost to consumers – and dented economic growth.

“Our world-leading cyber-security experts know more about Huawei than any country in the world – and they are satisfied that with our tough approach and regulatory regime, any risks can be managed,” the Whitehall source insisted.

The 35% cap will be applied to the 5G and full-fibre network – and telecoms providers will be given three years to ensure they comply, by ensuring they are not too dependent on Huawei.

The government insists the decision does not affect the sharing of sensitive data with allies.

And its aim is to work towards more diversification in the market. The 35% market cap will be enshrined in legislation and enforced by the regulator Ofcom.

The decision was made at a meeting of the national security committee, which includes key ministers and intelligence officials, on Tuesday morning.

Johnson is likely to face a fierce backlash from the US, which has blocked the involvement of Huawei in its networks and encouraged its allies to follow suit.

The prime minister will meet Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday, and is expected to stress the government’s determination to work with the US and other allies to support diversification in the market.

The decision comes at a critical moment in the relationship with Trump’s White House, as Johnson prepares to press for a post-Brexit trade deal.

The government has already irritated Washington by pressing ahead with plans to implement a digital sales tax on global internet giants.

Johnson will also face criticism from Conservative backbenchers concerned about the security risks.

Tom Tugendhat, who hopes to retain his seat as chair of the crossbench foreign affairs committee, said on Monday that choosing Huawei would “nest a dragon” into the heart of the UK’s “critical national infrastructure”.

But officials are convinced they can manage the risks – and believe the best way to dilute Chinese dominance of the sector is to work on developing the next generation of technology, rather than impose a ban on an individual firm.

Huawei’s potential role has been controversial for months.

Theresa May’s cabinet clashed over the issue, with Gavin Williamson sacked as defence secretary, after allegedly leaking details of discussions at the national security council to the Daily Telegraph.

Culture secretary Lady Morgan, who will confirm the decision in a statement to the House of Lords said: “This is a UK-specific solution for UK-specific reasons and the decision deals with the challenges we face right now.

“It not only paves the way for secure and resilient networks, with our sovereignty over data protected, but it also builds on our strategy to develop a diversity of suppliers.”

Source: Read Full Article

Monday, January 27, 2020

Asia Stocks Drop on Virus Fears; Yuan Steadies: Markets Wrap

Asian stocks retreated again on Tuesday as concern over the economic and human impact of China’sdeadly coronavirus rattled global markets. Treasury yields and the yuan steadied after Monday’s declines.

Japanese shares slid, with deeper losses in South Korea and Australia as those markets reopened after holidays. The yen fluctuated as new figures showed the death toll in China from the virus had increased. Chinese and Hong Kong markets remain closed. U.S. futures saw modest gains after the S&P 500 Index fell the most in almost four months. Chinese stock futures stabilized after a near-6% plunge Monday.

Equity Pounding Feels Awful But Is Pretty Much Right on Schedule

Investor concern that China has so far failed to contain the pneumonia-likevirus roiled markets at the start of a week jam-packed with corporate earnings. The outbreak shattered a calm in markets that hasn’t seen a 1% up-or-down move in the S&P 500 since early October.

Traders Eye Technicals to Predict Where Latest Stock Rout Ends

“This is now a sell first, ask questions later situation,” said Alec Young, managing director of global markets research at FTSE Russell. “Markets hate uncertainty, and the coronavirus is the ultimate uncertainty — no one knows how badly it will impact the global economy. China is the biggest driver of global growth, so this couldn’t have started in a worse place.”

China’s financial markets willremain closed until next Monday after authorities extended the Lunar New Year break by three days as they grapple with the virus crisis.

Elsewhere, oil slipped to a more than three-month low. Gold fluctuated.

Rare VIX Inversion Points to Potential End of U.S. Equity Rout

Here are some events to watch out for this week:

  • Tech giants Apple, SAP, Facebook, Samsung and South Korean chip maker SK Hynix announce earnings, as do Boeing, International Paper, GE, United Technologies, Lockheed Martin, Caterpillar, Unilever, Exxon Mobil, Shell and Chevron.
  • Fed policy makers are expected to open 2020 the same way they closed 2019 — by holding interest rates steady Wednesday.
  • Goldman Sachs will hold its first-ever Investor Day on Wednesday.
  • The BOE meeting is highly anticipated Thursday after a series of dovish comments raised speculation policy makers could lower interest rates.
  • The U.S. reports fourth-quarter GDP Thursday.
  • The U.K. is scheduled to leave the European Union Friday.

These are some of the main moves in markets:

Stocks

  • Japan’s Topix Index fell 0.8% as of 10:08 a.m. in Tokyo.
  • South Korea’s Kospi Index fell 2.6%.
  • S&P/ASX 200 fell 1.3%.
  • S&P 500 futures rose 0.4%. The S&P 500 slid 1.6% Monday.
  • FTSE China A50 futures fell 0.1%.

Currencies

  • The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was flat.
  • The euro was little changed at $1.1019.
  • The Japanese yen fell 0.1% to 108.95 per dollar.
  • The offshore yuan rose 0.1% to 6.9797 per dollar.

Bonds

  • The yield on 10-year Treasuries was flat at 1.61%.

Commodities

  • West Texas Intermediate crude fell 0.2% to $53.00 a barrel.
  • Gold fell 0.1% to $1,580 an ounce.
Source: Read Full Article

Saturday, January 25, 2020

State pension payments are rising in 2020 - how much more will you be able to get?

Both the basic and the new state pension rises each year, according to the triple lock. This means that it rises every year by whichever is the highest out of the average percentage growth in wages in Great Britain, the percentage growth in prices in the UK as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), and 2.5 percent.

READ MORE

  • State pension: How will payment dates change this month?

The changes will comes into effect in April 2020, when the full rate of the UK’s new State Pension will increase by 3.9 percent to £175.20 per week.

Currently, the full new state pension is £168.60 per week.

This increase means those getting the full new state pension will get an extra £6.60 per week – which works out at an additional £344 a year.

Meanwhile, the full weekly rate of the basic State Pension is set to increase by £5.05 per week from £129.20 to £134.25 per week.

However, not everyone will be able to get the full state pension.

The new State Pension takes National Insurance records into account, and some people will receive more and others less than the full amount.

For those who retire overseas, it’s possible to claim the state pension in most countries.

However, the state pension will only increase each year if the claimant lives in:

  • The European Economic Area (EEA)
  • Gibraltar
  • Switzerland
  • Countries that have a social security agreement with the UK (but a person cannot get increases in Canada or New Zealand).

Gov.uk states that a person will not get yearly increases if they live outside of these countries.

Should they return to live in the UK, the recipient’s pension will go up to the current rate.

The Government has confirmed that other payments are set to rise in April 2020, confirming that it would not extend the benefits freeze which was due to end next year.

From April 2020, working-age benefits will rise by 1.7 percent, in line with inflation.

READ MORE

  • Universal Credit payment will change in 2020 – will you get more cash?

