Subdivision Tips, South Australia (C: +61431138537),

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Construction for US base relocation in Okinawa continues amid protests (VIDEOS)

Published time: 25 Apr, 2017 17:12 Get short URL A crane barge works in the Henoko coastal area in Nago, Okinawa © AFP Construction for a new US military base on the Japanese island of Okinawa has taken another step forward, despite ongoing protests against the heavy American military presence and crimes committed by servicemen. Cranes could be seen lifting nets containing crushed rock and dropping them along the shore north of nearby Camp Schwab on Tuesday, according to videos posted by Japanese media. The rocks will likely serve as the foundation of a seawall built along the outer perimeter of the planned runway site, according to The Asahi Shimbun.  The move represents a step forward in the controversial relocation of the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station from Ginowan to the less-populated area of Henoko, in Nago. Full-fledged landfill work inside the sea walls is set to take place in the first half of next year. It comes despite protests against the relocation from Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga and disgruntled residents, all of whom want Okinawa freed of the base and the heavy US military presence on the island. Katsuhiro Yoshida, a senior Okinawa prefectural official tasked with dealing with issues concerning US bases in the prefecture, said the move “ignored the local will” and is “authoritarian,” adding that local citizens simply cannot accept it. Read more Japan's Okinawa governor hits out at US bases during Washington visit Onaga is considering blocking the construction through legal action, claiming the central government is required to obtain his permission for the construction work, and that the last such permit expired at the end of March. The governor has also threatened to retract approval for the landfill work, according to Kyodo news agency. Onaga’s previous efforts against the base relocation were thwarted, with Japan’s Supreme Court ruling in December that it is illegal for the governor to revoke the approval for land reclamation, which was granted by his predecessor,

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Sun will be right at top of HOLY Kaaba in Makkah on 27th/28th May 2017.

The Sun will be right at top of HOLY Kaaba in Makkah on 27th/28th May 2017. That means we can have the opportunity it to mark direction of Qibla, but there won't be sun [post sunrise day time] in our city. In Adelaide it will be 1st/2nd Ramadaan, 1439 A.H, :18:48 P.M so although there won't be sun rising, but as Astronomical Twilight will be ending [Appx. Isha Adhaan/Prayer] starts at 18:43 P.M on that day so those who are living on top of mountains or beach side properties with a view to WEST [283 Degree WNW], might be able to see Sun's last beams on the horizon[ if sky is clear], it may still give us some rough idea of Qibla. There are many other cities where sun will be rising so one can accurately mark direction of Qibla. In a city of millions, Karachi, it will be around 14:18 p.m, much higher on sky at 65 degree altitude. I wish you all a HAPPY RAMADAAN and I want to send a message of Ramazan's blessings, peace and tranquility with the start of Ramazan. Enquiries for other cities: +61431138537

Saturday, April 22, 2017

More than 150 feared dead in Taliban attack on Afghan forces base – US military

Published time: 21 Apr, 2017 16:48 Edited time: 21 Apr, 2017 17:27 Dozens have been killed in an ongoing attack on an Afghan military base, a US military official said, adding that the death toll may be over 150, Reuters reports. "We're talking probably more than 50 casualties," said Colonel John Thomas, a spokesman for the U.S. military's Central Command, as quoted by Reuters. "There is a mosque and a dining facility on the base that seemed to, at this point from our reports, be the subject of significant attack from enemy forces." Militants wearing army uniforms stormed a military compound in Afghanistan’s northern Balkh province during Friday prayers, Daulat Waziri, a spokesman for the Afghanistan Ministry of Defense, said, as reported by AP. The militants entered the building with a military vehicle and began shooting at the soldiers as they prayed in the compound’s mosque, he added. The US Central Command (CENTCOM) has condemned the attack in a statement. The spokesman also said that five assailants were killed on the spot, including one wearing a suicide vest, while one of the attackers was captured alive. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement. General Mohmand Katawazi, the commander of the Afghan Army’s 209 Corps, said that the military managed to “eliminate” all attackers, adding that the operation is over. Shaheen camp - the area attacked - was manned by soldiers of the 209 Corps. The death toll has reportedly risen to 66, the Afghan Pajhwok news agency said, citing its sources, and adding that 73 soldiers have been injured.  US-led forces entered Afghanistan to remove Taliban control more than 15 years ago, following the attacks of September 11, 2001. The US has more than 8,000 soldiers in the country, training local forces and conducting counterterrorism operations. Some 6,400 NATO soldiers remain in Afghanistan, following the large-scale NATO troop reduction there in 2014. US Army General John Nicholson recently described the situation in Afghanistan as a “stalemate” as he spoke to the US Senate Armed Services Committee. Lately, the US has concentrated on fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists in eastern Afghanistan, while also supporting Afghan National Security Forces against the Taliban. Last week, the US dropped an 11-ton “mother of all bombs” in the eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, killing 94 IS terrorists, according to the latest estimates. A figure of 36 was earlier reported. Taliban fighters overran the Sangin district of Helmand province in late March. They also killed and injured at least 15 people in coordinated attacks on a police station and an intelligence service office in Kabul earlier the same month.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Child killed in Berwick medical centre carpark crash

Andrea Hamblin and Wes Hosking, Herald Sun 16 minutes ago A CHILD has died after an out-of-control 4WD smashed into multiple vehicles at a medical centre car park in Berwick. The incident occurred just before midday in the car park of the Epworth Specialist Centre, 45km southeast of Melbourne’s CBD. The driver of a light green 100 series Toyota LandCruiser had left the nearby hospital and was driving west down Kangan Drive when he lost control. The Toyota 4WD that smashed into a carpark and killed a child. Picture: Steve Tanner The out-of-control 4WD also damaged a number of parked cars before it ended up on its side. Picture: Steve Tanner A aerial view of the crash aftermath in Berwick. Picture: Channel 7 News Cameron and Sarah Smith witnessed the incident and were overcome with emotion at news of the child’s death. Picture: Steve Tanner The car travelled over the median strip and ploughed into cars, then travelled through a garden and a further 50m before hitting the boy near the front of the medical clinic and landing on its side. Two adults were injured, with a man believed to be in his 50s taken to Dandenong Hospital in a stable condition. Major Collision Investigation Unit detectives are investigating the incident. Sarah Smith breaks down at the scene of the tragic crash. Picture: Steve Tanner Cameron Smith rendered assistance at the scene. “It is believed that just before noon a light green 100 series Toyota LandCruiser was driving on Kangan Drive,” Sgt Cameron Scott said. “The four wheel drive has driven through a car park and struck and killed a 4-year-old boy. “Two adults were also hit and their injuries are not believed to be life threatening. “The adults aren’t connected with the boy. “The driver of the car stopped at the scene and is speaking with police. Kangan Drive has been closed between Clyde Rd and Casey Hospital after the horror crash. Picture: Steve Tanner The 4WD on its side. Picture: Channel 9 “The cause of the collision is still being investigated.” A woman aged in her 60s was taken to Casey Hospital with minor injuries. Aerial photographs taken by a Seven News helicopter show a number of cars appearing to have been pushed across car park spaces on the property in Kangan Drive. Paramedics and firefighters are at the scene. Kangan Drive remains closed between Clyde Rd and Casey Hospital, which can be accessed via Soldiers Rd instead. Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Across Los Angeles, toxic lead harms children in neighborhoods rich and poor

