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Saturday, December 31, 2016

At least 39 killed in New Year gun attack at Istanbul nightclub

https://www.facebook.com/ShamaJunejo/videos/vb.614142719/10154900022282720/?type=3 Jan. 3, 2017 1:16 PM ET Video shows man believed to be nightclub attacker in Turkey By DUSAN STOJANOVIC and LORI HINNANT, Associated Press THE ASSOCIATED PRESS STATEMENT OF NEWS VALUES AND PRINCIPLES AIM Share People carrying Turkish flags gather at the scene of the nightclub New Year's Day attack, in Istanbul, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack killing 39 people saying a “soldier of the caliphate” had carried out the mass shooting to avenge Turkish military operations against IS in northern Syria. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel) 5 of 5 More News Video The Latest: Jordanian businessman killed in club mourned Jan. 3, 2017 10:13 AM ET Video weakens Myanmar claims it's not abusing Rohingya Jan. 3, 2017 7:07 AM ET Skier Jean Vuarnet, who struck gold with tuck position, dies Jan. 2, 2017 4:53 PM ET Pope to bishops: Maintain 'zero tolerance' for child abuse Jan. 2, 2017 2:04 PM ET Bangladesh police say ruling party lawmaker shot dead Jan. 1, 2017 6:14 AM ET Buy AP Photo Reprints ISTANBUL (AP) — An eerie video emerged Tuesday of a man believed to be the attacker who killed 39 people in a mass shooting at a nightclub, showing him taking a selfie as he silently toured Istanbul's most famous square. The camera never leaves the man's unsmiling face as he walked through Taksim Square during the 44-second clip that was broadcast on state-run Anadolu television and other Turkish media. It wasn't immediately clear if the video was made before or after the New Year's massacre at the Reina nightclub, or how it was obtained. The gunman, who hasn't been publicly identified, is still at large. On Monday, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, which also wounded nearly 70 people. The extremists said a "soldier of the caliphate" had carried out the mass shooting to avenge Turkish military operations against IS in northern Syria. Funerals began Tuesday in Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and Turkey for the dead, most of them tourists. Mourners wept for the lives that were cut short in the early hours of 2017 at the popular and glamorous club. Thousands attended the funeral of Layan Nasser, an 18-year-old Arab Israeli dental assistant who was buried the Israeli city of Tira. "She had dreams to work, to progress, to study, to raise a family, but unfortunately the terror put an end to her dreams," said Tira Mayor Mamoun Abd El Hai. Hundreds of people attended funerals for two of three Lebanese victims. One of them, 26-year-old fitness instructor Elias Wardini, was recently engaged to be married. His family and friends set off fireworks as his white coffin arrived at a church in Beirut. At least 14 people have been detained in connection with the attack, including two foreigners stopped Tuesday at the international terminal of Istanbul's Ataturk Airport after police checked their cellphones and luggage, according to Anadolu. The Hurriyet newspaper said a woman identified by Turkish media as the wife of the suspect has told police she didn't know her husband was a member of the Islamic State group. The woman was detained in the central town of Konya as part of the investigation. Neither she nor her husband has been identified. Hurriyet reported in its online edition that the woman said she learned about the attack on TV and told police she didn't know her husband harbored "sympathies" toward IS. Media reports said the gunman flew to Istanbul from Kyrgyzstan with his wife and children on Nov. 20. From there, they drove to the Turkish capital, Ankara, before arriving two days later in Konya. The family rented a studio there, paying three months of rent in advance. The gunman told the real estate agent he was looking for work, according to the report. Hurriyet said the gunman returned to Istanbul Dec. 29. Several media outlets, citing unidentified security sources, reported Monday that the man was believed to be from Central Asia and may have been part of the cell that attacked Ataturk Airport in June, killing 45 people. On Tuesday, Haber Turk newspaper said the man is thought to be a member of China's Muslim Uighur minority. Turkish media showed photos of a Kyrgyz passport, but police said it did not belong to the gunman. The assailant, armed with a long-barreled weapon, killed a policeman and a civilian early Sunday outside the Reina nightclub before opening fire on the estimated 600 revelers inside. The club is frequented by local celebrities, including singers, actors and athletes. Turkey has been rocked by violence in the past year, carried out by IS as well as by Kurdish militants. The government survived a failed coup in the summer and is fighting Kurdish insurgents. Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told parliament that authorities thwarted 339 possible attacks in 2016, including 313 by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, and 22 by the Islamic State group. Lawmakers were to decide later whether to extend the state of emergency that was declared after the coup attempt. Turkey, a NATO member, launched an offensive to northern Syria in August in hopes of clearing a strategic border area of IS militants and stemming the gains of Kurdish fighters. Turkish jets regularly bomb IS targets in the Syrian town of al-Bab in support of Syrian opposition forces try to re-capture it from the extremists. ___ Hinnant reported from Paris. Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara contributed. Mon Jan 2, 2017 | 9:51 AM EST In Istanbul nightclub, gunman picked off the wounded ‹ Men lay flowers outisde the Reina nightclub by the Bosphorus, which was attacked by a gunman, in Istanbul, Turkey, January 1, 2017. REUTERS/Umit Bektas 3/3 Men lay flowers outisde the Reina nightclub by the Bosphorus, which was attacked by a gunman, in Istanbul, Turkey, January 1, 2017. Reuters/Umit Bektas An injured woman is carried to an ambulance from a nightclub where a gun attack took place during a New Year party in Istanbul, Turkey. Murat Ergin/Ihlas News Agency via REUTERS 1/3 An injured woman is carried to an ambulance from a nightclub where a gun attack took place during a New Year party in Istanbul, Turkey. Murat Ergin/Ihlas News Agency via Reuters Women who survived an attack by a gunman, react outisde the Reina nightclub by the Bosphorus, in Istanbul, Turkey, January 1, 2017. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir 2/3 Women who survived an attack by a gunman, react outisde the Reina nightclub by the Bosphorus, in Istanbul, Turkey, January 1, 2017. Reuters/Huseyin Aldemir Men lay flowers outisde the Reina nightclub by the Bosphorus, which was attacked by a gunman, in Istanbul, Turkey, January 1, 2017. REUTERS/Umit Bektas 3/3 Men lay flowers outisde the Reina nightclub by the Bosphorus, which was attacked by a gunman, in Istanbul, Turkey, January 1, 2017. Reuters/Umit Bektas An injured woman is carried to an ambulance from a nightclub where a gun attack took place during a New Year party in Istanbul, Turkey. Murat Ergin/Ihlas News Agency via REUTERS 1/3 An injured woman is carried to an ambulance from a nightclub where a gun attack took place during a New Year party in Istanbul, Turkey. Murat Ergin/Ihlas News Agency via Reuters › In Istanbul nightclub, gunman picked off the wound...X By Yara Abi Nader and Humeyra Pamuk | ISTANBUL Shot in the arm and slumped behind a table, Francois al-Asmar played dead as the gunman walked through the exclusive Istanbul nightclub shooting the wounded as they lay on the ground. Like most of the 39 people killed at a New Year's party in Reina, a hang-out for the Turkish jet set and moneyed foreigners, the Lebanese radio and TV graduate was a visitor to Istanbul, enjoying a city reputed in the Middle East for its diversity and tolerance. "He shot one shot, so we thought - I thought - it was some angry or drunk man ... But a few seconds later, we heard a machine gun," Asmar told Reuters from his hospital bed. "I was hiding behind the table, sitting on the floor, but my shoulder must have been exposed. He was shooting us on the floor ... I acted dead so he didn't keep shooting me," he said. The lone gunman, still at large, shot dead a police officer and a civilian at the door before walking in and opening fire at random. Witnesses said he shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greatest). Islamic State claimed responsibility. "As soon as he entered the club he started firing and he didn't stop. He fired non-stop for 20 minutes at least," said Younis Turk, a French citizen of Turkish origin. "We thought that there were several of them because it just didn't stop. And there was some kind of bombing as well, he threw some explosives," he said. The club was a gathering point for many nationalities that night. Victims included an Indian Bollywood film producer, a Turkish waiter, a Lebanese fitness trainer and a Jordanian bar owner. According to a forensics report quoted by the Milliyet newspaper, some of the victims were shot at very close distance or even at point-blank range. Mehmet Yilan, 36, a barman at Reina for 12 years, said the attacker deliberately targeted the most crowded areas of the club, which sits on the shore of the Bosphorus in Ortakoy, an Istanbul neighborhood packed with cafes and restaurants. "He stormed in and immediately headed for the people to the left, which is always more crowded ... I wonder if he came here before because he seemed to know where to go," Yilan said, describing how his manager yelled at people to run. ADVERTISEMENT . "He was shooting randomly but aiming for their upper bodies. He didn't want to just injure them." Yilan escaped into a back room with five customers and two other bar staff, then went downstairs to a terraced area on the edge of the water. Despite the icy, snowy weather, some people jumped into the water to