According to the DWP, around 2.5million people on Universal Credit will see their payments rise by this amount, with the increase estimated to benefit more than 10million people.

Working-age benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit, Universal Credit, Child Tax Credits, Working Tax Credits and Child Benefit, have remained at the same level since April 2015.

Despite the upcoming rise, research from the Resolution Foundation has found that some people affected by the freeze will still be hundreds of pounds worse-off by.

According to the Foundation’s analysis, the freeze reduced the real-terms value of working-age benefits by six percent since 2015, and left the average couple with children in the bottom half of the income distribution £580 per year worse-off.

But while the benefit freeze is over, its impact is here to stay with a lower income couple with kids £580 a year worse off as a result.

Adam Corlett, Senior Economic Analyst at the Resolution Foundation

Commenting on the rise by inflation rates back in October this year, Adam Corlett, Senior Economic Analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Today’s inflation figures have confirmed that working-age benefits received by millions of families are set to rise in line with prices by 1.7 percent next April.

“This is their first cash increase in five years.

“But while the benefit freeze is over, its impact is here to stay with a lower income couple with kids £580 a year worse off as a result.

“And because benefits will only keep pace with rising prices, the social security safety net will continue to erode – falling further behind earnings and the state pension.”

Source: Read Full Article

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Explainer: Central bank digital currencies - Moving towards reality?

LONDON (Reuters) – Central banks are looking at creating their own digital currencies – a stark contrast to the ethos of cryptocurrencies that seek to subvert mainstream authority over money.

As Facebook’s efforts to launch its Libra cryptocurrency pour fuel onto debates over who will control money in the future, major economies have started to examine how so-called central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) could become reality.

Here are some key questions on the rise of central bank digital currencies and their progress in entering the mainstream.

ARE CBDCs DIFFERENT TO CRYPTOCURRENCIES?

Yes – and fundamentally so.

CBDCs are traditional money, but in digital form; issued and governed by a country’s central bank. By contrast, cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are produced by solving complex maths puzzles, and governed by disparate online communities instead of a centralised body.

The common denominator is that both cryptocurrencies and CBDCs, to a varying degree, are based on blockchain technology, a digital ledger that allows transactions to be recorded and accessed in real time by multiple parties.

While some retailers accept bitcoin as a form of payment, cryptocurrencies are not recognised as legal tender – which CBDCs, by definition, would be.

And unlike central bank money, both traditional and digital, the value of cryptocurrencies is determined entirely by the market, and not influenced by factors such as monetary policy or trade surpluses.

AND WHAT ABOUT ELECTRONIC CASH?

The rise of technology like contactless debit cards has made it easier for consumers and businesses to use electronic cash, or e-money, to pay for goods and services.

But this also differs to CBDCs.

Electronic cash, defined by the Bank for International Settlements as a store of value for making payments to retailers or between devices, is usually held at banks or on pre-paid cards or digital wallets such as PayPal.

CBDCs would not merely be a representation of physical money, as is the case with electronic cash, but a complete replacement for notes and coins.

SO WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF CBDCs?

Central banks think CBDCs could make payments systems, which are often time-consuming and costly, more efficient, reducing transfer and settlement times and thus stoking economic growth.

Some central banks think CBDCs could also counter the rise of cryptocurrencies issued by the private sector such as Libra, planned for launch in June 2020.

Bitcoin and other virtual currencies, hampered by wild volatility, have presented few realistic threats to central bank control over money. But central bankers fret that Libra could reach billions and quickly erode sovereignty over monetary policy.

CBDCs, they think, could address problems like inefficient payments that cryptocurrencies seek to solve, while maintaining state control over money.

In an era of negative interest rates, CBDCs are also seen as offering a tool to encourage businesses and people to spend money and invest, the argument goes, as they could be used to charge households and businesses to hold cash.

ARE CBDCs CLOSE TO BECOMING REALITY?

Increasingly so – though most CBDC projects are still in very early or conceptual stages.

A growing number of central banks are likely to issue their own digital currencies in the next few years, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) has found. Most of those launching pilot schemes are from emerging markets. [L4N29R45W]

Among major economies, China is closest to becoming the first to introduce a CBDC. While details of its project to build a digital renminbi are scarce, it will be powered in part by blockchain technology and will initially be issued to commercial banks and other financial institutions.

The central banks of Britain, the euro zone, Japan, Sweden and Switzerland said on Tuesday they will share experiences in a group assisted by the BIS as they examine the case for issuing CBDCs.

ARE MOST MAJOR CENTRAL BANKS SUPPORTIVE?

Caution and scepticism exists in many quarters.

The U.S. Federal Reserve, for example, was notably absent from collaboration with the initiative by the European and Japanese central banks to look at CBDCs.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said in November the bank was monitoring the digital currency debate but not actively considering its own amid a host of legal, regulatory and operational questions.

Others, such as the Bank of Japan, have warned that uncertainties over the impact of CBDCs on commercial banking must be addressed. The BOJ has also scotched the idea that CBDCs could boost the effectiveness of negative interest rate policies.

Source: Read Full Article

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Allied Tech CEO, CFO to assist in CAD probe

SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) – Allied Technologies’ chief executive officer Clement Leow Wee Kia and chief financial officer Ong Lizhen will be “providing assistance” to the Commercial Affairs Department on an investigation, the company said on Wednesday night (Jan 22).

The Catalist-listed precision engineering firm had made headlines in May last year when news broke that $33 million of its funds parked with JLC Advisors had gone missing while JLC managing partner Jeffrey Ong’s whereabouts were unknown.

That same month, CAD seized documents from Allied Tech relating to the company and three of its subsidiaries as well as the JLC escrow account. CAD also interviewed Allied Tech’s executive director Kenneth Low Si Ren.

CAD has not disclosed to the company further details of the probe as at Wednesday, Allied Tech said.

Allied Tech added that it intends to cooperate fully with CAD on the investigation and will provide further updates to shareholders on subsequent material developments.

Separately, Ong from JLC has been slapped with 26 charges, having been arraigned last October on four fresh counts, including the most serious criminal breach of trust offence.

Trading in Allied Tech shares has been suspended since early May, amid concerns raised by auditor Ernst & Young over the company’s financials.

Source: Read Full Article

Told to behave, sides in Trump trial to make their case

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Republican-controlled U.S. Senate will hear opening arguments in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on Wednesday, beginning several days of argument on whether to remove Trump from office.

In Davos, Switzerland, Trump said allowing current and former top administration officials such as John Bolton to testify at the trial would present national security concerns.

In a 13-hour battle over trial rules that lasted until the wee hours of Wednesday, Republican senators rejected requests for subpoenas seeking the testimony of Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, and three White House officials.

Trump was impeached last month by the Democratic-run House of Representatives on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, a political rival, and impeding a congressional inquiry into the matter.

The president denies any wrongdoing.

