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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Russia begins Syria air strikes as war enters volatile new phase

Wed Sep 30, 2015 | 4:00 PM EDT 2:26 PM EDT | 00:46 Russia releases video of air strikes in Syria Russia begins Syria air strikes as war enters...X By Andrew Osborn and Phil Stewart MOSCOW/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Russia launched air strikes in Syria on Wednesday in the Kremlin's biggest Middle East intervention in decades, but Moscow's assertion that it had hit Islamic State was immediately disputed by the United States and rebels on the ground. The air strikes plunged the four-year-old civil war in Syria into a volatile new phase as President Vladimir Putin moved forcefully to assert Russian influence in the unstable region. The attacks also raised the dangerous specter of Washington and Moscow running air strikes concurrently and in the same region, but without coordination. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said he had directed U.S. military officials to meet with their Russian counterparts "as soon as possible" to discuss ways to make sure they do not come into conflict. The United States said a Russian official in Baghdad warned it to keep American aircraft that have been pressing a daily bombing campaign against Islamic State positions to stay out of Syrian airspace during Moscow's air strikes. But the United States continued its air operations, saying it targeted Islamic State near the Syrian city of Aleppo. Putin said he was striking against Islamic State and helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, long Russia's closest ally in the region, in this aim. But Washington is concerned that Moscow is more interested in propping up Assad, who the United States has long held should leave office, than in beating Islamic State. Assad's opponents in the brutal civil war include rebel groups that oppose both him and Islamic State and that are supported by the United States and other Western countries. The Russian defense ministry said it carried out about 20 flights over Syria, hitting eight Islamic State targets and destroying an Islamic State command post and an operations center in a mountainous area, Russian agencies reported. Syrians living in rebel-held areas of Homs province said the violence unleashed by the Russian air force unleashed a whole new level of devastation on their towns. Jets flying at higher altitudes than the Syrian air force emitted no noise to alert the people below to raids reported to have killed at least 33 civilians, including children. Moscow's intervention means the conflict in Syria has been transformed in a few months from a proxy war, in which outside powers were arming and training mostly Syrians to fight each other, to an international conflict in which the world’s main military powers except China are directly involved in fighting. Russia joined the United States and its Arab allies, Turkey, France, Iran and Israel in direct intervention, with Britain expected to join soon, if it gets parliamentary approval. Carter said of the strikes, "It does appear that they were in areas where there probably were not ISIL forces, and that is precisely one of the problems with this whole approach." ISIL is one of the acronyms for Islamic State, which has seized control of large areas of Syria and Iraq over the past year. Notice of the attack came from a Russian official in Baghdad who asked the United States to avoid Syrian airspace during the mission, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said. DANGER IN THE SKIES Russia, U.S. face off at U.N. over parallel Syria air campaigns Russian air strikes unleash new devastation in Syrian region, say residents Moscow's move meant that warplanes from both the United States and Russia will be sharing the skies above Syria. "In this heated situation there is a great danger of further misunderstandings," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at the United Nations. Reflecting growing tension between the big powers, U.S. Secretary John Kerry phoned his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov early on Wednesday to tell him the United States regarded the strikes as dangerous, a U.S. official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Russia was moving to "ramp up" support for Assad, adding, "They've made a significant military investment now in further popping him up." Earnest called it "an indication of how concerned they are about losing influence in the one client state that they have in the Middle East." At least 200,000 people have been killed and millions driven from their homes since the civil war began in 2011 when Assad's forces moved to crush peaceful protests against his family's four-decade rule. ==================== Thu Oct 1, 2015 | 9:23 AM EDT Assad allies, including Iranians, prepare ground attack in Syria: sources Syria's President Bashar al-Assad answers questions during an interview with al-Manar's journalist Amro Nassef, in Damascus, Syria, in this handout photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA on August 25, 2015. REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters Syria's President Bashar al-Assad answers questions during an interview with al-Manar's journalist Amro Nassef, in Damascus, Syria, in this handout photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA on August 25, 2015. Reuters/SANA/Handout via Reuters Assad allies, including Iranians, prepare ground. By Laila Bassam BEIRUT (Reuters) - Hundreds of Iranian troops have arrived in Syria in the last 10 days and will soon join government forces and their Lebanese Hezbollah allies in a major ground offensive backed by Russian air strikes, two Lebanese sources told Reuters. "The (Russian) air strikes will in the near future be accompanied by ground advances by the Syrian army and its allies," said one of the sources familiar with political and military developments in the conflict. "It is possible that the coming land operations will be focused in the Idlib and Hama countryside," the source added. The two sources said the operation would be aimed at recapturing territory lost by President Bashar al-Assad's government to rebels. It points to an emerging military alliance between Russia and Assad's other main allies - Iran and Hezbollah - focused on recapturing areas of northwestern Syria that were seized by insurgents in rapid advances earlier this year. "The vanguard of Iranian ground forces began arriving in Syria: soldiers and officers specifically to participate in this battle. They are not advisors ... we mean hundreds with equipment and weapons. They will be followed by more," the second source said. Iraqis would also take part in the operation, the source said. Thus far, direct Iranian military support for Assad has come mostly in the form of military advisors. Iran has also mobilized Shi'ite militia fighters, including Iraqis and some Afghans, to fight alongside Syrian government forces. Lebanon's Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, has been fighting alongside the Syrian army since early in the conflict. The Russian air force began air strikes in Syria on Wednesday, targeting areas near the cities of Homs and Hama in the west of the country, where Assad's forces are fighting an array of insurgent groups, though not Islamic State, which is based mostly in the north and east. An alliance of insurgent groups including the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and powerful Ahrar al-Sham made rapid gains in Idlib province earlier this year, completely expelling the government from the area bordering Turkey. (Reporting by Laila Bassam; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Samia Nakhoul and Peter Graff) ============================================

Indonesians could be evacuated due to haze

Click to invest in buying South Australian Schools land, starting at just $1650,000 Poor air quality in much of South East Asia from fires burning in Indonesia has prompted government officials to consider evacuations. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). TRANSCRIPT - ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Indonesia on Wednesday (September 30) said they are preparing to evacuate those affected by the air pollution from raging forest fires on Sumatra island. Indonesia has sent nearly 21,000 personnel to fight forest fires raging in its northern islands, the disaster management agency said on Tuesday, but smoke clogs much of the region with pollution readings in the "very unhealthy" region in neighbouring Singapore. Slash-and-burn agriculture has blanketed Singapore, Malaysia and northern Indonesia in a choking "haze" for weeks, pushing up pollution levels and disrupting flights, as it does every year. Indonesian efforts to halt the seasonal clearances have failed. More than 135,000 Indonesians were reported to be suffering from respiratory diseases, the disaster agency said in a statement.

Monetary dispute: Sindh governor’s brother, sister-in-law seek protection against MQM leader

Affordable Homes in Australia Starting at $269,000 By Faraz Khan Published: September 30, 2015 S A file photo of MQM leader Rauf Siddiqui. PHOTO: EXPRESS KARACHI: The sister-in-law of Sindh governor approached the police on Monday night to register a case against a senior Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader, Rauf Siddiqui, and his allies, seeking protection in the wake of death threats to her and her family. Dr Shehla Amir, the wife of Amirul Ibad Khan, a brother of Sindh governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan, submitted the application against death threats meted out to her, her family and her company’s employees by Rauf Siddiqui and his allies, identified in the application as Shaiq and Raza Abidi, following a monetary dispute. Dr Shehla Amir visited the District Central police chief DIG Feroz Shah and reported the matter to him. She also submitted an application, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, requesting the police to look into the matter, register an FIR and take action against the perpetrators. “Our lives are in danger,” said Amirul Ibad Khan while speaking to The Express Tribune. “This has been going on for the last five months but we took it non-seriously. We were finally compelled to approach the police after we started receiving threats.” In her application, Dr Shehla Amir stated that she and her family are Canadian citizens. In 2009, her husband decided to move back to Pakistan and established an alternate energy company, titled RAAS Systems Enterprises, in Karachi. “We introduced renewable energy technology in Pakistan to combat the energy crisis. We not only brought the advance technology in Pakistan, but also invested in the business. This is not only a social service but also a step towards the future,” the application stated. RAAS Systems Inc was called by Rauf Siddiqui in December 2011 to carry out some projects in Karachi, including solar outdoor lights at Nazeer Hussain University, Federal B Area, solar street lights at Afza Altaf Flyover, Habib Bank Chowrangi, SITE and a home-based generation system at Rauf Siddiqui’s residence,” stated the application. It further stated that an agreement was signed between FSCL private limited and RAAS Systems Inc. before executing the project at Afza Altaf Flyover in which all terms and conditions were mentioned. “We have completed the project within the specified period of time under immense pressure and persuasion of the Minister Office, SITE Limited and Consultant Office, International Design Group (IDG) Private Limited. During the execution of the project, FSCL Private Limited partially stopped the project due to some unknown reasons,” she said in the application. “There is an outstanding amount of 700,000 Canadian dollars in the project of Afza Altaf Flyover. This outstanding amount includes all the demurrages, future business opportunities and currency exchange rate difference,” she said. “We were told that this amount was kept aside as bhatta (extortion) for the political party and had been transferred to the party’s high command. Shaiq and Raza told us that their company, FSCL Private Limited, is used by this political party for funds collection,” the application stated. She further stated in the application that the company had suffered a lot due to the non-payment of the outstanding amount was on the verge of bankruptcy. It seems that the political victimisation is being carried out with me and my family. “Rauf Siddiqui is pressurising my husband to forego the money we are rightfully owed. We are being harassed by some unknown persons to keep silent,” she stated in the application. On the other hand, no case has been registered. DSP Zahid Hussain said that the police was reviewing the application and will also record the statements of the persons who are accused in the application. For his part, Siddiqui denied that he had threatened the couple and said he will take them to court for making false charges. “I have never met the governor’s brother or his wife. They are fraudsters and are falsely accusing me of threatening them.” Siddiqui sees this as an attempt to malign him as well as the university. “These people are lying and just blackmailing us. They took the money from us but never completed the work.” Meanwhile, the director of Friends Construction Syndicate Limited (FSCL), Raza Ali Abidi, refuted the allegations leveled against him and his company, claiming that the governor’s brothers were trying to blackmail them into extorting the funds. He added that they will initiate civil and criminal proceedings against the couple in both Pakistan and Canada. With additional reporting by Rabia Ali Published in The Express Tribune, September 30th, 2015.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Glencore slumps 30 percent as debt fears grow

