Turkish police battle protesters in Istanbul square

Istanbul: Turkish riot police using tear gas and water cannon battled protesters for control of Istanbul’s Taksim Square on Tuesday night as demonstrators defied Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s demand they clear the area and end 10 days of demonstrations.
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Police fired volleys of tear gas canisters into a crowd of thousands – people in office clothes as well as youths in masks who had fought skirmishes throughout the day – sending them scattering into side streets and nearby hotels. Water cannon swept across the square targeting stone-throwers in masks.

Istanbul’s governor said on Tuesday riot police would continue operations against protesters in Taksim Square day and night until it was cleared, and appealed to people to stay away for their own safety.

“We will continue our measures in an unremitting manner, whether day or night, until marginal elements are cleared and the square is open to the people,” Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu said in a brief television announcement.

Protesters, who accuse Mr Erdogan of overreaching his authority after 10 years in power and three election victories, thronged the steep narrow lanes that lead down to the Bosphorus waterway. Gradually, many began drifting back into the square as police withdrew, and gathered around a bonfire of rubbish.

Mr Erdogan had earlier called on protesters to stay out of Taksim, the centre of demonstrations triggered by a heavy-handed police crackdown on a rally against development of the small Gezi Park abutting the square.

Gezi Park has been turned into a ramshackle settlement of tents by leftists, environmentalists, liberals, students and professionals who see the development plan as symptomatic of overbearing government.

The protests, during which demonstrators used fireworks and petrol bombs, have posed a stark challenge to Mr Erdogan’s authority and divided the country. In an indication of the impact of the protests on investor confidence, the central bank said it would intervene if needed to support the Turkish lira.

Mr Erdogan, who denies accusations of authoritarian behaviour, declared he would not yield.

“They say the prime minister is rough. So what was going to happen here? Were we going to kneel down in front of these (people)?” Mr Erdogan said as action to clear the square began.

“If you call this roughness, I’m sorry, but this Tayyip Erdogan won’t change,” he told a meeting of his AK party’s parliamentary group.

Western allies have expressed concern about the troubles in a key NATO ally bordering Syria, Iraq and Iran. Washington has held up Mr Erdogan’s Turkey as an example of an Islamic democracy that could be emulated elsewhere in the Middle East.

Victor in three consecutive elections, Mr Erdogan says the protests are engineered by vandals, terrorist elements and unnamed foreign forces. His critics, who say conservative religious elements have won out over centrists in his AK party, accuse him of inflaming the crisis with unyielding talk.

Market Turmoil

“A comprehensive attack against Turkey has been carried out,” Mr Erdogan said.

“The increase in interest rates, the fall in the stock markets, the deterioration in the investment environment, the intimidation of investors – the efforts to distort Turkey’s image have been put in place as a systematic project,” he said.

Despite the street protests against Mr Erdogan, he remains unrivalled as a leader in his AK party, in parliament and on the streets.

The unrest has knocked investor confidence in a country that has boomed under Mr Erdogan. The lira, already suffering from wider market turmoil, fell to its weakest level against its dollar/euro basket since October 2011.

The cost of insuring Turkish debt against default rose to its highest in ten months, although it remained far from crisis levels.

The police move came a day after Mr Erdogan agreed to meet protest leaders involved in the initial demonstrations over development of the square.

“I invite all demonstrators, all protesters, to see the big picture and the game that is being played,” Erdogan said. “The ones who are sincere should withdraw … and I expect this from them as their prime minister.”

Protesters accuse Mr Erdogan of authoritarian rule and some suspect him of ambitions to replace the secular republic with an Islamic order – something Erdogan denies.

“This movement won’t end here … After this, I don’t think people will go back to being afraid of this government or any government,” said student Seyyit Cikmen, 19, as the crowd chanted “Every place is Taksim, every place resistance.”

Turkey’s Medical Association said that as of late Monday, 4947 people had sought treatment in hospitals and voluntary infirmaries for injuries, ranging from cuts and burns to breathing difficulties from tear gas inhalation, since the unrest began more than ten days ago. Three people have died.

Mr Erdogan has repeatedly dismissed the protesters as “riff-raff”. But Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said on Monday leaders of the Gezi Park Platform group had asked to meet him and Erdogan had agreed.

A meeting was expected on Wednesday.