Lead's Hidden Toll RED FLAG: In San Marino, California, a homeowner uses a home lead test – turning red when it detects the presence of the metal on the porch door of her 1920s Spanish-style house. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok Part 1: Lead poisoning afflicts hundreds of areas across Los Angeles County, from affluent hubs to low income or gentrifying areas, Reuters finds. The results surprised some local leaders, showing how lead hazards persist even in a health-conscious region. By JOSHUA SCHNEYER Filed April 20, 2017, noon GMT LOS ANGELES – With its century-old Spanish-style homes tucked behind immaculately trimmed hedges, San Marino, California, is among the most coveted spots to live in the Los Angeles area. Its public schools rank top in the state, attracting families affiliated with CalTech, the elite university blocks away. The city’s zoning rules promote a healthy lifestyle, barring fast food chains. Home values in L.A. County census tract 4641, in the heart of San Marino and 20 minutes from downtown Los Angeles, can rival those in Beverly Hills. The current average listing price: $2.9 million. But the area has another, unsettling distinction, unknown to residents and city leaders until now: More than 17 percent of small children tested here have shown elevated levels of lead in their blood, according to previously undisclosed L.A. County health data. That far exceeds the 5 percent rate of children who tested high for lead in Flint, Michigan, during the peak of that city’s water contamination crisis. The local blood test data, obtained through a records request from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, shows two neighboring San Marino census tracts are among the hotspots for childhood lead exposure in the L.A. area. Related content Interactive: Looking for lead How Reuters analyzed L.A. blood testing data Unsafe at Any Level: Read the series Backstory: Read how Reuters gathered the data on lead levels in Californian neighborhoods San Marino is hardly alone. Across sprawling L.A. County, more than 15,000 children under age 6 tested high for lead between 2011 and 2015. In all, Reuters identified 323 neighborhood areas where the rate of elevated tests was at least as high as in Flint. In 26 of them – including the two in San Marino, and some in economically stressed areas – the rate was at least twice Flint’s. The data stunned San Marino Mayor Richard Sun, who said he wasn’t aware of any poisoning cases in the community. “This is a very serious matter, and as the mayor, I really want to further explore it,” Sun said upon reviewing the numbers presented by Reuters. During an interview at City Hall, he directed city officials to investigate potential sources of exposure. THOUSANDS OF U.S. LEAD HOTSPOTS The L.A.-area findings are part of an ongoing Reuters examination of hidden lead hazards nationwide. Since last year, the news agency has identified more than 3,300 U.S. neighborhood areas with documented childhood lead poisoning rates double those found in Flint. Studies based on previously available data, surveying broad child populations across entire states or counties, usually couldn’t pinpoint these communities. Despite decades of U.S. progress in curbing lead poisoning, millions of children remain at risk. Flint’s disaster is just one example of a preventable public health crisis that continues in hotspots coast to coast, Reuters has found. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s threshold for elevated lead is 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood. Children who test at or above that threshold warrant a public health response, the agency says. Even a slight elevation can reduce IQ and stunt childhood development. There’s no safe level of lead in children’s bodies. HOPE STREET EXPOSURE: A child was poisoned by lead in this home in South Pasadena, California, in 2012, affecting his development and requiring therapy. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok “This is a very serious matter.” San Marino Mayor Richard Sun, after reviewing data showing high lead exposure rates in the affluent area In San Marino, old lead-based paint is likely the main source of exposure, county health officials said, but they added that imported food, medicine or pottery from China could also be a factor. About 80 percent of San Marino homes were built before 1960, and the community has a large Asian population, U.S. Census data show. Exposure from old paint, drinking water and soil are widely researched. Other risks – including some candies, ceramics, spices or remedies containing lead from China, Mexico, India and other countries – are less known. The L.A. blood data covers nearly 1,550 census tracts, or county subdivisions, each with an average population around 4,000. It shows the number of small children tested in each tract, and how many tested high. In California, the exposure risks children face can vary wildly by neighborhood. Many L.A. areas have little or no documented lead poisoning. Countywide, 2 percent of children tested high. But in hundreds of areas, the rate is far higher. Reuters crunched the data, and neighborhood-level results can be explored on an interactive map. (See Map, Below) In the trouble areas, old housing is commonplace. Nearly half of L.A. County’s homes were built before 1960. Lead was banned from household paint in 1978, but old paint can peel, chip, or pulverize into toxic dust. Children are often exposed in decrepit housing. But in some U.S. areas, nearly a third of lead poisoning cases can be linked to home renovation projects, said Mary Jean Brown, a public health specialist at Harvard University and former director of the CDC’s lead prevention program. San Marino residents take pride in preserving their historic homes. Among the measures Mayor Sun wants to consider: An ordinance to ensure safe practices any time home repairs or renovations could disturb lead paint. Poverty is another predictor of lead poisoning, and many of L.A.’s danger zones are concentrated in low-income or gentrifying areas near downtown and on the city’s densely populated South Side. In one low-income area of South L.A., Reuters met with the family of Kendra Nicole Rojas, a three-year-old recently diagnosed with lead poisoning, only to find that 63 other small children living within a six block radius have also tested high. “A lot of people don’t even think of the West Coast as a place where kids get poisoned,” said Linda Kite, executive director at L.A.-based Healthy Homes Collaborative. “The biggest problem we have is medical apathy. Many doctors don’t test children for lead.” The findings highlight a need for greater medical surveillance, abatement and awareness in the health-conscious county of 10 million, public health specialists said. The county and city of Los Angeles have dedicated lead prevention programs that work with at-risk families. When a child’s blood levels persist above 10 micrograms per deciliter – double the CDC threshold – the family receives a home inspection, nurse visits and follow-up. The effects of lead poisoning are irreversible, and the programs’ broader goal is to prevent any exposure. But success hinges on many actors, and assistance from agencies such as the CDC, the department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency. Like other regions, L.A. faces a looming hurdle in attacking hazards: President Donald Trump’s federal budget proposals would sharply cut funds for many lead-related programs. “We’re aware of lots of areas where homes or soil contain significant levels of lead, and those can represent an urgent need to act,” said Maurice Pantoja, chief environmental health specialist for the county program. “Any fewer resources toward poisoning prevention would be a tragedy.” A POISONED HOME Just a few miles west of San Marino, in South Pasadena, one boy’s poisoning serves as a cautionary tale. HAZARDOUS LEGACY: Floors and window areas from the interior of a home in South Pasadena, CA, in 2012, where an infant named Connor was poisoned by lead paint and dust. REUTERS/Handout via Philip Shakhnis In an old, pastel-colored home on Hope Street, an infant named Connor was exposed to lead paint and dust in 2012. The property is owned by California’s Department of Transportation, Caltrans, which had plans to expand a freeway in the area. Its floors were coated in chipping lead paint. During a bathroom repair, a crew showed up in “hazmat suits,” said tenant Cynthia Wright, Connor’s grandmother. But as the crew worked, stripping toxic paint from walls and fixtures and unleashing plumes of dust, they told the family there was no need to leave the home, Wright said. That was an unfortunate lapse, the state agency acknowledged. “There were errors in handling communications regarding this property and Caltrans has revised its business practices,” spokeswoman Lauren Wonder said, leading to “greater vigilance.” Connor continued crawling around the floors. At age one, he began missing developmental milestones. Suddenly, he lost the ability to use the few words he could say. When his mother, Heather Nolan, had him tested for lead, the result was almost five-fold the CDC threshold. Lead levels often peak among children ages one to two, when they are increasingly mobile and have hand-to-mouth behaviors. Now six, Connor needs speech and occupational therapy up to five times a week. He hasn’t been able to integrate in a mainstream classroom. “It’s not an easy road,” his grandmother said. “I would tell anyone in an old home, you really need to be aware of the risks.” In 2015, the family settled a landmark lawsuit against Caltrans for $10 million. Wright still lives in the home, which has been remediated. POOR PROSPECTS Amid an affordable housing crisis in Los Angeles, many renters don’t confront landlords to fix lead paint hazards, fearing eviction if they raise the alarm, said Kite, the healthy homes advocate. That helps explain why so many children in south and central L.A. test high. Karla Rojas, 26, was living with her extended family on 30th Street in a low-income area of South L.A. last year when her toddler, Kendra, started getting chronic bouts of illness. TOXIC WORRIES: Karla Rojas, 26, discusses her concern after her daughter Kendra Nicole Rojas, 3, was exposed to lead in South L.A. Rojas moved to a new home. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok “When you read about what lead can do, it makes me fear for her future.” Karla Rojas, whose daughter tested high for lead Mother and daughter slept on the floor, near a bookshelf where an inspector later found flaking lead paint. Tested at the local St. John’s Well Child & Family Center, Kendra’s result came back at several times the CDC threshold. Once county officials got involved, the landlord repainted the shelf and other areas where lead was found. Still, terrified her daughter’s exposure would continue, Rojas moved out. “When you read about what lead can do, it makes me fear for her future,” said Rojas, watching three-year-old Kendra play with two new pet rabbits. Exposure is common in the area, said Jeff Sanchez, a consultant at public health research firm Impact Assessment, which works with L.A.’s prevention program. Around the neighborhood, code inspectors have cited at least 35 percent of residential properties for chipping or peeling paint violations over a four-year period. Paint isn’t the only peril. A mile and a half east, in Vernon, the now shuttered Exide Technologies battery-recycling plant spewed noxious emissions for decades, polluting soil in thousands of properties with lead residue. A planned $175 million cleanup will rely in part on children’s blood tests to determine which properties should be sanitized first. Past testing has shown that children living close to the plant are at heightened risk. Yet California, like Michigan, doesn’t require lead screening for all children, leaving many untested. Prompted in part by Reuters’ previous coverage, California cities and lawmakers are pushing new initiatives to protect children. EXPOSURE SOURCE: A building from the now closed Exide factory, a former battery recycling facility in Vernon that contaminated the area with lead in its soil. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok Bill Quirk, chair of the state legislature’s Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials, recently introduced a bill to require screening for all small children. “I strongly support blood lead testing,” said U.S. Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, who represents part of L.A. County. “It’s important that residents have information about the threats they may face in their communities.” ‘DON’T WORRY, HE’S NOT AT RISK’ California’s current policy is to test children with known risk factors, including those enrolled in government assistance programs for the poor like Medicaid. The protocol, applied unevenly by healthcare providers, can miss poisoned kids. In 2013, when apparel designer Amanda Gries and her husband, a Hollywood film editor, rented a home in L.A.’s West Adams neighborhood, she was pregnant with son Wyatt, now 3. The century-old mansion was in a rapidly gentrifying area south of downtown, near landmarks such as the Staples Center and the University of Southern California. Gries, concerned about peeling paint and dust in the home, urged a pediatrician to screen Wyatt before his first birthday. “The doctor didn’t want to test,” Gries said. “The message was, ‘Don’t worry, he’s not at risk.’ It was like he didn’t fit the profile.” Gries insisted, and her fears were confirmed when Wyatt tested at nearly double the CDC’s elevated threshold. An inspection found lead in dust on the floor of Wyatt’s bedroom at 30 times the federal hazard level. The family moved out quickly and searched citywide before settling into a home on L.A.’s west side, chosen because no lead was detected inside. Wyatt is bright and energetic, Gries said, but has impulsive behaviors. He needs occupational therapy for sensory issues, at nearly $200 per session. Keeping Wyatt away from lead hazards and feeding him a special diet are part of the Gries’ daily routine. Poor nutrition can worsen lead poisoning, allowing children’s bodies to absorb more of the heavy metal. “All we can do is hope he’s okay,” said Gries. Additional reporting by M.B. Pell PRESSED FOR ANSWERS: When a doctor told Amanda Gries her son Wyatt didn’t need to be tested for lead, she insisted. The results showed a dangerous level of exposure, prompting the family to move to a new home. Here, Gries holds son Eli while Wyatt plays at a table in their L.A. home. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok ALARMING NUMBERS: Amanda Gries points to high lead level test results from her son Wyatt's bedroom in the family’s previous home in Los Angeles. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok How Reuters analyzed L.A. blood testing data By JOSHUA SCHNEYER The Los Angeles data examined by Reuters offers a granular look at where children have been exposed to dangerous levels of lead in the United States’ most populous county. The data tracks blood lead level testing results for children from birth to six years old from 2011-2015, aggregated by census tract. L.A. County shared results for each census tract with at least 100 unique children tested over this period. Most neighborhoods throughout the county are included. The results show children tested, and those with one or more elevated tests. The data reflects the census tract where children were living when they were screened. An elevated result is equal to or greater than the CDC’s reference value of 5 micrograms per deciliter. Any result above 4.5 is rounded up to 5 and considered elevated, in keeping with a standard convention for reporting of lead test results. The CDC used the same convention when it found that 5 percent of children tested in Flint had elevated lead levels during the peak of the city’s water contamination crisis. The CDC lowered its elevated threshold most recently in 2012, in part to reflect the medical consensus that even low levels of lead exposure cause permanent harm to children. reuters investigates More Reuters investigations and long-form narratives The agency is considering lowering it again , a move that could lead to more children testing high and expand efforts to remove lead from the environment. The L.A. County results include both capillary (finger-prick) and venous blood tests. Both have margins of error, although venous tests are considered more accurate and “confirmatory.” The data has limits. Many children don’t get tested, and results from some cities are excluded. Data from Vernon, Long Beach and Pasadena – each with independent health departments – wasn’t available from the county. California requires testing for children enrolled in Medicaid at ages one and two, and advises physicians to test some other children, including those living in older housing. A similar “targeted testing” policy is used in most states, including Michigan, although some states require testing for all children. Elevated blood lead levels are likely more common among children who get screened for the toxin, California officials say. However, Reuters found that even children with risk factors often aren’t tested, including those living in old housing. And Medicaid paid for screening covering only about one in three enrollees for whom tests were indicated in the state, 2015 billing data showed. California’s Department of Public Health says comparisons with other areas aren’t warranted. Sources of lead exposure, and tracking of blood tests, can differ between areas. “Testing results need to be considered in the context of the unique population being tested,” the department said in a statement. The L.A. data builds upon previous Reuters reporting in California. A report last month documented areas, including parts of Fresno, Oakland and Los Angeles, with worrisome childhood exposure rates. That report was based on testing data from about a fourth of zip codes statewide in 2012, shared earlier by the state’s Department of Public Health. Today’s article is based on a far more comprehensive trove of data for L.A. County, recently obtained by Reuters. Lead’s Hidden Toll By Joshua Schneyer Data: Joshua Schneyer and M.B. Pell Graphics: Christine Chan and Charles Szymanski Photo Editing: Steve McKinley Design: Troy Dunkley Edited by Ronnie Greene