Mon Sep 28, 2015 | 5:28 PM EDT Glencore slumps 30 percent as debt fears grow 12:14 PM EDT | 03:07 Breakingviews: Glencore gore Glencore slumps 30 percent as debt fears growX By Lionel Laurent and Sudip Kar-Gupta LONDON (Reuters) - Shares in mining and trading company Glencore fell almost 30 percent and closed at a record low on Monday over concerns it is not doing enough to cut its debt to withstand a prolonged fall in global metals prices. About 3.5 billion pounds ($5.33 billion) in market value was wiped off the Swiss-based firm, whose $10 billion share offering in 2011 turned its managers into billionaire shareholders but left it saddled with debt - a growing problem as commodity prices fell. Chief executive Ivan Glasenberg had to bow to shareholder pressure this month by agreeing to cut debt as worries mounted over the firm's ability to protect its credit rating. Glencore has said it will suspend dividends, sell assets and raise cash, among other measures, to cut its $30 billion debt pile and protect its rating after the prices of its main products, copper and coal fell. The fall followed publication of a note by analysts at investment bank Investec which raised doubts about Glencore's valuation if spot metal prices do not improve. The note pointed to high debt levels and a need for deeper restructuring. "If major commodity prices remain at current levels, our analysis implies that, in the absence of substantial restructuring, nearly all the equity value of both Glencore and Anglo American could evaporate," the analysts wrote. London-listed Glencore has already raised $2.5 billion through a share placement, part of a wider plan to cut its net debt. Glencore directors and employees took up 22 percent of the new shares as the company's executives try to shore up market confidence in the business and retain their stake levels, by percentage. Glencore's top individual shareholders, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon data, include Glasenberg, with an 8.4 percent stake, and Qatar Holding, with 8.2 percent. Qatar is also a top shareholder of German automaker Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE), another beaten-up blue-chip. Monday's fall spread to the broader UK mining sector, which has also felt the pain from an emerging-markets slowdown and a crash in commodities prices. The FTSE 350 mining index sank to its lowest level since Dec. 2008. Both Glencore and Anglo American declined to comment. "A FEW LEVERS LEFT" ADVERTISEMENT The sharp slide in Glencore's share price was triggered by the firm's move in August to cut its forecast for earnings from trading, a division meant to help cushion the company against tumbling commodities prices. This was compounded by an increasingly shaky economic outlook for top commodities consumer China and lower copper prices - Glencore's largest earner. On Monday shares of Glencore closed down 29.4 percent at 78.09 pence after falling as much as 31 percent to a record low of 66.67 pence. The stock is down around 75 percent year-to-date. The cost of insuring exposure to the debt of Glencore hit record highs, also on concerns the company could not withstand steep fall in metals prices. Anglo American shares closed down 10 percent. Glencore's plan to cut its net debt by a third by the end of 2016 has failed to boost market confidence in the company. "Investors are not yet convinced that Glencore has gone far enough to totally allay fears that the industrial assets can service the new lower debt level," Goldman Sachs analysts said in a note last week. "Glencore has a few levers left – further lowering capex, signing streaming deals and releasing more working capital. Recent underperformance suggests that the measures exercised are insufficient and more is needed." After Glencore announced its debt-cutting plans, Moody's credit-rating agency affirmed its Baa2 rating on the company but changed the outlook to negative, from stable, "to reflect the scope for a prolonged difficult market that may cause a slower recovery in Glencore's financial profile". S&P affirmed Glencore's BBB rating and kept a negative outlook, also citing worries over economic slowdown in China and copper prices. CHINA OUTLOOK The outlook for China's economy was also a drag on markets, with forecasts pointing to a likely shrinking of the country's giant factory sector for the second month in a row. Profits earned by Chinese industrial companies declined at the sharpest rate in four years in August, according to official data. Brewin Dolphin analyst Nik Stanojevic said investors were likely pricing in a fresh drop for metals and commodities prices. News that Glencore had sold a nickel project in Brazil to Horizonte Minerals for $8 million offered little respite, with Hobart Capital Markets' Justin Haque saying the price was a fraction of what Glencore had spent. Traders warned that the stock might fall even further if more assets were put on the block. "The market is concerned that there is going to be a fire-sale going on at Glencore," said Beaufort Securities' sales trader Basil Petrides. "I don't think anybody knows where the floor is on the stock at the moment." (Additional reporting and writing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo, Editing by Andrew Roche and Timothy Heritage)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Glencore slumps 30 percent as debt fears grow

Mon Sep 28, 2015 | 5:28 PM EDT Glencore slumps 30 percent as debt fears grow 12:14 PM EDT | 03:07 Breakingviews: Glencore By Lionel Laurent and Sudip Kar-Gupta LONDON (Reuters) - Shares in mining and trading company Glencore fell almost 30 percent and closed at a record low on Monday over concerns it is not doing enough to cut its debt to withstand a prolonged fall in global metals prices. About 3.5 billion pounds ($5.33 billion) in market value was wiped off the Swiss-based firm, whose $10 billion share offering in 2011 turned its managers into billionaire shareholders but left it saddled with debt - a growing problem as commodity prices fell. Chief executive Ivan Glasenberg had to bow to shareholder pressure this month by agreeing to cut debt as worries mounted over the firm's ability to protect its credit rating. Glencore has said it will suspend dividends, sell assets and raise cash, among other measures, to cut its $30 billion debt pile and protect its rating after the prices of its main products, copper and coal fell. The fall followed publication of a note by analysts at investment bank Investec which raised doubts about Glencore's valuation if spot metal prices do not improve. The note pointed to high debt levels and a need for deeper restructuring. "If major commodity prices remain at current levels, our analysis implies that, in the absence of substantial restructuring, nearly all the equity value of both Glencore and Anglo American could evaporate," the analysts wrote. London-listed Glencore has already raised $2.5 billion through a share placement, part of a wider plan to cut its net debt. Glencore directors and employees took up 22 percent of the new shares as the company's executives try to shore up market confidence in the business and retain their stake levels, by percentage. Glencore's top individual shareholders, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon data, include Glasenberg, with an 8.4 percent stake, and Qatar Holding, with 8.2 percent. Qatar is also a top shareholder of German automaker Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE), another beaten-up blue-chip. Monday's fall spread to the broader UK mining sector, which has also felt the pain from an emerging-markets slowdown and a crash in commodities prices. The FTSE 350 mining index sank to its lowest level since Dec. 2008. Both Glencore and Anglo American declined to comment. "A FEW LEVERS LEFT" ADVERTISEMENT The sharp slide in Glencore's share price was triggered by the firm's move in August to cut its forecast for earnings from trading, a division meant to help cushion the company against tumbling commodities prices. This was compounded by an increasingly shaky economic outlook for top commodities consumer China and lower copper prices - Glencore's largest earner. On Monday shares of Glencore closed down 29.4 percent at 78.09 pence after falling as much as 31 percent to a record low of 66.67 pence. The stock is down around 75 percent year-to-date. The cost of insuring exposure to the debt of Glencore hit record highs, also on concerns the company could not withstand steep fall in metals prices. Anglo American shares closed down 10 percent. Glencore's plan to cut its net debt by a third by the end of 2016 has failed to boost market confidence in the company. "Investors are not yet convinced that Glencore has gone far enough to totally allay fears that the industrial assets can service the new lower debt level," Goldman Sachs analysts said in a note last week. "Glencore has a few levers left – further lowering capex, signing streaming deals and releasing more working capital. Recent underperformance suggests that the measures exercised are insufficient and more is needed." After Glencore announced its debt-cutting plans, Moody's credit-rating agency affirmed its Baa2 rating on the company but changed the outlook to negative, from stable, "to reflect the scope for a prolonged difficult market that may cause a slower recovery in Glencore's financial profile". S&P affirmed Glencore's BBB rating and kept a negative outlook, also citing worries over economic slowdown in China and copper prices. CHINA OUTLOOK The outlook for China's economy was also a drag on markets, with forecasts pointing to a likely shrinking of the country's giant factory sector for the second month in a row. Profits earned by Chinese industrial companies declined at the sharpest rate in four years in August, according to official data. Brewin Dolphin analyst Nik Stanojevic said investors were likely pricing in a fresh drop for metals and commodities prices. News that Glencore had sold a nickel project in Brazil to Horizonte Minerals for $8 million offered little respite, with Hobart Capital Markets' Justin Haque saying the price was a fraction of what Glencore had spent. Traders warned that the stock might fall even further if more assets were put on the block. "The market is concerned that there is going to be a fire-sale going on at Glencore," said Beaufort Securities' sales trader Basil Petrides. "I don't think anybody knows where the floor is on the stock at the moment." (Additional reporting and writing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo, Editing by Andrew Roche and Timothy Heritage)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