The trial, the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history, was due to resume at 1 p.m. ET (1800 GMT). On Tuesday – effectively the trial’s opening day – Democrats argued that more witnesses and records were needed since the Trump administration had not complied with requests for documents and urged officials not to participate.

Arguments became so heated that Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, admonished both the defense and prosecution.

Related Coverage

  • Factbox: Here's the team arguing for Trump's removal in the Senate
  • Pompeo says he will testify in Trump impeachment trial if required

Representative Adam Schiff, leading the House Democrats’ prosecution team of “managers,” said the evidence against Trump was “already overwhelming” but further witness testimony was necessary to show the full scope of the misconduct by the president and those around him.

Trump is almost certain to be acquitted by the Republican-majority 100-member chamber, where a two-thirds majority is needed to remove him from office. But the trial’s effect on Trump’s November re-election bid is unclear.

Trump said he would prefer a longer trial so that current and former top administration officials could testify, but that having them appear would present national security concerns.

“The problem with John (Bolton) is that it’s a national security problem,” Trump said at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“He knows some of my thoughts, he knows what I think about leaders. What happens if he reveals what I think about a certain leader and it’s not very positive?” he told a news conference.

Republican senators have not ruled out the possibility of further testimony and evidence at some point later in the trial but they held firm with Trump to block Democratic requests for witnesses and evidence.

“They insist that the president has done nothing wrong, but they refuse to allow the evidence and hearing from the witnesses … and they lie, and lie and lie and lie,” Representative Jerrold Nadler, another Democratic impeachment manager, said of Trump’s lawyers in remarks to the Senate.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone fired back.

“Mr Nadler, you owe an apology to the president of the United States and his family,” Cipollone said. “You owe an apology to the Senate. But most of all you owe an apology to the American people.”

REMEMBER WHERE YOU ARE

That back-and-forth led Roberts, the chief justice of the United States, to admonish both men.

“I do think those addressing the Senate should remember where they are,” he said.

During a debate that finally wrapped up near 2 a.m. (0700 GMT) on Wednesday, senators rejected by 53-47 votes motions from Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer to subpoena records and documents from the White House, the State Department, the Defense Department, and the Office of Management and Budget related to Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

Senators also rejected requests for subpoenas seeking the testimony of acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, White House aide Robert Blair and White House budget official Michael Duffey.

Under the rules, lawyers for Trump could move early in the proceedings to ask senators to dismiss all charges, according to a senior Republican leadership aide, a motion that would likely fall short of the support needed to succeed.

The Senate trial is expected to run six days a week, Monday through Saturday, until at least the end of January.

Trump and his legal team say that there was no pressure on Ukraine and that the Democrats’ case is based on hearsay. Cipollone described the Ukraine investigation as an illegal attempt to remove a democratically elected president and avert his re-election.

No president has ever been removed through impeachment, a mechanism the nation’s founders – worried about a monarch on American soil – devised to oust a president for “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” One president, Richard Nixon, resigned in the face of a looming impeachment.

Source: Read Full Article

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Business leaders see the light of 'moral capitalism' at Davos

There is a tendency, probably with good reason, to be cynical about the sight of a conga line of plutocrats lining up in a Swiss ski resort to espouse the virtues of "green finance" and proclaim their commitment to progressive environmental, social and governance agendas.

The theme of the World Economic Forum at Davos that got underway on Tuesday is "stakeholder capitalism," with a particular focus on climate change and how big business is responding to it.

Bank of America chief Brian Moynihan says his investors are telling the bank to invest in companies ‘doing right by society’.Credit:Bloomberg

While it is right to be cynical of the apparent abrupt conversion of former followers of Milton Friedman – who in an article in The New York Times in 1970 argued "companies must obey the law but, beyond that, their job is to make money for shareholders," – to what Bank of America chief executive Brian Moynihan has termed "moral capitalism", there is a compelling reason why that cynicism actually supports the substance of the conversion.

If the starting point is that businesses and their senior executives act in their own self-interest and are in the business of making as much money, for themselves and their shareholders, as they can, then the embracing of sustainable investment agendas is helps protect their licences to operate, maximise their companies’ profitability and value and enhances their own net worth.

BofA’s Moynihan, who’s in Davos, said the bank’s investors were telling it to invest in companies "doing right by society". The bank plans to invest $US300 billion ($439 billion) in sustainable business projects over the next decade.

Ahead of the conference, in his annual letter to CEOs, BlackRock’s Larry Fink caused a stir by writing that climate change had become a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects and that he believed the world was on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance, with a significant re-allocation of capital to occur in the near future.

BlackRock chairman Larry Fink belives a fundamental reshaping of finance is occurring.Credit:Bloomberg

If Fink is right and there is a fundamental reshaping of finance underway, then capital will flow towards those companies with sustainable and moral business models and away from those with a narrower and more traditional profit-maximising vision.

There are more than enough investors, customers and governments that are committed to responding to climate change that it has become just good business to protect the long-term sustainability of companies – and their competitive access to capital – by prioritising the broader sustainability issues those stakeholders are concerned about.

There could be a lot of shareholder value to be created, or lost, if the shifts in community expectations of business, and the flows of capital, are permanent.

With traditional market capitalism under attack from the emergence of aggressive populism, nationalism and protectionism in the post-financial crisis era, there has been a general distrust of big business and its traditional focus on near-term profitability.

There are real risks for businesses and shareholders from climate change and what might be called amoral capitalism.

The Bank for International Settlements has talked about the potential for climate change to generate “green swan” events that could cause the next systemic financial crisis.

One only has to consider the condition of the four major banks in the Australian market and the consequences of their misconduct in their efforts to maximise profitability, to see the consequences for the corporate hierarchy and shareholders.

The llenders have been hit with massive costs, more intrusive and aggressive regulation, increased corporate and individual liabilities and the evictions of former senior executives and directors.

Coal miners would be very aware that, at the very least, the pool of investors – the demand for their shares – is going to shrink as the focus on responses to global warming and climate change intensify.

The sudden burnishing of big businesses’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials at Davos might have an element of "greenwashing" but it is also a pragmatic and self-interested recognition that the nature of the capitalism acceptable to communities is evolving inexorably.

If the corporate heavyweights at Davos want their companies to survive and prosper and to continue to collect the big bucks, their understanding of the range of stakeholders and priorities they serve will have to evolve too. It seems like it is.

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Billionaire founder of Lotte Group leaves no will? Let the plotting begin

(BLOOMBERG) – It was once a great blessing for an emperor to have a son. But if he has more than one, succession could threaten to unravel the empire – especially if his grip was weak.

Over six decades, Shin Kyuk-ho built a chewing-gum business into South Korea’s fifth-largest conglomerate, spanning hotels, shopping malls, movie chains and cafes. It’s no secret that the founder of Lotte Group was near the end of his life: He died over the weekend at 97 after slipping into dementia years ago. While the patriarch involved his children in the family business, Shin never established a clear heir apparent. Miraculously, he didn’t even leave a will, Korean media has reported.

