14
Nov 18

Aussie dollar weaker as Fed taper vigil continues

The Australian dollar has remained weak ahead of a much-anticipated US Federal Reserve meeting, which could see a wind-back of the stimulus program that has supported the currency.
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Caution in foreign exchange markets came as Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens continued to talk down the currency, saying an Australian dollar trading above US90¢ would not be sustainable for the economy over time.

The currency fell to a four-month low of US88.83¢ early Wednesday morning, amid nervousness over a possible start to tapering on Thursday morning.

Investors broadly shrugged off Mr Stevens’ comments. The Australian dollar rose slightly just before the start of his remarks to the House of Representatives’ economics committee in Canberra, lifting from about US89.15¢ to US89.26¢.

It fell back in the afternoon, and was buying US89.04¢ in late trade.

Mr Stevens reiterated his preference for a lower dollar and said the exchange rate remained “uncomfortably high”, even though it has declined by about 13 per cent since the last economics committee hearing in February, when it was trading about US103¢.

He added that intervening in foreign exchange markets remained an option for the RBA, although the central bank had not done anything “unusual” in recent times.

“I think the governor accepts the need for further stimulus in the Australian economy but he is focused on providing that stimulus through a weaker Australian dollar rather than lower rates, and I think that came out [on Wednesday],” Westpac’s chief currency strategist Robert Rennie said.

Mr Rennie said he did not expect the local currency to strengthen even if the Fed did not start the reduction of its monthly asset purchases on Thursday.

“If we get nothing from the Fed, I’m not sure that it will manifest in a strong performance in the Australian dollar,” he said.

“Let’s face it. We had a disappointing MYEFO [yesterday’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook]. We generally had a disappointing run of economic data and corporate news [from] Holden and Qantas. It’s had to see where that good news is going to come from.”

Mr Stevens said in response to questions about the US’s quantitative easing policies that he welcomed the start of tapering and a normalisation in the country’s monetary policies, although the stimulus withdrawal would have “some disruptive effects” on other countries.

The governor’s remarks came as Pimco, the manager of the world’s largest bond fund, said the strong Australian dollar was in part responsible for the lack of real growth in business investment outside the mining sector this year.

‘‘Due to elevated cost structures and a high exchange rate, Australia Inc is increasingly unable to compete in a fiercely competitive global market,’’ Pimco analysts Adam Bowe and Robert Mead said in their report.

“The RBA will most likely have to keep interest rates low for an extended period to ease the transition away from mining-assisted growth and encourage a weaker exchange rate.’’

They added that movements in the exchange rate took some time to feed through to the real economy, and as such would continue to remain cautious about an improvement in growth next year.

“Historically, it has taken two years or so for the transition mechanism between the exchange rate and the real economy to work, meaning the full impact of this year’s currency depreciation is unlikely to be felt before 2015,” the analysts wrote.

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14
Nov 18

Matthew Perry slugs it out with anti-drug campaigner Peter Hitchens on BBC

‘Wrong’ … Matthew Perry criticises Peter Hitchens on BBC’s Newsnight.Actor Matthew Perry exchanged heated words with British journalist Peter Hitchens about drug addiction and prevention on BBC’s Newsnight, with the former Friends star claiming Hitchens’ ideas were as “ludicrous as saying that Peter Pan was real”.
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Hitchens lambasted addicts as people who chose to take drugs and did not deserve sympathy, especially from the “feeble” legal system.

“There is an immense fashion at the moment for dismissing the ability of people to take control over their own lives and to make excuses for them,” the anti-drug campaigner said.

Hitchens claimed that the presence of drug courts, which focus on rehabilitating non-violent drug offenders rather than prosecuting them, were failing.

“It doesn’t do anybody any favours to be nice to drug takers,” he said.

He went on to deny the veracity of medical science that claimed addiction was a disease, saying to Perry and social worker Baroness Molly Meacher: “Well you two believe in this fantasy of addiction, a complete fantasy, in which people lose all power over themselves and become victims of this terrible, frightening disease after which they cannot stop taking drugs. If you really believe that then you would presumably think that the best thing would be they never ever come in contact with those drugs.

“Wouldn’t it therefore be wise to deter them from doing so by a stern and effective criminal justice system which actually persuaded them it was unwise to take the drugs in the first place.”

Perry, a former addict, said Hitchens’ claims were “ludicrous”, adding “my life is the objective evidence”.

The actor checked into rehab twice during his 10-year stint as Chandler Bing on Friends, and recently transformed his home in Malibu into a sober home for men, called Perry House.

“I’m a drug addict,” he told Hitchens. “I’m a person that, if I have a drink, I can’t stop. And so it would be following your ideology that I’m choosing to do that.”