escape the gunfire. "He kept shooting all throughout. I called for our boat which transfers our customers, but he kept firing toward the sea too. The boat couldn't approach," Yilan said. He spoke to Reuters at the funeral of his colleague, Fatih Cakmak, a security guard who worked at the club and had survived a suicide bombing targeting police at a soccer stadium a few kilometers away just three weeks earlier. "ISTANBUL'S BEST NIGHT CLUB" Lito German, 47, a Filipino living in Saudi Arabia who works in marketing, was in Istanbul for the first time with his wife and daughter and was approaching the club as the attack began. "We were about 100 metres away and started seeing people fleeing toward us. Most were very well dressed, though many were barefoot and looking shaken and scared," he said. "We were actually meant to go to another club, but we didn't want to be in a very big place due to security issues, and we found Reina by googling Istanbul's best night club. We thought the most expensive club would have better security." Armored police vehicles rushed to the scene as more and more people came running out, he said. Among the dead were Abis Rizvi, 49, a Bollywood producer who was in the midst of making his second film, and Khushi Shah, a fashion designer in her 20s, both from Mumbai. The Indian government said it was making arrangements to help the families as they come to Turkey to collect the bodies. Lebanon sent a plane to carry back the remains of three of its citizens who were among the dead. Elias Wardini, 26, a personal trainer, had posted a picture on Instagram a few hours before the attack, posing in the Istanbul snow with another Lebanese victim in her twenties, Rita Shami. The club's owner, Mehmet Kocarslan, said police had taken extraordinary security measures in the run-up to the New Year in neighborhoods on the Bosphorus shore around Ortakoy. The U.S. embassy had warned of potential attacks on areas frequented by foreigners, but Kocarslan said there had been no specific threat against his club in particular and that many of the warnings had been country-wide. "I really don't know how this demon, I can't even call him a terrorist, was able to reach here despite all this intelligence and extraordinary security measures," he said. The incident bore echoes of an attack by militant Islamists on Paris's Bataclan music hall in November 2015 that, along with assaults on bars and restaurants, killed 130 people. "When they're determined, they're determined, and there's nothing to do," said Turk, who was visiting from France. "That doesn't mean that I won't be coming anymore. For me Turkey, Istanbul, is one of the nicest cities in the world and I will keep on coming again and again." (Additional reporting by Miguel Pereira and Yesim Dikmen in Istanbul, Shilpa Jamkhandikar in Mumbai, Lisa Barrington in Beirut; editing by Ralph Boulton; Writing by Nick Tattersall) ============================= Bollywood director Abis Rizvi killed in Istanbul terror attack: who was he and what films did he make? 0 Comments Abis Rizvi was killed in the Istanbul nightclub attack on New Year's Day Abis Rizvi was killed in the Istanbul nightclub attack on New Year's Day CREDIT: FACEBOOK/ABIS RIZVI Telegraph Reporters 2 JANUARY 2017 • 1:52PM In the early hours of New Year’s Day in Istanbul, a terrorist dressed as Santa Claus fired over 100 shots in Reina nightclub, killing at least 39 people and injuring 40. Among those killed was 49-year-old Bollywood producer and entrepreneur Abis Rizvi, who was on holiday in Turkey with friends. His death has left the Bollywood industry in shock, with many stars speaking out against the attack. Sponsored stories Celebrities who have children with additional needs Celebrities who have children with additional needs Kidspot Parenting Most PC Users Don't Know This Simple Trick… Most PC Users Don't Know This Simple Trick… Web Life Advice Recommended by Shocking .. Life is too short, we take too much for granted.. #RIP #AbisRizvi .. Good man.. My condolences to the family 🙏 #istambulattack — Randeep Hooda (@RandeepHooda) January 1, 2017 Devastated by the death of my friend #AbisRizvi in the dastardly terrorist attack this morning in an #Istanbul nightclub. — Jaaved Jaaferi (@jaavedjaaferi) January 1, 2017 R.I.P #abisrizvi ur life taken so soon U didnt deserve this! & to think u were just enjoying ur new years eve! So sorry😭😢 #NightclubAttack — Nora Fatehi (@Norafatehi) January 1, 2017 My childhood buddy #AbisRizvi who was more than a brother was killed last nght in #istanbulattack Condolences to the family.We will miss him pic.twitter.com/egt5YWHBKg — Naved Jafri (@NavedJafri_BOO) January 1, 2017 In India, Rizvi was as known for his building company as he was for his filmmaking. Born in West Mumbai to a former Rajya Sabha MP, he became the CEO of his father’s real estate business and, along with his brothers and cousin, followed his uncle Sibte Hassan Rizvi into the film industry. He acted as producer and co-writer of the Indian film Roar: Tigers of the Sundarbans, which was released in 2014, and founded the production company Abis Rizvi Films. His second production was He-Man, a documentary following India’s only professional body-builder. Actor and director Puneet Issar, who spoke to Rivzi only hours before the attack, told news organisations that the pair had watched a rough cut of the film on Christmas Eve. A third film, coming-of-age drama T for Taj Mahal, is still in production and was slated for release in March. With a focus on philanthropy, Rizvi’s business interests also saw him expand into education, building and managing colleges in Mumbai, Allahabad and Jaunpur, as well as developing technology products. He continued to live in Mumbai until his death, and left behind a wife and son. ============================================ Sat Dec 31, 2016 | 9:23 PM EST 52m ago | 01:20 Dozens dead in Turkish nightclub attack By Humeyra Pamuk and Nick Tattersall | ISTANBUL At least one gunman shot his way into an Istanbul nightclub packed with hundreds of New Year's revelers on Sunday, killing 35 people and wounding more than 40 in what the provincial governor described as a terrorist attack. One assailant shot a police officer and a civilian as he entered the Reina nightclub before opening fire at random inside, Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin said at the scene. Some reports suggested there were multiple attackers. "A terrorist with a long-range weapon ... brutally and savagely carried out this attack by firing bullets on innocent people who were there solely to celebrate the New Year and have fun," Sahin told reporters. The attack again shook Turkey as it tries to recover from a failed July coup and a series of deadly bombings in cities including Istanbul and the capital Ankara, some blamed on Islamic State and others claimed by Kurdish militants. The club, one of Istanbul's most iconic, popular with locals and foreigners alike, overlooks the Bosphorus Strait separating Europe and Asia in the city's cosmopolitan Ortakoy district. Around 500 to 600 people were thought to have been inside when the gunman opened fire at around 1:15 a.m. (2230 GMT), broadcaster CNN Turk said. Some jumped into the waters of the Bosphorus to save themselves and were rescued by police. U.S. President Barack Obama, on vacation in Hawaii, expressed condolences and directed his team to offer help to the Turkish authorities, the White House said. Sahin said there was only one attacker but other reports, including on social media, suggested there may have been at least two, dressed in Santa Claus costumes which they later ditched. ADVERTISEMENT The Hurriyet newspaper cited witnesses as saying there were multiple attackers and that they shouted in Arabic. "We were having fun. All of a sudden people started to run. My husband said don't be afraid, and he jumped on me. People ran over me. My husband was hit in three places," one club-goer, Sinem Uyanik, told the newspaper. "I managed to push through and get out, it was terrible," she said, describing seeing people soaked in blood and adding that there appeared to have been at least two gunmen. "POLICE MOVED IN QUICKLY" Dozens of ambulances and police vehicles were dispatched to the club in Ortakoy, a neighborhood on the city's European side nestled under one of three bridges crossing the Bosphorus and home to nightclubs, restaurants and art galleries. "I didn't see who was shooting but heard the gun shots and people fled. Police moved in quickly," Sefa Boydas, a Turkish soccer player, wrote on Twitter. "My girlfriend was wearing high heels. I lifted her and carried her out on my back," he said. Related Coverage VIDEODozens killed in nightclub attack - official Obama offers U.S. assistance to Turkey after Istanbul attack Hurriyet quoted Reina's owner, Mehmet Kocarslan, as saying security measures had been taken over the past 10 days after U.S. intelligence reports suggested a possible attack. Turkey, a NATO member and part of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, faces multiple security threats including spillover from the war in neighboring Syria. It launched a military incursion into Syria in August against the radical Islamist group and is also fighting a Kurdish militant insurgency in its own southeast. The New Year's Eve attack came five months after Turkey was shaken by a failed military coup, in which more than 240 people were killed, many of them in Istanbul, as rogue soldiers commandeered tanks and fighter jets in a bid to seize power. Istanbul, Turkey's most populous city, has seen several attacks this year, the latest on Dec. 10, when two bombs claimed by Kurdish militants exploded outside a soccer stadium, killing 44 people and wounding more than 150. In June, around 45 people were killed and hundreds wounded as three suspected Islamic State militants carried out a gun and bomb attack on Istanbul's main Ataturk airport. (Additional reporting by Ece Toksabay in Ankara; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Mary Milliken)