In South Korea, family-run conglomerates tend to control their labyrinthine holdings with the minimum possible capital outlays. While Hong Kong tycoons typically maintain 40 per cent to 50 per cent stakes to keep their crown jewels close, Korean billionaires often hold around half that. This approach can create a host of problems when there’s a transition of power, and investors are already profiting from a potential palace coup. Lotte Corp, the holding company, rose as much as 20 per cent on Monday before closing 5.9 per cent higher.

Things are getting even hairier now that traditional family structures are getting tested. At SK Group, South Korea’s third-largest conglomerate, an ugly billion-dollar divorce could strip chairman Chey Tae-won of control if his wife gets the stake she’s seeking. And while primogeniture once went unchallenged, younger brothers and sisters are now clamoring for their share.

That’s certainly the case with Lotte. Five years ago, Shin’s two sons – Shin Dong-joo, the elder, and Shin Dong-bin – were already jockeying for power as their father’s health declined. In July 2015, Dong-joo said Shin had ordered the removal of Dong-bin from the board of Lotte Holdings of Japan. That very day, Dong-bin convened a board meeting and stripped his father of the chairman title. Lotte Corp’s conglomerate discount widened to 45.8 per cent, or roughly US$1.5 billion in value, under Dong-bin’s reign, estimates CLSA.

Now the elder brother, Dong-joo, has little hope of regaining his power. Directly and through firms he controls, his younger brother, Dong-bin, has a 21.2 per cent stake in Lotte Corp, estimates Sanghyun Park, an analyst who writes for Smartkarma. Even if Dong-joo inherited his father’s shares and spent all his cash buying Lotte Corp’s shares, his ownership would be just 19.07 per cent.

But all isn’t lost for Dong-joo. The wild card is an 11.1 per cent stake in Lotte Corp held by Hotel Lotte, which is controlled by Lotte Japan. The elder brother could significantly boost his indirect stake in the conglomerate’s Japanese operation by winning over an employees’ union that holds a 28 per cent share. This could put Dong-joo in a position to renew his bid for Lotte Corp’s crown. Lest we forget, he wouldn’t even be a contender if his younger brother had amassed a few more shares over the years.

Investors have learned to brace for these family feuds. The stock price of conglomerate Hanjin Kal Corp, whose units include flagship carrier Korea Air Lines, has been on a roller-coaster ride since the chairman’s death last April. Since then, the eldest daughter – Heather Cho, who first gained global notoriety for her “nut rage” incident in 2014 – has criticized her brother now in charge of the family business. She even met with activist private equity funds.

With the economy flagging, there’s a growing sense that chaebol reform, which swept President Moon Jae-in to power in 2017, is losing steam. But with inevitable deaths, expensive divorces and family theatrics, the president may not need a “chaebol sniper” to unravel these overly complex corporations after all.

Shuli Ren is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Asian markets. She previously wrote on markets for Barron’s, following a career as an investment banker, and is a CFA charterholder.

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Monday, January 20, 2020

Down Town Association looking to add floors to landmark HQ to make room for hotel

A blueblood Wall Street-area social club wants to raise the roof of its century-old, landmark headquarters at 60 Pine St.

It would put the storied organization on firmer financial footing by letting it use less space in the building to make room for a fancy new hotel.

But some members of the Down Town Association are down in the dumps over a possible two-year closure that would force them to find alternate places to meet and eat around town.

The intensely private organization — whose members include publicity-shy financial and legal powerbrokers — first received Landmarks Preservation Commission approval to add three floors to its five-and-a-half-story home in 2010.

But the Association, whose past members have included Franklin D. Roosevelt, former New York State Gov. Thomas E. Dewey and statesman John Foster Dulles, couldn’t build due to tough financial times. Now, under a deal being negotiated, its landlord would build the new floors and use them and part of existing floors to create a high-end boutique hotel.

The hotel would be run by an outside operator yet to be named.

The Association no longer needs all of the building’s 57,000 square feet, and reducing its space would save it what a source called a “significant” percentage of its current rent, although it isn’t known how much it’s paying.

The Romanesque Revival-style structure stands in the shadow of next-door 70 Pine St., the landmarked Art Deco skyscraper that was converted from offices to apartments by Rose Associates — and where the Association leases 33 members’ bedrooms on the tower’s second floor.

The 60 Pine St. building was designed by prominent 19th Century architect Charles C. Haight and opened in 1887. It was expanded in 1910 by Warren & Wetmore, the architects of Grand Central Terminal.

The interior, rarely seen by outsiders, boasts elegant white oak paneling, a four-story cast-iron lobby staircase, and Gilded Age-era dining rooms with noble arched windows.

But the club was beset by rising costs and reduced dues from a shrinking membership.

According to its 2017 tax return posted on the state attorney general’s charity registry, expenses that year exceeded revenue by $4.02 million, twice as much as in 2016.

In 2018, the Association sold the building for $28 million to Great Empire Realty — an obscure partnership which club members refer to as “the doctors.”

A source said it is not the firm of the same name run by Chinatown developer Benny Fong, as was widely reported at the time.

The club leased the building back from the buyers. The deal brought the Association much-needed cash as well as a $4 million line of credit.

The club even installed a new gallery where works by Andy Warhol, Willem de Kooning and Paul Gaugin are on display.

So members were stunned in 2019 to learn of the hotel-building plan, which would force them to find other facilities until the job was finished. The landlord would use the three new floors as well as parts of other floors for a 66-room luxury inn.

“Not all of us were happy with the sale and then the hotel came out of the blue,” one source told us.

In September, the Landmarks Commission again blessed the expansion. It noted that many social clubs “have a tradition of expanding with rooftop additions” and that the 60 Pine St. extension “will be set back from the primary facade and will not be visible” from the street.

The redesign would relocate within the building some of its major historic features including its dining room, bar, and reading room.

A stylish, ground-floor bar for hotel guests would be added to the first floor, which club members could use at discounted prices.

At a December meeting, Association president Mark Altherr, a former director of Credit Suisse Securities and Citigroup, addressed members’ concerns.

Club trustee Thomas Boucher, a managing director of investment-management firm Ingalls & Snyder, cited some members’ fears that they “wouldn’t receive full value” of their dues for 2020 if the club shut down before year’s end.

No start date has been set for construction.

But Altherr promised that members “will be treated fairly during closure through credits upon reopening and with use of other places.”

The Association has reciprocal arrangements with other clubs, including the Harvard, Yale and Lotus clubs in Manhattan.

Neither Altherr nor representatives of Great Empire Realty could be reached for comment.

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Saturday, January 18, 2020

Hudson Yards haters have lost their minds — over a fake wall

Absent any sensible reason to condemn Hudson Yards, the vast project’s innumerable detractors came up with a laughably hypothetical one this past week. The idea was that the developer, Related, might one day build a 700-foot-long, 2-story-high wall along its westernmost edge that would separate the complex’s yet-to-be-built second portion facing the Hudson River from the elevated High Line Park.