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Forget Sanctions: Exxon Would Like Access to Russian Oil Anyway

Robbie Gramer and Emily Tamkin Foreign Policy MagazineApril 20, 2017 Because Russia just doesn’t loom large enough already in Washington. More With the simple submission of a technical sanctions waiver, oil giant Exxon Mobil created a potential PR headache for the White House. On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported Exxon is seeking a greenlight from the U.S. government to bypass sanctions on Russia and resume doing business with the country’s state-owned oil giant Rosneft. It’s hard to imagine how the optics could be worse. One of the biggest of the many scandals plaguing Trump’s White House is the FBI investigation into whether his campaign coordinated with Russian intelligence to tip the election in his favor. An unverified dossier alleges that Rosneft may have played a role in the Russian election meddling. And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson happens to be the former Exxon CEO — who before becoming America’s top diplomat had lobbied the Obama administration to ease sanctions that hamstrung Exxon’s business in Russia. The State Department is one of several government agencies that will oversee Exxon’s waiver application, though a State Department spokesman told the Wall Street Journal Tillerson (who received the Russian Order of Friendship in 2013) is recusing himself from any decisions relating to Exxon for two years. The sanctions were put in place in 2014, after Russia annexed Crimea. The sanctions prevent U.S. companies from dealings with Rosneft involving technology transfer, and also target Rosneft chief — and Putin confidant — Igor Sechin. Under Tillerson’s leadership, Exxon paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobbying groups to argue against U.S. sanctions and he personally met with senior Obama White House officials a dozen times to discuss sanctions on Russia (though he assured Congressional leaders at his confirmation hearing in January he “never lobbied against sanctions personally” and “to [his] knowledge, Exxon never directly lobbied against sanctions.”) Exxon figures the sanctions, which have forestalled exploration in places like the Russian Arctic, cost it at least $1 billion. Exxon is apparently trying to get U.S. permission to drill in the Russian Black Sea; if it doesn’t drill an exploratory well this year, it could lose the concession. But existing sanctions aside, Exxon’s efforts now to get access to deepwater, offshore oil fields is a little curious given the big global oil supply glut and still-cheap prices. Deepwater projects, like the one Exxon is trying to get going, generally need oil prices closer to $70 a barrel to be economic; crude oil has spent months in the $50 a barrel range. (Exxon’s other sanctions-stalled project with Rosneft, in the chilly Kara Sea, would be an even dicier proposition at these prices.) But under the terms of its agreement with Rosneft, Exxon’s Black Sea play could expire if it doesn’t act soon, so it presumably wants to keep the proverbial pilot light on so they’re ready to pounce when prices rebound. Another reason could be sheer competitive pressure. The European Union is granting sanctions waivers to its own companies, including Italian oil company Eni, to explore cooperation with Russia in the Black and Barents Seas, even while the sanctions freeze out U.S. firms. “Exxon is worried it could get boxed out of the Black Sea by the Italians,” one person briefed on the Exxon waiver told the Journal. Photo credit: ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images

Monday, April 17, 2017

Small Business Tax Offset - Partnership and Trust Tax Returns Calculation Worksheet Query

topic Re: Small Business Tax Offset - Partnership and Trust Tax Returns Calculation Worksheet Query in Tax and Business Activity Statements

I did, actually. You can't distribute the SBTO amount through entities to the individual along with the income. In the individual's tax return you have to prepare the Share of partnership small business income schedule (sbp) or Share of trust small business income schedule (sbt).

Convoluted, but the estimate included the SBTO and the NOAs matched.

Tue, 22 Nov 2016 03:31:10 GMT DanielOP 2016-11-22T03:31:10Z Small Business Tax Offset - Partnership and Trust Tax Returns Calculation Worksheet Query



We are aurrently trying to complete client's tax returns which includes a Partnership and Individuals who are eligible for the Small Business Tax Offset.


We are completing Item 5 Label V within the Partnership return, however are having difficulty understanding how using the worksheet for this label matches what the ATO require.


For example, the business has income of $1,000 and only a deduction of accounting fees for $200. Therefore the net business income is $800, however the income for Small Business Tax Offset purposes should be $1,000 as accounting fees need to be added back when calculating income for this purposes. We have discussed this with the ATO and they have advised our understanding of the offset through this example is correct.


The worksheet within the Partnership tax return works the opposite way. It populates the income from the business schedule to be $800, and the 'subtracts' the accounting fees to reduce the income for Small Business Tax Offset to $600.


Can you please advise how to understand the software.





Mon, 01 Aug 2016 01:24:17 GMT Anna_Walker_DKM 2016-08-01T01:24:17Z
Re: Small Business Tax Offset - Partnership and Trust Tax Returns Calculation Worksheet Query

I am having the same issue.

Wed, 17 Aug 2016 02:53:36 GMT CraigMS 2016-08-17T02:53:36Z
Re: Small Business Tax Offset - Partnership and Trust Tax Returns Calculation Worksheet Query

I am having the same issue. The schedule is subtracting the accounting fees and donations that I am inputting, rather than adding them back as the schedule should. I found the details in the Act and it stated that adding back the accounting fees and donations will increase the offset.


In your example, the SBE income should be $1200, assuming that accounting fees were in the initial $1000. Therefore $1200 would be divided by the taxable income of the individual and then calculated against the individual's tax liability. It is then multiplied by 5% to create the offset.


We did input the data in a tax return and manually calculated the offset. It confirmed that the calc is incorrect for the purposes of this offset.

Mon, 29 Aug 2016 07:39:37 GMT TimCollins 2016-08-29T07:39:37Z
Re: Small Business Tax Offset - Partnership and Trust Tax Returns Calculation Worksheet Query

My query is slightly different to the topic posted but it's related to the SBTO.


My query - is a trust distributed net business profit to another trust and from the other trust distribute to individual beneficiaries. Will the "the other trust" income distribution to the individuals get the SBTO?


The share of net small business income recorded on Item 8 of the "received Trust return" does not flow thru to the Statement of distribution for the individuals beneficiary.


My question is the SBTO can't be distributed from the "received trust return" to the individuals?


Is it only from the original trust return which has the net business income distributed then individuals beneficiay gets the share of SBTO?


Or do we manually entered the share of net small business income in the "individuals" returns as there is no option in the "received trust" to flow thru the info to the indvidual return?


Please advise.




Mon, 03 Oct 2016 01:31:14 GMT DT-Tracy 2016-10-03T01:31:14Z
Re: Small Business Tax Offset - Partnership and Trust Tax Returns Calculation Worksheet Query

I have this exact issue. Business income from partnership is distributed to trust with SBTO amount which shows in Distribution from Partnership income worksheet in Trust tax return. Trust also has small amount of its own business income, but Small Business Income Worksheet doesn't pick up the SBTO income amount that should be flowing through from the Partnership.

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 00:51:25 GMT DanielOP 2016-10-21T00:51:25Z
Re: Small Business Tax Offset - Partnership and Trust Tax Returns Calculation Worksheet Query

DanielOP, I am having the exact same issue. Did you find a solution? Thanks.