Baghdad blasts kill 25 as Mosul fighting intensifies

Sat Dec 31, 2016 | 5:24 AM EST People gather at the site of a bomb attack at a market in central Baghdad, Iraq December 31, 2016. REUTERS/Ali al-Mashhadani 3/3 People gather at the site of a bomb attack at a market in central Baghdad, Iraq December 31, 2016. Reuters/Ali al-Mashhadani Iraqi security forces gather at the site of a bomb attack at a market in central Baghdad, Iraq December 31, 2016. REUTERS/Ali al-Mashhadani 1/3 Iraqi security forces gather at the site of a bomb attack at a market in central Baghdad, Iraq December 31, 2016. Reuters/Ali al-Mashhadani Iraqi security forces inspect the site of a bomb attack at a market in central Baghdad, Iraq December 31, 2016. REUTERS/Ali al-Mashhadani 2/3 Iraqi security forces inspect the site of a bomb attack at a market in central Baghdad, Iraq December 31, 2016. Reuters/Ali al-Mashhadani People gather at the site of a bomb attack at a market in central Baghdad, Iraq December 31, 2016. REUTERS/Ali al-Mashhadani 3/3 People gather at the site of a bomb attack at a market in central Baghdad, Iraq December 31, 2016. Reuters/Ali al-Mashhadani Iraqi security forces gather at the site of a bomb attack at a market in central Baghdad, Iraq December 31, 2016. REUTERS/Ali al-Mashhadani 1/3 Iraqi security forces gather at the site of a bomb attack at a market in central Baghdad, Iraq December 31, 2016. Reuters/Ali al-Mashhadani › Baghdad blasts kill 25 as Mosul fighting intensifi. By Kareem Raheem and Stephen Kalin | BAGHDAD/ERBIL, Iraq Two bombs claimed by Islamic State killed 25 people in central Baghdad on Saturday, as fighting intensified in the northern city of Mosul where government forces are trying to rout the jihadists from their last major stronghold in the country. The blasts, including one suicide attack, tore through a busy market in the Sinak neighborhood, police said. A pro-Islamic State news agency said the assailants had targeted Shi'ite Muslims, whom they regard as apostates. Islamic State has continued to launch attacks in the heavily fortified capital, even after losing most of the northern and western territory it seized in 2014. The recapture of Mosul would probably spell the end for Islamic State's self-styled caliphate, but the militants would still be capable of fighting a guerrilla-style insurgency in Iraq, and plotting or inspiring attacks on the West. The second phase of a U.S.-backed offensive launched on Thursday following weeks of deadlock has encountered fierce resistance. Conventional U.S. forces deploying more extensively in this phase are now visible very close to the front lines. The third day of the renewed push saw heavy clashes on the southeastern and northern fronts. BATTLE FOR MOSUL An elite Interior Ministry unit continued to push on Saturday through the Intisar district, where a U.S.-trained army unit had struggled to advance for after entering the southeast district last month. Heavy gunfire was audible and attack helicopters fired overhead as hundreds of civilians fled their homes, a Reuters cameraman said. In the north, a separate army unit pressed towards the border of Mosul proper after recapturing several outlying villages in the past two days. "There is a battle in Argoob area, which is considered the gateway to Hadba," Lieutenant Colonel Abbas al-Azawi said by phone, referring to a strategic northern neighborhood. Since the offensive began on Oct. 17, elite forces have retaken a quarter of Mosul in the biggest ground operation there since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said the group would be driven out of Iraq by April. Although the militants are vastly outnumbered, they have embedded themselves among Mosul residents, hindering Iraqi forces who are trying to avoid civilian casualties. Despite food and water shortages, most civilians have stayed in their homes rather than fleeing as had been expected. One resident reached by phone late on Friday said a rocket had landed on a house in the eastern Mithaq district, killing six members of one family. "We have not seen Daesh since the Iraqi forces restarted their offensive," he told Reuters. "We hear the sounds of large car bombs. Today I heard no fewer than 10 huge explosions." (Reporting by Kareem Raheem and Ahmed Rasheed; Writing by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Michael Perry and Andrew Heavens)

Friday, December 30, 2016

WATCH: The world's highest bridge just opened and it's terrifying

Don't look down. DAVID NIELD 31 DEC 2016 Those with vertigo, look away now. Everyone else, gawp in wonder at the Duge Beipanjiang Bridge in southwest China, opened to traffic this week and now the highest bridge in the world, some 565 metres (1,854 feet) above the valley below. The bridge stretches across a 1,341-metre (4,400-foot) span. Three years in the making, it's estimated to have cost the Chinese government around 1 billion yuan (or US$144 million). According to China Central Television, the bridge is going to cut travel times between Liupanshui in the Guizhou province and Xuanwei in the Yunnan province to two hours instead of the current five – as long as you don't mind the heights. The bridge crosses the the Nizhu river, and to give you some idea of the size of the drop down to the water below, it's almost two Eiffel Towers or one-and-a-half Empire State Buildings. The new bridge overtakes the former highest bridge record holder, the Sidu River Bridge, also in China, which rises more than 500 metres (1,640 feet) above the ground below – though the exact height of the bridge is debatable. And if your knees haven't turned to jelly yet we've got some more high bridges to tell you about. millau-viaduct The Millau Viaduct, France. Credit: Foster + Partners The tallest bridge in the world – in terms of its own structure rather than how high it is off the ground – remains the Millau Viaduct in France, standing 343 metres (1,125 feet) tall in total. That bridge also took three years to build at a cost of €394 million (about AUS415 million). At 2,460 metres (8,070 feet) long but a mere 270 metres (886 feet) off the ground – less than one Eiffel Tower – it doesn't trouble the new champion in that regard. We were also recently wowed by the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge, again in China, which holds the distinction of being both the tallest and longest glass bridge in the world. Yes, you read that right, glass. glass-bridge The Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge, China. Credit: New China TV This pedestrian bridge is 300 metres (984 feet) off the ground below and offers a 265-metre (870-foot) bungee jump experience if you're up for it, believed to be the biggest bungee jump drop ever. Unfortunately, the bridge was closed just two weeks after its opening in August, with officials saying urgent maintenance work needed to be carried out. A date for reopening hasn't been set, so don't book your plane tickets yet. Apparently, overwhelming visitor demand rather than any structural problems with the bridge itself was the reason for the closure, so let's hope it's back open soon. In the meantime, we'll continue to marvel at these magnificent feats of engineering from afar.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Housing at ‘crisis point’: Evicted tenants discover former Kirribilli rental unit on Airbnb

Flat Chat: A win for Airbnb is a huge blow to residents Sydney MP Alex Greenwich at odds with City of Sydney over pro-Airbnb proposals A young couple who were evicted from their rental unit in Kirribilli after a two-year stay to make way for the family who owned it, were shocked, after they’d moved out, to spot it being advertised on Airbnb. What’s more, their small two-bedroom, $540-a-week apartment was being shown as three separate rooms with a capacity to sleep nine – for a total possible weekly fee of $1890. In what critics of Airbnb say is now happening across Sydney, “bleeding the residential housing market dry”, the couple have now been forced to move to a completely different part of the city. Nicholas Louisson used to rent at the apartment block behind him in Kirribilli, however his lease was terminated and the landlord started using the apartment for Airbnb tenants. Nicholas Louisson used to rent at the apartment block behind him in Kirribilli, however his lease was terminated and the landlord started using the apartment for Airbnb tenants. Photo: Jessica Hromas They were left devastated. “What chance do people like us stand who want to rent in the area they grew up in, when people push them out of their beautiful homes just so they can make so much more money by renting them commercially?” says Nicholas Louisson, 28, who works in marketing procurement. “It was our first home together, we loved living there, it was just opposite my work, and we imagined staying there for up to the next 10 years of our lives. But then when we started looking for another apartment in the suburb to rent, there was so little available, and so much competition for it, because so much there is now on Airbnb. “It’s wrong that this is being allowed to happen.” Airbnb has become a force to be reckoned with in the accommodation and travel industry. Airbnb has become a force to be reckoned with in the accommodation and travel industry. Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images Indeed, there are currently 13 one-bedroom apartments and 18 two-bedroom apartments to rent in Kirribilli listed on property site domain.com.au. On Airbnb, there are 306 listings of properties to rent. Kirribilli was named as one of the Airbnb hotspots in a study conducted by Fairfax Media this year. The group Neighbours Not Strangers, critics of Airbnb when it pushes homes away from residential use and into short-term lets, says this is typical of what’s happening everywhere in Sydney, and globally. “We’re at a crisis point with housing now,” says convenor Trish Burt. “From May this year there’s been a 75.5 per cent increase in listings in Airbnb in Sydney, that’s 23,558 Sydney dwellings no longer available for people to live in. They’re bleeding the residential housing market dry.” North Sydney Council, when told of the couple’s situation, said it would investigate. A spokesman said: “At the moment, North Sydney Council defines an Airbnb-type stay as short-term accommodation [which] is considered a commercial activity and outside the permitted use within residential zones in terms of the North Sydney LEP. “Properties in residential zones are considered to be for residential occupation and not for short-term letting except as permanent residential occupation, usually defined as a period of three months or more.” Airbnb spokesman Dylan Smith said the company proactively reminds its hosts of their obligations to follow locally set rules and regulations. “Overwhelmingly, Airbnb hosts in NSW are everyday people – mums and dads, seniors and young families – who occasionally list their primary residence or spare room to make a modest extra bit of income,” he said. “Our hosts tell us this extra income helps pay down the mortgage, cover bills and household expenses. Others list their home to pay for their own holiday away with the family once or twice a year.” But Louisson, now living with his girlfriend in Waterloo, says he’s angry not only for himself and other renters driven out of their homes, but also about the risks to those Airbnb customers. “Our old bedroom is advertised with a queen bed and a single, capable of sleeping three; the second bedroom has a bed and a trundle underneath with a double bed so that’s for four, and then the living room couch is shown being made into a bed to sleep two,” he says. “I just wonder what would happen if there was a fire or anything went wrong? They’ve put a second fridge in front of the back door, which is technically a fire exit, so how would all those people escape quickly?” With the same family owning more than one of the four units in the boutique block on Hipwood Street, it effectively has control of the Owners Corporation, so no one can stop them. A family with two small children renting the fourth apartment have already complained about all the noise, strangers in the block and people barging their way constantly through the common areas with luggage, but are fearful their landlord will choose to evict them and do the same. When contacted by Fairfax Media, however, the owner of Louisson’s old apartment, Louise Ommundson, a director of custom-made furniture company Evostyle, said she’d received complaints from the people living in the block and had now, as a result, decided to stop it being used for Airbnb. She said her brother, Chris Cooper, had rented the unit from her and subsequently turned it over to Airbnb. “It’s going to go back to a rental place,” she said. “It isn’t working out with the other residents. I’m not against Airbnb, but that place isn’t the right environment for that sort of thing. It’s caused a lot of anguish.” At the time of publishing, the apartment was still being advertised on Airbnb. When Fairfax Media suggested she offer it back to Louisson, Ommundson said: “I hadn’t thought of that but I’d be happy to. He was a good tenant.” Louisson says he complained to North Sydney Council but nothing had been done. “It’s actually not legal to turn a residential apartment building effectively into a commercial business, but nothing has happened,” he says. “You’re not meant to have tenants there for less than three months, but now it’s changing nightly. And you wonder how much money they’ll make on New Year’s Eve. “I’m just incredibly upset about what happened. I love Kirribilli and imagined I’d be spending the next 10 years there. It’s so peaceful and quiet and yet nearly everything’s within a 10-minute walk. But now it seems it’s just for rich people or for tourists.” Ironically, under proposals currently before NSW Parliament, North Sydney could soon no longer be able to ban short-term holiday lets such as Airbnb. Burt, from Neighbours Not Strangers, says the success of Airbnb is the envy of all short-term lease operators who are now all trying to follow suit, too. “We are just leaking housing now, even while everyone debates the lack of affordable housing,” she says. “It’s so distressing on so many levels.” https://www.facebook.com/events/335717233453448/permalink/358619071163264/?hc_location=ufi Indeed, there are currently 13 one-bedroom apartments and 18 two-bedroom apartments to rent in Kirribilli listed on property site domain.com.au. On Airbnb, there are 306 listings of properties to rent. Kirribilli was named as one of the Airbnb hotspots in a study conducted by Fairfax Media this year. The group Neighbours Not Strangers, critics of Airbnb when it pushes homes away from residential use and into short-term lets, says this is typical of what’s happening everywhere in Sydney, and globally. “We’re at a crisis point with housing now,” says convenor Trish Burt. “From May this year there’s been a 75.5 per cent increase in listings in Airbnb in Sydney, that’s 23,558 Sydney dwellings no longer available for people to live in. They’re bleeding the residential housing market dry.” North Sydney Council, when told of the couple’s situation, said it would investigate. A spokesman said: “At the moment, North Sydney Council defines an Airbnb-type stay as short-term accommodation [which] is considered a commercial activity and outside the permitted use within residential zones in terms of the North Sydney LEP. “Properties in residential zones are considered to be for residential occupation and not for short-term letting except as permanent residential occupation, usually defined as a period of three months or more.” Airbnb spokesman Dylan Smith said the company proactively reminds its hosts of their obligations to follow locally set rules and regulations. “Overwhelmingly, Airbnb hosts in NSW are everyday people – mums and dads, seniors and young families – who occasionally list their primary residence or spare room to make a modest extra bit of income,” he said. “Our hosts tell us this extra income helps pay down the mortgage, cover bills and household expenses. Others list their home to pay for their own holiday away with the family once or twice a year.” But Louisson, now living with his girlfriend in Waterloo, says he’s angry not only for himself and other renters driven out of their homes, but also about the risks to those Airbnb customers. “Our old bedroom is advertised with a queen bed and a single, capable of sleeping three; the second bedroom has a bed and a trundle underneath with a double bed so that’s for four, and then the living room couch is shown being made into a bed to sleep two,” he says. “I just wonder what would happen if there was a fire or anything went wrong? They’ve put a second fridge in front of the back door, which is technically a fire exit, so how would all those people escape quickly?” With the same family owning more than one of the four units in the boutique block on Hipwood Street, it effectively has control of the Owners Corporation, so no one can stop them. A family with two small children renting the fourth apartment have already complained about all the noise, strangers in the block and people barging their way constantly through the common areas with luggage, but are fearful their landlord will choose to evict them and do the same. When contacted by Fairfax Media, however, the owner of Louisson’s old apartment, Louise Ommundson, a director of custom-made furniture company Evostyle, said she’d received complaints from the people living in the block and had now, as a result, decided to stop it being used for Airbnb. She said her brother, Chris Cooper, had rented the unit from her and subsequently turned it over to Airbnb. “It’s going to go back to a rental place,” she said. “It isn’t working out with the other residents. I’m not against Airbnb, but that place isn’t the right environment for that sort of thing. It’s caused a lot of anguish.” At the time of publishing, the apartment was still being advertised on Airbnb. When Fairfax Media suggested she offer it back to Louisson, Ommundson said: “I hadn’t thought of that but I’d be happy to. He was a good tenant.” Louisson says he complained to North Sydney Council but nothing had been done. “It’s actually not legal to turn a residential apartment building effectively into a commercial business, but nothing has happened,” he says. “You’re not meant to have tenants there for less than three months, but now it’s changing nightly. And you wonder how much money they’ll make on New Year’s Eve. “I’m just incredibly upset about what happened. I love Kirribilli and imagined I’d be spending the next 10 years there. It’s so peaceful and quiet and yet nearly everything’s within a 10-minute walk. But now it seems it’s just for rich people or for tourists.” Ironically, under proposals currently before NSW Parliament, North Sydney could soon no longer be able to ban short-term holiday lets such as Airbnb. Burt, from Neighbours Not Strangers, says the success of Airbnb is the envy of all short-term lease operators who are now all trying to follow suit, too. “We are just leaking housing now, even while everyone debates the lack of affordable housing,” she says. “It’s so distressing on so many levels.”