The notion emerged during a conversation among officials of Related and the High Line and was leaked to The New York Times and to public officials who detest everything about Hudson Yards, from developer Stephen Ross to the french fries at the Thomas Keller TAK Room. Photos of a model surfaced on Saturday which indeed included a wall.

But, in fact, there was never the remotest chance of the monstrosity being built. Hudson Yards raised it as a strictly theoretical solution to the challenge of constructing another set of buildings and parkland above an active rail yard in its second phase. Developers come up with such preliminary “what if” contingencies all the time even for a single building, to say nothing of a 27-acre, $28 million mega-complex.

The Yards’ second half (between Eleventh and Twelfth avenues) isn’t even designed beyond the rough-concept stage. Related can’t build a square inch of it — nor even start work on the platform — until a million issues are worked out with the LIRR, the MTA and other agencies, which could take years.

That didn’t stop influential Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman from inveighing against it. “Hudson Yards Promised a Park. They Didn’t Mention a Giant Wall,” the headline growled. The wall, he wrote, would make the whole complex a “quasi-gated community” and a “wealthy, exclusive enclave.”

When Related promptly said it had no intention of building a wall, state Sen. Brad Hoylman cheered that Related was “backing down from their plan to build a 20-foot-high concrete wall that would have cut off the High Line from new open space.” Other politicians including Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Speaker Corey Johnson expressed similar sentiments.

The wall was mooted as a way to raise the western Yards’ platform surface to fit a parking garage beneath it. Although obviously untenable, it served to focus progressives’ free-floating rage on a project that has no legitimate reason to be hated. Hudson Yards didn’t level charming old buildings or drive out poor people. No neighborhood was “gentrified” — the whole thing’s on top of a railroad yard from where, as far as is known, no hobos were evicted.

So what’s to hate? Ah, “exclusivity.”

Brewer ripped Hudson Yards as “elitist” and unwelcoming to people of color. Never mind that its extensive public amenities and open parkland are freely open to all. Its giant shopping mall offers Shake Shack and other cheap places to eat in addition to fancy restaurants, and such “elitist” shops as H&M along with Cartier.

Why would Related want to harm the High Line, which it has done so much to support? It moved heaven and earth to design the complex so that its public plaza would merge seamlessly with the park at West 30th Street. It provided more than $29 million for the construction of the park’s new Spur segment. Related pumps in over $800,000 a year to help fund the park’s operations and has raised significant additional funding for it over the years.

But damning Hudson Yards is a favorite sport in the Big Apple intelligentsia’s progress-hating precincts. Familiar gripes bleed through Kimmelman’s essay, which called The Vessel a “trash basket-shaped tourist attraction.”

In the past, Kimmelman has written that he enjoyed the view from the top of Hudson Yards’ tallest building because the view didn’t include — Hudson Yards. Artnet.com critic Nate Freeman identified The Vessel as “the most visually repugnant public structure to be inflicted on Manhattan in its history.” Curbed.com’s Amy Plitt praised a sex-toy company for making a Vessel-shaped butt plug.

Yards-shaming dribbles down to many politically sensitive New Yorkers, who gang up on it at every gluten-free brunch and natural-wine tasting. They proudly and excitedly share Instagrams of vacations in Tibet and the Seychelles, but balk at taking the terrifying 7 train to Hudson Yards — “it’s so hard to get there.”

The restaurants there are terrible, they insist. By the way, they ask, can I help get them a table at Estiatorio Milos or jump the line at Mercado Little Spain?

And so on until everyone collapses onto throw pillows, exhausted by the effort of sounding like idiots. But telling them they’re mistaken — that just maybe, Hudson Yards will prove as enduring and be one day as beloved as Rockefeller Center — is like talking to the wall.

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UPDATE 1-Turkish central bank adjusts gold limits in lira reserve requirements

(Adds comments from central bank)

ISTANBUL, Jan 18 (Reuters) – The Turkish central bank said on Saturday it had decreased the upper limit of holding standard gold to 20% from 30% of lira reserve requirements in a move to support financial stability and bring out gold savings into the economy.

By decreasing the limit, $1.7 billion equivalent of liquidity in terms of gold will be provided to the market and 4.5 billion lira liquidity will be withdrawn from the market, the bank said.

It said it was taking the step “to strengthen the monetary transmission mechanism, support financial stability and bring out gold savings into the economy”.

As part of the move it said it also increased the upper limit of holding standard gold converted from wrought or scrap gold collected from residents to 15% from 10% of lira reserve requirements.

In doing so, $300 million equivalent of liquidity in terms of gold will be withdrawn from the market, whereas 2 billion lira liquidity will be provided to the market. (Reporting by Nevzat Devranoglu and Can Sezer; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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Friday, January 17, 2020

Trump, EU chief to meet in Davos as U.S tariffs loom over digital tax: sources

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Donald Trump is expected to meet with EU leader Ursula von der Leyen in Davos, Switzerland, next week, three sources said on Friday, as tensions mount between the allies over tariff threats and the U.S. president faces an impeachment trial at home.

Just days after Trump scored big victories by inking a partial trade deal with China and passing a revamp of the North American Free Trade Agreement, he will travel to the World Economic Forum where he is expected to discuss deepening trade disputes with the European Commission president.

The White House and the European Commission did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Among the raft of trade issues dividing the allies, Washington’s most immediate concern is France’s plan to impose a 3% digital services tax, which the U.S. government believes would harm U.S. technology giants like Alphabet Inc’s Google and Amazon.com Inc, with a host of other countries poised to follow suit.

In retaliation, the U.S. trade representative last month threatened to impose a 100% tariff on French Champagne, handbags, cheese and other goods and services. Trade experts say those tariffs could hit as soon as late January, given the lack of progress in negotiations.

“Things are not really going anywhere,” said one of the sources, a European official, despite frequent talks between French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and top U.S. trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer. “The U.S. is not really ready to compromise in terms of having some sort of digital services tax,” he added.

European Union Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan on Thursday, ended a round of talks with senior U.S. officials in Washington, saying that negotiations were off to a “good start” but there was more work to do.

Iran will also likely be high on the agenda, after Britain, France and Germany triggered a dispute mechanism in the 2015 nuclear pact with the country, following Tehran’s decision to begin scaling back its compliance with the agreement.

The pact offered Iran sanctions relief if it curbed its nuclear work, but Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and reimposed U.S. sanctions, saying he wanted a tougher deal.

Tensions in the region have heightened after the United States killed Iran’s most powerful military commander in a drone strike. Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, canceled plans to attend the forum.

Trump and von der Leyen, Germany’s defense minister, know each other well after sparring over Berlin’s failure to reach NATO’s 2% defense spending target.

In a December 2016 interview, von der Leyen defended her shocked reaction to Trump’s election, saying, “I am not a political machine, but a human being … and I heard exactly what he said during the campaign, also as a woman.”