Reuters

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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Hold your horses and rein in the mortgage

Illustration: Michael MucciQ I’m 31 with a $215,000 mortgage on a home that’s three years old. I’m overdue in starting a wealth-creation program but I want to make a move now – I don’t want to still be working at 70! With a wage of $90,000, what are your thoughts on purchasing an investment property versus paying my mortgage off as quickly as possible?
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A You’ve got plenty of time on your side. My recommendation is that you keep paying the mortgage until you reach a stage where your payments are $12 a month for every $1000 borrowed – that would be $2580 a month on a $215,000 mortgage. This will ensure it will be paid off in less than 10 years, provided rates stay under 9 per cent. Once you have the mortgage under control, you can take advice about borrowing to invest in growth assets.

Q You recently answered a question from a man aged 65 in which you inferred there could be an exit tax payable on his superannuation. Could you please clarify?

A Withdrawals are tax-free for most people once they reach age 60 but there is another class of super funds called unfunded funds – the members of these are public servants. There can be an exit tax on these funds because no 15 per cent contributions tax was paid initially.

Q My husband and I are age pensioners, 82 and 75, respectively, and live in the city. In 1976 we bought land in the country and built a house for retirement, which was completed in 1994. The value of the property has since grown significantly.

We are thinking of selling due to financial commitments, and understand there is a difference with capital gains tax on property bought before 1985. We would appreciate your advice on how that could affect us if we sell, or after our demise if our children sold the property.

A This is a little complex and you should be taking advice from your accountant. The land will be a pre-CGT asset and the house will be a post-CGT asset, so you will need to have calculations done to work out how much capital gains tax will be payable. If the bulk of the gain is in the land, the CGT may be small. If you leave the property to your children in your will, and they sell it within two years of you dying, there will be no CGT at all.

Q I am retired and have all my assets in an allocated pension balanced portfolio. The returns for 2012 were 14 per cent, and less than 3 per cent for 2011, but I can find nothing to compare these returns with. Is there independent accurate information available on allocated pensions?

A It is very dangerous to compare returns without getting specific advice because a fund that gives you a low return may have lower volatility and so be classed as lower risk. You need to sit down with your adviser and agree on a portfolio that suits your risk profile and then have an annual interview to make sure that portfolio is performing well in respect of its own benchmarks.

Q I’m trying to grasp the dividends paid by fully franked shares in an SMSF. I understand if they are fully franked and your super fund is taxed at 15 per cent until you reach 60, the fund doesn’t pay tax on the dividends as they are taxed at the higher company tax rate. Does this mean at the end of the financial year you can be refunded the difference between what your SMSF was taxed and what the fully franked shares were taxed?

A When you receive a franked dividend, the amount of that dividend plus any accompanying imputation credits is added together, grossed up, and tax is payable on the total. Then, the imputation credit is deducted from the tax payable. For example, if your fund received a $700 dividend with franking credits of $300, the grossed-up amount would be $1000, on which tax would be $150 because your fund would be paying 15 per cent tax on its income. When you deduct the $300 imputation credits, you find yourself in the fortunate position of having a bonus of $150 tax-free, making franked dividends an attractive investment for self-managed super funds.

Q I am moving to retirement living. How does Centrelink treat leaseholds and franking credits in calculating total assets and income?

A Most retirement village contracts these days are 99-year leasehold or licence arrangements. From a Centrelink perspective, the amount you pay to enter a retirement village is an entry contribution, and is used to determine whether you are considered a home owner as well as your eligibility for rent assistance. If the amount you pay is less than $139,500, you are considered to be a non-home owner and the value of the retirement village unit is included in your assets. If the amount you pay is above this threshold, you are a home owner and the amount you pay is exempt. While a deferred management fee (exit fee) is often charged when you leave the retirement village, this is not used to reduce your assessable assets while you live there.

Noel Whittaker is the author of Making Money Made Simple and numerous other books on personal finance. His advice is general in nature. Readers should seek their own professional advice before making decisions. Email: [email protected]杭州夜网m.You can follow Noel on Twitter – @NoelWhittaker

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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Hidden costs of ignoring small outlays

Waste not, want not. Photo: Paul Jones You’ve heard the old adage; it’s the little things that add up. This could be the case if you have a number of small recurring expenses. The costs for the goods and services that can range from subscriptions, memberships, to apps and late-payment fees are easy to miss if the costs are small. Let them slide for too long and you’ll find these little expenses will add up to hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars each year.
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Subscriptions These days you can just about subscribe to anything – from household goods and services to books, magazines, memberships, food and interactive games.

Most subscription users generally have the payments automatically deducted from a credit card or bank account, either monthly or annually. What can happen is you stop using the product, but forget to check if the fees are still being taken out.

A typical money drainer for parents is where they have signed the kids up for interactive games or learning programs. The kids soon get bored of the games and move onto others. Parents are caught out when they forget to cancel the subscription.