Tue, 08 Nov 2016 01:14:54 GMT CJohnson 2016-11-08T01:14:54Z
Re: Small Business Tax Offset - Partnership and Trust Tax Returns Calculation Worksheet Query

I did, actually. You can't distribute the SBTO amount through entities to the individual along with the income. In the individual's tax return you have to prepare the Share of partnership small business income schedule (sbp) or Share of trust small business income schedule (sbt).

Convoluted, but the estimate included the SBTO and the NOAs matched.

Tue, 22 Nov 2016 03:31:10 GMT DanielOP 2016-11-22T03:31:10Z

Albert Park’s Beach Hotel sells to Chinese

NewsBY Adrian Ballantyne | 11 APRIL 2017
Chinese investors have bought the Beach Hotel at Albert Park in Melbourne. Melbourne waterside pub the Beach Hotel at Albert Park and a neighbouring Foodworks supermarket have been sold to Chinese investors. The pub, once owned by Collingwood Football Club in an ill-fated investment, sits on one of the city’s most prominent bayside corners directly opposite Port Phillip Bay. The two-storey venue was built in the 1880s and has undergone numerous refurbishments over the last 130 years. It now features bars, dining rooms, functions spaces, an outdoor courtyard and guest rooms on the second level, as well as poker machines. Commercial Insights: Subscribe to receive the latest news and updates Combined, the pub and supermarket draw an annual income of more than $758,000, with the hotel also licensed for 32 poker machines. CBRE Hotels’ Scott Callow and Mark Wizel marketed the sales campaign, and while the sale price was not disclosed, some reports put it at around $18 million. Callow says the affluence of the surrounding bayside area made for a hotly contested sales process, with both local and foreign buyers making a play for the property. “Located in the heart of Albert Park, the Beach Hotel and neighbouring Foodworks supermarket service a prosperous inner bayside suburb of established families and independent young professionals,” he says. “This affluent suburb is earmarked for future residential development, which will ensure this venue is well positioned to benefit.”

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Why female genital mutilation still exists in modern Singapore

By Yvette Tan BBC News 21 November 2016 From the section Asia These are external links and will open in a new window Share this with Facebook Share this with Twitter Share this with Messenger Share this with Email Share Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Zarifah (not pictured) was just two weeks old when her mother handed her over to the midwife Female genital mutilation is carried out by communities around the world. But though it is not commonly associated with modern, cosmopolitan Singapore, it is quietly happening all the time, as the BBC's Yvette Tan writes. Zarifah Anuar didn't find out she had been circumcised as a child until she was 23. She was just two weeks old when her mother handed her over to her bidan, a traditional midwife, to have part of her clitoris cut. Years later, a colleague asked her if she had undergone the procedure. "I answered very confidently that I would know if I had," said Zarifah. "'You should ask your mother', she told me." So she did. "What was a previously casual and happy mood turned sour and antagonistic very quickly", said Zarifah. "'Did I cry? Was I asleep? Did I wake up?' I asked my mother. She didn't answer and told me the conversation was over." Image copyright Getty Images Image caption More than 200 million women and girls worldwide have been cut The WHO estimates more than 200 million women and girls worldwide have been cut, varying from a partial nick to a complete removal of the clitoris or sewing-up of the labia. Most Singaporeans have little idea of the procedure's existence in the city-state, but it is observed, typically among Malay Muslims, who make up some 13% of the total resident population. Sunat Perempuan, as it is known in Malay, is usually carried out on girls before the age of two, who normally have the tip of the clitoris cut, with a tiny piece of skin sometimes removed. "Many of my Indian Muslim friends didn't have the procedure done on them, and were shocked that such practices still exist within the Malay community," said Filzah Sumartono, who found out she had undergone the procedure as a baby when she was in her teens. Singapore has no legal ruling against FGM, but many Muslims take guidance from the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), a statutory board that provides advice on religious matters to Muslims. Ibrahim Sawifi of MUIS has said the body "does not condone any procedures which bring harm to the individual", adding that the council has "always held the position that FGM should be avoided". Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Some believe Sunat Perempuan is a compulsory part of Islamic law But many Malay Muslims, especially amongst the older generations, believe the procedure reduces a woman's libido and decreases the risk of extramarital sexual affairs. Others believe it is a compulsory part of Islamic law, though it is not listed as mandatory in the Koran. "I had it done, my daughter had it done, and I would definitely like my granddaughter to do it too," said a 45-year-old Muslim Malay woman the BBC spoke to. "It's something compulsory for us to do in Islam." 'This is what it's like to pee after female genital mutilation' Nearly 6,000 new FGM cases in England Singapore clinics carry out FGM on British girls Do first, ask later "If performed, one gets extra merit but if not performed, it is not considered sinful or going against the precepts of Islam," said Dr Maznah Mohamad of the Department of Malay Studies at the National University of Singapore. "But people are still afraid of going against Islam if they don't subject their young daughter to it." Yet it is not the procedure itself that many find fault with, but rather the lack of consent that it signifies. "We start trying to control women's bodies at infancy. It's the first sign to a child that her body is not hers, it's the community's," said Filzah, who is a project co-ordinator at gender equality rights group Aware. "An infant at two weeks wouldn't know anything at all. How could she possibly consent to anything?" adds Zarifah. According to her, all the Malay Muslim girls in Singapore she knows have undergone this procedure. All of them were unaware of it until they asked their parents. Image copyright Zarifah Anuar Image caption "I now know just how much my body is not mine," says Zarifah "Parents should be responsible for keeping their children safe, this goes completely against that. There is a part of me that regrets asking, because I now know just how much my body is not mine," she said. But not everyone agrees. "There are many things parents do without the consent of the child, out of love and their best interests." said 28-year-old civil servant Siti*, who also underwent the procedure as a baby. "What parent would intentionally put their child through harm?" "I have no knowledge of how different things would feel with or without [the procedure] but I can feel what needs to be felt," Siti added. "It doesn't make me less of a woman." What all the women can agree on, is that more awareness is needed on the subject. "The community itself is divided," said Siti. "MUIS must create a conversation regarding this topic to help the community move forward and equip young parents with the knowledge they need to make an informed decision." "The Muslim Malay community needs to talk about the issue an understand and accept that it is against the human rights of girls," said Zarifah. "I refuse to accept that this conversation is over." *Names have been changed

Thursday, April 13, 2017

U.S. unleashes 'mother of all bombs' for first time in Afghanistan, HAPPY EASTER to AFGHANISTAN