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Lockheed Martin CEO commits to driving down F-35 fighter's costs

Fri Dec 23, 2016 | 7:10pm EST Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson leaves after a meeting with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson leaves after a meeting with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria Lockheed Martin Corp said its Chief Executive Marillyn Hewson gave U.S. President-elect Donald Trump a personal commitment to bring down the price of its F-35 fighter jet, after he heaped pressure on the aerospace company over the cost. Lockheed's shares fell on Friday after Trump's message on Twitter, and after he earlier tweeted that he had asked rival Boeing Co to "price-out" an older aircraft as an alternative. Hewson said in a statement tweeted by Lockheed that the company would "aggressively" drive down the cost of the F-35, which brought in about 20 percent of Lockheed's sales last year. Trump's transition team did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Lockheed shares ended down nearly 1.3 percent in Friday trading on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Anya George Tharakan in Bengaluru, editing by G Crosse)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Last Hurrah for Obama’s Justice Department: Bank Settlements Over Toxic Mortgages

Last Hurrah for Obama’s Justice Department: Bank Settlements Over Toxic Mortgages By LANDON THOMAS Jr. and JACK EWINGDEC. 23, 2016 Continue reading the main storyShare This Page Share Tweet Email More Save Photo Deutsche Bank on Wall Street. Investors were relieved this week when the bank reached a $7.2 billion settlement with the Justice Department to end an investigation into the sale of toxic mortgage securities. Credit Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg European banks have rushed to cut deals with prosecutors over longstanding claims that they pushed toxic mortgage securities in the years before the financial crisis. The payouts are steep: Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse said that they would disgorge nearly $13 billion combined to settle with the United States Justice Department. But with the clock ticking before President-elect Donald J. Trump takes over, these banks may have benefited from what appears to be an eagerness on the part of Washington to conclude cases before a new, potentially more sympathetic, administration begins. The $7.2 billion settlement with Deutsche Bank was a relief on Friday to its investors, who were rattled when it emerged in September that prosecutors were seeking a penalty of as much as $14 billion. Shares of Deutsche Bank rose as much as 5 percent in trading in Frankfurt, before settling up 0.8 percent. Continue reading the main story RELATED COVERAGE Credit Suisse to Pay $5.3 Billion to Resolve Mortgage Inquiry DEC. 23, 2016 Deutsche Bank to Settle Mortgage Inquiry for $7.2 Billion DEC. 22, 2016 Justice Department Sues Barclays Over Mortgage-Backed Securities DEC. 22, 2016 ADVERTISEMENT Continue reading the main story A smaller player in the mortgage-backed securities market, the British bank Barclays, appears to be willing to take its chances under the administration of Mr. Trump. Barclays said on Thursday that it would “vigorously defend” itself in court against a complaint brought by the Justice Department after settlement talks collapsed. Its shares fell 0.9 percent in London trading as investors weighed the legal risk. The government says that Barclays, which like Deutsche Bank has significant operations in New York, sold more than $31 billion in mortgage securities that turned out to be “catastrophic failures.” A decade ago, bundling and structuring mortgages on American homes into securities to be sold to investors around the world was a hugely profitable business for Wall Street banks, American and European. But as risky mortgages began tumbling into default, the securities turned toxic, and the resulting panic led to a global financial crisis in 2008. Holding the banks accountable for that meltdown continues to be debated in political campaigns, books, op-ed articles and movies like “The Big Short.” The crackdown on banks for those tainted securities was the Obama era Justice Department’s biggest and most prominent crisis-era legal effort by far. Banks, most of them American, have paid more $100 billion in settlements with the government in recent years. Yet the Obama administration has been criticized for allowing banks to write big checks to settle claims and for not prosecuting Wall Street executives. Now, as the end of the administration nears, recent legal setbacks may have emboldened Barclays. (The Swiss bank UBS and the Royal Bank of Scotland remain in settlement talks with the Justice Department.) In May, a federal appeals court overturned a $1.27 billion penalty against Bank of America over the sale of troubled mortgages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The appeals panel found that prosecutors did not provide sufficient evidence that either the bank’s Countrywide unit or a former Countrywide executive had committed fraud in a loan program known as “the hustle.” For its fight with the Justice Department, Barclays is bringing in a team of lawyers from Williams & Connolly who represented Bank of America in that case. Barclays will also rely on its usual counsel at Sullivan & Cromwell. Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse have been eager to move past their troubled legal legacies and overhaul their respective banks. Credit Suisse said on Friday that it would pay $5.3 billion over its role in mortgage securities. For Deutsche Bank in particular, a settlement lifts a cloud that had been hanging heavily over the bank, and making it all the more difficult for its leader to break with its past. In recent years, its legal woes have gone beyond toxic mortgage securities to include manipulating benchmark interest rates and allegations of Russian money laundering. Photo John Cryan, who became chief executive of Deutsche Bank in 2015, has been trying to move the bank beyond its legal problems. Credit Boris Roessler/European Photopress Agency Since taking over in mid-2015, John Cryan, Deutsche Bank’s chief executive, has been trying to undo this legacy. But the settlement does not dispel doubts about whether Mr. Cryan can retain membership among the world’s top investment banks. Especially in the United States, Deutsche Bank’s ability to compete with Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase is likely to be hampered by the costly settlement. And no institution can call itself a global investment bank without a strong presence on Wall Street. “It’s the most important market for investment banking,” said Ingo Speich, a senior fund manager at Union Investment in Frankfurt. “If they want to offer investment banking services globally, they can’t get around the U.S.” One American connection of Deutsche Bank has drawn attention lately. In a financial disclosure form filed in 2015, Mr. Trump disclosed that the wealth management division of the bank was among the firms that managed stock investments for him. The transition team for Mr. Trump has since said it has sold the president-elect’s stock holdings. In that same filing, Mr. Trump reported that his businesses have taken out loans or mortgages from Deutsche worth as much as $125 million. Some critics have suggested that Mr. Trump’s business and personal dealings with Deutsche Bank could pose a conflict of interest. Mr. Cryan, meanwhile, is trying to pull off several transformations at once. He has been hacking away at a catalog of charges of wrongdoing and litigation that, in the bank’s most recent quarterly report, required more than eight pages to explain. Other charges include violating international embargoes against countries like Iran and manipulating currency markets. In addition, Mr. Cryan has been trying to infuse the bank with a stronger sense of ethics to avoid future scandals. He also has been shrinking the bank’s assets — the sum of its outstanding loans, derivatives and other holdings — to reduce its need for capital and meet stricter regulatory requirements. And he has been trying to cut costs and improve efficiency, including laying off thousands of workers and bringing order to the bank’s Balkanized information technology systems. As Deutsche Bank made acquisitions over the years to expand its services, it acquired a variety of computer systems that were never properly integrated. American regulators have criticized Deutsche for not being able to answer requests for information because its technology was antiquated. Most important, Mr. Cryan has been trying to convince investors and demoralized employees that Deutsche Bank can find new sources of profit and growth despite its setbacks. Only then can it avoid the fate of European rivals that have sharply curtailed their investment banks, like Credit Suisse. Deutsche Bank’s supporters point out that it still has many strengths. It ranks among the world’s top currency traders. With its operations in Frankfurt and London, Deutsche Bank could benefit as clients shift financial operations to the Continent because of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. The bank may also be well positioned to take advantage of growth in Europe’s corporate bond markets. Companies in Europe tend to rely on traditional bank loans, but increasingly are turning to debt markets, as is already the case in the United States. Deutsche Bank is a leading issuer of corporate debt. And some clients are wary of the dominance of the big American investment banks and are eager to do business with a European bank instead. But attempts to capitalize on those opportunities are likely to be hampered for years by errors of the past. “The question is how many risks are still in the pipeline,” Mr. Speich of Union Investment said. “It’s too early to say the worst is over.” Follow Jack Ewing on Twitter @JackEwingNYT. Matthew Goldstein and Chad Bray contributed reporting. Continue reading the main story FROM OUR ADVERTISERS RELATED COVERAGE Credit Suisse to Pay $5.3 Billion to Resolve Mortgage Inquiry DEC. 23, 2016 Deutsche Bank to Settle Mortgage Inquiry for $7.2 Billion DEC. 22, 2016 Justice Department Sues Barclays Over Mortgage-Backed Securities DEC. 22, 2016