NAB names top postcodes at risk of mortgage default

Story image for nab-names-top-postcodes-at-risk-of-mortgage-default-20150928-gjwb6x from The Australian Financial Review The Australian Financial Review-8 minutes ago A range of Sydney suburbs are in the risky category including Glebe and Chippendale, to Campsie, Kingsgrove, Chatswood, Baulkham National Australia Bank has identified 34 Sydney postcodes where it believes there may be rising risk in the mortgage market, and it will require home buyers to stump up a deposit of at least 20 per cent. The lender has also red-flagged 22 post codes in Western Australia and 11 post codes in Queensland as even higher-risk areas, where it says there has been a "significant deterioration in credit risk." In a note received by mortgage brokers last week, NAB listed more than 80 "restricted postcodes" across the country where it is capping the percentage of a property's purchase price it will lend, known as a loan-to-valuation ratio. Within this group, NAB identified 40 highest-risk postcodes, which were dominated by mining areas in WA and Queensland. Known as "Group A restricted postcodes" these are "areas where significant deterioration in credit risk has been observed," the bank said. In these areas, NAB said it had introduced a cap of 70 per cent on loan-to-valuation ratios for new lending - meaning new borrowers will need a deposit of at least 30 per cent. NAB also included a second group of "Group B" postcodes where it is eyeing future risks and capping LVRs for new lending at 80 per cent. The second group of postcodes takes in "areas which are exhibiting characteristics which may indicate future deterioration in credit risk," the bank said. Sydney highest risk This group was dominated by Sydney suburbs, which accounted for 34 of the 43 postcodes listed in this category. It included a range of suburbs from across city, ranging from inner-city areas such as Glebe and Chippendale, to Campsie, Kingsgrove, Chatswood, Baulkham Hills and Cabramatta. Five Melbourne suburbs were also included on the list of "Group B" areas, including the Melbourne CBD, St Kilda Road Central and Abbotsford. NAB will also cap LVRs at 80 per cent in central business districts of Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane, the note says. "We continually review our risk settings to ensure we're lending responsibly and sustainably. This is a very normal practice for any bank," a NAB spokeswoman said. "We recognise that in any property market, no two suburbs are the same and these strategies take into account a range of economic factors and provide an extra level of caution to our risk settings." While banks commonly take a more cautious approach to mining and one-industry towns, brokers say it is unusual for a bank to adopt such a cautious approach towards suburbs in Sydney. It comes after NAB chief risk officer last month David Gall said the bank had developed a list of 40 hostpots, but it did not identify the areas. NAB said the postcode policy would apply to all new loan applications received that had been received after September 18. The managing director of mortgage broker Homeloanexperts.com.au, Otto Dargan, said the policy may affect first home buyers especially, as they typically had smaller deposits. With Sydney dwelling prices up 17.6 per cent in the last year, Mr Dargan also questioned whether the policy was a vote of no confidence in parts of Sydney. "It could be NAB did this for internal reasons, such as being overexposed in those suburbs. Or it could be vote of no confidence in large parts of the Sydney property market," he said. Read more: http://www.afr.com/business/banking-and-finance/nab-names-top-postcodes-at-risk-of-mortgage-default-20150928-gjwb6x#ixzz3n0YlDlK3 Follow us: @FinancialReview on Twitter | financialreview on Facebook Ask for property listings and purchasing risk free properties in South Australia. ============================= Almost one-quarter of the top 100 postcodes set for mortgage default are in Tasmania. Glenn Hunt by Mark Ludlow It's not just households in Western Sydney and the outer suburbs of Melbourne and Brisbane who are feeling the pressure of paying their monthly mortgage. A compilation of the top 100 postcodes most at risk of mortgage default by consultancy firm Digital Finance Analytics found a wide geographic spread of suburbs across the country where people could face financial collapse when interest rates start to rise. The outer suburbs of Canberra, southern Tasmania, Darwin and southern Gippsland in Victoria are some of the regional areas that have been hit by mix of industrial closure, high unemployment and low wages growth, which leaves resident vulnerable to financial collapse. Digital Finance Analytics principal Martin North said residents of Western Sydney were used to flying close to the wind when it came to household finances. "There are clearly some western Sydney suburbs and inner-Sydney in the top 200 or 300 postcodes but this is about the probability of default," Mr North told The Australian Financial Review. "The probability of default is a complex matrix. It's not just the lower socio-economic areas [like Western Sydney] because they don't have big loans and already have more conservative loan criterias." Mr North said the postcodes where households are at risk are quite often in regional areas with increasing unemployment – and where they may struggle to find another job. "The most difficult thing for a mortgage holder is suddenly losing your job because income goes from a certain level to a lower level and it's quite hard to manage," he said. "Events across Australia impacting on employment are probably the best leading indicator of the probability of default." Many of those in regional areas are also geographically isolated if they lose their jobs – and don't have the same employment alternatives that may be on offer for those living in bigger cities such as Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Two per cent increase poses high risk In a breakdown of the top 100 postcodes, almost a quarter were in Tasmania (23), followed by Victoria (19), NSW (18), Queensland (16), South Australia (14) and Western Australia (5). The closure of manufacturing industries in northern Adelaide, the mining downturn in Western Australia, Queensland and in NSW's Hunter Valley and the public service heartland of Canberra are all mortgage stress hotspots, according to the modelling. There was also an intergenerational element with most of the households at risk of default including those under 35-years-old who have been lured by record low interest rates. "My view is these are households that are maxed-up because of the debt they've got and with current low interest rates they are just getting by," Mr North said. "But if interest rates go up this is where you'll see the first impact. If interest rates are 2 per cent higher it would create significant pain for households. "And the risks seem to be higher amongst younger households. I think people have been lured into the market probably sooner than they should have by lower interest rates and rising property values." The Canberra postcodes of 2902 (Kambah), 2900 (Tuggeranong, Greenway) and 2903 (Oxley, Wanniassa) top the mortgage stress list, with Tasmanian postcodes in the state's north and south rounding out the top 10. Queensland's mining belt of Mackay (postcode 4721), Brisbane's outer suburbs (4131), and the outer-suburbs of Melbourne (Essendon, Tullamarine) as well as Hunter Valley's 2343 scrape into the top 50. The top 100 postcodes are rounded out by more mining towns (Fitzroy and Blackwater in Queensland), the suburban battlers in south-east Queensland's Logan (4128), NSW's Macquarie Fields (2564) and The Ponds (2769). The typical assumptions about mortgage stress is where more than 30 per cent of household income is spent on home repayments. But Mr North said this was too simplistic. He also overlays industry employment data as well as information from credit rating agencies about actual defaults. The National Australia Bank has red-flagged 40 postcodes across the country where business and personal loans are at a higher risk of default, especially when mixed with the stressful combination of rising interest rates and higher unemployment. In its 40 hotspots, NAB is conducting a more stringent assessment of loan applications, including increasing the amount of equity that borrowers require. Reserve Bank of Australia assistant governor Christopher Kent last week said the central bank predicted unemployment would remain high until 2017. ========================== AS HOUSE prices rise globally, in Britain they are soaring. In the past 20 years they have increased by more than in any other country in the G7 (see chart 1); by some measures British property is now the most expensive in the world, save in Monaco. It is particularly dear in the south-east, where about one-quarter of the population lives. According to Rightmove, a property website, at today’s rate of appreciation the average London property will cost £1m ($1.5m) by 2020. In this section Through the roof Build up The China syndrome Back to the comfort zone A transfusion, not a leech Doctors without borders Foundering Down by the jetty The Osborne Doctrine Reprints The booming market weighs heavily on the rest of the economy. People priced out of the capital take jobs in less productive places or waste time on marathon commutes. Young Britons have piled on mortgage debt—those born in 1981 have one-half more of it than those born in 1961 did at the same age—making them vulnerable to rises in interest rates, which are coming. Some will retire before they pay it off. Who is to blame? One oft-cited culprit is rich foreign buyers, who are said to see London property as a tax-efficient investment, or even a way to launder ill-gotten gains. Having bought plum properties, they often leave them empty. Transparency International (TI), a pressure group, identified 36,342 London properties held by offshore companies. Polls by YouGov show that the most popular explanation for high prices is “rich people from overseas buying top-end London property”. The argument does not stand up. For one, the number of vacant houses in England has fallen, from 711,000 in 2004 to 610,000 in 2014. And foreign ownership of houses is rare beyond a tiny corner of the capital. TI says that in Westminster one-tenth of all property is owned by firms in tax havens. But outside the centre things look different; the rate is just 1.3% in posh Islington, for instance, and beyond London it is even lower. Explore and compare house prices in 13 British regions over time with our interactive house-price tool Demand from within Britain exerts a much bigger effect. In the past 20 years the population has grown by 11%, twice the average in the European Union. As in other countries, people are marrying later and divorcing more readily than they did in previous decades, meaning that one in ten Britons now lives alone, boosting the demand for homes. Despite stagnant incomes, buyers have more bite in the housing market. The Bank of England’s base rate of interest has been 0.5% since 2009; in real terms, rates have been below their historical peacetime average since 2004 and in nominal terms they are at their lowest ever. Demand has been stoked by “Help to Buy”, a mortgage-subsidy scheme launched in 2013. Britons have thus taken on masses of cheap debt. In the 1970s it took the average mortgage-holder eight years to pay off his loan, estimates Neal Hudson of Savills, an estate agent. These days it will take 20 years. Small wonder: the average loan-to-income ratio has jumped from 1.8 in 1981 to 3.2 in 2014. And many are not just buying houses for their own use. Outstanding “buy-to-let” mortgages for landlords are now worth £190 billion, more than 20 times their value at the turn of the century. The National Housing and Planning Advice Unit, a former public body, found that 7% of a total increase in house prices of 150% between 1996 and 2007 was accounted for by increased lending to landlords. All this demand has run up against sluggish supply. Over the past 40 years growth in Britain’s housing stock has slowed sharply (see chart 2). In the 1970s local authorities built about 130,000 dwellings per year; they now build 2,000. After Margaret Thatcher’s government allowed local-authority tenants to buy their homes, councils struggled to replace them because they had to set aside most of the proceeds. New restrictions on the amount councils could borrow put another brake on building. According to an estimate from 2008, the public sector owns one-quarter of the land in Britain suitable for residential development, in old garages, ex-military bases and poorly designed council estates. Private housebuilders have been idle, too. Strict planning laws are partly to blame. A quarter of English planning applications for houses are rejected, and even successful ones are often delayed. Protected “green belts”, which are supposed to contain urban sprawl and offer pleasant spaces to city-dwellers, now cover 13% of England. Much green-belt land is far from green: one-third of London’s and three-quarters of that in Cambridge is intensive arable land, estimates Paul Cheshire of the London School of Economics, who says there is enough green-belt land in Greater London to build 1.6m houses. The green belt remains sacred, but George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, has vague plans to make it easier to force through some planning applications in the face of recalcitrant local authorities. Yet even when planning permission is forthcoming, housebuilders have held back. As of October 2013, of the 507,000 units of land with planning permission, half had yet to see any building. For reasons that economists do not fully understand, for 40 years the construction of new houses has been a remarkably stable one-tenth the number of houses bought and sold. Mr Hudson says this relationship probably holds because housebuilders try to sell new-builds at a price in the upper decile of those prevailing in the local market. The number of transactions has steadily fallen since the 1980s, putting a ceiling on the probable number of new-builds. One brake on buying and selling homes is stamp duty, a tax levied on housebuyers. Buying a house costing £430,000 (the average in London) would trigger a tax bill of £11,500, payable immediately. Last year the government changed stamp duty from a flat tax into a graduated one, turning it from a “very bad” tax into a merely “bad” one, in the words of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, a think-tank. Removing it entirely could boost housing transactions by 8-20%, according to different estimates. Also ripe for reform is council tax, a property levy collected by local authorities. Last updated in 1993, it hits residents in cheap areas relatively harder than those in pricey places. (The highest council-tax band in flash Kensington and Chelsea applies to dwellings worth more than £320,000; the average price there is £2m.) With these revenues held down, councils have less incentive to build more homes. And relatively low taxes on the priciest homes encourage people to remain in houses that are bigger than they need, thus reducing the supply of large houses to families. Despite Britain’s acute housing shortage, one-third of households have two or more spare bedrooms. Since coming to power in 2010 the Conservative government has done more to boost demand for housing than increase its supply. Labour, meanwhile, talks about rent controls, which could flatten supply further still. Persuading homeowning voters that more building is needed is hard. “When The Economist’s readers all write in to me having read your editorial and say: ‘Oh yes, and by the way, I’d like a house next to me,’ then we’ll know we’re winning,” says Mr Osborne. Letters should be addressed to the Treasury, London, SW1A 2HQ, before prices get any sillier. ============================================= Oct 1 2015 at 10:21 AM |Updated 25 mins ago Save article | Print Reprints & permissions Melbourne takes Sydney's house price lead Share via Email Share on Google Plus Post on facebook wall Share on twitter Post to Linkedin Share on Reddit NaN of "Fatigue has set in. For Sydney, back in 2001 the market rose for three years and three months then slowed. We are at that point now with Sydney," Corelogic RP Data's senior research analyst, Cameron Kusher said. "Fatigue has set in. For Sydney, back in 2001 the market rose for three years and three months then slowed. We are at that point now with Sydney," Corelogic RP Data's senior research analyst, Cameron Kusher said. Erin Jonasson Share on twitter Share on Google Plus by Su-Lin Tan Melbourne's property market took the lead in September, posting a 2.4 per cent rise in prices, as the Sydney market stalled, CoreLogic RP Data finds. Sydney housing prices hardly moved, rising 0.1 per cent over the month, down from 1.1 per cent while Melbourne grew at 2.4 per cent, up from zero in August. The Brisbane market was a surprise performer rising 1.4 per cent over the month, up from no growth in August. "Fatigue has set in. For Sydney, back in 2001 the market rose for three years and three months then slowed. We are at that point now with Sydney," Corelogic RP Data's senior research analyst, Cameron Kusher said. "Also some of the push to slow down investor lending is working its way in." Across the country, capital city dwelling values rose 0.9 per cent rise in September and 4 per cent lower than the September quarter. The results mirrored auction clearance rates in the major cities. Both Sydney and Melbourne have cooled to clearance rates in the 70s in recent weeks. Mr Kusher said despite the flat conditions in the dwelling prices, the market is still strong with supply just meeting demand. "The rest of spring will be a bit patchy though," he said. Brisbane surprises Strong investor interest and a net growth in population in Brisbane is fuelling some of the rise in dwelling prices for the city. Over the quarter, Brisbane grew 1.9 per cent and 4.6 per cent for the last 12 months. ​While half of Australia's capital cities have seen values rise over the past quarter and year, the other half did not fare as well. In Darwin, dwelling values fell by 3.9 per cent over the 12 months to the end of September, while in Perth, values were 0.9 per cent lower over the year. Adelaide home values dropped by 0.3 per cent, and Hobart values are 0.2 per cent lower. "Weakening labour markets, slower population growth and less demand for housing is placing downwards pressure on prices to differing degrees across these markets," Corelogic's head of research, Tim Lawless said. Yields still low While house prices are cooling, rental yields across the cities remained compressed. The lowest gross rental yields can be found in Melbourne where the typical house is now providing a gross return of just 2.9 per cent, and units are providing a gross return of 4.1 per cent, Corelogic said. In Sydney, gross yields are also at a record low with houses providing a gross return of 3.1 per cent and units yielding 4.1 per cent. "With the first month of Spring behind us, it is clear that housing market conditions are being tested, particularly in Sydney," Mr Lawless said. It is still better to buy than rent in some parts of Sydney. Property valuer Propell tipped Sydney and Melbourne house prices would slow to 5 per cent growth. Read more: http://www.afr.com/real-estate/residential/melbourne-takes-sydneys-house-price-lead-20150930-gjynx8#ixzz3nH0s6gNo Follow us: @FinancialReview on Twitter | financialreview on Facebook