Thu Apr 13, 2017 | 5:44 PM EDT ‘How many civilians killed there?’ Twitter rages as Trump drops 'mother of all bombs' on Afghanistan Published time: 13 Apr, 2017 21:31 Edited time: 13 Apr, 2017 23:21 Get short URL The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) © Elgin Air Force Base / Reuters AddThis Sharing Buttons Share to Facebook 408 Share to Twitter Share to Reddit Share to StumbleUpon Share to Google+ Share to Tumblr The US Military dropping the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat enflamed social media users on Thursday, drawing comments from many prominent figures including Edward Snowden. Trends Viral READ MORE: US drops largest non-nuclear bomb on Afghanistan, first time used in combat  The mega GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), dubbed the "Mother of all bombs”, is the largest non-nuclear bomb ever to be used in a combat setting. US forces dropped it in the Achin district of Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan at 7pm local time on Thursday. National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden noted the strike was designed to destroy a network of tunnels that the US itself had funded during the 1980s when CIA backed Jihadists were fighting the Soviet Union. The colossal bomb, over 30 feet long and weighing more than 21,000 pounds, creates a blast radius stretching a mile in each direction. It is made of a thin aluminium skin that is designed to “maximise the blast effect,” according to Frederick Davis of the Air force Research Laboratory, who designed the destructive device.  Footage from a 2003 test shows the enormous scale of the blast. According to the Air Force, the test produced an impact cloud that could be seen from 20 miles away. The bombing drew floods of responses on social media, with many noting that the extremely expensive explosive could have paid for public services, such as Meals on Wheels, whose budgets are being cut by the Trump administration. Meanwhile, many others expressed support for the move saying it would help defeat ISIS. Trump himself described it as "another successful job”. The GPS-guided bomb was built for the Iraq war to pressure Saddam Hussein, but none had ever been used until Thursday. "The goal is to have the pressure be so great that Saddam Hussein cooperates,” then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in an interview about the bomb in 2003. "Short of that… the goal is to have the capabilities of the coalition so clear and so obvious that there is an enormous disincentive for the Iraqi military to fight against the coalition.” 2h ago | 01:28 U.S. drops 'mother of all bombs' in Afghanistan U.S. unleashes 'mother of all bombs' for first... X By Idrees Ali | WASHINGTON The United States dropped "the mother of all bombs," the largest non-nuclear device it has ever unleashed in combat, on a network of caves and tunnels used by Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, the military said. President Donald Trump touted the bombing as evidence of a more muscular U.S. foreign policy since he took office in January after eight years of President Barack Obama. The 21,600 pound (9,797 kg) GBU-43 bomb, which has 11 tons of explosives, was dropped from a MC-130 aircraft in the Achin district of Nangarhar province, close to the border with Pakistan, Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said. (Graphic - U.S. drops massive bomb in Afghanistan IMG : The GBU-43, also known as the "mother of all bombs," is a GPS-guided munition and was first tested in March 2003. It is regarded as particularly effective against clusters of targets on or just underneath the ground. Other types of bombs can be more effective against deeper, hardened tunnels. It was the first time the United States has used this size of conventional bomb in a conflict. Trump described the bombing as a "very successful mission.” It was not immediately clear how much damage the device did. During last year's presidential election campaign, Trump vowed to give priority to destroying Islamic State, which operates mostly in Syria and Iraq. He flexed U.S. military muscles last week by ordering a cruise missile attack on a Syrian government airbase in retaliation for a poison gas attack. "If you look at what’s happened over the last eight weeks and compare that really to what’s happened over the last eight years, you’ll see that there’s a tremendous difference," Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday. The security situation remains precarious in Afghanistan, with a number of militant groups trying to claim territory more than 15 years after the U.S. invasion which toppled the Taliban government. So far, Trump has offered little clarity about a broader strategy for Afghanistan, where some 8,400 U.S. troops remain. LONG AFGHAN WAR Last week, a U.S. soldier was killed in the same district as where the bomb was dropped while he was conducting operations against Islamic State. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the bombing "targeted a system of tunnels and caves that ISIS fighters used to move around freely, making it easier for them to target U.S. military advisers and Afghan forces in the area." ‹ 3/3 The GBU-43/B is launched from a MC-130E Combat Talon I at Elgin Air Force Base in Florida on November 21, 2003. Reuters/U.S. Air Force photo/Handout/File photo 1/3 The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb is pictured in this undated handout photo. Elgin Air Force Base/Handout via Reuters 2/3 The GBU-43/B, also known as the Massive Ordnance Air Blast, detonates during a test at Elgin Air Force Base, Florida, U.S., November 21, 2003 in this handout photo provided April 13, 2017. Reuters/U.S. Air Force photo/Handout via REUTERS 3/3 The GBU-43/B is launched from a MC-130E Combat Talon I at Elgin Air Force Base in Florida on November 21, 2003. Reuters/U.S. Air Force photo/Handout/File photo 1/3 The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb is pictured in this undated handout photo. Elgin Air Force Base/Handout via Reuters › Spicer said the bomb was dropped at around 7 p.m. local time and described it as "a large, powerful and accurately delivered weapon." U.S. forces took "all precautions necessary to prevent civilian casualties and collateral damage," he said. Afghan soldiers and police, with the aid of thousands of foreign military advisers, are struggling to hold off a resurgent insurgency led by the Taliban, as well as other groups like Islamic State. The U.S. government's top watchdog on Afghanistan said earlier this year that the Afghan government controls less than 60 percent of the country. Foreign policy experts said that it appeared the use of a specialized weapon like the GBU-43 had more to do with the type of target -- tunnels -- than the United States sending any message to other countries by using such a powerful weapon. "This is a very specialized weapon, we don't have very many of them, you can only use them in a very narrow set of circumstances," said Mark Cancian, a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank. Related Coverage VIDEOU.S. drops mega-bomb on ISIS caves in Afghanistan Cancian added that while sending a message to Syria or North Korea could have been among the secondary factors considered, they would not have been the main reason for using this type of weapon. U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the use of this bomb was a sign that the United States was committed to Afghanistan. But Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a Democrat who was the only "no" vote for authorization for use of military force in Afghanistan in 2001, said the move was unprecedented and asked for an explanation. "President Trump owes the American people an explanation about his escalation of military force in Afghanistan and his long-term strategy to defeat ISIS," she said in a statement. The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said recently that he needed several thousand more international troops in order to break a stalemate in the long war with Taliban insurgents. U.S. officials say intelligence suggests Islamic State is based overwhelmingly in Nangarhar and neighboring Kunar province. Estimates of its strength in Afghanistan vary. U.S. officials have said they believe the movement has only 700 fighters but Afghan officials estimate it has about 1,500. The Afghan Taliban, which is trying to overthrow the U.S.-backed government in Kabul, are fiercely opposed to Islamic State and the two group have clashed as they seek to expand territory and influence. (Reporting by Idrees Ali. Additional reporting by Steve Holland, Patricia Zengerle and Will Dunham.; Editing by Alistair Bell)

United States' first female Muslim judge found dead in Hudson River

By Ian Simpson A groundbreaking black jurist who became the first Muslim woman to serve as a U.S. judge was found dead in New York's Hudson River on Wednesday, police said. Sheila Abdus-Salaam, a 65-year-old associate judge of New York's highest court, was found floating off Manhattan's west side at about 1:45 p.m. EDT (1545 GMT), a police spokesman said. Police pulled Abdus-Salaam's fully clothed body from the water and she was pronounced dead at the scene. Her family identified her and an autopsy would determine the cause of death, the spokesman said. ADVERTISEMENT Abdus-Salaam, a native of Washington, D.C., became the first African-American woman appointed to the Court of Appeals when Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo named her to the state's high court in 2013. "Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam was a trailblazing jurist whose life in public service was in pursuit of a more fair and more just New York for all," Cuomo said in a statement. The Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History said Abdus-Salaam was the first female Muslim to serve as a U.S. judge. Citing unidentified sources, the New York Post reported that Abdus-Salaam had been reported missing from her New York home earlier on Wednesday. Attempts to reach her family were unsuccessful. Also In U.S. United passenger launches legal action over forceful removal Jurors due to deliberate Nevada case of Bundy ranch standoff A graduate of Barnard College and Columbia Law School, Abdus-Salaam started her law career with East Brooklyn Legal Services and served as a New York state assistant attorney general, according to the Court of Appeals website. She held a series of judicial posts after being elected to a New York City judgeship in 1991. (Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Paul Tait)

Monday, April 10, 2017

Divorce in South Australia

Lisa Omar
12 July 2016 Assalamualaikum Out of curiosity, when muslim couples divorce (for whatever the reason might be), and despite whoever requests it (be it the wife or the husband), is there some paper documentation/certificate given to say 'yes these two aren' t married to each other anymore' issued by masjids/imams/respected sheikhs? Because I know it is not necessary for us to register our marriage to the Aussie side of things especially when your marriage is recognised (for example, nikah in Malaysia, recognised by Australia 'cause we get proper documentation saying we' re married etc issued by islamic council back in Malaysia. The same goes if a couple is divorced) If no, shouldn't there be one? To avoid certain complications in the future of course incase they wanna remarry etc. Just asking. Not stirring up anything. Representatives, please explain😊 3 Comments 2 2 Like Show More Reactions Comment Comments Taher Alwani you should ask this to a shiekh or alim not here. but yes there is a paper given by whichever shiekh does the divorce. Like · Reply · 1 · 12 July 2016 at 13:28 Lisa Omar I assume there be representatives of masjids and associations here there could explain seeing that there are people in our community going through (or may have exprienced) a divorce, just so they know their rights, brother. Understandable there might be people in our community who are shy or may have language barriers to seek assistance with local sheikhs /imams... shy because they're worried people spreading rumours,because IT HAPPENS. We're all here to learn, to be informed and this should be a safe environment, don't you think so? #haqq Unlike · Reply · 5 · 12 July 2016 at 14:21 · Edited Taher Alwani regardless they must go to a shieck/alim to go through with the divorce so might aswell ask one first inshAllah. There is no alims or shiekhs on this page so we should avoid opinions when it comes to these matters. Unlike · Reply · 2 · 12 July 2016 at 14:25 Lisa Omar Well of course they do, not saying that they should not.Just that they should also know what will happen, and what to expect and all that stuff.I think my question was pretty clear, whether there is a paper documentation given in talaq cases (as there wouldbe in nikah).It's not a gray area question, I believe it was pretty much a yes or no.That is all.jazakallahu khayr Like · Reply · 4 · 12 July 2016 at 14:29 Tessa Umm Yousef Plus a lot of the time the Sheiks never answer :P Like · Reply · 2 · 13 July 2016 at 02:58 Melissa Beaver Ahmed Bassal could u find out the answer to this please? Like · Reply · 13 July 2016 at 18:43 Write a reply... Faiza Kaply Yes in Malaysia we have a mufti for each states (14 altogether). The marriages, counselling and divorce must be register to the state mufti office. And we have to attend pre marital course and take hiv test before marry. Like · Reply · 1 · 12 July 2016 at 13:36 Marcia Bell Ok I've asked this question at the mosque On Monday, in order to be divorced Islamicly u first need a divorce here in Australia, 2 after the divorce goes to court and approved after 1 month u will get documents from the courts here, 3 u take those divorce papers and show the imam, they will help u Islamicly divorce in the mosque Unlike · Reply · 3 · 12 July 2016 at 19:14 Lisa Omar Jazakallahu khayr for the info, sister. 😊 Insha Allah I hope anybody who needs assistance /wants to know the procedure /information now knows that this is how it is done and may Allah make it easy on them. I understand the sensitivity of the issue, but when you see it so rampant in our community and some may be at loss or unsure(divorce is a very emotional situation & very stressful that affects everyone from the married party & both families involved) especially those who just reverted, it can be such an overwhelming matter. Unlike · Reply · 2 · 13 July 2016 at 00:42 · Edited Marcia Bell Also the talaq has to be done infront of the imam, not saying it to it face or in a sms either it is not valid so the imam that I saw was at the Ali khalil mosque On torrens road, very good advice I was given Unlike · Reply · 1 · 12 July 2016 at 19:40 Lisa Omar Yes, that is a well known fact (shari'ah-ly speaking). But it has come to my attention there are cases where no letter was issued to the divorced parties by the local imam/sheikh. Wallahu'alam. Unlike · Reply · 1 · 12 July 2016 at 19:43 Marcia Bell My advice to the local mosque and just ask for advice,

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Morrison outlines objectives for housing