Downloads A new study from the US Online Publishers Association, A Portrait of Today’s Tablet User – Wave II, found tablet users spend $349 a year on purchases made from their devices. That’s about $29 each month. The downloaded items may be only small, but over time, they add up.

An app charge for a magazine or music video is so small that they’re easy to let slip and forget. The study also reported that paid apps account for 23 per cent of all apps downloaded in the past year.

Apps Speaking of apps, the average number of downloaded apps an individual carries on their mobile device ranges from 40 to 60. It’s fair to say with this many apps, it’s easy to forget the number purchased.

Once you begin to pay for a few of them, they can really start to add up. A song app might only cost $2, but if you’re after the latest tunes, 10 songs a month will set you back $24 or $288 a year.

Health insurance Private health cover is great when you need it. Just be aware you’re not paying for extras you may never use.

It pays to regularly check with your insurance provider to work out whether you have the desired cover to suit your needs. Most health funds offer additional extras to the basic cover. One example is pregnancy and obstetrics cover. After members have had the desired number of children, often this additional cover is no longer required.

If you forget to cancel the extra cover, you’ll continue paying the higher premium.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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Pro-choice pollie set to miss abortion vote

Source: The Examiner
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Debate on decriminalising abortion in Tasmania is likely to take place in the absence of one pro-choice MLC today.

Hobart independent MLC Rob Valentine requested a leave of absence from Parliament this week due to a family illness.

Mr Valentine has requested a pair for the vote.

However, The Examiner understands that so far no MLCs who oppose the Bill have offered to pair with him.

A pair would not partake in the final vote, so Mr Valentine’s absense would not affect the final balance of numbers.

The Reproductive Health Bill passed the lower house 13 to 11 in April and appeared headed toward a seven-all draw in the Legislative Council, including Mr Valentine.

Leader of Government Business Craig Farrell introduced the legislation to the upper house this morning and then suspended debate to await further briefings.

Health Minister Michelle O’Byrne, who sponsored the legislation, said earlier this week that she hoped the briefings would absolve MLCs concerns with the legislation.

The legislation proposes decriminalising abortion and leaving consent as the only requirement for abortion up to 16-weeks gestation.

After 16-weeks two doctors would be required to find that continuing the pregnancy posed a greater risk to the woman’s physical and psychological health than termination would, having account to her social or economic circumstances.

Mr Farrell urged MLCs not to misinterpret the social and economic clause when considering the legislation.

“Social and economic factors are absolutely relevant and capable of significantly impacting on a woman’s mental and physical health,” he said.

“These words are often misinterpreted in this issue to suggest women terminate a pregnancy on a trivial or superficial matters.”

The debate is likely to the house this afternoon.

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Government refuses to say if it receives PRISM data

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has declined to say whether Australian intelligence agencies receive information from the PRISM program. Photo: SuppliedFederal police spying on phone, internet
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The Gillard government has sought to head off concerns about any Australian links to a controversial US data gathering program, insisting all information shared between countries was subject to strict oversight.

But the government is standing by its refusal to disclose whether Australia is actually receiving or swapping intelligence with the US in connection with the widespread phone and internet surveillance programs revealed in the past week.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus declined on Tuesday night to say whether Australian intelligence agencies were receiving information from the PRISM program, through which the US is reportedly using “back doors” to access data from big technology firms such as Google, Facebook and Apple.

But he added: “Our intelligence activities and intelligence relationship with close allies, including the United States, protect our country from threats such as terrorism, foreign espionage and cyber intrusions.”

Mr Dreyfus went on to say that intelligence and security agencies were required by law to get authorisation from either the Defence or Foreign Affairs Minister before they produced intelligence on an Australian.

If matters related to threats to security, approval from the Attorney-General was also needed, he said.

Moreoever, all such activities were independently examined by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security to make sure the authorisations were conducted within the law.

“Any information obtained by our agencies from the US is subject to these protections,” he said.

The Guardian and Washington Post reported late last week that US signals spies, the National Security Agency, had been secretly collecting emails, documents, photos and other material from the internet through the PRISM program.

On Wednesday morning, one of Canberra’s top cyber security bosses used almost identical language as Mr Dreyfus in an effort to hose down concerns about any overreaching surveillance.

Major General Stephen Day, deputy director for Cyber and Information Security at the Australian Signals Directorate, told a cybersecurity conference in Canberra that “all intelligence activities carried out by ASD are conducted in strict accordance with Australian law”.

Like Mr Dreyfus, he said he could not comment on intelligence matters – according to longstanding practice.

