Monthly archive for ‘ January, 2019 ’

Should the EU have been awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize?

12th January 2019 | Closed

The decision to hand the European Union the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize has been welcomed by some, and mocked by others, especially at a time when the bloc is struggling through the weight of economic debt.

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But as much as the decision has been awarded as a symbol of hope, it has also been delivered as an acknowledgement of the past.

The EU was created after the Second World War in an effort to foster better international relations, under the banner of the European Economic Community, or the EEC. The thought was, that countries that trade with one another would become interdependent, and as a result, would likely avoid conflict with each other.

The idea was born in 1951, when Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands signed a plan the cement a deal that would see common management for their coal and steel industries. It was taken another step further in 1958 when they expanded this cooperation to other sectors of the economy to allow for easy trade between borders.

Its first international agreement came in 1963 when it agreed to help 18 former colonies in Africa, providing development assistance to poorer countries, expanding its role from that of just economic cooperation, to that of humanitarian aid.

Today, 27 European countries form part of the economic and political partnership, which changed its name formally, to the European Union in 1993.

People often confuse the EU as having its sole purpose to run the Euro currency. But the Euro is the common currency in only 17 of the 27 EU nations, and the bloc’s mission extends beyond just currency.

That’s why it’s important to take a look at some of the reasons why the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the EU the Nobel Peace Prize for 2012.

In a statement, the Committee said the award recognises the “six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”.

The bloc effectively stopped the decades of wars between France and Germany.

Greece, Spain and Portugal had to introduce democracy, foregoing dictatorships as part of their admission into the bloc.

Croatia looks set to be introduced into the EU next year, potentially leading to other Balkan inclusions, strengthening the reconciliation process in that region, despite what some say is the bloc’s dismal track record in dealing with the Balkan wars.

Others would argue that the creation of this single bloc is what lead to the financial problems plaguing the region today, which has lead to violent protests across the continent.

Over the past few years, some people say the Nobel Peace Prize has been influenced by politics, or awarded as a symbol of hope like 2009 laureate Barack Obama and politicians Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin in 1994.

No doubt though, this year’s recipient means the focus will firmly be placed in Europe, placing even more pressure to resolve the debt crisis which is causing much conflict.

It does pose the question, would the EU even had a look in, if the European financial crisis wasn’t in full bloom?


Specialty Fashion returns to profit

12th January 2019 | Closed

Specialty Fashion Group has returned to profit but has given a cautious outlook because consumer confidence remains weak.

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The company, whose brands include Millers, Katies, Crossroads, Autograph and City Chic, on Monday said its 2012/13 financial year profit was $12.97 million, compared to a loss of $2.8 million the previous year.

The fashion retailer said its margins were higher thanks to lower product and freight costs, lower cotton prices and favourable currency exchange rates.

It also made savings from lower rents, the exit from leases on underperforming stores and staff rostering changes.

“The group remains very cautious as to the extent of organic growth that may be achieved at the current time given the ongoing lack of consumer confidence in Australia,” Specialty Fashion said in a statement.

“Management continues to explore all options to grow the Specialty Fashion Group through physical and digital channels.”

The group has 886 stores in Australia and New Zealand.

It opened 40 new stores during the 2013 financial year, and closed 47 underperforming shops, 18 of which related to the La Senza brand.

The group dumped its licence for La Senza in Australia after product developed for the North American market failed to translate to Australia.

Annual revenue fell 0.5 per cent, to $569.5 million, reflecting the company now had seven fewer stores.

But the group’s online sales grew 50 per cent to $21.9 million, or 3.8 per cent of total revenue for the year.

Shares in Specialty Fashion were 0.5 cents lower at 87.5 cents at 1311 AEST.

The company declared a fully-franked final dividend of two cents.


McEnroe cannot see another grand slam win for Federer

12th January 2019 | Closed

McEnroe, a four-time U.

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S. Open champion and three-times Wimbledon winner, is not ruling Federer out of contention for the latter stages of the tournament but he feels it may now be too much to expect the Swiss to go all the way.

“To me, it’s obviously going to be a lot more difficult at this stage,” McEnroe, now a television commentator with ESPN, said on a conference call.

“I don’t see at this stage him being able to go through all seven (rounds) and have to beat at least two of these (top) three guys.

“Maybe he would use that type of thing as incentive. When you’ve won 17, you clearly think you can win another one. To me, there comes a point, even as great as Roger has been for so many years, that it catches up to you a little bit,” McEnroe added.

Beaten by the 116th-ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky in the second round at Wimbledon, Federer also lost to Federico Delbonis in the Hamburg semi-finals and 55th-ranked Daniel Brands on home soil in Gstaad.

He fared a little better in Cincinnati last week, reaching the quarter-finals where he was beaten by eventual winner, and U.S. Open favourite, Rafa Nadal.