Hijacked Libyan plane lands in Malta with 118 on board

Fri Dec 23, 2016 | 11:45am GMT leftright 4/4leftright Maltese troops survey a hijacked Libyan Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 on the runway at Malta Airport, December 23, 2016. REUTERS/Darrin Zamit-Lupi An airliner on an internal flight in Libya was hijacked by a man claiming to have a hand grenade on Friday and diverted to Malta, where it landed with 118 people on board. The hijacker told crew he was "pro-Gaddafi" and that he was willing to let all 111 passengers leave the Airbus A320, but not its seven crew, if his demands were met, the Times of Malta said. It was unclear what the demands were or whether the hijacker was acting alone. Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed in an uprising in 2011, and the country has been racked by factional violence since. Troops took up positions a few hundred metres (yards) from the plane as it stood on the tarmac and no one was seen boarding or leaving it. The aircraft's engines were still running 45 minutes after it landed in late morning, the Times of Malta said. All other flights at Malta International Airport were cancelled or diverted, it said. The aircraft had been flying from Sebha in southwest Libya to Tripoli for state-owned Afriqiyah Airways, a route that would usually take a little over two hours. The tiny Mediterranean island of Malta, a European Union member, is about 500 km (300 miles) north of Tripoli. ALSO IN WORLD NEWS Berlin market attack suspect killed in shootout in northern Italy Syrian rebels shell Aleppo after withdrawal Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tweeted: "Informed of potential hijack situation of a #Libya internal flight diverted to #Malta. Security and emergency operations standing by -JM". (Reporting by Chris Scicluna; Written by Andrew Roche Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

ar from the Taliban to mine for copper in Afghanistan

Taliban fighters with a vehicle on highways in Afghanistan. The Taliban say they're giving China the green light to restart a $3 billion mining project, but Afghanistan's legal government says the militant group is just blowing smoke. "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan directs all its Mujahideen to help in the security of all national projects that are in the higher interest of Islam and the country," the Taliban announced on Nov. 29, adding that a massive copper mine called Mes Aynak is among the sites it is "committed to safeguarding." Mes Aynak was signed over to China's state-owned Metallurgical Group Corporation in 2008. Speaking to CNBC on Friday, the Afghan government dismissed the Taliban's announcement. "The Taliban never protects projects, and it isn't their job. There is no stake for a terrorist group in the [national] projects," said Javid Faisal, a spokesman for Afghanistan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. Over the last 15 years, he noted, the Taliban have "attacked highways, destroyed bridges, burned schools, clinics, and universities." The Mes Aynak copper mine is north of Kabul and is protected by a security unit under the Afghan Ministry of Interior. The Taliban killed eight Afghan workers near Mes Aynak in June 2014. "The Taliban never protects projects, and it isn't their job." -Javid Faisal, spokesman for Afghanistan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah In 2008, China signed a 30-year contract with the Afghan government to access the world's second largest untapped copper deposit at Mes Aynak, which happens to lie underneath the ruins of an ancient Buddhist city. Security concerns have stalled the project. The Taliban have been fighting against the U.S.-backed Afghan government since 2001, when their authoritarian regime was overthrown by NATO working with local fighters. Robert Crews, a professor at Stanford University and author of the book "Afghan Modern: The History of a Global Nation," said the Taliban's announcement is designed to give the militant group longed-for credibility. "Taliban spokesmen have been presenting the movement as a competent, development-oriented government-in-waiting, one that can advance the welfare of the Afghan people more efficiently than the current Afghan government," Crews said. The protection of national development projects is an important plank in a "multifaceted strategy aimed at winning popular support for a return to power, or at least inclusion in some kind of future power-sharing arrangement," Crews added

Brisbane, Melbourne investors turn to Airbnb for tenants

Dec 2 2016 at 5:39 PM Updated Dec 2 2016 at 5:39 PM Save Article License Article Brisbane, Melbourne investors turn to Airbnb for tenants Share via Email Share on Google Plus Post on facebook wall Share on twitter Post to Linkedin Share on Reddit Property owner Jason Agnew uses Airbnb to rent out his one-bedroom unit because of apartment oversupply in Brisbane CBD. Property owner Jason Agnew uses Airbnb to rent out his one-bedroom unit because of apartment oversupply in Brisbane CBD. Tammy Law Share on twitter by Misa Han The oversupply of apartments in the Brisbane and Melbourne CBD is forcing property investors to resort to Airbnb as an alternative to longer term tenants. Gold Coast-based property investors Jason Agnew and his wife Louise have taken that course for a 59-square-metre one-bedroom unit in Oaks Charlotte Towers in the heart of Brisbane CBD. The couple, who run their own wealth advisory company Lyfe Property, turned to Airbnb because they were worried about not being able to find a long-term tenant quickly enough. "We've looked into it seriously through two different agencies. It's quite unreliable because of oversupply of units up here, so we thought we would give Airbnb a shot," Agnew told AFR Weekend. If the flat is let full-time, the Agnews will get $560 a week in rental income after paying a 20 per cent commission to Hostmybnb, a company that manages Airbnb properties. Agnew reckons he would earn about $440 a week from long-term tenants after paying an 8 per cent commission to real estate agencies. Brisbane has one of Australia's highest home vacancy rates at 3.0 per cent, compared to 1.7 per cent in Sydney and 1.9 per cent in Melbourne, according to the latest SQM Research data. In Brisbane CBD the vacancy rate is as high as 5.1 per cent and in South Brisbane, 5.8 per cent. Last month the Reserve Bank of Australia internal documents said inner-city Brisbane and Melbourne were facing oversupply of new apartments. Supply in Brisbane CBD is expected to increase by 25 per cent in in the next two years. Uniquely Brisbane problem Managing director Oliver Lee of Sydney-based Hostmybnb said three out of four inquiries were now from Brisbane investors who can't find long-term tenants. "We actually didn't want to go to Brisbane to tell you the truth, but we started getting hammered with inquiries from investors," Lee said. The company now has a property manager in Brisbane who looks after six properties and is planning on taking on three more in the coming weeks. "It's a uniquely Brisbane problem because there is an oversupply of apartments. And the reason why they contact us is because they can't find any tenants." Lee said one potential client had to lower rent from $480 to $350 for a two-bedroom apartment in Brisbane's South Bank. He said investment apartments often sit empty for two or three months. But even on Airbnb Brisbane investors are facing the oversupply problem. According to Airbnb data analytics site Beyond Pricing, since January 2015 Brisbane's Airbnb properties had an average vacancy rate of 52 per cent, compared to 33 per cent in Sydney and 40 per cent in Melbourne. Melbourne investors getting on board Agnew said he was worried about not having enough guests but the occupancy rate so far has been relatively high, including both corporate travellers and tourists. "We were concerned about that but the unit is in the Brisbane CBD so we are not just hosting guests who are on holiday," Agnew said. "One concern is if more investors join Airbnb maybe there will be oversupply but there is not much competition at the moment." Melbourne-based Airbnb property management company HostKeep has also noticed the trend. Owners of one Southbank two-bedroom apartment lowered the rent from $560 to $520 in a five-week campaign and couldn't found a tenant. The residential vacancy rate in Southbank is double the Melbourne average at 3.8 per cent. "We have a lot of owners who contact us because they've been waiting for too long to find quality tenants," HostKeep director Gareth Men said. "With the supply of new apartments coming it's only going to get harder." misa.han@fairfaxmedia.com.au Preview thumb AFR Magazine Dynamic Watch Summer Explore the new interactive Summer issue of our Watch Magazine. Read Now Cover thumb From Bentley to Breitling: tales of a time traveller Cover A club for people who love to watch watches Cover top Hermès artistic director won't be typecast i Share via Email Share on Google Plus Post on facebook wall Share on twitter Post to Linkedin Share on Reddit Recommended 'Airbnb landlords' take rental properties off Sydney market 'Airbnb landlords' take rental properties off Sydney market Donald Trump says US should expand its nuclear weapons capability Donald Trump says US should expand its nuclear weapons… Bill Gates' annual end-of-year book list for 2016 Bill Gates' annual end-of-year book list for 2016 Berlin on terror alert as German police resume search for man responsible for truck attack Berlin on terror alert as German police resume search for… Lawyer starts second line of work bags in disguise Lawyer starts second line of work bags in disguise From Around the Web 11 Rules For Building Wealth After 50 11 Rules For Building Wealth After 50 Motley Fool Australia Shane Oliver’s Top Investment Tips for SMSFs in a Low Return Market Shane Oliver’s Top Investment Tips for SMSFs in a Low… AMP Capital How 3 Big Tech Advancements Will Change The Future Of Business How 3 Big Tech Advancements Will Change The Future Of… NBN on Business Insider 3 pharma stocks with high growth potential 3 pharma stocks with high growth potential Morningstar How This Business Started With Only A Garage And An Internet Connection How This Business Started With Only A Garage And An… NBN on Business Insider Recommended by Read more: http://www.afr.com/real-estate/residential/brisbane-melbourne-investors-turn-to-airbnb-for-tenants-20161130-gt1g8q#ixzz4TeWTjId9 Follow us: @FinancialReview on Twitter | financialreview on Facebook