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Adelaide EID Festival

Adelaide EID Festival | 27 Sep 2015 September 1, 2015 EID festival Adelaide EID Festival. It just keeps getting BIGGER and BETTER. Adelaide’s Biggest EID Festival. Eid al-Adha is a significant annual Islamic festival for Muslim communities across Australia. It is also known as the Feast of Sacrifice or Festival of Sacrifice. Amusement rides for all the little and big guys. Plenty of food and drink stalls from many backgrounds – you’re bound to find something new! Plenty of parking and it’s FREE entry. Check out all the new entertainment below. •Mime artist •School stage performances •Clown balloon artist •Interactive stage shows •Iicsa stage show •Special guest appearances •Cultural community performances •Quran recitals •Formalities & speeches •Plenty of roving entertainment For more information and all enquiries please visit the Adelaide EID Festival Facebook Page. What: Adelaide EID Festival When: Sunday 27 September 2015 | 11 am – 5 pm Where: Corner of Greenhill Road and Anzac Highway (opposite ETSA building) Who: Everyone At Play & Go Adelaide we make every effort to provide accurate information to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication. We recommend confirming times, dates and details directly before making any plans as details may be subject to change. Want to get all the latest events and activities straight to your inbox? Ask details how you can get qualify for affordable housing

Friday, September 25, 2015

@RashaJarhum is the daughter of ex Hadi minister @Hooria_Mashhour & the sis in law of Hadi #Yemen Info Min @NadiaSakkaf

All about Houthi Saleh devils in Yemen, I bet, & no mention of Saudi airstrikes which bury Yemenis under rubble Twitter | Search Home Connect Trends Me M2_tab_indicator Tweet Abu Hud Al Hadhrami Abu Hud Al Hadhrami @BaFana3 All about Houthi Saleh devils in Yemen, I bet, & no mention of Saudi airstrikes which bury Yemenis under rubble. twitter.com/RashaJarhum/st… 1:04 AM - 25 Sep 2015 3 Retweets 4 Favorites Reply Retweet Favorite More Abu Hud Al Hadhrami Abu Hud Al Hadhrami @BaFana3 3h Ohh, and take my word : there will be no mention of Al Qaeda or ISIS in Yemen by @RashaJarhum : she doesn't believe they exist. View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Abu Hud Al Hadhrami Abu Hud Al Hadhrami @BaFana3 3h Transparency tweet : @RashaJarhum is the daughter of ex Hadi minister @Hooria_Mashhour & the sis in law of Hadi #Yemen Info Min @NadiaSakkaf View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Nadwa Nadwa @Ndawsari 3h @BaFana3 She just tweeted about both, Houthis atrocities and airstrikes @RashaJarhum View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Abu Hud Al Hadhrami Abu Hud Al Hadhrami @BaFana3 2h @Ndawsari Don't make me extend my Yemen transparency drive today. :-) @RashaJarhum View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Rasha Jarhum Rasha Jarhum @RashaJarhum 2h @Ndawsari @BaFana3 I don't see what he says I blocked him.. Lol View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Abu Hud Al Hadhrami Abu Hud Al Hadhrami @BaFana3 2h @RashaJarhum You can carry on and block me, all Yemenis or even God. The truth is, you hide who you are. Shameful. @Ndawsari View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite AboOmar AboOmar @aabo79777 2h @BaFana3 @RashaJarhum those who deny Qaeda existence either it's houthi enmity or they are Qaeda fans n will become Qaeda ember very soon View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite هشام الرضي هشام الرضي @HishamAlRadhi 2h @BaFana3 @RashaJarhum Some ppl just see what they want 2 see regardless of truth, reality or even fact!! #Yemen View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite هشام الرضي هشام الرضي @HishamAlRadhi 2h @BaFana3 @RashaJarhum @Hooria_Mashhour @NadiaSakkaf No wonder!!! View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Safa Mubgar/ Mabgar Safa Mubgar/ Mabgar @Saphsaf 2h @BaFana3 @RashaJarhum @Hooria_Mashhour @NadiaSakkaf Shocking breaking news, & she never once mentioned it!! But she's too decent for that! View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite the big G the big G @thabet_g 1h @BaFana3 @RashaJarhum @Hooria_Mashhour @NadiaSakkaf looks like a lot of nepotism in that legitimate govt All the best politicians r related? View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Dr. Khalid Babakri Dr. Khalid Babakri @Khalidali73 1h @RashaJarhum @Ndawsari Don't even pay attention to him. Houthis crime shall be documented. They can not destroy our country and runaway. View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Dr. Khalid Babakri Dr. Khalid Babakri @Khalidali73 1h @RashaJarhum @Ndawsari we suffered for months from their unfair one-sided coverage and now they cry for documenting Houthis crimes. View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Hooria Mashhour Hooria Mashhour @Hooria_Mashhour 1h @RashaJarhum @Ndawsari @BaFana3 Excellent when he try to personalized things View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Dr. Khalid Babakri Dr. Khalid Babakri @Khalidali73 1h @RashaJarhum @Ndawsari Just always remember what they have done to Aden and now to Taiz and carry on. View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Safa Mubgar/ Mabgar Safa Mubgar/ Mabgar @Saphsaf 1h @BaFana3 @Ndawsari @RashaJarhum utterly unabashed View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Abu Hud Al Hadhrami Abu Hud Al Hadhrami @BaFana3 11m @Hooria_Mashhour Your Excelllency Madame Minister, the world knows all about Saleh, Ammar, Yahya, Tareq in Yemen. @RashaJarhum @Ndawsari View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Abu Hud Al Hadhrami Abu Hud Al Hadhrami @BaFana3 10m @Hooria_Mashhour It is not personal : telling people who's related to who gives context. Thisi is transparency. @RashaJarhum @Ndawsari View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Enter a topic, @name, or fullname Settings Help Back to top · Turn images off

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Elphinstone bids for $3 billion ADF contract in joint proposal with Elbit Systems

Elphinstone bids for $3 billion ADF contract in joint proposal with Elbit Systems By Damian McIntyre Updated 17 minutes ago A promotional poster for the Sentinel II Photo: The Elphinstone Group has launched a joint proposal to build 225 Sentinel II combat ready armoured reconnaissance vehicles for the ADF. (ABC News: Damian McIntyre) Map: Burnie 7320 Major north-west Tasmanian manufacturer The Elphinstone Group has launched a joint bid for a multi-billion-dollar Defence contract to build armoured reconnaissance vehicles. The group has joined forces with the Australian branch of Israeli-based company Elbit Systems for the tender to build 225 of the Sentinel II vehicles for the Australian Defence Force. The bid is worth $3 billion and could create nearly 200 jobs if successful. Elphinstone Group executive Dale Elphinstone said the project would be complimentary to its current heavy vehicle manufacturing. "We have existing facilities, capability and capacity to undertake the complete manufacture of the Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle," he said. "This will include the Elphinstone facilities currently used by Caterpillar and involve everything from plate processing, machining, fabrication, assembly, electrical, systems integration and vehicle testing." Earlier this year it was announced 280 manufacturing jobs would go from Burnie after Caterpillar's decision to move part of its operation overseas. Mr Elphinstone said this project could help the struggling region. "This project will assist with a significant number of much-needed direct and indirect jobs in this community," he said. If successful, Elphinstone will manufacture the vehicles in their existing facilities and will invest in new equipment. The vehicles will be built over five years. A decision is expected in 2017. Topics: manufacturing, defence-and-national-security, defence-industry, defence-and-aerospace-industries, government-and-politics, burnie-7320