STEP TOO FAR

McEnroe believes that while Federer’s experience and ability mean he will still be a factor, grand slam win number 18 may be a step too far now.

“There are certainly scenarios where he could easily still get late into an event and even to a final,” McEnroe said. “Andre (Agassi) got to the final of the Open at 35, so there’s no reason to believe he couldn’t do it.

“At Wimbledon I could see him going late into an event, a final. I could see it on a hard court…but I personally think that at this stage it’s going to be quite, quite difficult for him to win another one.”

With Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray all displaying better form and consistency, McEnroe expects tough decisions ahead for Federer, especially if he remains well behind those three in the rankings.

“These guys are hungry,” said McEnroe. “There’s other guys that want get on the board. He’s 32. He’s going to have to at some stage decide how bad he wants it if he does dip lower in the world.

“I doubt he’ll enjoy being in that spot. All these factors are going to start to come into it. Now, he can shut everyone up if he was able to go all the way at the Open and he could still keep himself in the running.”

McEnroe also felt that Federer has lost some of his sharpness and balance.

“I think one of the things you notice a little bit is possibly he’s slowed down a little bit,” the American said. “The balance and the movement are not quite as (Rudolf) Nureyev-like as they were in the past.

“So he’s reaching for more balls and therefore miss‑hitting more shots. It doesn’t seem like he’s been able or willing to make that adjustment where he’s got to either play safer or take that extra step to balls.”

For McEnroe, Federer no longer seemed to have the same self-belief in his movement about the court.

“That first quick step you got to take to take advantage of a ball, especially how hard as they guys hit it,” he said.

“He’s so used to being able to go big and hit pretty much everything he wants. And part of why he’s so great is because he’s stubborn and he believes in himself, so he’s unwilling to change a whole lot.”

(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)


Factbox: Ways to vote

12th January 2019 | Closed

Under the Australian voting system, there are many different ways electors can cast their votes.

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The simplest way is at a polling station on election day in the voter’s home electorate.

This is called an Ordinary Vote and is the method used by a majority of voters.

In the 2010 election about 84 per cent of voters used this method of voting.

If voters knows they are going to be out of their home electorate on election day, there are a number of different arrangements they can make beforehand, in order to be able to cast their vote.

If electors are still within their home state or territory but outside their home electorate on election day, they can make an Absentee Vote at a polling station in a different electorate.

In the case of voters who will not be within their home state or territory on election day, or who are seriously ill, infirm, unable to leave work, or unable to attend a polling place for religious reasons, there is the option of an Early Vote before election day.

There are two ways to cast an Early Vote.

First, a voter can attend an Early Voting Centre in the two weeks before election day and make a Pre-Poll Vote.

Alternatively, an elector can apply for a Postal Vote using the “Application for a Postal Vote” form which can be downloaded from the Australian Electoral Commission website.

The Commission will then send out the ballot papers to the voter.

A Postal Vote must be cast before election day by post.

If electors are going to be out of their home state or territory on election day but want to vote on election day, they can cast an Interstate Vote at a special designated interstate voting centre.

If voters are overseas on election day, they can choose to either vote in person at most Australian diplomatic missions, or they can apply for a Postal Vote.

The list of overseas places where they can vote is available on the AEC website in the section for Overseas Electors.

In the case where voters’ names cannot be found on the electoral roll, or their name has already been marked off the roll, they can cast a Provisional Vote.

This type of vote will not be counted until electoral commission officers are able to check enrolment records.

Some Australian voters who are not able to get to a polling station on election day, may have the option of casting a Mobile Polling Vote.

The Electoral Commission has mobile polling teams who set up portable polling places in some hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and remote areas of the country.

This method of voting can take place before or on election day.


Abidal, Nasri back in France squad for Belgium friendly

12th January 2019 | Closed

Defender Abidal, who twice underwent surgery on a liver tumour, won the last of 61 caps in February, 2012.

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“He has international experience in an area where players are injured or lack playing time,” Deschamps told a news conference on Thursday, referring to Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane and Paris St Germain’s Mamadou Sakho.

“I’m not here to offer a gift, I just think that he is competitive again having played pre-season games with Monaco.” Abidal has joined promoted Monaco from Barcelona.

Midfielder Nasri, who served a national team suspension for insulting a reporter and missed June’s South America tour with a knee injury, has not played for Les Bleus since last year’s Euro 2012 quarter-final defeat by Spain.

“Last season he was not really in the frame because he was injured and did not play a lot. He has to understand that he is in the frame,” said Deschamps.

Deschamps said he left out midfielders Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi and Yohan Cabaye for Wednesday’s game because they will be suspended for next month’s World Cup qualifier in Georgia.