10:55am April 10, 2017 By AAP FTBA Scott Morrison admits tackling housing affordability won't be solved in one budget. But "shovelling money" at the problem won't help either. The treasurer will on Monday deliver a major pre-budget speech outlining the Turnbull government's approach to the issue. He will tell the Australian Housing and Urban Institutes obstacles that restrict supply must be removed. These obstacles include planning delays and regulation, infrastructure and services, development costs, taxes and charges and access to sites, including government land. He's also made clear the federal government won't be touching negative gearing, describing it as an established and structural component of Australia's housing market. "If you take that away right now, particularly in this economy and the sensitivities that are there ... you are playing with fire," he told ABC radio ahead of his speech in Melbourne. Mr Morrison noted some 28 per cent of private rental housing is owned by so-called 'mum and dad' investors. He questioned who would replace them if negative gearing was tinkered with. However, shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said negative gearing must be reformed. "Apart from ruling out any changes to negative gearing, that's the only single policy he is announcing today - a policy to do nothing," he told reporters in Sydney. Amid reports the government might allow young people to access their superannuation for a home deposit, Mr Morrison appears more concerned about older people using their retirement savings to pay off mortgages. "They represent a problem that needs to be addressed in the broader national interest," Mr Morrison will say in his speech. He reiterated the national affordable housing agreement with the states wasn't working and will be addressed in the budget. "Just shovelling money out the door doesn't solve the problems, it might make people issuing press release feel better or those who have advocated for higher spending, but I'm interested in spending that money well," he said. Read more at Negative gearing is a form of financial leverage whereby an investor borrows money to acquire an income-producing investment property and expects the gross income generated by the investment, at least in the short term, to be less than the cost of owning and managing the investment, including depreciation and interest charged on the loan (but excluding capital repayments). The investor may enter into such an arrangement and expect the tax benefits (if any) and the capital gain on the investment, when the investment is ultimately disposed of, to exceed the accumulated losses of holding the investment. The investor would take into account the tax treatment of negative gearing, which may generate additional benefits to the investor in the form of tax benefits if the loss on a negatively geared investment is tax-deductible against the investor's other taxable income and if the capital gain on the sale is given a favourable tax treatment. Some countries, including Australia, Japan, and New Zealand, allow unrestricted use of negative gearing losses to offset income from other sources.

Deadly explosion near church in Egyptian city 90km from Cairo – report

Published time: 9 Apr, 2017 08:16 Edited time: 9 Apr, 2017 08:35 Get short URL At least 13 people were killed and dozens injured in an explosion near a church in Egypt’s Tanta, north of Cairo, Reuters reports, citing security sources. The news agency says that 42 people were wounded in the incident, which Al-Arabiya called a “bombing.” However, there is no official information on what exactly caused the explosion. DETAILS TO FOLLOW

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Why was deal to evacuate Syrian towns brokered by Qatar and Iran? Read more:

RUSSIA PULSE РОССИЯ / БЛИЖНИЙ ВОСТОК Boys walk at a site hit by airstrikes in the rebel-held city of Idlib, Syria, Feb. 7, 2017.  (photo by REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah) Why was deal to evacuate Syrian towns brokered by Qatar and Iran? The evacuation of four Syrian towns that have been besieged since 2015 began on April 4 in a sectarian fashion. While civilians and opposition fighters will leave the towns of Madaya and Zabadani near Damascus, residents of al-Foua and Kefraya, two government-held towns located in the province of Idlib, will be given safe passage. The Sunnis will be transported to rebel-held Idlib and the Turkish-controlled town of Jarablus in the north, while the Shiites will be taken to the government-controlled areas of Damascus. The evacuation is scheduled to last 60 days. To make it possible, a truce will take effect in the areas south of Damascus and in several parts of Idlib province. The cease-fire will allow aid to be delivered. In addition, the deal will also see the Syrian government release 1,500 prisoners. Summary ⎙ Print A deal brokered by Qatar and Iran that ignores Turkey and Russia — the largest respective sponsors of the opposition and the regime in Syria — threatens to derail broader peace talks aimed at ending the tragic civil war. Author Anton Mardasov Posted April 7, 2017 At first glance, the evacuation seems like a logical and expedient step in the way events have been unfolding. Opposition fighters and their families have recently been taken from the city of al-Waer in Homs province to Jarablus. The current deal, however, was different. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and other sources reported that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) plus Hezbollah and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps reached this agreement on March 28 with mediation from two external players, Iran and Qatar.  Doha played an unusual role as an intermediary in the new deal. At least several sources confirmed to Al-Monitor that on March 26, Hussam al-ShafiI (also known as Zaid al-Attar), spokesman for Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and political chief of HTS, visited Qatar to strike the deal. Given the still-relevant Astana process, the deal may have looked suspicious to Moscow because the Syrian conflict was discussed without Turkey or Russia. Theoretically speaking, Russian and Turkish authorities should find it alarming, as the talks were unexpectedly held elsewhere rather than at the traditional venue of Istanbul or Ankara. Mind that the Shiite villages, which have openly supported Hezbollah, have been the opposition's trump cards since the territory was encircled in March 2015. Iran and its allied Shiite groups have long been trying to strike a deal with Ahrar al-Sham for a cease-fire to begin and for aid deliveries to reach the villages. Al-Monitor sources in Idlib province claim that Abdullah al-Muhaysini, a prominent Saudi cleric and jihadi figure in HTS, has been an informal custodian of al-Foua and Kefraya even though he has aired contradictory views in public. In particular, he stated in January 2016 that unless the Madaya siege was lifted, al-Foua should be "exterminated." Claims of "custodianship" may prove to be true as Muhaysini's address to the opposition called for sparing Christians after the fall of besieged Aleppo. One might see it as part of the strategy to integrate the al-Qaeda branch into the Syrian opposition. The Russian-Turkish agreements provided for the evacuation of the opposition from eastern Aleppo to Idlib in December 2016. However, Iran demanded a reciprocal step to bus the residents out of al-Foua and Kefraya. Back then the evacuation was halted as extremists hijacked and burned six buses collecting villagers. The Aleppo evacuation later resumed, with several thousand people taken away from the villages. Some Russian experts treated the evacuation deal brokered by Qatar and Iran as unambiguous evidence of Doha's sponsoring of HTS extremists. It is up to investigatory bodies to file charges, but one should not be oblivious to the heterogeneous nature of the HTS. It comprises many Syrians opposed to negotiations with President Bashar al-Assad's regime, as well as former — and, above all, Salafi — factions of Ahrar al-Sham. By shoring up Ahrar al-Sham, Qatar enjoys ample opportunity to enter into a direct dialogue with HTS, even though the two groups are vying for power and survival in western Syria. Russian officials, who have not commented on the issue so far, are likely to disregard it altogether as a local case. However, as mentioned earlier, such arrangements create a precedent for Iran to employ its own stratagems in Syria. As far as we can judge, Iran's strategy is at odds with Moscow's interests. Back in September 2016, when Russia and the United States agreed on a cease-fire deal for Syria, Al-Monitor's sources close to Russia's security organs did not rule out Tehran's subtle sabotage because the agreement aimed to strengthen Russia's standing in Syria. These concerns have become conspicuous in 2017. Actually, long-term settlement and political solution do not benefit Iran since any reform will reduce its political and military influence in Syria. In this regard, Iran's position is close to that of HTS militants, a factor that directly affects the truce. Meanwhile, Moscow and Ankara literally imposed the Astana process on Tehran by including the armed opposition. Understandably, Russia does not dwell on it, but it was Syria's "war party" and its Iranian sponsors that, from the outset, sought to maximize their advantage of the cease-fire, if not break it. Since early January, governmental forces and Hezbollah have been waging military operations to eject the opposition from enclaves outside Damascus under the pretext of combating Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. Ahrar al-Sham, which refused to engage in the Astana talks amid the regime's continued fighting in the Wadi Barada valley, made that clear. At the same time, the Syrian regime has allegedly contaminated with diesel the pumping station that provides most of the capital's water. Moreover, the real number of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham militants operating in the valley does not exceed several dozen. In addition, the Hezbollah militia barred Russian troops that were authorized to oversee the cease-fire from entering the besieged Wadi Barada area. Such incidents along the front line, together with HTS provocations, compelled Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham to respond and engage in anti-regime offensives. It stands in the way of a new round of the Astana talks, which will be pointless without the opposition. Against this background, the Iran-Qatar deal seems somewhat controversial. Absent Moscow and Ankara, talks can throw an additional curveball at the negotiating process between the opposition and the regime. Further details of the accord may disprove the information about the bilateral negotiations behind Russia's and Turkey's back. In any case, the situation is testament to a possible compromise between unexpected players. More significantly, such agreements should be reached in presence of the allies and should be consistent with the settlement strategies. Read more:

Friday, April 07, 2017

‘Low efficiency’: Only 23 Tomahawk missiles out of 59 reached Syrian airfield, Russian MoD says