The who, what and why of Volkswagen’s diesel scandal

September 25, 2015 7:28am HARRY TUCKERnews.com.au VW boss quits over diesel scandal Pope expresses closeness to world's Muslims after haj stampede SA man charged with Jody Meyers' murder Justin Hemmes allegedly directs strip search on former employee Fed's Yellen resumes schedule after struggling to finish speech Border Tensions Rise Between Croatia and Serbia Yellen: Interest-Rate Increase Likely 'Later This Year' Pope Francis Arrives at New York's JFK Airport Yellen Stumbles During Amherst Speech Thief in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mask outside Doncaster car dealership Woman dies in Peru after falling 13 stories Videogame Contests Heading to Prime-Time TV Pigs makes a mess on Eddie Pope departs Washington, next stop NYC Saudi Arabia calls for haj stampede investigation Japan says it can build subs in Australia No dodgy wages cover-up: 7-Eleven boss WN: Market Data, September 24 Pope calls for action from US Congress Beckham: The world must do more for children Red-Bellied Black Snake Pops Up From Car Engine THE Volkswagen Group is the world’s largest automaker but four university researchers may have brought it to the edge of collapse. It was publicly revealed last week that the company had fudged emissions tests using cheat software on diesel powered cars under its three mainstream brands, Volkwagen, Audi and Skoda. The result? $41.5 billion wiped from the company’s value, up to $25 billion in penalties from the US alone, on top of the costs to recall and fix 11 million cars worldwide. Other Stories Man charged with Jody’s murder Man charged with Jody’s murder Police shocked by wild Expressway chase Southern Expressway car accident ‘We can’t sit around and dwell on it’ Adelaide Crows End Of Season Gathering Missing dad’s body found in wheelie bin Missing dad’s body found in wheelie bin More than 700 dead in stampede More than 700 dead in stampede maccas Reports have now emerged suggesting the German government was warned months ago about the existence of the “defeat device” software but turned a blind eye. A written parliamentary answer published by The Telegraph appears to show the German transport ministry admitting as far back as July 28 that “The federal government is aware of [defeat devices], which have the goal of [test] cycle detection.” Meanwhile, recall letters sent to VW owners in California in April also warned of an “emissions glitch”. The Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board agreed in December 2014 to allow a voluntary recall of Volkswagen’s diesel models to fix what the company said was a just a technical and easily fixable glitch, Reuters reports. The revelations have already claimed the career of the Volkswagen Group’s CEO Martin Winterkorn who stepped down yesteray. More high profile executives are expected to be sacked or step down in the near future, while the whole German economy is about to take a huge hit. HOW DID IT COME TO THIS? It all started with a road trip. In the Autumn of 2014, researchers from the West Virginia University in America were given a grant to do the first ever evaluation of the tailpipe emissions of diesel cars in America made by European manufacturers. The team consisted of two university professors, Gregory Thompson and Dan Carder as well as two students, Marc Besch and Arvind Thiruvengadam. All four were over the moon that they were able to study vehicles, with the aim to collect as much data as technically possible. Little did they know, they were about to unearth the biggest cover-up in automotive history. The device they used to test the car. They tested three cars: a BMW X5, Volkswagen Jetta and Volkswagen Passat, while travelling over 2400kms on each car to get their results. After driving from Los Angeles to Seattle and back they noticed something odd about their Passat. Going by Volkswagen’s claims, it should easily have let out the least amount of pollution between those three cars — it had a more modern catalytic reduction system which is meant to convert toxic fumes into safer ones — but that wasn’t the case. The nitrogen oxide that came out of the Passat was in fact 20 times more than the baseline levels permitted by the California Air Resources Board. The Volkswagen Passat was one of the vehicles tested. The team was puzzled. There was no way it could be wrong. They triple-checked the accuracy of their equipment after the Volkswagen Jetta they tested showed readings 30 times more than the claimed pollution rating. The BMW, though, gave off the exact results they expected. At the time, the team had no idea why the cars were emitting so much pollution, assuming Volkswagen had reached some kind of deal with the EPA. “It wasn’t that we tested three vehicles and brought down a corporation. Three vehicles is a very, very small subset of a half-million vehicles, so it was more that we had a role, the data we collected spoke for itself and CARB and EPA did their due diligence. We didn’t point and say, ‘Volkswagen has a defeat device’,” Thiruvengadam told Autoblog. However, a few months later at a 2014 conference in San Diego, they presented their research to an audience that just happened to have several EPA officials in it. The officials immediately started an investigation after talking to the researchers and their funders from the International Council on Clean Transportation. When the EPA confronted Volkswagen, the company blamed “various technical issues” for the results but still voluntarily recalled nearly 500,000 cars in December last year to issue a software patch. It didn’t fix it, and the EPA was starting to get frustrated and investigated further. Eventually they found software called “the switch” which tracks the position of the steering wheel, vehicle speed, how long the engine is on, and air pressure to determine if it is being subjected to an emissions exam. Finally, on September 3 2015, the EPA presented mountains of evidence to Volkswagen and forced them to confess the vehicles were loaded with software to cheat on emissions testing. WHY DID VOLKSWAGEN CHEAT THE TESTS? To understand this, you have to understand that there are two types of combustion engines in our cars. These run on either unleaded petrol or diesel, with both having their advantages. The engine type causing problems here is diesel. Diesel engines have been hugely popular in Europe and Australia, especially with recent high unleaded petrol prices due to diesel’s much better fuel economy. Diesel fuel contains much more energy per litre than a standard litre of petrol, which, combined with the efficiency of diesel engines, allows modern cars to get over 1000kms of highway driving off just one tank of fuel. It also emits fewer carbon-dioxide emissions than standard petrol. Sounds amazing, right? Yes, until you realise there’s a huge catch — diesel engines emit a large amount of nitrogen oxides (NOx) which can cause serious health problems and form a large amount of smog. More efficient — but at what cost? In the past, Europe has been quite loose on its regulations, resulting in around one-third of European cars running on diesel, however it’s also the reason why big cities such as Paris and London have smog problems. In fact, almost 29,000 people die each year in the UK due to air pollution. But in 2009 two things happened that would make diesel appealing in the USA. Increasingly, drivers wanted to get better fuel economy, while at the same time diesel technology had supposedly become cleaner. Companies such as Volkswagen took advantage of this to break into the huge US market, offering “clean diesel” cars that theoretically offered great fuel economy without giving off too much poisonous NOx. There was just one problem — their cars couldn’t actually do that. The car maker cheated by installing software that could detect when its emissions were being tested and turned pollution controls on. The rest of the time, the controls were turned off. They could have kept these controls on the entire time, but it would have defeated the purpose of a diesel engine and deliver lesser performance. WHAT’S NEXT? Everything Volkswagen did in the USA was hugely illegal, so they will have to face the consequences. In the US alone, it’s expected that up to $25 billion in fines will be dealt for all the diesel vehicles sold there since 2009. It would also be very surprising not to see other countries with stricter emissions standards slap fines on Volkswagen, too. For Australians, there is no word yet as to whether the scandal will hit home, although experts have told News Corp Australia as many as 50,000 diesel Volkswagens could be affected. This could jump even more when you include the group’s other brands — Audi and Skoda. It’s not just Australia’s emissions standards that Volkswagen needs to worry about either. The ACCC today announced that they would be investigating whether the company misled customers with their “clean diesel” claims also. Martin Winterkorn has already stepped down from his position of CEO. On top of giant fines, the company has set aside a staggering $10 billion for rectification work and compensation claims, but that figure could rise and economic experts warn the catastrophe could be bigger than Greece. In total, it may cost the company $77 billion. The Volkswagen Group is Germany’s biggest employer, with 270,000 people directly employed, but up to a million people in the Germany auto-industry could be affected. Originally published as How uni kids exposed a $77bn lie

Slowing population growth presents economic, housing market challenge

By business reporter Michael Janda Updated about an hour ago Arrivals and departures sign, Newcastle airport at Williamtown. Photo: Net overseas migration to Australia dropped 16 per cent on the previous year. Related Story: Home price growth continues, but not because of supply shortage: analysts Related Story: Housing boom has peaked, recession risk mounts: Morgan Stanley Map: Australia A slowdown in population growth, due mainly to a fall in immigration to Australia, will pose further challenges to economic growth and the housing market. The latest Bureau of Statistics estimates, released today, reveal the nation's population grew to 23.7 million by the end of March, up by around 316,000 people, or 1.4 per cent, on the same period a year earlier. The bureau said that is the slowest growth in almost a decade, with a steep fall in net overseas migration the main cause. The ABS estimates that 173,100 more people migrated to Australia than left it over the year to March, down 16 per cent on the prior year. However, migration was still the biggest contributor to population growth, with natural increase adding 142,900 people as the number of births eased and number of deaths rose slightly. The figures show starkly the impact that the mining investment slowdown is having on resources-focused Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Net overseas migration to Western Australia has dropped 71 per cent over the past two years, while more people are leaving WA for other states than moving to it from other states for the first time in more than 10 years. The Northern Territory is faring even worse, with population growth of only 0.2 per cent its lowest in 11 years. "Net interstate migration losses were the greatest contributor to this slower growth, with the territory recording its largest ever interstate migration loss in the year to March 2015," said the bureau's Denise Carlton. Those leaving WA and the NT were generally moving to Victoria and Queensland, which the ABS said are the only states experiencing a net gain from interstate migration. The New South Wales population grew at the national average of 1.4 per cent, thanks to migrants coming from overseas. Ms Carlton said Australia's population overall is now growing more slowly than usual. "Australia's population growth rate continued to slow from its peak in 2008-09 and is now just below the 20-year average growth rate," she added. Economic and housing implications The slowdown in population growth has serious economic ramifications. On the positive side, the Reserve Bank recently observed that it is one reason why the unemployment rate has remained in the low 6 per cent range, despite weak economic growth of just 2 per cent over the year to June. The Reserve Bank recently lowered its population growth forecasts from around 1.75 per cent to 1.5 per cent, which is still higher than the current level. However, on the downside, slower population growth equals slower growth in consumption, meaning that it is harder to lift GDP growth back towards the 3/3.25 per cent level that Australian businesses and households are more accustomed to. That caused the RBA governor to question whether such growth expectations are any longer valid. Possibly the biggest impact from population growth undershooting expectations is that Australia's recent housing boom may be building homes for people that never show up. Is Australia really short of homes? ABC business reporter Michael Janda crunches ABS data and concludes that the housing shortage is more myth than reality. The latest building approvals figures suggest that over 200,000 dwellings per annum are likely to be constructed over the next year or two, or one for every 1.6 extra people at the current population growth rate. Given that the average household size was 2.6 people in 2011, and projected by the ABS to stay around those levels, Australia is clearly currently building more new homes than it needs to house new arrivals. Depending on how large Australia's current dwelling shortage is - if it exists at all - that may see a surplus supply of homes hit the market, putting downward pressure on prices that have surged on faith in an acute housing shortage and a virtually unrestricted supply of credit. That has led global investment banking giants Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to warn that risks of a recession in Australia are rising, with a nasty downturn in 2016 quite possible. ==================== Imran Khan denies reports of marriage collapse with Reham 4 Ali Mohammad al Nimr. PHOTO: GOLBALPOLITIK Saudi Arabia preparing to behead and crucify 21-year-old Shia activist Powered by Bing Topics: economic-trends, population-and-demographics, housing-industry, australia 5bn spring exit for real estate market - Financial Review 2 days ago - Australian investors will put over $5 billion worth of office towers, shopping malls and logistics centres up for sale over the next three months as ...