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In media's 'Wild West, news consumers struggle to find truth, trust and transparency

Free-to-air broadcast television audiences are in decline, but news programs on commercial networks are still amongst the most popular shows on air.

Despite platforms such as Facebook and Google becoming distributors of online news content, 52 per cent of news consumers watch news and current affairs on TV daily, and 42 per cent rely on the bulletins as their primary source, according to research found in the UTS Centre of Media Transition's report on Australian news.

Australian Communications and Media Authority chairman Nerida O’Loughlin.Credit:Rhett Wyman

However, broadcasters, like other traditional media, have continued to face challenges as they compete for attention in the digital era. Consumers have become increasingly reliant on platforms, such as Facebook and Google, which owns YouTube, that don’t abide by the same regulatory codes as traditional media. Consumers find content on these platforms, only a portion of which is factually correct and reliable.

"Fake news" – a term used to describe news that deliberately includes disinformation to mislead readers – has become increasingly prominent, eroding the public’s trust in news media altogether. As fake news and the spread of misinformation evolves, viewers and readers have become increasingly sceptical of the content they watch and consume.

Research released on Friday, conducted by the UTS Centre for Media Transition on behalf of the Australian Communications and Media Authority, found 83 per cent of respondents were concerned that news on commercial television and radio broadcasters was influenced by large advertisers, and 88 per cent were concerned news is made more dramatic or sensationalised to attract viewers.

Almost 100 per cent of respondents notice commercial influence in all sources of news, and 76 per cent are concerned media companies use the news to promote businesses they own or have commercial interests in.

Of daily news consumers, 39 per cent are concerned it is being reported from a particular point of view, while 38 per cent of those who read newspapers at least once a week think this is the case.

Those surveyed were also asked about commercial influence across multiple sources of news. Consumers noticed commercial influence mostly on news that appeared on social media – 92 per cent – while 89 per cent noticed influence on television news and newspapers.

The research, a collection of both qualitative and quantitative data, looks specifically at the impartiality and commercial influence in news. Its findings were “quite surprising”, according to ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin.

As Australian consumers scrutinise reporters’ ability to remain impartial and question the influence of advertisers, broadcasters face greater pressure to address these issues and prove trustworthiness.

A monitoring program conducted in June last year by the ACMA looked at a number of examples where consumers may be mislead or confused by potential commercial relationships, such as reporters going on trips to report on the release of new products or segments presented by a spokesperson for a company rather than a reporter.

One example used was a Nine News Now report on retail chain Big W's Toy Mania sale featuring products and prices without disclosure of a commercial relationship. (Nine Entertainment is the owner of this masthead.) Nine said it was not a commercial arrangement. The ACMA said this was a potential example where lack of disclosure as to whether money had exchanged hands could confuse viewers, or cause them to be sceptical.

Another example used was a Seven News segment on a new Samsung television available at Harvey Norman, which was followed by an advertisement for the product at the retailer.

“What we wanted to see was what was the impact of … digital disruption on the business models for television and radio and how they were affecting the content that people would see, and in fact whether those business models were affecting it," Ms O'Loughlin explained.

“In a broader sense what we were interested in was the whole impact of the changing landscape on news and the retention of factually accurate informative news on television and radio and see whether some of the issues about trust, which were seen in the online space, were playing out in the broadcasting space."

Qualitative research conducted for the discussion paper found respondents often couldn't identify commercial influence when presented with an assortment of news video clips.

"I would think it would be difficult [to detect commercial associations] a lot of the time, which is
why I have a general sort of a lack of trust … You never know behind the scenes what kind of
strings are being pulled to decide what stories get run and which stories get cancelled and why
they get cancelled or why they are run," a participant from Mount Gambier said.

You never know behind the scenes what kind ofstrings are being pulled.

An older participant from Port Lincoln said it was important to disclose all relationships. "If you're having truth in journalism it should be stated clearly that even if you're sponsoring another program on our channel, that's going to have no influence whatsoever on any broadcasting of our news," they said.

The research, Ms O'Loughlin said, found that while television and broadcast radio were still trusted sources of news, there was a perception that bulletins had commercial influence, even if they did not.

“Some might think there’s a commercial relationship sitting behind it and it’s not," Ms O'Loughlin said of the research.

“Retaining trust in those services is really essential and if you have things like increasing commercialisation, perception of less impartial news, it all adds into that sense of a lessening of trust in those very trusted sources, which is what we are worried about,” she added.

But many of the concerns raised in the ACMA’s paper is not new or limited to broadcasters.

Research conducted in 2017 found Australians were incredibly concerned about impartiality, bias and the separation of fact-based and opinion-based news content.

The Digital News Report, released by the University of Canberra last year, found 62 per cent of Australian news consumers were worried about determining what is fake or real on the internet. Australians were found to be the world's most likely to share dodgy articles online, with almost half of Generation Z using social media as their main source of news.

General trust in news dropped from 50 per cent to 44 per cent in 2019.

Concerns about commercialisation in news have also been long-standing. In 2001, research commissioned by the Australian Broadcasting Authority found more than 85 per cent of Australians thought commercial sponsors were very influential or somewhat influential in news coverage.

Meanwhile, an international study that looked at disclosure statements conducted overseas found that even if the statements were made, recognition of the advertising was low.

The Free TV Code of Practice currently requires broadcasters to present news fairly and impartially, and to distinguish factual material from commentary and analysis.

In radio, current affairs programs are not required to be impartial but a licensee must provide reasonable opportunities for "significant alternative viewpoints" when dealing with controversial issues of public importance.

Free TV chief executive Bridget Fair, who represents the interests of Nine Entertainment, Seven West Media and Network Ten, said if there was a need for further regulatory measures, they needed to be for social media platforms.

Facts are very different from perceptions, and the job of a regulator is to respond to facts, not feelings.

"If there is a need for further regulatory measures, it is in relation to social media and online news platforms which are in effect the Wild West of news content. Commercial television already has extensive and appropriate safeguards in this area which are subject to ACMA oversight," Ms Fair said.

"In this era of foreign interference, fake news and misinformation on social media and online news platforms, it is understandable that there is a heightened perception of issues such as commercial influence, bias and lack of trust across all news sources."

Prior to the research, the ACMA received 313 separate complaints about impartiality-related matters on television and radio between 2015 and 2019, 20 of which were about potential commercial influence. Four breaches were found.

"Facts are very different from perceptions, and the job of a regulator is to respond to facts, not feelings," Ms Fair said. "The facts contained in the ACMA discussion paper demonstrates that the level of concern expressed by commercial television viewers regarding issues of impartiality and commercial influence is extremely low, and the actual findings of breach almost non-existent – four breaches in five years across all Free TV broadcasters, who are generating more than 25,000 hours of news and current affairs content every year. "

Ms Fair's comments follow a government response to The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's Digital Platforms Inquiry, which included the introduction of a voluntary code of conduct to govern Facebook and Google's actions on disinformation and fake news, that would be overseen by the ACMA.