Perry had earlier defended drug courts and the treatment of addicts, saying that people who go through the system have a “55 per cent less chance of ever seeing handcuffs ever again”.

The 11-minute segment on Jeremy Paxman’s popular current affairs program descended into snide remarks, with an annoyed Perry calling on Hitchens to act as a grown man and “read something other than your book”. Hitchens, meanwhile, concluded that Perry was “smug” and a person who couldn’t “argue seriously”.

“You’re just a person who’s talking, who’s wrong,” Perry told Hitchens.

“Not that your aspirin point wasn’t genius but you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

The book in question is Hitchens’ 2012 release The War We Never Fought: The British Establishment’s Surrender to Drugs , which was slammed by critics.

One review condemned Hitchens for the book being “full of nasty insinuation” and claimed it “should never have been published”. Another highlighted the “self-righteousness so intense that it amounts to moral racism” and labelled the author “hysterical” and a “manic preacher”.

– staff writers

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14
Nov 18

Jetstar’s first international Dreamliner flight takes off for Bali

Jetstar has put the Boeing 787 Dreamliner onto its Bali and Thailand runs.Jetstar will deploy its first four Boeing 787 Dreamliners on routes to Bali and the Thai tourist destination of Phuket, as it banks on the new planes giving it an advantage over its competitors.
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Qantas’ budget offshoot launched its first scheduled international flight using a Dreamliner on Wednesday when it began flying its first state-of-the-art aircraft between Melbourne and Bali.

Jetstar also announced that it will begin flying 787s between Brisbane and Bali on April 16.

The airline will launch 787 services on the Sydney-Bali run next month, and between Sydney and Phuket in February. The launch of the two latter services are subject to government and regulatory approval.

Last week Jetstar took delivery of its second 787-8 aircraft, which will undergo an ‘‘entry-into-service’’ program. The airline will eventually have a fleet of 14 Dreamliners.Engine ice issue

But it is yet to detail when it will fly the Dreamliners it is due to receive over the coming year on key routes to Japan and Hawaii.

Its ability to operate on those routes has been complicated by jet-engine maker General Electric finding problems with icing when 787s fly near thunderstorms. Jetstar’s 787 Dreamliners are powered by GE engines.

Japan Airlines has also delayed the launch of Dreamliner flights between Sydney and Tokyo, which were due to start towards the end of this year, because of the problem with the build up of ice crystals on engines.

Jetstar will replace its entire fleet of A330 aircraft with 787-8 Dreamliners by the end of 2015. The A330s will be redeployed to Qantas’ domestic fleet, which is using them to replace its Boeing 767 aircraft.Repeated delays

The development of the more fuel-efficient 787 Dreamliner aircraft has been one of the most fraught in Boeing’s history, costing billions of dollars due to repeated delays.

Its entry into service has also been plagued by high-profile incidents, culminating in regulatory authorities grounding the worldwide fleet for more than two months after a battery fire in January.

But Boeing and Jetstar’s parent, Qantas, have been keen to emphasise that those problems are now behind the next-generation aircraft, which was designed to replace the US manufacturer’s 767 aircraft.

It is not unusual for new plane types to suffer teething problems in their first years of service. European plane maker Airbus had to make fixes to the wings of its flagship A380 superjumbo after tiny cracks were found in its wings.

Air India began flying its 787s from Delhi to Sydney and Melbourne in August.

Jetstar will also fly 787s thrice weekly between Melbourne and Auckland for a month from February 26.

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14
Nov 18

Arthur defends his role

An emotional Mickey Arthur has defended his coaching record while expressing pride in Australia for winning back the Ashes.
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The decision to sack Arthur and replace him with Darren Lehmann just three weeks before the previous series in England was a drastic one, but Cricket Australia boss James Sutherland believes the subsequent revival has proven it was the right thing to do.

Sutherland has worn a grim expression for much of a difficult year, never taking his eye off the bigger picture even when he was criticised over the Test team’s slide in the rankings. But he allowed himself a beaming smile the morning after Michael Clarke’s Australians wrapped up the Ashes in Perth.

Sutherland said he never doubted he and team performance boss Pat Howard had made the right move in taking action when the team was at its lowest ebb, sacking Arthur and bringing in Lehmann, who restored morale and, in time, taught the team how to win again.

Asked if he felt vindicated, Sutherland said: ”I think Darren’s played a fantastic role, a beautiful foil with Michael. They have led the team really well. Certainly looking back on it now, it looks like a pretty good decision, doesn’t it?

”I said at the time and I maintain that from where we were, there was plenty of upside, and we came to the conclusion we needed to make change at that time.