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Deutsche Bank reaches US$7.2 billion settlement with DoJ on mortgages case

REUTERS: Deutsche Bank said it would pay US$7.2 billion to the U.S. Department of Justice, related to its issuance and underwriting of residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) and other activities during 2005 to 2007. The agreement is less than the US$14 billion the United States asked Deutsche Bank to pay in September to settle the claims. That negotiating figure caused Deutsche Bank's stock to plummet and raised questions about the bank's stability and the risks it poses to the financial system. Under the settlement, Deutsche Bank will pay a civil monetary penalty of US$3.1 billion and provide US$4.1 billion in consumer relief in the United States. This is not the final agreement and there can be no assurance that the DoJ and the bank will agree on the final documentation, the bank said on Friday. Deutsche Bank expects to record a pretax charge of about US$1.17 billion in its fourth quarter because of the civil monetary penalty. The settlement marked the first in a possible string of mortgage-related resolutions or lawsuits by the DoJ for European banks. The DoJ on Thursday sued Barclays Plc on charges of fraud in the sale of mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the 2008-09 financial crisis. (Reporting by Anya George Tharakan and Parikshit Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Sandra Maler and Gopakumar Warrier

nesia to allow export of mineral concentrates if conditions are met

Indonesia may allow miners to negotiate contract extension five years before expiry: minister (link: http://reut.rs/2idPnLJ) reut.rs/2idPnLJ Indonesia to allow export of mineral concentrates if conditions are met Indonesia will allow the export of mineral concentrates beyond January 2017 if miners meet certain conditions, the coordinating minister for economic affairs said on Thursday. Miners who currently have contracts of work must get a special mining license to continue exporting concentrates, Darmin Nasution told reporters. Apart from that, they must also pay export taxes and build smelters within five years, Nasution said. In 2014, Indonesia said it will ban export of all concentrates from January 2017. However, the government had come under pressure from the mining industry to ease the ban. ADVERTISING inRead invented by Teads (Reporting by Bernadette Christina Munthe; Writing by Eveline Danubrata; Editing by Manolo Serapio Jr.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

SHAREHOLDER ALERT: Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP Encourages Investors Who Suffered Losses In Excess Of $100,000 Investing In Pattern Energy Group Inc. To Contact The Firm Before Lead Plaintiff Deadline

SHAREHOLDER ALERT: Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP Encourages Investors Who Suffered Losses In Excess Of $100,000 Investing In Pattern Energy Group Inc. To Contact The Firm Before Lead Plaintiff Deadline By Published: Dec 21, 2016 8:08 p.m. ET NEW YORK, Dec. 21, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP, a leading national securities law firm, reminds investors in Pattern Energy Group Inc. ("Pattern Energy" or the "Company") PEGI, -0.36% of the January 10, 2017 deadline to seek the role of lead plaintiff in a federal securities class action lawsuit filed against the Company and certain officers. The lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of all those who purchased common shares of Pattern Energy between May 9, 2016 and November 4, 2016 (the "Class Period"). The case, Walsh v. Pattern Energy Group, Inc. et al, No. 3:16-cv-06560 was filed on November 11, 2016. The lawsuit focuses on whether the Company and its executives violated federal securities laws by making false and/or misleading statements and/or failing to disclose that: (i) Pattern Energy's operations were deficient with respect to various transactions, process level, and monitoring controls; (ii) as a result, the Company lacked effective internal financial controls; and (iii) as a result, Pattern Energy's public statements were materially false and misleading. Specifically, on November 7, 2016, Pattern Energy announced its results for the quarter ended September 30, 2016. The Company disclosed a material weakness in internal controls over financial reporting. On this news, Pattern Energy's share price fell from $21.62 per share on November 4, 2016 to a closing price of $20.86 on November 7, 2016 —a $0.76 or a 3.52% drop. Request more information now by clicking here: www.faruqilaw.com/PEGI . There is no cost or obligation to you. Take Action If you invested in Pattern Energy common stock or options between May 9, 2016 and November 4, 2016 and would like to discuss your legal rights, visit www.faruqilaw.com/PEGI. You can also contact us by calling Richard Gonnello toll free at 877-247-4292 or at 212-983-9330 or by sending an e-mail to rgonnello@faruqilaw.com. Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP also encourages anyone with information regarding Pattern Energy's conduct to contact the firm, including whistleblowers, former employees, shareholders and others. The court-appointed lead plaintiff is the investor with the largest financial interest in the relief sought by the class that is adequate and typical of class members who directs and oversees the litigation on behalf of the putative class. Any member of the putative class may move the Court to serve as lead plaintiff through counsel of their choice, or may choose to do nothing and remain an absent class member. Your ability to share in any recovery is not affected by the decision of whether or not to serve as a lead plaintiff. Attorney Advertising. The law firm responsible for this advertisement is Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP (www.faruqilaw.com). Prior results do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome with respect to any future matter. We welcome the opportunity to discuss your particular case. All communications will be treated in a confidential manner. FARUQI & FARUQI, LLP 685 Third Avenue, 26 [th] Floor New York, NY 10017 Attn: Richard Gonnello, Esq. rgonnello@faruqilaw.com Telephone: (877) 247-4292 or (212) 983-9330 To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/shareholder-alert-faruqi--faruqi-llp-encourages-investors-who-suffered-losses-in-excess-of-100000-investing-in-pattern-energy-group-inc-to-contact-the-firm-before-lead-plaintiff-deadline-300382805.html SOURCE Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP Copyright (C) 2016 PR Newswire. All rights reserved

EU Probes Facebook Over WhatsApp Merger

December 20, 2016BILL DOTINGA Share this post Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook (CN) – European regulators on Tuesday said they suspect Facebook gave them “incorrect or misleading” information during their examination of its 2014 merger with mobile messaging service WhatsApp. The European Commission said it believes that despite an assertion to the contrary, Facebook had the technology at the time to match its users’ accounts with WhatsApp user accounts. The regulatory body said it was tipped to the truth by an update earlier this year to WhatsApp’s terms of service, which notified users of the possibility of linking their phone numbers with their Facebook identities. In its statement of objections sent to Facebook on Tuesday, the commission said it believes the technology to automatically link the platforms’ users already existed at the time of the merger and that Facebook either “intentionally or negligently submitted incorrect or misleading information to the commission” during its examination of the merger. “Companies are obliged to give the commission accurate information during merger investigations. They must take this obligation seriously. Our timely and effective review of mergers depends on the accuracy of the information provided by the companies involved,” competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement. “In this specific case, the commission’s preliminary view is that Facebook gave us incorrect or misleading information during the investigation into its acquisition of WhatsApp. Facebook now has the opportunity to respond.” Facebook has until Jan. 31 to respond, and the commission stressed this investigation will not affect its clearance of the merger. The social media giant faces a fine of up to one percent of its annual turnover – $18 billion in 2015 – if the commission’s suspicions are confirmed. In a statement, Facebook said it’s confident the commission will find it acted in good faith. “We’ve consistently provided accurate information about our technical capabilities and plans, including in submissions about the WhatsApp acquisition and in voluntary briefings before WhatsApp’s privacy policy update this year,” Facebook said. “We’re pleased that the commission stands by its clearance decision, and we will continue to cooperate and share information officials need to resolve their questions.”