Friday, September 18, 2015

$3b land sale bonanza will create more than 4500 homes

June 14, 2015 12:00am Sheradyn HolderheadPolitical ReporterSunday Mail (SA) The Caroma building site on Magill Rd is being earmarked for high-density housing. •New homes to be built at former Magill Youth Training Centre site •Don’t sell lucrative Motor Accident Commission MORE than 4500 homes will be built in new housing estates within metropolitan Adelaide as the State Government prepares to sell almost 200ha of land. The upcoming land releases are expected to generate a total investment of about $3 billion. Under the sell-off, the former Caroma site on Magill Rd has been earmarked for what could be the eastern suburbs’ largest high-density development. Jay Weatherill Sex-fuelled festival with no rules ‘We screamed as everything was shaking’ Supplied Editorial Fwd: Photo of truck fire Manningham READ BELOW: $6m campaign to lure foreign students READ BELOW: Smile ... you’re on candid camera The Government wants about 300 homes on the 2ha Norwood site as well as some commercial development such as cafes, offices and shops. The largest parcel of land it plans to sell is a 44ha portion of the Strathmont Centre and Hillcrest Hospital site at Oakden. It should be on the market in months and when finished would include 900 houses. Planning Minister John Rau said there were “significant” expressions of interest in Glenside and the site was moving closer to a sale. He said the 200ha land sale would drive the revitalisation of the city. “They are part of a modernisation process that will transform our city just like the Adelaide Oval has transformed the CBD,” Mr Rau said. “In five or 10 years people will be able to identify this as a time when Adelaide came of age.” Other sites due on the market this year include: SEAFORD Meadows — 43ha site close to the beach and regional centre near Onkaparinga River Park and Commercial Rd that would accommodate about 750 houses. ENFIELD high school — within 10km of the city on Grand Junction Rd, this 8ha site could include up to 130 houses. OLD Royal Adelaide Hospital — the state’s premier land holding will hit the market within weeks and will be open to a mixed-use development that is likely to include some housing. PORT Adelaide — pitched as the “last undeveloped port waterfront in Australia” includes 40ha of land in six parcels expected to generate up to $2 billion of investment. In December, the Government put 17ha of land surrounding Glenside hospital on the market, which could house up to 1000 homes. Mr Rau said the Government still had to rezone the Caroma site but thought it would be suitable for a group of four-to-six storey buildings — similar to Ergo Apartments. Mr Rau said his ministerial trip to Canada last month showed there was greater scope to include “mixed-use” buildings in the city and other developments close to the CBD. “Buildings that have a single use don’t have around-the-clock activity,” he said. “Office buildings have activity between 9am and 6pm but that’s it, and buildings that are just residential are dead between that time because everyone is at work. “(It) makes it a safer place but also makes it a far more active place.” He said increasing the number of mixed-use buildings would also help improve the quality of medium and high-rise buildings. “Developers are more likely to keep hold of mixed-use buildings because they provide an ongoing income source which means its more likely the building will be high quality than something they are planning to sell off,” he said. $6m campaign to lure foreign students By Sheradyn Holderhead ALMOST $6 million will be spent on a new marketing campaign to attract more international students to South Australia. The Sunday Mail can reveal the State Government hopes its Destination Adelaide campaign will lure more Asian students to study at SA universities. The 2015-16 State Budget will include $5.7 million over four years for the campaign. Almost $6 million will be spent on a new marketing campaign to attract more international students to South Australia. Picture: Thinkstock Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis said the Government plan would also link increased student numbers to tourism and trade opportunities. “This investment is about accelerating the growth of our international education sector to drive the economy and job creation,” Mr Koutsantonis said. “It’s a competitive market and this State Government is committed to investing in this growing sector to ensure SA realises its full potential.” The State Development Department will co-ordinate the campaign but it’s expected a significant portion of the funding will go to StudyAdelaide, the Government’s international student marketing body. In 2012, the State Government announced it would axe its $1.6m-a-year funding to the body but partly reversed its decision in the election campaign, restoring $900,000 a year in funding. That decision followed the Liberals’ election pledge to provide $2m a year to the body as part of its plan to increase student numbers if elected. Mr Koutsantonis said education was SA’s fifth largest export, worth close to $1 billion each year, and created about 8000 full-time jobs. “More than 30,000 international students are enrolled across the state and the benefits of these students extend far beyond the institutions at which they study,” he said. “Our international students invest in property, shop in our local businesses and visit our local tourist attractions.” Mr Koutsantonis said the campaign would: MARKET SA within China, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Hong Kong. DEVELOP scholarship and incentive programs for international students. ENSURE international students offered a public university place in Adelaide also had accommodation. Higher Education Minister Gail Gago said the money would also help expand the Qingdao Ambassador campaign in South Australia’s Chinese sister-state of Shandong that would market SA to millions more potential students. “Under the campaign, a student ambassador travels to Adelaide to undertake a four-week English course and visits the state’s universities as well as some of our tourism hot spots,” she said. “Their experiences are then shared with family, friends and potentially millions of fellow students in SA’s largest source country, China, through social media.” Smile ... you’re on candid camera By Sheradyn Holderhead and Steve Rice BODY-mounted video cameras for police officers are expected to be announced in Thursday’s State Budget, the Sunday Mail has been told. The SA Police Association says the small cameras, worn on officers’ vests, are to improve conviction rates and reduce complaints against officers. Victoria police trial the body cameras, which are likely to be introduced in SA following an announcement expected in Thursday’s State Budget. NSW is using similar cameras to improve the success rate of domestic-violence prosecutions. SA Police Commissioner Gary Burns told a recent parliamentary inquiry police had worked through the technical and hardware problems identified in a past trial of the technology. “The issue then was that the hardware wasn’t police proof and it broke too easily. The issue for all body-worn video now ... is storage — being able to store your video, associate it with a particular crime report or apprehension report, and make sure it is searchable,” he said. “We have solutions for that.” The Government would not comment on whether it planned to fund body-worn video, but Police Minster Tony Piccolo said the Government had a proud history of supporting SA police. “Police constantly review what technology they can use to help keep the community safe,” he said. First Home Buyer's Grant and affordable homes starting at $190,000 in South Australia, Check, ask for further details. If you can own home then you don't need to spend on rent. Ask for further details to get your own home in South Australia. david Jun 14, 2015 This is the only way to fly. Recent developments continue to show that they understand the designs that work with a reasonable balance of open space vs the higher density housing models. Younger people in particularly want a good sized home with all mod cons in a good location rather than the traditional 1/4 ace block. We must stop the sprawl without pushing land prices up too much. Yes there will be some downside with more traffic & some extra congestion on our roads but that might push people into using public transport. The 30 year plan relied too much on developments well away from the city with little chance of people being anywhere near employment centres. The real issue are more about services & not housing density like schools doctors & most importantly Hospitals. Several of these new developments will mean that the Queen Elizabeth & Modbury are more important than ever. PS The 30 year plan lost its way 5 years ago & is now dead in the water

Saturday, September 12, 2015

AP Exclusive: After spill, work suspended at 10 mine sites

Sep. 12, 2015 5:15 AM ET THE ASSOCIATED PRESS STATEMENT OF NEWS VALUES AND PRINCIPLES By MATTHEW BROWN and DAN ELLIOTT FILE - In this Aug. 14, 2015 file photo, an Environmental Protection Agency contractor keeps a bag of lime on hand to correct the PH of mine wastewater flowing into a series of sediment retention ponds, part of danger mitigation in the aftermath of the blowout at the site of the Gold King Mine, outside Silverton, Colo. Federal officials say they have suspended cleanup work and investigations covering 10 mining sites in four states to guard against a repeat of last month’s massive wastewater spill from an inactive Colorado gold mine. Details provided to The Associated Press show the order applies to three sites in California, four in Colorado, two in Montana and one in Missouri. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, file) 1 of 4 More News Video Work on 10 mining sites suspended after Colorado spill Sep. 12, 2015 1:36 AM ET Feds, Duke Energy settle on pollution at coal-burning plants Sep. 10, 2015 3:53 PM ET Erin Brockovich calls out feds in wake of mine waste spill Sep. 8, 2015 3:39 PM ET Questions and answers about damaging oilfield wastewater Sep. 8, 2015 9:55 AM ET States rarely punish companies for oil wastewater spills Sep. 8, 2015 9:54 AM ET Buy AP Photo Reprints BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Site investigations and some cleanup work at 10 polluted mining complexes in four states were suspended because of conditions similar to those that led to a massive wastewater blowout from an inactive Colorado gold mine, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials said. The sites include three in California, four in Colorado, two in Montana and one in Missouri, according to details obtained by The Associated Press following repeated requests for the information. They have the potential for contaminated water to build up inside mine workings, EPA Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus said. That would set the stage for a possible spill such as last month's near Silverton, Colorado, where an EPA team triggered a 3 million gallon blowout of toxic sludge while doing excavation work on the inactive Gold King Mine. The accident fouled rivers in three states and attracted harsh criticism of the EPA for not being prepared despite prior warnings that such a spill could happen. "We want to take extra caution before we initiate any work," Stanislaus said of the work suspensions. Some the mines were abandoned decades ago and have grown more unstable over time, raising the risk of an accident. The stop-work order was issued last month but officials for weeks refused to disclose specifics. Cleanup efforts on some of the mines have been going on for years yet remain unfinished, underscoring the complexity of a long-running attempt to address an estimated 500,000 abandoned mines across the U.S. Work on others was in the early stages. In a report to Congress delivered Friday, the Government Accountability Office said federal agencies identified thousands of contaminated mine sites in recent years — even as their attempts to assess what harm is being done to people and the environment have lagged. Further investigations were needed to gauge the danger posed by the 10 mining complexes under the suspension before work could safely resume, according to internal EPA documents released by the agency. That includes categorizing their level of hazard. For those deemed a "probable hazard," the EPA plans to keep the work stoppage in place until emergency plans are drawn up to deal with any accident. The agency also wants to get the results of an Interior Department investigation into the Colorado accident before proceeding on most of the other sites. That's expected in late October, department officials said. Prior to the Aug. 5 Gold King spill, the EPA and its contractor, Environmental Restoration LLC of St. Louis, appeared to have only a cursory emergency response plan in the event of a spill, according to documents released under public records requests. There was no cellphone coverage at the remote site in the San Juan Mountains, and the workers did not have a satellite phone, according to EPA documents. As a result, they had no way to immediately communicate with the outside world when the rust-colored water loaded with heavy metals, including lead and arsenic, began rushing toward downstream communities. One of the sites where cleanup work was subsequently halted was the Standard Mine in the mountains above Crested Butte, a ski town in west-central Colorado. Crested Butte Mayor Aaron Huckstep said that after work was suspended, the EPA met with residents and officials and made sure cleanup workers could communicate directly with the town in an emergency. "They understood that they needed to make sure that the communication channels and the communication protocols were in place and the folks knew who to call and when to call them," Huckstep said. EPA documents show wastewater at the site periodically spills over a crudely-built impoundment, raising concerns about a "potential catastrophic failure" and the possibility of tainting Crested Butte's drinking water. But Huckstep said he didn't believe the Standard Mine was a threat to blow out, based on EPA statements and differences in the land. The EPA said the town's water meets safety standards. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment spokesman Warren Smith said wastewater flowing from the mine was not considered an acute health threat. Work on the site resumed Sept. 4 after officials determined appropriate safety measures were in place. The Aug. 12 stop-work order from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy did not apply to sites where halting operations would pose a threat to people or increase the potential for harm to the environment, according to internal EPA documents. Also exempted were portions of the 10 stopped projects where construction already was completed, such as treatment systems for contaminated water that pours continually from many abandoned mine shafts. That's the case for two sites listed in northern California — the Leviathan sulfur mine near the town of Markleeville and the Iron Mountain metals mine near Redding. Water continues to be collected at the sites, to be treated and then discharged. "We have not received any direction from EPA to shut down our treatment. It's been business as usual for us out there," said Scott Ferguson with the Lahonton Regional Water Quality Control Board, which is involved with the Leviathan mine. EPA spokeswoman Laura Allen said other work at the two mines has stopped, including plans to remove a beaver dam at Leviathan. __ Elliott reported from Denver. Associated Press

Friday, September 11, 2015

At least 1000 killed by falling crane at Grand Mosque in Mecca and then at Mina Stampede!