“But what I can say is that we have a very strong legal framework to protect Australians. Under the intelligence services act, (the ASD) is required by law to obtain specific authorisation from the Minister for Defence or the Minister of Foreign Affairs to produce intelligence on Australians,” he said.

“Any information obtained by us from the United States is subject to exactly the same protections,” he said.

Asked whether the ASD had ever outsourced intelligence analysis to a third party organisation, General Day reiterated that he could not comment on intelligence arrangements.

Follow the National Times on Twitter

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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Tamou to miss Origin II after drink-drive charge

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MAY 28: James Tamou of the Blues trains during a New South Wales Blues State of Origin training session at North Sydney Oval on May 28, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images) Photo: Ryan PierseNSW prop James Tamou will be sidelined for game two of the State of Origin series as a result of a two-match suspension after being charged with driving nearly four times over the legal alcohol limit and without a licence.
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The ban, after discussions between the Cowboys and the NRL’s integrity unit, was announced by officials on Wednesday.

Tamou was also fined $20,000. With the player forgoing $30,000 bonus for playing in Origin II, he has effectively been fined $50,000.

NRL chief executive Dave Smith said the penalties reflected the seriousness of the offences.

“This is a high level, high risk, high penalty situation,” Smith said. “Drink driving puts lives at risk. Our players are well educated regarding alcohol management and there is no excuse for such behaviour.

“Our Integrity Unit has reviewed the situation, we have consulted with the Cowboys and we have sent a clear message of what is expected of our players.”

A statement said the NRL will also work with the Cowboys and Tamou to implement additional education and welfare programs, including responsible driver education.

The Australian Test prop was charged by police after recording an alcohol concentration of 0.197 when he was pulled over at about 3.30am Monday in the suburb of North Ward.

Tamou will appear in Townsville Magistrates Court on July 2 on charges of unlicensed driving and driving under the influence of alcohol, and has indicated he will plead guilty.

That clearly gave officials enough ammunition to come down on the player and after discussions between the parties, it was agreed that the 24-year-old would miss Friday’s clash with St George Illawarra, and then Origin II on June 26.

Cowboys chief executive Peter Jourdain said Tamou’s actions were ‘‘clearly unacceptable to us and the NRL’’.

“James returned a very high reading and was driving unlicensed – two offences that can never be condoned,’’ Jourdain said. “We believe the two-game punishment is appropriate. He is missing a crucial game for his club and the honour of again representing the Blues in what could be an historic Origin clash.’’

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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$1.2b boost to state hospital infrastructure

Mike Baird. Photo: Michel O’SullivanThe NSW budget for new hospital buildings will increase by 10 per cent this year to $1.2 billion.
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NSW Treasurer Mike Baird said that despite facing a revenue challenge, next week’s budget would invest in critical infrastructure. He said many hospital buildings were more than 50 years old.

“The tough decisions we have made means we will commit more than $1.2 billion in health capital works in Tuesday’s Budget for the coming year,” he said.

“After 16 years of neglect by state Labor, we are rebuilding and upgrading our hospitals so our patients and staff have the facilities they expect and deserve.”

Mr Baird said projects being funded included a $139 million redevelopment at Campbelltown Hospital, another at Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital at a cost of $120 million and a new building at Royal North Shore Hospital clinical services building.

Opposition health spokesperson Andrew McDonald said there was no new spending commitments in the capital works budget announcement.

“This is just a business-as-usual budget,” he said.

“This does nothing to address the backlog of patients on the waiting lists.”

NSW Health Minister Mrs Jillian Skinner said the government’s infrastructure spend was boosting hospital staff spirits.

“They expect the environments in which they work to match the high quality of care they deliver to their patients,” she said.

Mrs Skinner said the capital works budget would go towards a new clinical services building at Blacktown Hospital for cancer, cardiac, respiratory and aged care services. The building is due to be completed in 2015.

Brian Owler, president of the NSW Australian Medical Association, said he welcomed an increase in infrastructure funding. He said a 20-year plan was needed for investment in hospital buildings to ensure they met the growing demands of an ageing population.

“There has been an under-investment in hospital infrastructure for decades,” he said.

“We need to make sure we invest in infrastructure needs for the future.”

The AMA has said that recurrent funding for health services also needs to increase by 7 per cent to keep pace with demand.

“Anything less than 7 per cent is going to be seen as a cut,” Dr Owler said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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Markets ride getting bumpier

ASX200 volatility index over the past 12 months.Stock market volatility has been on the rise over the past six weeks, but there is no reason to panic, analysts say.
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The ASX200 Volatility Index is hovering around its highest levels in nearly 12 months, at 19.78, but it is well off the levels seen during the global financial crisis, which saw volatility peak at 66.72 points.