Deschamps, however, called up one new face in Sevilla midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia, who has just won the Under-20 World Cup with France.

“He’s been very good with Sevilla all season and he’s been good with the France team at the World cup in Turkey, too,” said Deschamps. “It’s an opportunity for him to discover the A team. He can bring a lot in midfield.”

St Etienne’s Josuha Guilavogui, who won his two caps against Brazil and Uruguay in June, is also expected to play in midfield at the Roi Baudoin stadium.

After playing Belgium, France travel to Georgia on Sept 6 and Belarus four days later before hosting Finland in their last three World Cup qualifiers.

Second-placed Les Bleus, who trail Group I leaders Spain by one point, appear on course for a playoff spot as they lead third-placed Finland by four points.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Mickael Landreau (Bastia), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Steve Mandanda (Olympique Marseille)

Defenders: Eric Abidal (Monaco), Gael Clichy (Manchester City), Mathieu Debuchy (Newcastle United), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Eliaquim Mangala (Porto), Adil Rami (Valencia), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal)

Midfielders: Etienne Capoue (Toulouse), Clement Grenier (Olympique Lyonnais), Josuha Guilavogui (St Etienne), Geoffrey Kondogbia (Sevilla), Rio Mavuba (Lille), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle United)

Forwards: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Samir Nasri (Manchester City), Dimitri Payet (Olympique Marseille), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich), Mathieu Valbuena (Olympique Marseille)


Prices ease as oil flow rises

10th January 2019 | Closed

Output quotas will grow by two million barrels a day from 1 July and a further 500,000 from 1 August.

The price of a barrel of US-traded oil dropped by 68 cents to $US39.28 as news of the agreement emerged. In London, Brent crude fell 46 cents to $US36.40 a barrel.

The group of mainly Middle Eastern producers made the decision at talks in Beirut against a backdrop of record prices and fears that al-Qaeda could target Saudi Arabian oil facilities.

US Treasury Secretary John Snow welcomed the production increase, calling it “encouraging”.

An Opec statement says the move is to “ensure adequate supply and give a clear signal of Opec’s commitment to market stability”.

However, it is not the Opec announcement that has been credited with lowering prices on the floor of the New York Mercantile Exchange but new figures released in the United States showing increased stockpiles of crude oil and gasoline.

US inventories of gasoline are above 200 million barrels, easing concerns about shortages going in the American summer driving season.

Oil analysts remain doubtful that Opec’s agreement to lift output can have a deep and lasting effect on prices.

Some experts believe Opec states are already at maximum production, with existing ceilings on production quotas being breached, suggesting the impact of any Opec decision to raise output targets could be limited.

An attack by militants on an oil workers’ compound in the Saudi city of Khobar, which left 22 people dead, pushed prices to record highs of $US42.45 a barrel.

Opec member countries say security fears and the action of market speculators are to blame for soaring prices rather than short supplies.


Tenet quits as CIA boss

10th January 2019 | Closed

President George W Bush accepted the resignation and said he would miss the “strong and able” Mr Tenet as head of the CIA.

The CIA has been at the heart of criticism over faulty intelligence in the run-up to the Iraqi war and over whether 9/11 could have been prevented.

Mr Tenet will leave the CIA on 11 July when Deputy Director John McLaughlin will take over temporarily.

The 51-year-old fought back tears as he bid farewell to staff at CIA headquarters saying he was leaving to spend more time with his family.

Mr Bush announced he had accepted the resignation at a hastily convened news conference just before he left for a major trip to Europe.

He said Mr Tenet had announced the news at a White House meeting on Wednesday night.

“He told me he was resigning for personal reasons. I told him I’m sorry he’s leaving. He’s done a superb job on behalf of the American people,” said Mr Bush.

Analysts said no permanent replacement is expected until after the November 2 presidential election.

Any new nomination before the election would require Congress confirmation hearings that could reopen the wounds over Iraq and September 11.

In a speech to CIA employees, Mr Tenet described the resignation as “the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make.

“And while Washington and the media will put many different faces on the decision, it was a personal decision and had only one basis in fact: the well-being of my wonderful family, nothing more and nothing less,” he said.

Mr Tenet, appointed by then-president Bill Clinton in July 1997, was the second longest serving head of the world’s most powerful spy agency.


Terror fears drive up oil price

10th January 2019 | Closed

Crude oil futures in New York closed on Tuesday at a price of $US42.33 ($A 59.75) a barrel.

A weekend attack in Saudi, in which 22 people died, has heightened fears about terrorist disruptions to energy supplies.

New York’s light sweet crude contract for delivery in July jumped past $US42 for the first time ever, trading as high as $US42.38.

A slight dip at the close of trade still left the contract up $US2.45 or 6.1 percent from Friday.