New tally in Saudi hajj disaster shows at least 1,399 killed By JON GAMBRELL Oct. 8, 2015 6:31 PM EDT 2 photos Mideast Iran Saudi Hajj In this Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015, file photo, an Iranian mourner weeps during a funeral ceremony,... Read more DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The crush and stampede last month outside of Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca killed at least 1,399 people during the hajj pilgrimage, a new tally Thursday showed, 630 more than the kingdom's official toll. The Associated Press count of the dead from the worst tragedy to strike the hajj in a quarter-century comes as Saudi Arabia faces threats ranging from an Islamic State insurgency, a war in Yemen against Shiite rebels and weakening global oil prices gnawing away at its reserves. Any disaster at the hajj, a pillar of Islamic faith, could be seen as a blow to the kingdom's cherished stewardship of Islam's holiest sites. This season saw two, including the Sept. 11 collapse of a crane at Mecca's Grand Mosque that killed 111 people. Saudi Arabia has been hesitant to release updated casualty figures from the Sept. 24 stampede in Mina, even as hundreds remain missing. "Discrediting the Saudi handling of the hajj undermines the kingdom's prestige and legitimacy across the Islamic world," Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer who now runs the Washington-based Brookings Institution's intelligence project, wrote on one of the think tank's blogs this week. The AP count of the dead is based on tolls offered by 18 of the over 100 countries that took part in the hajj this year. Iran said it had 465 pilgrims killed, while Egypt lost 148 and Indonesia 120. Others include Nigeria with 99, Pakistan with 89, India with 81, Mali with 70, Bangladesh with 63, Senegal with 54, Benin with 51, Cameroon with 42, Ethiopia with 31, Morocco with 27, Algeria with 25, Ghana with 12, Chad with 11, Kenya with eight and Turkey with three. Saudi officials have said their official figure of 769 killed and 934 injured remains accurate, though an investigation into the causes of the tragedy is ongoing and authorities have not updated the casualty toll since Sept. 26, two days after the disaster. Authorities have said the crush and stampede occurred when two waves of pilgrims converged on a narrow road, causing hundreds of people to suffocate or be trampled to death. Shiite power Iran, Sunni Saudi Arabia's Mideast rival, has blamed the disaster on the kingdom's "mismanagement" and accused Riyadh of a cover-up, saying the real death toll exceeds 4,700, without providing evidence to support the claim. Iran has called for an independent body to take over planning and administering the five-day hajj pilgrimage, required of all able Muslims once in their lifetimes. But the ruling Al Saud family likely would never give up its role in administering the holy sites, which along with Saudi Arabia's oil wealth gives it major influence in the Muslim world. King Salman himself is known as the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. The dispute comes as Saudi Arabia leads a coalition in Yemen's civil war targeting Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who have backing from Iran. Meanwhile, the kingdom has suffered gun and bomb attacks by an affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group, which holds a third of Iraq and Syria in its self-declared "caliphate." Like al-Qaida before it, the Islamic State group opposes the Saudi royal family's control over the holy sites, especially as Saudi Arabia is a member of the U.S.-led coalition targeting the militant group in airstrikes. With hundreds missing, a final death toll remains in question, even as the latest count brings the number of dead even closer to the deadliest disaster to ever strike the hajj — a stampede in 1990 that killed 1,426 people. Recent Indian documents on the Mina disaster refer to at least 2,046 photographs of the dead, though its consular officials say some bodies were photographed multiple times. Indonesia's religious affairs minister, Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, said Thursday his country's diplomats have seen more than 2,000 photos purportedly of dead from the disaster, without elaborating. Fawaz Gerges, a Middle East expert at the London School of Economics, said bureaucratic confusion may be partly to blame for the discrepancies in death counts because there was not one centralized place that the dead and injured were taken. But, he said, political considerations were also likely a factor, adding: "It's bad news, and you want to sweep bad news under the rug." "The Saudi kingdom should come out and provide a tally. Transparency is the most powerful card that they have," he said. "This speaks a great deal about the anxiety and political sensitivity that Saudi officials feel." ___ Associated Press writers Adam Schreck in Dubai; Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia; Nirmala George in New Delhi; Julhas Alam in Dhaka, Bangladesh; Baba Ahmed, Virgile Ahissou and Babacar Dione in Dakar, Senegal; Michelle Faul in Lagos, Nigeria, and Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report. ========================================= The presence of the convoy of the son of the Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in central Mina prompted the stampede that killed hundreds of pilgrims on the outskirts of the holy city of Mecca, a report says. The Arabic-language daily al-Diyar said in a report on Thursday that the convoy of Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud played a central role in the deadly crush on the third day of the annual Hajj pilgrimage earlier in the day. The report said that Salman, who had sought to attend the huge gathering of pilgrims in Mina, a large valley about five kilometers (three miles) from Mecca, arrived at the site early on Thursday accompanied by a huge entourage. The report said 200 army forces and 150 police officers escorted the prince. The report said the presence of the prince in the middle of the population prompted a change in the direction of the movement of the pilgrims and a stampede. The Lebanese daily further said that Salman and his entourage swiftly abandoned the scene, adding that the Saudi authorities seek to hush up the entire story and impose a media blackout on Salman’s presence in the area. However, officials in Saudi Arabia have denied the report, calling it "incorrect." The Saudi health minister has blamed the pilgrims for the tragedy. "If the pilgrims had followed instructions, this type of accident could have been avoided," Khaled al-Falih said. According to Iran's Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization more than 1,300 people, including 125 Iranians, were killed in the crush. This as Saudi officials put the death toll at 717 and the number of injured at 863. Saudi emergency personnel stand near bodies of Hajj pilgrims at the site where hundreds were killed and hundreds more were wounded in a stampede in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca on September 24, 2015. (AFP photo) Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has declared three days of national mourning following the incident while urging the Saudi government to “shoulder its heavy responsibility” in the stampede and “meet its obligations in compliance with the rule of righteousness and fairness.” Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Thursday that Saudi Arabia should be held accountable over the death of the pilgrims. He said that the fatal crush started after Saudi security forces blocked two streets while the pilgrims were walking towards the final ritual of the Hajj. "We can by no means remain indifferent towards Saudi Arabia's irresponsible behavior," said Amir-Abdollahian, adding, “The tactlessness on the part of relevant Saudi authorities to provide security for the pilgrims cannot be overlooked.” Fri Sep 11, 2015 | 10:35 PM EDT DUBAI, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's United Cooperative Assurance said on Sunday it had received a claim from Saudi Binladin Group over the collapse of one of the construction firm's cranes this month at the Grand Mosque in Mecca that killed more than 100 people. The insurance firm said it had received the claim on Sept. 13 and it had appointed evaluators licensed by the country's banking regulator to determine the damage caused by the accident, a bourse filing said. At least 107 people were killed when a crane toppled over at Mecca's Grand Mosque on Sept. 11, leading Saudi Arabia to suspend Binladin from new contracts and order a review of existing projects. United Cooperative Assurance said it would announce any developments in due course and the estimated value and financial impact of the incident would appear in fourth-quarter financial statements. However, the firm added its coverage related to the client was more than 98 percent covered by reinsurers. (Reporting by Hadeel Al Sayegh; Editing by David French and Mark Potter) An aerial view shows Muslim worshippers praying at the Grand mosque surrounded by construction cranes, in the holy city of Mecca in this July 14, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Ali Al Qarni/Files An aerial view shows Muslim worshippers praying at the Grand mosque surrounded by construction cranes, in the holy city of Mecca in this July 14, 2015 file photo. Reuters/Ali Al Qarni/Files Construction cranes surround the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca in this January 6, 2013 file photo as Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba and pray during Umrah. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Files Construction cranes surround the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca in this January 6, 2013 file photo as Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba and pray during Umrah. Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Files An aerial view shows Muslim worshippers praying at the Grand mosque surrounded by construction cranes, in the holy city of Mecca in this July 14, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Ali Al Qarni/Files An aerial view shows Muslim worshippers praying at the Grand mosque surrounded by construction cranes, in the holy city of Mecca in this July 14, 2015 file photo. Reuters/Ali Al Qarni/Files Construction cranes surround the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca in this January 6, 2013 file photo as Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba and pray during Umrah. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Files Construction cranes surround the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca in this January 6, 2013 file photo as Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba and pray during Umrah. Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Files › At least 107 killed by falling crane at Grand...X RIYADH (Reuters) - At least 107 people were killed when a crane toppled over at Mecca's Grand Mosque on Friday, Saudi Arabia's Civil Defence authority said, less than two weeks before Islam's annual haj pilgrimage. At least 238 people were wounded, Saudi Arabia's Civil Defence body said. "All those who were wounded and the dead have been taken to hospital. There are no casualties left at the location," General Suleiman al-Amr, director general of the Civil Defence Authority, told al-Ikhbariya television. Strong wind and rains had uprooted trees and rocked cranes in the area, he said. A statement by a spokesman for the administration of the mosques in Mecca and Medina said the crane smashed into the part of the Grand Mosque where worshippers circle the Kaaba - the black-clad cube towards which the world's 1.6 billion Muslims face to pray. Pictures circulating on social media showed pilgrims in bloodied robes and debris from a part of the crane that appeared to have crashed through a ceiling. Saudi authorities go to great lengths to prepare for the millions of Muslims who converge on Mecca to perform the sacred pilgrimage. Last year, they reduced the numbers permitted to make the haj pilgrimage on safety grounds because of construction work to enlarge the Grand Mosque. The haj, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, has been prone to disasters in the past, mainly from stampedes as pilgrims rush to complete rituals and return home. Hundreds of pilgrims died in such a crush in 2006. Saudi authorities have since spent vast sums to expand the main haj sites and improve Mecca's transport system, in an effort to prevent more disasters. Security services often ring Islam's sacred city with checkpoints and other measures to prevent people arriving for the pilgrimage without authorization. Those procedures, aimed at reducing crowd pressure which can lead to stampedes, fires and other hazards, have been intensified in recent years as security threats grow throughout the Middle East. (Reporting by Ali Abdelaty in Cairo; Additional reporting by Mostafa Hashem; Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Andrew Roche and Christian Plumb) ==================== Death toll in Saudi haj crush rises to 150: Saudi civil defense Death toll in Saudi haj crush rises to 150: Saudi...X DUBAI (Reuters) - The death toll in a crush of people at the annual haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia has risen to 150, the country's civil defense said on its Twitter account. The report said the number of people injured in the incident outside the Muslim holy city of Mecca stood at 400. MINA / MAKKAH: Saudi Arabia’s crown prince ordered an investigation into the stampede at the Hajj pilgrimage, the official Saudi Press Agency reported. Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who chairs the Saudi Hajj committee, ordered the probe during a meeting with senior officials responsible for the pilgrimage in Mina, where the stampede took place. The findings of the investigation will be submitted to King Salman, “who will take appropriate measures” in response, the agency added. Thursday’s tragedy comes on the heels of another one, in which 108 people were killed when a massive construction crane collapsed on Mecca’s Grand Mosque on September 11 as thousands were gathering for the Hajj. At the time, Nayef said the accident would not affect this year’s pilgrimage and that the safety of pilgrims was a “priority”. Earlier Thursday, Health Minister Khaled al Faleh promised that there would be a rapid and transparent investigation of the stampede, which he blamed on undisciplined pilgrims not following instructions. The health minister was quoted by El Ekhbariya television as saying “many pilgrims move without respecting the timetables” established by authorities, which was the “principal reason for this type of accident.” “If the pilgrims had followed instructions, this type of accident could have been avoided.” Read: At least 717 pilgrims killed, 805 injured in Hajj stampede at Mina At least 717 pilgrims died while another 805 were wounded in a stampede during the stoning of Satan at Mina, the Saudi civil defence said. The pilgrims were killed in a crush at Mina, outside the holy city of Makkah, where some two million people are performing the annual Hajj pilgrimage. ‘Safety errors’ Earlier, Iran had accused Saudi Arabia of safety errors after at least 15 of its citizens died in the stampede. Read: Iran accuses Saudi of Hajj safety errors after stampede The head of Iran’s Hajj organisation, Said Ohadi, said that for “unknown reasons” two paths had been closed off near the scene of the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual where the accident later took place. “This caused this tragic incident,” he said on Iranian state television, giving the death toll, indicating that fatalities and casualties could rise. Ohadi said the path closures had left only three routes to the area where the stoning ceremony was held. =========================== Thu Sep 24, 2015 | 7:01 PM EDT More than 700 pilgrims die in crush in worst haj disaster for 25 years 4:38 PM EDT | 01:27 Saudi Arabia calls for haj stampede investigation More than 700 pilgrims die in crush in worst haj By Nidal al-Mughrabi MINA, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - At least 717 pilgrims from around the world were killed on Thursday in a crush outside the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi authorities said, in the worst disaster to strike the annual haj pilgrimage for 25 years. At least 863 others were injured. Saudi King Salman said he had ordered a review of haj plans after the disaster, in which two large groups of pilgrims arrived together at a crossroads in Mina, a few kilometers east of Mecca, on their way to performing the "stoning of the devil" ritual at Jamarat. Thursday's disaster was the worst to occur at the pilgrimage since July 1990, when 1,426 pilgrims suffocated in a tunnel near Mecca. Both incidents occurred on Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice), Islam's most important feast and the day of the stoning ritual. Photographs published on the Twitter feed of Saudi civil defense on Thursday showed pilgrims lying on stretchers while emergency workers in high-visibility jackets lifted them into an ambulance. Other images showed bodies of men in white haj garments piled on top of each other. Some corpses bore visible injuries. Unverified video posted on Twitter showed pilgrims and rescue workers trying to revive some victims. The haj, the world's largest annual gathering of people, has been the scene of numerous deadly stampedes, fires and riots in the past, but their frequency has been greatly reduced in recent years as the government spent billions of dollars upgrading and expanding haj infrastructure and crowd control technology. Safety during haj is a politically sensitive issue for the kingdom's ruling Al Saud dynasty, which presents itself internationally as the guardian of orthodox Islam and custodian of its holiest places in Mecca and Medina. BLAME Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the Saudi government should accept responsibility for the crush, in which more than 100 Iranian nationals were reported to have died. "The Saudi government should accept the responsibility of this sorrowful incident ... Mismanagement and improper actions have caused this catastrophe," Khamenei said in a statement published on his website. King Salman offered deep condolences. "We have instructed concerned authorities to review the operations plan ... (and) to raise the level of organization and management to ensure that the guests of God perform their rituals in comfort and ease," the monarch said. Saudi government responsible for haj 'catastrophe': Iran leader The Interior Ministry spokesman, Mansour Turki said the investigation would look into what caused an unusual mass of pilgrims to congregate at the location of the disaster. "The reason for that is not known yet," he told a news conference in Mina. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the White House offered condolences. "The United States expresses its deepest condolences to the families of the hundreds of haj pilgrims killed and hundreds more injured in the heartbreaking stampede in Mina, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," White House spokesman Ned Price said. Iran's Tasnim and Fars news agencies reported that 125 Iranians were among the dead. Fars reported that Tehran summoned the Saudi charge d'affaires to lodge an official complaint over the disaster. South African Acting President Cyril Ramaphosa extended condolences to families of the victims and said his government was awaiting information about his country's pilgrims. ============================================ Fri Sep 25, 2015 | 4:51 PM EDT Saudi suggests pilgrims at fault over haj deaths, Iran angry Fri, Sep 25 2015 | 00:52 Iranians protest haj deaths Saudi suggests pilgrims at fault over haj deaths,...X By Nidal al-Mughrabi MINA, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia on Friday suggested pilgrims ignoring crowd control rules bore some blame for a crush that killed over 700 people at the haj pilgrimage in the annual event's worst disaster for 25 years. The kingdom's regional rival Iran expressed outrage at the deaths of 131 of its nationals at the world's largest annual gathering of people, and politicians in Tehran suggested Riyadh was incapable of managing the event. Hundreds of demonstrators protested in the Iranian capital, chanting "Death to the Saudi dynasty". With pilgrims frantically searching for missing compatriots and photographs of piles of the dead circulating on social media, the tragedy haunted many on the haj a day on. "There were layers of bodies, maybe three layers," said one witness who asked not to be named. "Some people were alive under the pile of bodies and were trying to climb up but in vain, because their strength failed and they dropped dead. "I felt helpless not to be able to save people. I saw them dying in front of my eyes," he told Reuters. An Algerian pilgrim told Algeria's al-Shurouk television: "We saw death: People were stepping over the mutilated bodies in front of you, four or five on top of each other." Saudi King Salman ordered a review of haj plans, and Health Minister Khalid al-Falih said an investigation would be conducted rapidly and a final toll of dead and wounded calculated. At least 863 pilgrims were injured in the disaster, in which two big groups of pilgrims collided at a crossroads in Mina, a few km (miles) east of Mecca, on their way to performing the "Stoning of the Devil" ritual at Jamarat. The stampede "was perhaps because some pilgrims moved without following instructions by the relevant authorities," the minister said in a statement. The kingdom's critics were likely to see the statement as an attempt to deflect responsibility. Safety during the haj is highly sensitive for the ruling Al Saud dynasty, which presents itself internationally as the guardian of orthodox Islam and custodian of its holiest places in Mecca and Medina. ADVERTISEMENT The effort to uncover the facts and assign blame was likely to grow more acute and possibly more political. "CATASTROPHE" A pilgrim who gave his name as Abu Abdallah said security forces appeared on high alert after the deaths. "What happened is a tragedy and many people ... are terrified, but in the end we can only pursue our haj duties," he said. Hakim, from Morocco, said: "It is simply scary to hear how people crushed one another. More frightening is that we do not know how it happened." The Saudi civil defense service reported on Twitter that a fire had occurred in three storage facilities in Mecca's al-Maaseem neighborhood, and 10 fire and rescue units were in attendance. No further details were immediately available. RELATED VIDEO Video 00:58 New video shows extent of haj disaster (graphic images) Video 01:28 Haj pilgrimage continues after stampede kills more than 700 Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, in New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly, echoed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in blaming Saudi Arabia for the incident. "I ask the Saudi Arabian government to take responsibility for this catastrophe and fulfill its legal and Islamic duties in this regard," Rouhani said in a statement. Iranian state television said the demonstrators in Tehran were showing their anger at "Saudi incapability and incompetence to run the haj". "The world will not accept excuses like the weather was hot or the pilgrims were disorganized," Tehran Friday prayer leader Mohammed Emami-Kashani was quoted as saying by Fars news agency. Iran's deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian also called "Riyadh's negligence inexcusable" and announced a committee has been established to look into the incident. Iranian pilgrims who survived described Saudi's response "too little, too late," according to Iran's state run Press TV. They said rescuers arrived two hours after the incident and started collecting dead bodies first instead of helping the injured. Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Mansour Turki was quoted in Saudi media on Friday as saying the security forces had immediately responded and begun to rescue those who fell in the crush. "This year's haj ceremony was disorganized as the Saudi government had hired young and inexperienced people," Saeed Ohadi, Head of Iran's haj and pilgrimage organization told Iran's state broadcaster in a live interview from Mecca. Speaking in New York, Pope Francis expressed "my sentiments of closeness" with Muslims after the tragedy. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the United States offered condolences. Former Iraqi Prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, an ally of Iran and foe of Riyadh, said the incident was "proof of the incompetence of the organizers". He said the haj should be placed under the authority of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the world's largest Muslim organization. (Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi, Sami Aboudi, Rania El Gamal, Angus McDowall, Bozorgmehr Sharafedin, Katie Paul, Stephen Kalin, Writing by William Maclean, Editing by Tom Heneghan and John Stonestreet) ---------- A well-known Saudi online activist says the kingdom’s authorities had been warned against overcrowding and a lack of organization prior to the crush that reportedly killed some 2,000 pilgrims in Mina, in one of the worst tragedies to hit the Hajj pilgrimage. On Saturday, the activist known as @mujtahidd on Twitter wrote that closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras had recorded the excessive number of pilgrims nearly two hours before the September 24 stampede in Mina, located about five kilometers (three miles) east of the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The activist added that the Saudi officials in charge had contacted high-ranking authorities ahead of the disaster, calling for reinforcements to maintain safety and manage traffic and crowds, but all to no avail. Mojtahed further noted that Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has also issued an order that footage from police cameras as well as all telephone conservations remain under seal. A security officer monitors Muslim pilgrims attending the annual hajj pilgrimage on CCTV screens at a security command center in Mina, Saudi Arabia, on September 25 2015, a day after a stampede killed nearly 2,000 people. (© AP) The revelations come as a host of pilgrims have stated that they are terrified to continue the ritual stoning of the devil in Mina due to what they call lack of organization and incompetency of Saudi security personnel in handling the affairs. The tragedy has cast doubt on the ability of Saudi authorities to manage the large influx of pilgrims into the kingdom during the Hajj pilgrimage season every year. Head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization Sa’eed Ohadi said Friday that nearly 2,000 people have lost their lives in the Mina tragedy. Muslim pilgrims gather around bodies of people crushed in Mina, Saudi Arabia, during the annual hajj pilgrimage on September 24, 2015. (© AP) This is while Saudi authorities say at least 717 people have been killed and nearly 863 others injured in the stampede. According to Saudi disaster officials, the incident occurred at around 9 a.m. local time (0600 GMT) after two large masses of pilgrims coming down streets 204 and 223 fused together. The incident took place as people were heading to participate in the symbolic stoning of Satan. It was the second deadly accident to strike Hajj pilgrims this month, after a massive crane collapse in Mecca killed more than 100 and left over 200 others wounded.