Since May 14, this year’s stock market peak, the volatility index has jumped 52.1 per cent.

“Yes, you’ve seen volatility rise, but it’s nowhere near the extent to where you’d consider it at crisis levels,” said Macquarie Private Wealth division director Martin Lakos.

Mr Lakos said the index was a measure of perceived volatility which followed markets, so it was no surprised to see a jump over the last month, with the ASX200 falling 9.5 per cent and the Australian dollar slipping to 33-month lows.

Over the past five years, volatility has spiked a number of times, including during the European debt crisis and the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, but overall it has been trending downwards.

“What is interesting is that through the last year or so, through the US election, through the budgetary process in the US, volatility has been coming off, these things are either being factored into the market or the market is becoming more comfortable with these issues,” said Mr Lakos.

Credit Suisse analyst Damien Boey said the slight increase in volatility was a sign that the market was unsure if central banks could cope with another crisis.

“Volatility came down because central banks were able to, through their quantitative easing policy, drive down to risk premium. But now that Japan is showing signs of ineffective quantitative easing and the Fed is talking about potentially ending it, volatility is starting to return,” said Mr Boey.

Australia’s volatility index is now at similar levels to the US, with the Chicago Volatility Index at 17.1, well off its peak of 80.9 in 2008.

While the US index has been a little more erratic than its Australian counterpart, Mr Boey said he was unsurprised by the indexes’ correlating.

“Both economies are facing downside growth risk, the US economy is experiencing quite extreme fiscal austerity, that is affecting the growth outlook and that’s why the most recent data points have been a bit negative.”

“In Australia, we know the story is about mining capex and how it’s not rolling over,” he said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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Buckley denies power play dividing Magpies

Dane Swan and Ben Johnson. Heath Shaw and Dane Swan at Collingwood training. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
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Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley has praised his senior players and denied the so-called Brat Pack is involved in a power play, declaring his entire list understands there are “non-negotiables” to abide by.

There have been suggestions, including from former Essendon champion Matthew Lloyd, of a divide between the senior players, including premiership stars Heath Shaw, Dane Swan, Ben Johnson and Alan Didak, and Buckley this season, as the Magpies seek to tighten on and off-field disciplines.

“I don’t think there is enough credit given to those (senior) players. They have been successful performers over a long period of time. They are great footballers, they are great team men, they want to be part of a successful environment,” Buckley said.

“I think the supposition that they are on one road and the rest of the club is on another is totally false. It’s not fair on them.”

Several issues have attracted attention to Collingwood this season. Heath Shaw was recently dumped because of his poor skinfolds, Swan commented during a television interview after the win over Brisbane that he should always be used in the midfield, while Dale Thomas was unhappy at Darren Jolly’s criticism of former teammate Josh Fraser in a Fairfax Media column.

Scott Pendlebury claimed some teammates had “cheated” on the field by running too far ahead of the ball, and said players had been given more latitude in terms of behaviour under former coach Mick Malthouse. More seriously, Harry O’Brien took president Eddie McGuire to task publicly over a racial controversy.

The Magpies have employed Leading Teams to help forge a new culture, although this was questioned on radio over the weekend by their premiership skipper Tony Shaw.

Lloyd last week said Buckley was winning the battle with his senior players.

“I reckon there’s a bit of a power struggle going on. I reckon Buckley’s winning it,” he said.

“Bucks is trying to change things at Collingwood.

“He’s made a statement on Heath Shaw and he pushed, I reckon, Dane Swan forward because he wasn’t defending well enough in those losses.

“Swanny got back into the midfield and was probably running a bit harder both ways (against Brisbane).

“Bucks is getting what he wants, but I reckon there’s a bit of a fight on at the moment.”

Leading Teams is also being employed at Sydney and Fremantle this year. Others are split on its value.

“It’s not designed to create tension. It’s designed to elicit the very best performance of the team on game day under the heat of battle. It’s a tool that has been excellent for us. It’s in its very early stages. It’s something we will continue to build on,” Buckley said.

“It’s an empowerment model. It gives the players ownership of their destiny and the way they want to go about their football and the values they expect to adhere to and perform under.

“I think what it’s done at this early stage is give our young players in particular a very clear road map of how they are going to get the best out of their opportunity at the footy club.

“We have seen some great development and great debuts and early stages of careers from our young players.

He said the program makes the team’s “non-negotiables” clear to players.

“It makes it a black and white blueprint, this is how we are going to be successful, let’s work towards this. It’s simply a plan.”