Ms O'Loughlin assured the ACMA was already in "constructive discussions" with the digital platforms in this area.

"Disinformation, fake news … [Google and Facebook] know internationally that every country wants them to do something about it."

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    Wednesday, January 15, 2020

    Whitehaven flags surge in coal demand on back of US-China trade deal

    Whitehaven Coal, Australia’s largest dedicated coal miner, says a US-China trade war truce will help revive demand for coal exports, as it tries to bounce back from a production slump caused by bushfires and a worker shortage.

    Coal producers have been in the spotlight this week after the world's largest asset manager, BlackRock, announced plans to dump thermal coal investments from its huge $10 trillion global portfolio because of climate change concerns.

    Whitehaven Coal’s production has been hit by bushfires, drought and a labour shortage. Credit:AP

    Fellow ASX-listed miner South32 downgraded production guidance at its soon-to-be-sold thermal coal business in South Africa on Thursday due to unfavourable "market conditions".

    South32 has retained its metallurgical coal business in Australia and said in a statement it would "not build or buy any new energy coal operations".

    "We’ve aligned our company decarbonisation plans with the Paris Agreement, and our long-term goal of net zero emissions by 2050 reflects this commitment," a South32 spokesman said.

    The $2.6 billion miner Whitehaven said its coal production in the December quarter was 3.1 million tonnes, down 58 per cent compared to the same period last year.

    Coal sales were down 17 per cent, with the group maintaining volumes by dipping into its coal stocks, which fell from 2 million tonnes to just under 1 million.

    Whitehaven said in its quarterly report that demand and prices for thermal coal, which is used in power plants, and metallurgical coal used in steelmaking had been hurt by the US-China trade dispute, and that it believed a “phase one” deal signed overnight would boost demand.

    “We are seeing strong demand, and every tonne of coal that we can get out of the ground we’ve got a buyer for,” Whitehaven chief executive Paul Flynn told analysts.

    Whitehaven has been struggling to find workers at its flagship Maules Creek mine near Boggabri in NSW and needs to fill 50 to 60 roles. The Maules Creek site was also hit with production stoppages through November and December due to smoke, dust and haze from bushfires as well as drought.

    Whitehaven slashed its production forecast in December, prompting a 10 per cent share price dive. It shares closed flat at $2.59 on Thursday.

    The company reaffirmed the production guidance it provided on December 5, which Goldman Sachs analyst Paul Young said meant the mine needed to deliver record-breaking production in the June half – even as it dealt with its labour shortage.

    Mr Flynn said its guidance was achievable, having run at a similarly high rate in previous quarters, and that a new approach to recruitment was delivering results.

    Morgans analyst Tom Sartor said the key takeaway from the quarterly update was that disruptions from weather events were not as bad as initially implied from its December downgrade. However, Mr Sartor cut his bullish price target from $3.67 to $3.46 based on a lower revenue forecast due to softer thermal coal prices in the second quarter.

    South32, which spun out from BHP in 2015, on Thursday revised production guidance at its South African thermal coal business to the “bottom end of our range” for this financial year, which was 26 million tonnes.

    The miner wrote down its investment in the thermal coal producer South Africa Energy Coal by $US500 million ($725 million) last year as it prepared to sell the business to Seriti Resources.

    In its quarterly production report, South32 said it delivered record year-to-date production at Brazil Alumina, as well as higher production numbers for aluminium, silver, lead, and zinc.

    South32's shares closed flat at $2.85.

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    Real Estate Board of New York honors 7 stars of the industry

    Meet the seven real estate professionals who will be honored at Thursday night’s REBNY gala.

    The Harry B. Helmsley Distinguished New Yorker Award

    • David R. Greenbaum, Vice Chairman of Vornado Realty Trust

    This is Greenbaum’s 39th REBNY dinner — initially becoming involved while a tax attorney at Weil Gotshal & Manges. At that time, he was invited to speak to a luncheon by the late Bernard “Bernie” Mendik, who he calls “a true champion for our industry.”

    Joining the Mendik Company in 1982, he became its president in 1990. In 1997, the Mendik Company merged into a new real estate investment trust, Vornado Realty Trust, where Greenbaum is now a vice chairman.

    He is a member of REBNY’s Executive Committee of the Board of Governors as well as its Economic Development and Tax Policy committees. In honor of his accomplishments, Greenbaum received REBNY’s 2010 Bernard H. Mendik Lifetime Achievement Award.

    At Vornado, Greenbaum oversees all aspects of the NYC portfolio encompassing over 80 buildings with 30 million square feet plus Chicago and San Francisco projects.
    In New York, Greenbaum is spearheading the Penn Station district redevelopment of the former Farley Post Office into offices for tech companies, plus new retail and entrances for the Moynihan Train Hall in the building’s base, as well as the redevelopment of towers that surround Madison Square Garden.

    Greenbaum is active in the 34th Street Partnership, the Grand Central Partnership and the Times Square Alliance. He is a member of New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate Advisory Board, while the New York City Partnership selected him to participate in the David Rockefeller Fellows Program.

    A first-generation American whose parents escaped Germany in 1939, he and his wife support the Center for Jewish Life at his alma mater, the University of Rochester, and are funding an AgriFood Tech campus in Israel through the Jewish National Fund, where he serves on the board. He sits on the boards of the Lighthouse Guild and the Jeffrey Modell Foundation.

    For any young person entering the field of real estate, Greenbaum says to “work hard, work harder.”

    “It is also critical to be part of organizations like REBNY to meet as many people as you can in the industry and to find mentors,” Greenbaum adds. REBNY effectively promotes the city’s economy and “emphasizes the importance of investing in infrastructure to improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers.”

    The Kenneth R. Gerrety Humanitarian Award

    • Héctor Figueroa, Former President of the 32BJ Service Employees International Union

    Figueroa served as union president for seven years until his untimely death at the age of 57 in July 2019.

    During his tenure at 32BJ, Figueroa built and led the research and political departments, and later served as leader for the tri-state and New York metro areas. A tireless fighter for immigrant and worker rights, Figueroa established the American Dream Fund, the union’s voluntary political action fund.

    As director of the 32BJ New York metro district, Figueroa led operations and negotiated strong contracts for 70,000 members in the New York area, which includes those working in both commercial and residential buildings.

    Born in Puerto Rico, he moved to the Bronx and received a degree in economics from New York University before joining the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union as a researcher.

    In 1995, he began working with SEIU’s Justice for Janitors campaign, followed by work in Puerto Rico as SEIU Director for the island. In February 1999, he was asked to serve as deputy trustee for 32BJ and was elected as its Secretary-Treasurer in 2000. He was elected president in 2012.

    Championing racial, social and economic justice, the union and its 175,000 members have been at the forefront of national campaigns to defend and expand voting rights and to fight the causes and effects of climate change.