VirnetX Class Accuses Big Brokers of Naked Short Sales

December 19, 2016 CHRIS FRY HACKENSACK, N.J. (CN) – Investors claim in a federal class action that Goldman Sachs and other banking giants suppressed the share price of VirnetX, “a leader in mobile security technology.” In addition to Goldman Sachs, the Dec. 14 complaint in Bergen County Superior Court takes aim at Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab and the Bank of New York Mellon. The case is the Top Download for Courthouse News on Monday. As they have with countless other stocks, according to the complaint, the brokerages schemed to execute naked short sales for shares of VirnetX, with no intention of delivering stock to settle the short sales. “Instead, these prime brokers have intentionally failed to deliver VirnetX stock to settle the short positions so as to reap huge profits and ingratiate themselves to their hedge fund and corporate clients,” the complaint says. ingratiate ɪnˈɡreɪʃɪeɪt/ verb bring oneself into favour with someone by flattering or trying to please them. "a sycophantic attempt to ingratiate herself with the local aristocracy" synonyms: curry favour with, find the favour of, cultivate, win over, get on the good side of, get in someone's good books; Typical short sales involve the sale of securities an investor does not actually own, but instead borrowed for delivery with the anticipation that the price of the stock would decline, netting a profit. Though this practice is legal, the sale becomes an illegal naked short sale if the brokerage fails to deliver sales of the shorted stock by the settlement date. Two New Jersey-based investors, Lisa Karoon and Manickam Ganesh, say the brokers have been naked short selling shares of VirnetX since at least Feb. 1, 2013. VirnetX vice president Greg Wood has complained about this illegal activity several times to the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to the complaint, which specifies that Wood sent several emails in March this year to SEC officials about the conduct. Part of what has allowed the brokers to disguise much of their naked short selling, the class says, is their relationship with the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation, or DTCC. “The DTCC is a powerful unregulated corporate institution that monopolizes the clearance and settlement of all United States securities transactions,” the complaint states. This is contributing to, but is not the sole cause of, VirnetX’s stock losses, shareholders say. “In addition, these prime brokers have ‘painted the tape,’” the complaint states. “They have manipulated the market and fixed the price of VirnetX stock through massive ‘dumping’ of VirnetX shares at key moments, all so as to create negative market sentiment, a ‘piling’ of short sales, and depression of the price of the stock so as to further their own short sale strategies and those of their hedge fund and corporate clients.” Wood, the VirnetX VP, is said to have noted this practice as well. In a February email to the SEC, Wood supposedly noted that 160,000 shares of VirnetX were dumped in the last 10 minutes of trading, which represented over 10 percent volume for the full trading day. The class says such manipulations dramatically distorted the VirnetX stock price. A drastic drop from some $35 a share to $3 occurred, according to the complaint, “despite the market’s upward movement; despite what had been an expected rise of the VirnetX shares to a projected $60 range; and despite the fact that VirnetX has been awarded $302.4 million by a jury in patent litigation against Apple.” The banks have faced millions of dollars worth of fines for this very conduct, according to the complaint, but “federal regulations and laws have not diminished Defendants’ insatiable appetite for illicit profits.” “Apart from large fees, commissions and interest that they charged, the ability and willingness of defendants to engage in naked short selling enhanced their competitiveness with hedge fund and corporate clients, who wanted to manipulate the market and depress the price of VirnetX stock,” the complaint states. The class also accuses the brokers of having concealed their illegal tactics by taking affirmative steps to keep the VirnetX stock off of an SEC list of naked short sales and delivery failures called Regulation SHO. “Discovery will certainly reveal that the Defendants circulated and marketed data concerning VirnetX and other highly shorted stocks to clients by distributing lists of top shorted stocks, knowing that they had the ability to offer its artificial supply,” the complaint states. Alleging violations of federal anti-racketeering law, fraud and conspiracy, among other claims, the class seeks $9.72 billion in damages – three times the lost value of $3.24 billion. They are represented by Philip Guarino in Montclair, N.J. The investors seek to represent a class of about 5,000 people or entities who owned shares of VirnetX stock at any point between Feb. 1, 2013 and the filing of the complaint. Representatives for Merrill Lynch, Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade all declined to comment. Goldman Sachs and the other defendants have not returned requests for comment.

Egypt’s Orascom Wins Cairo Metro Line Phase 4B & $363m Power Contract

February 29, 2012 in Construction & Engineering In Iraq, Iraq Public Works News Iraq’s cabinet has approved a $363 million (435 billion Iraqi dinar) contract on Tuesday with Egypt’s Orascom Construction to build a 1,014 MW gas-fired power plant in the northern town of Baiji [Beiji, Bayji]. The contract involves building the plant and installing six 169 MW generators which Iraq bought from Siemens in 2008. The project is expected to be completed within 21 months, Musab al-Mudarres [Musaab al-Mudarris], a spokesman at the electricity ministry, told Reuters. Iraqi demand for electricity peaked at 15,000 megawatts last year, but the oil-producing nation managed to supply less than half of that. (Sources: Reuters, Aswat al-Iraq) ================ Tuesday, 19 July 2016 Cairo Metro Line Phase 4B construction launched, Line 4 Phase 1 construction to be launched in 2017 The Transport Ministry launched yesterday the construction of the second part of Cairo Metro’s Line 3 Phase 4B which will run through Heliopolis to Salam City, Al Shorouk reported. Arab Contractors and Orascom Construction won the contract for this section, as we noted back in June, and Arab Contractors Chairman Mohsen Salah said yesterday the two parties are now lining up foreign contractors, according to Amwal Al Ghad. The EGP 5.9 bn Phase 4B is set to be completed by end of 2018, about half a year ahead of schedule, Transport Minister Galal Saeed said. Construction of Line 3 Phase 3 will start next September; France’s VINCI Construction Grands Projects won the bid. Meanwhile, the Egyptian Tunnels Authority will launch the construction of phase one of Cairo Metro’s fourth line by 2017 at a total cost of EGP 25 bn, authority chief Tarek Gamal El Din told Amwal Al Ghad. Line 4 Phase 1 stretches over 19 km from 6 October to Fustat and includes 17 stations, he added. The following phase, Line 4 Phase 2, will include 12 stations on a 23 km stretch and will cost EGP 30 bn. As for Lines 5 and 6, the transport ministry will be looking for sources of funding for their development, Saeed said, Amwal Al Ghad reported. Studies for Lines 5 and 6 will take up to two years to complete, the minister said.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Berlin police probe terrorism link in Christmas market killings