Buckley said small forward Andrew Krakouer, who has had time off for personal reasons, would play in the VFL this weekend.

He also remained confident the injured Dale Thomas would agree to a new contract.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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GALLERY: Istanbul riots

Riot police use water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd during a demonstration near Taksim Square on June 11. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES Riot police use water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd during a demonstration near Taksim Square on June 11. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES
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Riot police use water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd during a demonstration near Taksim Square on June 11. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

Riot police use water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd during a demonstration near Taksim Square on June 11. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

Riot police use water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd during a demonstration near Taksim Square on June 11. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

Riot police use water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd during a demonstration near Taksim Square on June 11. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

Riot police use water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd during a demonstration near Taksim Square on June 11. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

Riot police use water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd during a demonstration near Taksim Square on June 11. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

Riot police use water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd during a demonstration near Taksim Square on June 11. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

Riot police use water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd during a demonstration near Taksim Square on June 11. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

Riot police use water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd during a demonstration near Taksim Square on June 11. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

Riot police use water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd during a demonstration near Taksim Square on June 11. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

Riot police use water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd during a demonstration near Taksim Square on June 11. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

Riot police use water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd during a demonstration near Taksim Square on June 11. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

Riot police use water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd during a demonstration near Taksim Square on June 11. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

Riot police use water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd during a demonstration near Taksim Square on June 11. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

Riot police use water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd during a demonstration near Taksim Square on June 11. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

Riot police use water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd during a demonstration near Taksim Square on June 11. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

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Will The Following’s killer nanny survive?

Endearing? Serial killing nanny Emma Hill, played by Valorie Curry, on The Following.In part one of our exclusive interview with The Following’s Valorie Curry ahead of the season finale on Wednesday night, she recounts her final day on set and the arguments she has had with fans over why she’s not a moustache-twirling villain.
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Her character Emma Hill has been the surprise package of The Following. Impossible to safely pin down ever since the pilot episode in which she provided the final twist as the nanny who made off with her ward. She has proven since to be a clinical killer, dangerous lover and ruthlessly enthusiastic follower. Actress Valorie Currey, who plays Hill, has been an equally impressive revelation.

In our last glimpse of Hill – at the climax of last Wednesday’s penultimate episode – she had just executed a very simple solution to the second love triangle that she has found herself in, with emphasis on executed.

“I wrapped in early March, but ironically because of sequencing, the last scene I shot for the series was the scene in episode 14, where Emma killed Jacob. So that’s how I went out, which was intense,” says Curry.

“I was happy to go out on that scene but it also made me happy to leave Emma as a character behind. It was incredibly intense. Nico [Tortorella, who plays Jacob] and I are very good friends and having to say goodbye to him as someone I’d worked with for seven months and also as a character saying goodbye to someone she loves, it was all mixed up together and was very emotional.”

In fact, thanks to the habit of television to capture scenes from multiple angles, Curry was able to bid Tortorella a cut-throat farewell over and over again.

“I had to do it many times,” she recalls. “But the first take was actually the take with all of the blood and the prosthetics so we started from the highest pitch. I remember when I cut his throat in that first take the blood sprayed out there was a pump attached to it and it sprayed my face. I jumped out of the car as soon as they yelled ‘cut’ and said I want to go home! It was so intense but for me that’s fantastic because I can use that in every take afterwards.”

Some shows, like The Walking Dead have developed on-set rituals to mark the death of a character, however Nico Tortorella was dispatched with no further ceremony.

“We didn’t really have a ritual,” Curry admits. “With the number of people we killed off on this show, if we had a ritual we’d never get any work done. There were too many deaths on this show!”

The rising death count in the plot by necessity means fewer and fewer characters remain. In fact, you could be forgiven for believing Wednesday nights finale will be a three-hander between Kevin Bacon, James Purefoy, and Curry. Yet it is not Hill’s survival that makes Curry feel so lucky.

“I feel like I won the lotto with this character because she is whoever she needs to be in the moment, which means I feel like I play someone different from one moment to the next,” Curry explains. “She relates to everyone so differently. She has the ability to be vulnerable emotionally and connect to people emotionally, whether that’s real or not or manipulative or not. I think that as an actress I get to have great scenes with everyone.”

She certainly hasn’t won the lottery in public opinion, with even customs officials staring at her strangely when they recognise her as the serial killer nanny.

“People on the street are pretty horrified by what I did,” Curry says with a laugh, admitting she finds herself defending Hill on “the subway, the coffee shop, the department store, everywhere”.