    Young Real Estate Professional of the Year Award

    • Robin Fisher, Senior Managing Director at Newmark Knight Frank and founder of Blace

    “New York City is a very complicated place to do business,” says Fisher. “Everyone here lives to work, as opposed to work to live.”

    Fisher joined Newmark Knight Frank in 2004. Along with office tenant representation, she advises retailers and corporate portfolio operators on asset optimization and site selection. As a tenant broker, she says, “You have a big impact on the work and lives of your clients.”

    Her outstanding work at NKF led to her receiving REBNY’s Most Promising Commercial Salesperson of the Year Award in 2008. “The first three to five years are a game of survival,” she advises those interested in the profession. “But if you survive, the benefit of being a real estate professional is unique, and, money aside, it’s very fulfilling.”

    Recognizing that finding sites to hold events was difficult, Fisher recently founded Blace, an online platform where high-end corporations and entertaining firms can book spaces and manage events.

    From the beginning of her career, Fisher has been very active in the Young Men’s/Women’s Real Estate Association (YM/WREA) which chose her for this award. The organization hosts monthly luncheons, a kayaking excursion and numerous charitable events, from building homes with Habitat for Humanity to feeding the homeless around Thanksgiving. Fisher notes these events are great opportunities to meet others in the business: “I got to know senior brokers and later ended up doing deals with them.”

    The secretary of YM/WREA in 2009, Fisher served on YM/WREA’s 2010 Board of Governors as vice chairman. That same year she received NKF’s Rising Star Award and is a member of NKF’s Young Leadership Council. She was also involved in merging the Association of Real Estate Women (AREW) with Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) New York. “As women, we are most powerful together,” she says.

    Bernard H. Mendik Lifetime Achievement Award

    • Jodi Pulice, Founder & CEO of JRT Realty Group

    “What is greater than that being recognized by your peers?” says Pulice, a leasing professional for three decades who founded JRT Realty Group 24 years ago. “I think the world is changing; I hope for women and minorities it’s changing for the better.”

    Her strategic alliance with Cushman & Wakefield allows Pulice to be at the forefront of that change.

    She is responsible for a leasing and management portfolio of 13 million square feet on behalf of TIAA (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America). She has also racked up leasing and sales transactions totaling over $3 billion, including the sale of the Seagram Building and representing the FDIC’s national field offices at 92 locations. Pulice was previously honored as one of the Association of Real Estate Women’s Top 50 Women in Real Estate.

    Along with New York, she has an office in California and would like to see its law requiring women on boards come to the Big Apple. “We’ve always been breaking through the glass ceiling, and now we need to be on boards,” she says.

    Pulice sits on REBNY’s new Diversity Committee as well as the Leasing Brokers Committee. “Chairman Bill Rudin has done an unbelievable job so women and minorities have a fair shot at the table,” she says.

    She also serves on the boards of three non-profits: the Long Island YMCA, the UNFCU Foundation for Women and the Jeffrey Modell Foundation. “I know how to make money and I am trying to give back,” she says.

    As for newcomers, she advises: “Never take ‘no’ for an answer because if you don’t ask, you never are going to get — and every ‘no’ has to mean ‘yes’ in your mind.”

    The George M. Brooker Management Executive of the Year Award

    • Henry M. Celestino, Vice Chairman of L&L Holding Company

    From nuclear power plant sites to offshore oil rigs to wastewater treatment plants, Hank Celestino has seen it all.

    Now, as Vice Chairman at L&L Holding, he is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day construction, engineering, building operations and management throughout the company’s nearly 10 million-square-foot portfolio.

    He has also played an integral role in the redevelopment and commissioning of such landmark L&L projects as 200 Fifth Ave., 195 Broadway, 390 Madison Ave. and 425 Park Ave. He has also guided the engineering, planning and installation process for several large mechanical and architectural capital infrastructure projects.

    A Fairleigh Dickinson University grad with a degree in civil engineering, he worked at Burns & Roe Engineering on a nuclear reactor and evaluated offshore drilling rigs, wastewater plants and oil refineries.

    In New York, at Schulman Realty Group, Celestino focused on the ground-up construction of commercial buildings. He joined the Building Owner and Manager’s Association (BOMA) and serves on BOMA committees.

    He transitioned to Newmark Real Estate, eventually overseeing its 25 million-square-foot third-party institutional portfolio. As his career moved to the owner/developer side of the business, he found REBNY membership invaluable. “The organization and its members are similarly focused on the local rules, codes and guidelines that affect property development and operations,” he says.

    The John E. Zuccotti Public Service Award

    • Jay Kriegel

    With his signature white scarf — and, in his later years, a matching mane — the late Jay Kriegel was a classic political operative. Cutting a dapper figure across the aisles for over five decades, he shaped New York City’s public policy — and its skyline.

    Prior to his passing in December, Kriegel was thrilled that he would receive this award for his exceptional accomplishments and public service.

    He was most recently a senior advisor at Related Companies focused on business strategy and project development, including the spearheading of the Hudson Yards project.

    At 25, Kriegel was a Harvard Law student when he was tapped to work with John Lindsay on the Voting Rights Act, Lindsay’s successful mayoral campaign and within his administration.

    Kriegel left his mark across industries. He worked for Loews Corp., founded American Lawyer magazine and lobbied Congress to require cable companies be paid by broadcasters and ensured city and state residents could still get tax deductions.

    He helped shape the New York City’s bid for the 2012 Olympics. He later worked on Barclays Center, the extension of the 7 subway line to Hudson Yards and Citi Field, the Mets’ home base.

    “We will miss his wit, humor and tireless dedication,” REBNY Chairman Bill Rudin says.

    The Louis Smadbeck Memorial Broker Recognition Award

    • Kevin R. Wang, KRW Realty Advisors

    The real estate business remains all about people. “It is still about relationships,” Kevin Wang explains. “It still takes human interaction to do leases, loans, sales and building.”

    Over his 40-year career, Wang has experienced all sides of the industry, from brokerage to management to the repositioning of assets including 501 Madison Ave.

    He is currently working on the development of The Hive, a two-building 140,000-square-foot office and retail project along Eighth Avenue near Times Square. “It’s a great contribution to the area and one of the last pieces to be renovated,” he says.

    Wang joined Cross & Brown right after graduating from Cornell University. His boss and mentor, Richard “Dick” Seeler, was the first recipient of the same Louis Smadbeck Award that Wang is receiving. Seeler was REBNY’s chairman and brought Wang in as a member.

    Wang now sits on the REBNY Board of Governors, is the Chairman of the General Meetings Committee and a member of the REBNY Arbitration Committee. He served as REBNY’s Co-Chairman of the International Seminar Committee from 1990-1995.

    Wang was the YM/WREA chairman and received both its Young Man and Senior Man of the Year awards. He also teaches at the NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate.

    Wang joined the Mendik Company in 1985 and moved REBNY’s offices to its current 570 Lexington headquarters. “We did a lot of renovation at Mendik, so I cut my chops on that,” Wang says. “These are still skills I use today.”

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