Published time: 7 Apr, 2017 09:41 Edited time: 7 Apr, 2017 16:46 Get short URL FILE PHOTO: Shayrat Airfield in Homs, Syria is seen in this DigitalGlobe satellite image released by the U.S. Defense Department on April 6, 2017. © DigitalGlobe / U.S. Department of Defense / Reuters The Russian Defense Ministry says the US missile strike on a Syrian airfield wasn't very effective, with only 23 out of 59 Tomahawk missiles reaching their target. The locations of the remaining 36 missiles’ impact is now unknown, the ministry added. Trends US missiles strike Syria Follow RT’s LIVE UPDATES on US missile strike against Syria  The strike on the Shayrat airfield in Syria’s Homs Province destroyed a material storage depot, a training facility, a canteen, six MiG-23 aircraft in repair hangars and a radar station. Read more 1st footage of destruction at US-hit Shayrat airbase in Syria (VIDEO) The runway, taxiways and the Syrian aircraft on the parking apron remained undamaged, Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman said in a statement. The ministry described the combat efficiency of the strike as “quite poor.” “On April 7, 2017, between 3:42am and 3:56am Moscow time, two US Navy destroyers (USS Porter and USS Ross) fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Shayrat airfield in Homs Province, Syria, from an area near the Island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea. “According to our sources, only 23 of them reached the Syrian airbase,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said, adding that the points of impact of the other 36 cruise missiles remain unknown. The ministry also slammed the US actions as “a gross violation” of the memorandum of understanding signed by Moscow in Washington back in 2015 to prevent flight incidents in Syrian airspace. READ MORE: Russia suspends flight safety memorandum over Syria after US missile strike – Foreign Ministry All justifications for the strike are “groundless claims,” the ministry continued. Read more ISIS used US missile strike to launch new offensive near Palmyra, Homs governor tells RT “Russia made an earlier statement that the Syrian forces did not use chemical weapons. We are waiting for clarification from the US on undisputed – as they claim – evidence that it was the Syrian Army that deployed chemical weapons in the town of Khan Sheikhoun.” The ministry also pointed to the events that followed the strikes, a large-scale offensive against the Syrian Army carried out by Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front terrorists. “We hope that this offensive was in no way coordinated with the US,” the ministry said. "A number of measures aimed at strengthening and improving the effectiveness of the Syrian air defense system will be implemented in the near future in order to protect the vital parts of the Syrian infrastructure," Konashenkov said. ======================== ‘They’re terrified that peace was going to break out’ – Ron Paul on US Syria strike Published time: 8 Apr, 2017 10:29 Edited time: 8 Apr, 2017 14:12 Get short URL Ron Paul © Mark Makela / Reuters “A victory of neo-conservatives” – that’s how Ron Paul, a former member of the US House of Representatives and three-time presidential candidate, described the US strike on Syria, adding that he does not expect peace talks to resume any time soon. Trends US missiles strike Syria Follow RT's LIVE UPDATES on the US strikes on Syria Speaking to RT, Ron Paul said that there is no proof of Damascus’ guilt that could trigger such a rash and violent response from the US. “I don't think the evidence is there, at least it hasn’t been presented, and they need a so-called excuse, they worked real hard, our government and their coalition.” 'Emergency' protests across US demand 'Hands off Syria' (VIDEOS, PHOTOS) This is not the first time something like this has happened in Syria or elsewhere, Paul said, but now it is convenient to pay attention and react immediately. “If any of this was true, I don’t know why they couldn’t wait and take a look at it. In 2013, there were similar stories that didn’t go anywhere, because with a little bit of a pause, there was a resistance to it built in our Congress and in the American people. They thought that it was a fraud and nothing like that was happening, and right now, I just can’t think of how it could conceivably be what they claim, because it’s helping ISIS, because it’s helping Al-Qaeda.” “From my point of view, there was no need to rush. There was no threat to national security. They have to give a reason to do these things,” Paul added. A factor that contributed to the speedy reaction was of course the US president, the politician told RT. “I have no idea what his purpose was. Maybe he just didn’t want to hear the debate, because the last time they debated it, they lost. And this time, it was necessary for them to jump onto this, before people came to know what was really going on.” READ MORE: Syria & Iraq: Anatomy of a 21st century conflict The Syrian situation now is “a victory for neo-conservatives, who’ve been looking for Assad to go,” Paul said. “They want to get rid of him, and you have to look for who is involved in that. Unfortunately, they are the ones who are winning out on this, and the radicals, too! There is a bit of hypocrisy going on here, because at one minute we say, well, maybe Assad has to stay, the next day he has to go, and we’re there fighting ISIS and Al-Qaeda. At the same time, what we end up doing is we actually strengthen them! It is a mess. Read more Bolivia mercilessly trolls US over Iraq WMD lie in front of UN Security Council (VIDEO) “I don’t believe that our people or the American government should be the policemen of the world, it makes no sense, it causes us more trouble and more grief, it causes us more financial problems, and it’s hardly a way that we could defend our constitutional liberty.” This policy clearly does not lead to peace, Paul told RT. “The peace talks have ended now. They’re terrified that peace was going to break out! Al-Qaeda was on the run, peace talks were happening, and all of a sudden, they had to change, and this changes things dramatically! I don’t expect peace talks anytime soon or in the distant future.” Last but not least, the politician spoke out about the deeper reasons – and potential disastrous consequences – of the latest attack’s timing. “I was wondering about the fact that the announcement came when Trump was talking to Xi [Jinping, the Chinese president]. And of course, [North] Korea’s high on the list of targets for our president and our administration. It might be a warning: this is what’s going to happen to you if you don’t do what we tell you. I just don’t like us being involved in so many countries, in their internal affairs; I think it’s so detrimental.”

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

CBA yet to finalise interest-only strategy

Apr 5 2017 at 11:14 AM Updated 0 min ago Save article Print License article Share via Email Share on Google Plus Post on facebook wall Share on twitter Post to Linkedin Share on Reddit Matt Comyn, CBA's Group Executive, Retail Banking Services, speaking at the AFR's Banking and Wealth Summit. Louie Douvis Share on twitter by James Frost Commonwealth Bank of Australia, one of Australia's biggest lenders with over $400 billion in mortgages, is yet to finalise its approach to the regulator's latest caps on interest only loans released last week. Speaking at The Australian Financial Review's Banking and Wealth conference, Commonwealth Bank's group executive for retail banking Matt Comyn says that the bank is yet to settle on how the new banking caps of 30 per cent on risky interest only loans. "As you could appreciate with the time frame we are working through that," Mr Comyn said. Commonwealth Bank is Australia's largest bank by market capitalisation valued at $148 billion. At the bank's interim results in February it revealed that 40 per cent of the book were on interest only loans. Under the second round of macro-prudential intervention launched by the Australian Prudential and Regulatory Authority released last Friday, Australian banks will not be able to dedicate more than 30 per cent of new mortgages to interest only loans. APRA chairman Wayne Byres said at the time this was high by international standards and enhanced already present housing risks in the system. The most recent figures released by the banks show that all of the big four banks are running at or close to 40 per cent and will have to immediately pull back on interest only loans to meet the new APRA guidelines. Westpac is on par with its Sydney based rival with close to 40 per cent of its residential mortgage book dedicated to interest only loans. NAB's exposure to interest only loans is running at 38 per cent and ANZ's exposure is 37 per cent. CBA's Mr Comyn was speaking in Sydney where he appeared after APRA chairman Wayne Byrnes who warned banks that higher hurdles for bank capital flowing from growing housing risks and would come ahead of the next set of international banking regulations known as Basel IV. A short history of the capital gains tax These changes increased the attractiveness of negative gearing and since they started, in 1999, the number of people making losses on residential property has doubled. Net rents have been negative since the introduction of the CGT discount. The 50 per cent discount on nominal capital gains can distort investor behaviour, particularly at a time of rapid capital gains. BCA submission, August 2015 I can’t see any reason for treating capital gains any different from income tax. It is broadly accepted that the capital gains tax discount is too high Capital gains tax concessions for assets held longer than a year provide incentives to invest in assets for which anticipated capital gains are a larger component of returns. Reducing these concessions would lead to a more efficient allocation of funding in the economy. David Murray’s financial system review, 2014 Tax changes that might only drag down house prices by 1 or 2 per cent should be put in perspective. House prices have grown annually by an average of 7.3 per cent since 1999. Grattan Institute, 2016 According to the Grattan Institute, reducing the capital gains tax discount to 25 per cent, could raise about $3.7 billion a year, and would have a minor impact on house prices. Former BCA president Tony Shepherd, June 2015 Investor interest in property has been especially strong in recent years, no doubt partly encouraged by low interest rates and the prospect of [concessionally taxed] capital gains.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Democrats amass support to force showdown over Trump Supreme Court pick