“There are definitely fewer people who are sympathetic, but I always appreciate those people because I find myself defending Emma constantly. The one thing people always say to me is ‘you are the most evil character,’ which I could argue about all day long.

“It’s pretty easy to convince them, but it never changes their emotional reaction to her. They will admit she’s not as bad as other characters on the show, but they still just hate her. I don’t know what that comes down to. She seems so sweet that people dislike having their expectations subverted.”

Curry has one other theory as to why “other really blood thirsty characters” don’t receive such fan enmity. “[The character of] Paul for instance, is in the beautiful package of Adan Canto. His ass covers for all manner of things.”

While they say only a mother could love some people, it takes the actor playing the nanny to cherish the character of Emma Hill; although Curry has encountered plenty of fans who see past the violence. “I appreciate when people can see her brokenness or her vulnerability because that’s something as an actor I definitely try to bring to the character: humanity and not just this moustache-twisting villain.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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Dust-up looms over amended coal report

The findings of the Particulate Emissions from Coal Trains environment report were reversed when the report went public, according to a local activist group and the Greens. Photo: Matthew KellyAn environment study into the effects of dust from coal trains has apparently been doctored, with the federal and NSW government misled – perhaps willingly, according to a local activist group and the Greens.
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The Particulate Emissions from Coal Trains report for the nationally owned Australian Rail Track Corporation had 15 of its 18 conclusions changed between the submission of the draft version dated May 24 and the version made public seven days later, said James Whelan, chair of the dust and health committee of the Coal Terminal Action Group.

The leaked draft version of the ARTC report found air pollution levels were high when loaded and unloaded coal rail wagons passed a monitoring station compared with when there was no rail traffic.

The public version of the report, though, reversed those findings and just a day later the NSW government had accepted the revised report and based policy on it, Dr Whelan said.

“The chair of the EPA Barry Buffier would appear to have been very gullible and perhaps hasty to make policy announcements on the back of a report that quite clearly contradicted a version of the report he had received six days previously,” Dr Whelan said.

The NSW EPA has been contacted for comment.

The ARTC is seeking to double the number of coal trains through the Hunter Valley and Newcastle to feed a proposed fourth coal export terminal at the port city. The activist group says 30,000 residents live within half a kilometre of the coal rail corridor and will face heightened health risks from additional trains.

The group has written to the NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell and two of his ministers to call for a Special Commission of Inquiry to identify how the draft report, compiled by Katestone consultants, came to be amended to produce opposite findings in three instances.

“By deleting or inserting the word ‘no’ or ‘not’, a very different picture of the impacts of coal trains on air quality in Newcastle and the Lower Hunter is reached,” the group said in a statement. “Other conclusions were modified to significantly downplay the pollution levels associated with coal trains, and the released report saw three new conclusions added and one deleted.”

Said Dr Whelan: “At least one of the versions of this report suggests that the concentrations of those particles will significantly increase.

“It’s either ARTC, or Katestone [who made the changes]…The question is who made the instructions or instructed them to?”

Greens push

The Greens have also been pressing the federal government for answers, with transport spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon calling on Transport Minister Anthony Albanese to reveal any involvement by his department and the ARTC in altering the findings of this report .

“Minister Albanese needs to explain why the [ARTC] publicly released a report that appears to have falsified results,” Senator Rhiannon said in a statement.

“The altered report fits hand-in-hand with the coal industry’s strategy to downplay the health impacts of the mining and transport of coal.”

Senator Rhiannon plans to move a motion in the Senate when parliament resumes next week for Mr Albanese to release all documents related to the drafting of this report.

“It’s a very serious public health,” Dr Whelan said. “It’s a matter of national significance.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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Asia’s ticking time bonds

Efforts to make the global financial system safer could be making Asia more – not less – vulnerable to any credit market shocks, leaving bond traders worried that a sharp selloff since late May could turn into a rout.
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Low global interest rates have made it easier than ever to sell new bonds denominated in US dollars, euros or yen, resulting in a boom in issuance that has made Asia and its companies ever more dependent on debt.

But the market for trading those bonds is slowly drying up, leaving it susceptible to a sharper selloff if holders of these so-called G3 bonds decide it is time to head for the exit.

“The issue is that if any of them choose to sell their holdings, the market may not have the capacity to absorb these flows. If we reach a stage like that then liquidity could dry up very quickly and that can have a spiralling effect,” said Dhimant Shah, a fund manager at Mackenzie Investments in Singapore.

Bond markets in Asia have generally trended higher since the Lehman crisis during the global financial crisis in 2008, partly aided by the flood of cash from Western central banks aimed at reviving their economies. By one measure, a JP Morgan basket of credit, the debt market hit its highest level in May since the global financial crisis.