In London, the price of benchmark Brent North Sea crude oil for July delivery soared by $US2.50 to $US39.08 ($A55.17) in closing trade.

Both markets were closed Monday for a public holiday.

“The market is in a panicking psychological mood,” said analyst Mike Fitzpatrick at Fimat USA.

The attack in Saudi Arabia was damaging, he said even if no oil infrastructure were damaged, because “it sends a psychological message, especially for workers.”

Meanwhile, Britain’s chief finance minister Gordon Brown has attempted to speak to the oil ministers of every OPEC nation in an attempt to persuade the cartel to boost oil production and thus bring down prices.

Mr Brown, the chancellor of the exchequer, has been “hitting the phones” ahead of an OPEC meeting in Beirut this week, the Times said in its Wednesday edition, without citing sources.

Mr Brown was hoping to hammer home the message that consumer nations wanted an immediate production rise, after oil prices rocketed to an all-time high.

Ministers from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries arriving in Beirut ahead of Thursday’s formal meeting gave clear signals that production would be increased.

Kuwaiti Energy Minister Sheikh Ahmad Fahd al-Sabah said that his country was ready to accept an increase in OPEC’s oil production ceiling to 26 million barrels per day from the current 23.5 million.


Several killed in Malawi riots

10th January 2019 | Closed

Bingu wa Mutharika vowed to eradicate hunger and corruption in the impoverished southern African country after he was sworn in, but the opposition boycotted the ceremony to protest the results of the elections.

Opposition leader Gwanda Chakuamba earlier claimed 11 people were shot dead when riots broke out in three townships on Sunday after police stopped his supporters from attending a rally during which he was to speak.

There was no independent confirmation of any of the deaths, and police refused to confirm them, saying only that an investigation had begun.

At the ceremony, attended by several African heads of state, Mutharika pledged to make Malawi “hunger-free and prosperous”.

“Economic instability has been caused by our own inability to reduce public expenditure,” he said.

“We will be taking drastic measures to win the war on poverty. Government spending will be audited by independent auditors,” Mutharika said as presidents Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique looked on.

But his promises were overshadowed by the allegations of violence and the opposition boycott of Malawi’s third free polls, won by the handpicked successor of Bakili Muluzi, who reluctantly stepped down after two terms.

International observers, among them some from the European Union, have already said the vote was marred by “serious shortcomings.”

Most schools and businesses were closed on Monday as residents feared more violence after Sunday’s riots.

Police shut down a private radio station and arrested four journalists for interviewing an opposition spokesman who threatened to call on the army to “take over” if Mutharika was declared president.

The ruling party’s offices in Chitawira township were torched as opposition supporters put up barricades.

Chakuamba’s seven-party Mgwirizano, or Unity Coalition has rejected the outcome of the polls.


Iraqi president named

10th January 2019 | Closed

UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi confirmed Mr Yawar’s appointment as Iraq’s first president since Saddam Hussein’s fall.

Mr Brahimi also named Ibrahim Jaffari from the Shi’ite religious party Dawa, and Roj Nuri Shawis of Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party as vice presidents.

“Both the coalition and the Governing Council members have unanimously chosen Yawar as president,” said Governing Council member Nassir al-Chaderchi.

“Sheikh Ghazi Yawar has officialy been announced the president of the republic and has started to receive congratulations from Governing Council members,” said Hind al-Shnein from Yawar’s office.

An earlier report said the Mr Pachachi had been chosen, but another issued soon after said he had turned down the job.

The announcement breaks a deadlock over the appointment to the largely ceremonial post, the country’s first president since Saddam Hussein.

While Mr Pachachi reportedly had the backing of the US-led coalition and the United Nations, Mr Yawar was the choice of many members of the Iraqi Governing Council.

The interim president will head a new administration from the handover date June 30, ahead of democratic elections which are due to be held by next January.

The council has already selected former exile Iyad Allawi to become the country’s prime minister, following the June 30 handover of power.

Mr Brahimi said he had passed on recommendations for a 26-member cabinet team to Mr Allawi, who will announce his government line-up shortly.

Mr Brahimi also said the post was initially offered to Mr Pachachi, with the support of Yawar, but that Pachachi had “declined for personal reasons”.

Meanwhile, there are reports of a number of explosions in central Baghdad, apparently targeting the US-led coalition’s headquarters, just after the presidential announcement was made.

Witnesses have reported seeing smoke billowing from the area inside the so-called Green Zone, with the sound of shooting following at least seven blasts.

An anonymous Iraqi policeman said at least three mortars have landed inside the zone, and it is not known if there have been any casualties.

He said one may have landed near the presidential palace where the offices of US-appointed administrator Paul Bremer.

Another source said people have been rushed into safe bunkers.

Coalition officials have predicted an upsurge in violence ahead of the handover at the end of the month.