”It’s easy to look back on that. There’s been a lot of things that have contributed to the success.”

The immediate fallout from Arthur’s sacking was damaging, but the former Australian coach said he was happy for Lehmann and his team, despite finding the constant references to his departure as a pivotal moment in the revival hard to swallow. “I would be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult,” he said. “I didn’t think England would play so badly, but Australia have been fantastic. I was emotional [on Tuesday] when I saw them get the urn back because I know how much hard work has gone into it, including my own, and how much we had spoken about getting those Ashes back.”

Arthur pointed out Ashes heroes Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and Brad Haddin were missing for much of his tenure, and said hewas proud of his record before this year’s disastrous tour of India.

“We won a hell of a lot. We lost one-nil against South Africa [in 2012-13] andwe beat India [at home in 2011-12] four-nil playing the same brand of cricket. In actual fact, we were within two wickets in Adelaide of being No.1 in the world. That has been lost a little bit.

“I have tried to keepmy distance during the Test series. Even though I was emotional yesterday I was emotional for the right reasons, I was extremely happy for Darren Lehmann and for all the boys.”

The extent of Australia’s dominance in the first three Tests has exceeded Sutherland’s expectations.

“I think we all thought we were a good showhere at home, but to be 3-0 up with a couple to play is probably beyond expectations.

“We’ve had some difficult times over the last two or three years, but the plan has always been to look for sustained success. That’s what I love about what Michael Clarke has said. It’s great to win the Ashes, but we want to be No. 1 and we want to stay there. Inside the team, that’s what they are thinking as well.”

The quest for a 5-nil whitewash begins at the MCG on Boxing Day, where officials hope to challenge the world record crowd for a day of Test cricket, the 90,800 for the 1961 Melbourne Test against the West Indies. The Melbourne Cricket Club expects a crowd of between 85,000 and 90,000, even though it’s a dead rubber.

Sutherland always had the support of the Cricket Australia board – chairman Wally Edwards raised eyebrows when he said the chief executive would keep his job even if Australia was thrashed 5-nil – but Howard admitted before the Ashes that his own job was on the line this summer.

There have been no discussions yet about a contract renewal for the former rugby international, who was appointed as a result of the Argus report, but the swift turnaround has shored up his position.

Howard has taken a step back this summer, and was in Brisbane planning for the remainder of the Test series and beyond when Johnson took the last England wicket at the WACA Ground.

Sutherland paid tribute to Howard’s role in Australia’s remarkable revival.

“He has done an amazing job over the two years he’s been in cricket. He is hungry for … success in all formats, men and women. Whilst we enjoy the victory, we are not taking our eye off the ball and we’re not taking anything for granted. We know things can turn quickly.”

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14
Nov 18

The Walking Dead creator Frank Darabont wants AMC to show him the money

Stand-off … The Walking Dead is supposedly running at a deficit but writer/producer Frank Darabont says he’s been deprived tens of millions of dollars in profits.The long-simmering feud between Frank Darabont, who created the hit television adaptation of the zombie-themed graphic novel series The Walking Dead, and the US cable network AMC, has risen to the boil.
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Darabont has filed a lawsuit against the network claiming it breached his contract and deprived him of tens of millions of dollars in profits from the series.

The Academy Award and Golden Globe-nominated writer/producer was ditched from the series in 2011. No official explanation has ever been given but the two parties initially fell out over budget cuts made to the show in its second season.

The series has subsequently become the most successful scripted television series in the US, drawing 13 million viewers weekly on a cable channel – an astonishing result in America’s congested TV market.

Critically, some 8.4 million of those 13 million viewers are in the adult 18-49 demographic, which means AMC – a basic cable channel – is carving a giant slice of ad revenue away from the biggest broadcast networks, which have historically dominated that demographic.

Court papers filed by Darabont and his agents at Los Angeles’ mega-agency Creative Artists Agency (CAA), claim he is yet to receive one dollar from his “profit participation agreement” because AMC claims the series is running a deficit of $US49 million ($55 million).

At issue is the deal between AMC’s production arm, which sells the show to its broadcast arm. The suit alleges a sweetheart deal between the two “is clearly designed to ensure that [Darabont and CAA] never see that first dollar”.

“AMC’s conduct toward Frank to date has been nothing short of atrocious,” Darbont’s lead lawyer Dale Kinsella said.

Darabont is not the first Hollywood heavyweight to challenge a studio for underselling a hit program to one of its own channels.

Producers and actors from several programs, including Home Improvement, The X-Files, Will & Grace and Smallville, have brought similar suits in the past.

The X Files case – in which 20th Century Fox sold the rerun rights to the series to its own cable channel FX – was one of the highest profile cases.

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