Mon Apr 3, 2017 | 5:35 PM EDT 3h ago | 01:01 Senate committee votes to approve Gorsuch Democrats amass support to force showdown over... X By Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung | WASHINGTON Democrats on Monday corralled enough support to hold up a Senate confirmation vote on President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee but Republicans threatened to change the Senate rules to ensure conservative judge Neil Gorsuch gets the lifetime job. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-9 along party lines to send Gorsuch's nomination to the full Senate, setting up a political showdown this week between Trump's fellow Republicans and the opposition Democrats that appears likely to trigger a change in long-standing Senate rules to allow his confirmation. Democrats, portraying Gorsuch as so conservative he is outside the judicial mainstream, have amassed 42 senators in support of a procedural hurdle called a filibuster requiring a super-majority of 60 votes in the Republican-led, 100-seat Senate to allow a confirmation vote. Even before the panel voted, committee member Christopher Coons put the Democrats over the threshold as the 41st senator backing the filibuster bid. (GRAPHIC - Where senators stand on bid to block Gorsuch vote The Senate's Republican leaders insist Gorsuch will be confirmed on the Senate floor on Friday regardless of what the Democrats do. Republicans hold a 52-48 Senate majority. In the face of the filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be expected to force a confirmation vote by having the Senate change its rules and allow for a simple majority vote for confirmation of Supreme Court justices, a move sometimes called the "nuclear option" that Trump favors. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, leading the filibuster effort, said McConnell should have the "vision and courage to see past this impasse" and not "go nuclear," suggesting that Trump replace Gorsuch with a new consensus nominee chosen after meeting with Democrats. Senate confirmation of Gorsuch, 49, would restore the nine-seat high court's conservative majority, fulfilling one of Trump's top promises during the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump in January nominated Gorsuch, a conservative appeals court judge from Colorado. He could be expected to serve for decades. On the Senate floor, McConnell called the Democratic strategy "a new low," saying there was no principled reason to oppose a judge as well qualified and widely respected as Gorsuch. ADVERTISING He did not explicitly say he would use the "nuclear option," but several Republicans said that would happen. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the decision would be McConnell's. Republican Senator John McCain, a long-time opponent of Senate rules changes, told reporters he would support the move. Judiciary Committee Republicans blasted Democrats for pursuing what they called the first "partisan filibuster" of a Supreme Court nominee - there was a successful bipartisan filibuster five decades ago against a Democratic president's nominee - and said it would come to naught because of the threatened rule change. But it was Senate Republicans who last year refused to even consider Democratic former President Barack Obama's nomination of appellate judge Merrick Garland to fill the same high court vacancy that Trump has selected Gorsuch to fill. 'STILL FURIOUS' "Democrats, including me, are still furious at the way Judge Merrick Garland was treated last year. But the traditions and principles that have defined the Senate are crumbling, and we are poised to hasten that destruction this week," Coons said. ‹ 7/7 Sen. Orrin Hatch speaks to the media following a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., April 3, 2017. Reuters/Aaron P. Bernstein 1/7 FILE PHOTO: U.S. Supreme Court nominee judge Neil Gorsuch listens to a question as he testifies during the third day of his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 22, 2017. Reuters/Jim Bourg/File Photo 2/7 With his wife Marie Louise (L) looking on, U.S. Supreme Court nominee judge Neil Gorsuch testifies during a third day of his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 22, 2017. Reuters/Jonathan Ernst 3/7 Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee cast their votes to advance Judge Neil Grouch's nomination to the Supreme Court to the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., April 3, 2017. Reuters/Aaron P. Bernstein 4/7 Sen. Thom Tillis, flanked by Sen. John Kennedy, speaks during a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., April 3, 2017. Reuters/Aaron P. Bernstein 5/7 Sen. John Cornyn speaks to the media following a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., April 3, 2017. Reuters/Aaron P. Bernstein 6/7 Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley speaks to Ranking Member Diane Feinstein during a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., April 3, 2017. Reuters/Aaron P. Bernstein 7/7 Sen. Orrin Hatch speaks to the media following a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., April 3, 2017. Reuters/Aaron P. Bernstein 1/7 FILE PHOTO: U.S. Supreme Court nominee judge Neil Gorsuch listens to a question as he testifies during the third day of his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 22, 2017. Reuters/Jim Bourg/File Photo › Gorsuch was nominated to fill a vacancy created by the February 2016 death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. Democrats have accused Gorsuch of being insufficiently independent of Trump, evading questions on key Supreme Court rulings of the past including on abortion and political spending, and favoring corporate interests over ordinary Americans. Republicans control the White House and Congress for the first time in a decade. The inability of Senate Republicans to coax enough Democratic support to avoid the "nuclear option" reflected the intense partisan divide in Washington and the Trump administration's failure to win the cooperation of the opposition party. Senators Dianne Feinstein, the committee's top Democrat, and panel member Patrick Leahy, along with fellow Democrats Mark Warner and Ben Cardin, also announced filibuster support on Monday. Related Coverage VIDEOSpicer accuses Democrats of "partisan obstruction" Sen. McCain says will support changing rules to confirm Gorsuch With Coons, Democrats have enough votes to filibuster court pick Gorsuch Spicer accused Democrats of partisan obstruction that sets "a very dangerous precedent" and told a briefing that "we're obviously disappointed that the overwhelming majority of them are still playing politics with the nation's highest court." The actual confirmation vote would be by a simple majority if the filibuster is stopped. To date, four Democrats oppose a filibuster, four short of the eight that Republicans needed. With the failure of Republican healthcare legislation in Congress and with courts blocking the president's ban on people from several Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States, winning confirmation for Gorsuch has taken on even more importance for Trump. The 60-vote super-majority threshold that gives the minority party power to hold up the majority party has over the decades forced the Senate to try to achieve bipartisanship in legislation and presidential appointments. Republican committee member Lindsey Graham said, "If we have to, we will change the rules, and it looks like we're going to have to. I hate that. I really, really do." While Gorsuch's opponents would fight a Senate rule change, it was the Democrats who in 2013 changed the Senate rules to limit filibusters after Republicans used the procedure against Obama's appeals court nominees. The Senate, then led by Democrats, barred filibusters for executive branch nominees and federal judges aside from Supreme Court justices. Even if Republicans do change the rules, legislation, as opposed to appointments, would still need to meet a 60-vote threshold. (Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Mohammad Zargham, Tim Ahmann, Richard Cowan, Doina Chiacu and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Will Dunham)

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Wealthy White House staffers' finances detailed in new disclosures

Fri Mar 31, 2017 | 10:40 PM EDT ‹ 5/5 FILE PHOTO: White House Senior Advisor Steve Bannon attends a roundtable discussion held by U.S. President Donald Trump with auto industry leaders at the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan, U.S., March 15, 2017. Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo 1/5 U.S. President Donald Trump talks to senior staff Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner during a swearing in ceremony for senior staff at the White House in Washington, DC. Reuters/Carlos Barria 2/5 U.S. President Donald Trump talks to senior staff Steve Bannon during a swearing in ceremony for senior staff at the White House in Washington, DC January 22, 2017. Reuters/Carlos Barria 3/5 FILE PHOTO: Ivanka Trump attends U.S. President Donald Trump's strategy and policy forum with chief executives of major U.S. companies at the White House in Washington, U.S. February 3, 2017. Reuters/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo 4/5 FILE PHOTO -- Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner watch as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump hold a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2017. Reuters/Jim Bourg/File Photo 5/5 FILE PHOTO: White House Senior Advisor Steve Bannon attends a roundtable discussion held by U.S. President Donald Trump with auto industry leaders at the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan, U.S., March 15, 2017. Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo 1/5 U.S. President Donald Trump talks to senior staff Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner during a swearing in ceremony for senior staff at the White House in Washington, DC. Reuters/Carlos Barria › Wealthy White House staffers' finances detailed in... X By Roberta Rampton and Ayesha Rascoe | WASHINGTON President Donald Trump on Friday released details of the personal finances of his staffers late on Friday, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka, confirming that he has surrounded himself with some very affluent advisers. White House ethics officials said the legally required disclosure documents provided a snapshot of assets and positions held by personnel when they first entered their new jobs at the White House, and before they started selling stocks and other assets that could pose conflicts of interest. The White House disclosed Gary Cohn, former Goldman Sachs president and now head of the White House National Economic Council, had assets worth at least $230 million, but possibly much more. Little information was given on several of his assets and only indicated they were worth more than $1 million. Cohn had income ranging from $48 million to nearly $77 million in the year preceding his engagement in the White House, though it could be much higher. Jared Kushner’s 54-page report – which included most of the assets and income of his wife Ivanka Trump - included scores of assets worth six- and seven-figures. The New York Times reported that the couple’s real estate and investment empire was worth as much as $741 million. Kushner held executive positions with 266 LLCs, corporations, groups and non-profits, which he has resigned from since January. Democratic lawmakers have expressed concern about potential conflicts of interest for Kushner, who like Trump is a New York real estate developer. Trump this week officially added his daughter Ivanka to his staff. She had a fashion business and was involved in her father's global real estate development business, but stepped aside from managing the businesses when her father entered the White House. Senior adviser Steve Bannon's pre-White House bank accounts, real estate and other holdings were valued at between $3.3 million and $12.6 million. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus had assets of between $604,000 and $1.16 million and income of $1.42 million. About $566,000 of his income came from the Republican National Committee and the rest from his partnership in a Milwaukee law firm. Neither Trump nor Vice President Mike Pence's assets were included in the documents. Trump has faced questions about conflicts of interest with his hotel and golf course businesses since his election in November. He has handed off control to his two oldest sons, but ethics watchdogs have complained that the arrangements do not go far enough to avoid conflicts, and have urged Trump to divest fully or set up a blind trust for his assets. COMPLEX ASSETS Trump, a real estate magnate and television celebrity with no political experience before he was elected president, has brought in some high-net-worth people to advise him. For example, Reed Cordish, a Baltimore real estate developer before he become Trump's technology adviser, disclosed pre-White House assets of between $92 million and $798 million. He had income of between $48 million and $55 million. "These are incredibly successful individuals, very high-net worth, very sophisticated complex asset structures, numerous sub LLCs, trusts and other items, all of which have to be worked through," a senior White House ethics official told reporters before the data was released. Wealthy senior White House staff have to enter into ethics agreements where they agree to resign from positions and divest from assets. Copies of those agreements were not available. The White House said the independent Office of Government Ethics, which reviews financial disclosures to help executive branch officials avoid conflicts of interest, has classified about 25 percent of Trump White House staffers as having "extremely complex" reports, meaning the filers are very wealthy. In contrast, only a sliver of the staffers in former Democrat President Barack Obama's White House fell into the "extremely complex" category, according to pie charts released by the White House. No numbers accompanied the charts. Almost three-quarters of the Obama White House filers had disclosure statements that were rated "simple" or "moderate" while only a third of the Trump filers were in those categories. Not all of Trump's advisers were gold-plated before joining the government. Peter Navarro, Trump’s trade adviser, earned a relatively modest $240,000 from University of California-Irvine, with less than $1,000 in royalties from the book “Death by China” in the past year, and speaking fees from the Casket and Funeral Supply Association and other groups. Omarosa Manigault, who rose to fame on Trump's reality show the Apprentice and now is a White House adviser, had a modest income under $100,000. The disclosures showed she is a beneficiary of a trust established by her late fiance, actor Michael Clarke Duncan, worth between $1 million and $5 million. Manigault is currently engaged to a Florida pastor. Forms show she received a wedding dress, veil and accessories worth $25,000 for an appearance on the reality show "Say Yes to the Dress." (Corrects grammar in paragraph 9.) (Reporting by Roberta Rampton, Eric Beech, Ayesha Rascoe and Yasmeen Abutaleb; Writing by Bill Trott and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Lisa Shumaker)