Tue Dec 20, 2016 | 3:53 AM EST Berlin police probe terrorism link in Christmas market killings Reuters Berlin Christmas market scene "shocking" - rescuer (00:47) Replay Photographs capture shooting death of Russian ambassador Truck plows into crowd at Berlin Christmas market, nine dead Several killed, some dozens injured in German market attack U.S. sees China returning drone soon 6h ago | 00:47 Berlin Christmas market scene "shocking" - rescuer Berlin police probe terrorism link in Christmas...X By Michelle Martin | BERLIN Investigators suspect the driver of a truck that plowed into a crowd at a Berlin Christmas market, killing 12 people and injuring 48, did so intentionally in a terrorist attack, police said on Tuesday. The truck crashed into people gathered on Monday evening around wooden huts serving mulled wine and sausages at the foot of the Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church - left as a ruin after World War Two - in the heart of former West Berlin. "Our investigators are working on the assumption that the truck was deliberately steered into the crowd at the Christmas market...," police said on Twitter. "All police measures related to the suspected terrorist attack at Breitscheidplatz are progressing at full steam and with the necessary diligence." It evoked memories of an attack in Nice, France in July when a Tunisian-born man drove a 19-tonne truck along the beach front, mowing down people who had gathered to watch the fireworks on Bastille Day, killing 86 people. That was claimed by Islamic State. Bild newspaper cited security sources as saying the suspect in the Berlin incident was a 23-year-old from Pakistan named Naved B. who arrived in Germany a year ago. In legal cases German officials routinely issue an initial for the surname rather than the full name. On Tuesday morning the black truck was still visible at the site of the incident and a few candles and roses had been laid by the entrance to a nearby station. Flowers were being laid in the center of the nearby Kurfuerstendamm, a prestigious shopping street. One woman was crying as she stopped by the flowers. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere had previously said there were indications that the incident was an attack. Police said a Polish man was found dead in the truck but added he was not in control of the vehicle. The nationality of the suspected driver, who fled the crash scene and was later arrested, was unclear, they said. ADVERTISEMENT . Justice Minister Heiko Maas said on Twitter that the federal prosecutor had launched preliminary proceedings into the incident. RAID ON REFUGEE CENTER Local broadcaster rbb cited security sources as saying the arrested truck driver came to Germany via Passau, a city on the Austrian border, on Dec. 31, 2015. It cited the sources as saying the man was born on Jan. 1, 1993 in Pakistan and was already known to police for minor offences. ‹ Rescue workers stand near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski 25/25 Rescue workers stand near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski A candle with a sticker reading ''I am Berlin - For more humanity and compassion'' near the scene where a truck ploughed into a crowded Christmas market in the German capital last night in Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016.. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch 1/25 A candle with a sticker reading ''I am Berlin - For more humanity and compassion'' near the scene where a truck ploughed into a crowded Christmas market in the German capital last night in Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016.. Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch Rescue workers tow the truck which ploughed into a crowded Christmas market in the German capital last night in Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016.. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch 2/25 Rescue workers tow the truck which ploughed into a crowded Christmas market in the German capital last night in Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016.. Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch Police stand in front of the truck which ploughed last night into a crowded Christmas market in the German capital Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke 3/25 Police stand in front of the truck which ploughed last night into a crowded Christmas market in the German capital Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016. Reuters/Hannibal Hanschke Police stand in front of the truck which ploughed last night into a crowded Christmas market in the German capital Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke 4/25 Police stand in front of the truck which ploughed last night into a crowded Christmas market in the German capital Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016. Reuters/Hannibal Hanschke Police stand in front of the truck which ploughed last night into a crowded Christmas market in the German capital Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke 5/25 Police stand in front of the truck which ploughed last night into a crowded Christmas market in the German capital Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016. Reuters/Hannibal Hanschke Rescue workers inspect the crashed truck at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke 6/25 Rescue workers inspect the crashed truck at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016. Reuters/Hannibal Hanschke The damaged windscreen of the truck which ploughed into a crowded Christmas market last night is pictured in the German capital Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke 7/25 The damaged windscreen of the truck which ploughed into a crowded Christmas market last night is pictured in the German capital Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016. Reuters/Hannibal Hanschke Rescue workers and police inspect the crashed truck at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke 8/25 Rescue workers and police inspect the crashed truck at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016. Reuters/Hannibal Hanschke Police walks past the truck which ploughed into a crowded Christmas market in the German capital last night in Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke 9/25 Police walks past the truck which ploughed into a crowded Christmas market in the German capital last night in Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016. Reuters/Hannibal Hanschke Rescue workers are seen at the scene where a truck ploughed through a crowd at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square in Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch 10/25 Rescue workers are seen at the scene where a truck ploughed through a crowd at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square in Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016. Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch Fire fighters walk in front of the truck which ploughed into a crowded Christmas market in the German capital last night in Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke 11/25 Fire fighters walk in front of the truck which ploughed into a crowded Christmas market in the German capital last night in Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016. Reuters/Hannibal Hanschke The empty Christmas market where a truck ploughed through a crowd on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski 12/25 The empty Christmas market where a truck ploughed through a crowd on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016. Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski A tow truck operates at the scene where a truck ploughed through a crowd at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski 13/25 A tow truck operates at the scene where a truck ploughed through a crowd at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016. Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski Police and emergency workers stand next to a crashed truck at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch 14/25 Police and emergency workers stand next to a crashed truck at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch A general view shows the site where a truck ploughed through a crowd at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016 REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski 15/25 A general view shows the site where a truck ploughed through a crowd at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016 Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski A candle is burning on a German national flag near the site where a truck ploughed through a crowd at a Berlin Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016 REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch 16/25 A candle is burning on a German national flag near the site where a truck ploughed through a crowd at a Berlin Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016 Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch A German police officer looks into the truck. REUTERS/Christian Mang 17/25 A German police officer looks into the truck. Reuters/Christian Mang Police secures the area at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch 18/25 Police secures the area at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch Police and emergency workers are at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch 19/25 Police and emergency workers are at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch A fire engine is parked outside a Christmas market in Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016 after a truck ploughed into the crowded Christmas market in the German capital. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski 20/25 A fire engine is parked outside a Christmas market in Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016 after a truck ploughed into the crowded Christmas market in the German capital. Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski Fire fighters stand beside a fire engine near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski 21/25 Fire fighters stand beside a fire engine near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski Police stand guard in Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016 after a truck ploughed into the crowded Christmas market in the German capital. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski 22/25 Police stand guard in Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016 after a truck ploughed into the crowded Christmas market in the German capital. Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski Police work at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch 23/25 Police work at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch Police and emergency workers are at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch 24/25 Police and emergency workers are at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch Rescue workers stand near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski 25/25 Rescue workers stand near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski A candle with a sticker reading ''I am Berlin - For more humanity and compassion'' near the scene where a truck ploughed into a crowded Christmas market in the German capital last night in Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016.. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch 1/25 A candle with a sticker reading ''I am Berlin - For more humanity and compassion'' near the scene where a truck ploughed into a crowded Christmas market in the German capital last night in Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016.. Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch › German newspaper Die Welt said police special forces stormed a hangar at Berlin's defunct Tempelhof airport housing a refugee accommodation center at around 4 a.m. (0300 GMT). It said, without citing its sources, that the arrested man was registered there. A refugee there who gave his name only as Ahmed told Reuters security guards had told him there was a raid at around 4 a.m. Prosecutors declined to immediately comment on the report. If a migrant link is confirmed, it could further sour sentiment toward asylum seekers in Germany, where more than a million people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere have arrived this year and last. The record influx has hit Chancellor Angela Merkel's popularity ratings and boosted support for the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD). Senior AfD member Marcus Pretzell blamed Merkel for the attack on Twitter. Related Coverage German Christmas market suspect is 23-year-old from Pakistan: Bild Police storm Berlin's former airport used as refugee home: media Mulled wine, Christmas cheer precedes carnage in Berlin Trump condemns Berlin attack, says things 'only getting worse' Manfred Weber, head of the center-right European People's Party, said: "It's not an attack on a country; it's an attack on our way of life, on the free society in which we are allowed to live." Stephan Mayer, a senior member of the Christian Social Union - the Bavarian sister party to Merkel's Christian Democrats, told broadcaster ZDF it was necessary to ensure that there were no copycat attacks. Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said on ORF radio on Tuesday that he had told the heads of Austria's regional police forces to intensify surveillance measures, although there was no concrete evidence that an incident was about to happen. Sobotka also called for biometric and fingerprint checks to be introduced along the Balkan route to better control foreign jihadist fighters' movements. Berlin police are investigating leads that the truck had been stolen from a construction site in Poland. They have taken the truck for a forensic examination. Flags will be hung at half-mast around Germany on Tuesday. (Reporting by Michelle Martin, Caroline Copley, Joseph Nasr, Emma Thomasson and Paul Carrel in Berlin; additional reporting by Shadia Nasralla in Vienna; editing by John Stonestreet)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Oil slump prompts Gulf states to take shine off cushy government jobs

Sun Dec 11, 2016 | 9:59am GMT Kuwaiti oil sector employees sit in a shaded area on the first day of an official strike called by the Oil and Petrochemical Industries Workers Union over public sector pay reforms, in Ahmadi, Kuwait April 17, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee/File Photo Kuwaiti oil sector employees sit in a shaded area on the first day of an official strike called by the Oil and Petrochemical Industries Workers Union over public sector pay reforms, in Ahmadi, Kuwait April 17, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee/File Photo By Tom Finn | DOHA Ahmed, a Qatari civil servant, used to arrive at his office at a government ministry in Doha late in the morning and leave for home after lunch, collecting a monthly salary of 40,000 rial (8,748.91 pounds) and a generous housing and travel allowance. But last month a government official made a surprise spot check on the ministry's offices and found dozens of employees absent. "Punctuality is a duty," said a letter Ahmed received from the minister's office. "Qatar expects the best of its citizens." ADVERTISING inRead invented by Teads For a country whose tiny population is the world's wealthiest per capita and which sits upon its largest natural gas reserves, increasing the productivity of its 90,000 public employees might seem like a needless task. But it is part of a trend across the Gulf as economies there try to lessen the burden of costly public sectors. Gulf states have for decades used their energy wealth to provide millions of citizens with cushy government jobs, part of a social contract by rulers that rewards political acquiescence and educational attainment with employment for life. But high-paying public sector jobs that demand little of workers have led to bureaucratic inertia and an absenteeism culture that governments turned a blind eye to during the Gulf's boom years. In 2011 a Kuwait government report found that half the country's state employees were absent from work between January and March, costing the country's treasury more than 10.5 million dinars ($35 million). Since oil prices plunged in 2014, however, Arab monarchies have curbed subsidies and laid off staff as they try to trim budget deficits and build economies less reliant on hydrocarbons. In the wealthier Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries of Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, where populations are small, more than 75 percent of employed nationals work in the public sector, according to the IMF. The ratio is also high in oil-giant Saudi Arabia - which racked up a record budget deficit of nearly $100 billion last year - while in Oman, about 50 percent of employed nationals work in the public sector. Bahrain has the lowest proportion of nationals working in the public sector, at 35 percent. In one of the most dramatic efforts to shake government agencies out of their slumber, the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, carried out an early morning spot check on the city state's management in August, found empty desks, and sacked nine senior officials. Pictures of Sheikh Mohammed wandering the sparsely populated offices of the Land Department were widely published in local newspapers. Qatar, in an apparent effort to codify the responsibilities of government employees and get them working harder, last month passed a law that raised pay for workers who have achieved higher levels of education and enforced a merit-based promotion scheme. The nation's young emir has warned citizens that the state "can no longer provide for everything" and local newspaper editorials mock lazy civil servants referred to jokingly by Qataris as "people of the couch". Neighbouring Saudi Arabia in September scaled back financial perks for public sector employees in one of the most drastic measures yet by the oil-rich kingdom to save money at a time of low oil prices. SKIVING Lured by a generous salary and his own office overlooking the Arabian Gulf, 26-year-old Ahmed, who declined to give his second name, joined Qatar's ministry of transport last year after graduating from Qatar University. On his first day, Ahmed said, he was surprised to find colleagues without clear responsibilities carrying documents from one office to another. "Many workers, even managers, were engaged in watching television or sleeping," he said. One colleague advised him to get to know the "tea boys" - Nepali waiters who deliver tea to offices - so he could find out when his boss had left and do the same. Other skiving tactics included leaving a jacket on the back of his chair so a casual observer would assume he was first to arrive at the office and programming e-mails to send themselves in the afternoon so managers thought he was still at work. But superiors started to clamp down on those evading work, Ahmed said, after Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Qatar's emir, called on Nov 1 for Qataris to move off social welfare and "into action" in the face of low energy prices. Also In Business News Half of employers see UK's allure fading with Brexit - CBI survey Asia stocks slip to four-week low as higher U.S. rates bite PUBLIC ANGER After Arab spring protests in 2011, rich Gulf states spent billions of dollars raising salaries and investing in subsidies and infrastructure in part to ensure quiet at home. Wars and social turmoil spurred efforts in countries like Saudi Arabia to boost employment of their citizens and crack down on illegal hiring of foreign workers. But today austerity is unnerving citizens for whom affluence and stellar growth are the norm. Reforms are proving sensitive - politically consequential even - and there are fears that further cuts to sumptuous welfare states could heighten public anger. In May oil workers in Kuwait went on strike against a proposed overhaul of the public sector payroll system. An election last month filled the country's parliament with opposition lawmakers opposed to wage cuts and taxes. Omani medics from state-funded colleges in November held a two-week strike after their salaries were cut. Ending the legacy of public sectors being an engine of job creation, analysts say, is vital to avoid rising unemployment in years ahead if oil revenues decline again and nationals are still not working in the private sector. But Gulf youth may still expect to be entitled to a share of the national wealth whether in the form of public sector jobs with high wages or breaks from future taxes. (Additional reporting by Fatma Alarimi in MUSCAT; Editing by William Maclean/Jeremy Gaunt)