In the last month though, bonds have stumbled on jitters over when the US Federal Reserve will start to unwind its stimulus programme. Yields, which move inversely to prices, on the debt tracked by the JP Morgan basket have jumped in the past month more than 60 basis points, largely in the past two weeks. The yield on Indonesian government bonds due in 2020 have risen even faster, nearly 100 basis points in the past month.

Asia’s low market liquidity could create a more explosive selloff in which a lack of trading creates a price vacuum, leading to sharper price declines as investors scramble to sell assets for cash, a scenario similar to the dark days of the Lehman crisis.

“I don’t recall in recent memory bonds falling so quickly without a tail-risk event as they did in the last month,” said Richard Cohen, head of credit trading in the Asia Pacific for Credit Suisse. Tail-risk refers to a sudden event that has a major impact on financial markets.

Powerful factors

Unlike equity and currency markets, there is no central repository for information on bond volumes. But dealers said volumes have fallen sharply as the market has sold off, although more generally liquidity has also been sliding in the past year as the result of some powerful factors.

Regulations under new Basel III capital requirements and the Dodd-Frank legislation in the United States are forcing Western banks to cut global operations, trim, or even eliminate their own bond trading operations and to cut Asian bond portfolios to reduce risk.

For example, fund manager Shah, 41, left JPMorgan Chase & Co in Singapore as head of proprietary trading last year, one of many traders who left banks as the stricter capital requirements made it tougher for them to conduct proprietary trading.

At the same time, Asian banks have not developed the expertise or the risk-appetite to fill the void.

In addition, the same low interest rates that make it easy to sell new bonds are making older bonds more attractive to hold rather than trade. The result is a diminishing amount of secondary trading in Asian bonds.

The combination of factors makes it more difficult for sellers, said Hong Kong-based Fredric Teng, a partner at hedge fund Oracle Capital Limited.

“It’s a bit like Tom trying to get out using Jerry’s pet flap. If investors cannot get out we could have crazy knee jerk price actions,” Teng said.

Such a squeeze could have far reaching consequences in Asia given its growing appetite for debt.

The region’s debt-to-GDP ratio rose to 155 per cent in mid-2012 from 133 per cent in 2008, data from McKinsey Global Institute, a unit of consulting firm McKinsey & Co, shows. It is also higher than 1997, when several economies in Asia buckled as capital fled the region.

To be sure, there is no sign of widespread panic in markets. Historically low interest rates, and in some cases a relaxation of regulations governing bond markets, are keeping new issues of bonds at record levels.

G3 bonds issued by Asian borrowers outside Japan hit a record high in 2012 of $US133.8 billion and the momentum has intensified this year. In the first five months of 2013, nearly $US88 billion in G3 debt has been sold, up from $US71 billion in the same period last year.

But the selloff is the first sign that a bull run in bonds of more than four years may be coming to an end as investors anticipate the US Fed easing back on its stimulus pedal. That risk means investors are wary of some areas of the market.

Bull market frothiness

Bonds from single “B” rated China property companies, sovereign issuers such as Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Mongolia and infrequent borrowers that make $US100 million to $US200 million offerings are struggling for buyers. Trading liquidity in these bonds is low anyhow, so during times of market caution, buyers retreat further.

“If you are holding those names good luck trying to sell. Even though things have cheapened up considerably, traders don’t want to hold some of these bonds because there may be no buyers,” said a Hong Kong-based trader at a US bank. He declined to be identified because he is not authorised to speak with the media.

But there is also a flip side.

Bryan Collins, a portfolio manager at Fidelity International, says that while bouts of bond market illiquidity are a risk, they also help to remove some of the frothiness from bull markets.

Ultra-low interest rates have fuelled record issuance of new debt, but they have also helped reduce the risk of debt default as many companies refinanced outstanding debt into longer-dated maturities.

That means that, even if yields on 10-year US Treasuries lurch higher after a 64 basis points rise since early May to 2.26 per cent, it is unlikely to cause panic among cash-rich Asian companies.

And as a rise in interest rates causes a corollary fall in bond prices, some global fund houses, such as T. Rowe Price, are waiting in the wings to buy up beaten-down debt.

Still, T. Rowe is hedging its positions with safe-haven US and German government debt, said Terry Moore, a fixed-income portfolio specialist at the US-based firm.

“So when volatility spikes in the bond market, we have some liquid bonds we can sell to buy less liquid debt,” said Moore, a member of an investment team overseeing more than $US800 billion in assets.

Reuters

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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