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Tourists stranded in searing heat as Apple Maps fails

Source: The Age
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Motorists beware: use the new Apple Maps at your peril.

Police are “extremely concerned” at a large snafu in the program – tourists who use the new operating system iOS 6 to get to Mildura, on the Victorian-NSW border,are actually being sent 70 kilometres away to a national park.

Several motorists have become stranded in the Murray-Sunset National Park, where the mercury has recently risen to 46 degrees.

“Police are extremely concerned, as there is no water supply within the park … making this a potentially life-threatening issue,” a Victoria Police spokeswoman said.

“Some of the motorists located by police have been stranded for up to 24 hours without food or water and have walked long distances through dangerous terrain to get phone reception.”

Police tests on the mapping system confirm that it identifies Mildura as being in the middle of the park.

Officers have contacted Apple and hope to have the problems resolved soon.

The spokeswoman said that anyone travelling within Victoria “should rely on other forms of mapping until this matter is rectified”.

Apple has been contacted for comment.

A screengrab of the Apple Maps directions to Mildura. Source: Victoria Police

Uluru, bottom right, as seen on Apple Maps. Apple’s pin for it is not in the right spot.

The Twofold Bay Motor Inn in Eden, NSW appears to have relocated to Penshurst.

Geelong’s gone black and white.

Auckland in Apple Maps.

What Australia looks like when viewed from China in Apple Maps.

North Paramatta appears to have been renamed Baulkham Hills.

Is that a mountain or Lake Burley Griffin?

Another shot of Lake Burley Griffin.

The Three Sisters in Blue Mountains NSW looks somewhat eroded on Apple Maps.

There must not be too much around Singleton in NSW.

This Tamworth picture framing shop is depicted as being located in Sydney’s Ultimo.

Toowoomba QLD in Apple Maps, left, and Google Maps, right.

Cairns has been moved inland on Apple Maps.

“Lithgow” in NSW on Apple Maps, left, and on Google Maps, right. Apple Maps lists it in the wrong place.

River Derwent in Hobart shown on Apple Maps, left, and right on Google Maps. Apple Maps disconnects the river using land (it is not disconnected).

What Uluru looks like on Apple Maps.

Where Apple Maps think Kiama is located in NSW. Kiama is a coastal town.

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Why aren’t we getting inflight internet?

Qantas has scrapped its plans for inflight internet on A380 flights.You can get receive and send emails aboard almost any US domestic airliner for as little as $US1.95 for 15 minutes.
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The competition is fierce and no-one appears to be making money out of the service. The takeup rate is also miniscule, with just four per cent of flyers reportedly using it.

But airborne wi-fi was demanded mainly by business flyers, so it was provided.

Internationally, demand is also there, especially among business flyers, so leading airlines, like Singapore Airlines and Emirates, have jumped on board as the technology has become available, with rates starting at $US7.50 for basic access. Among the international carriers flying here, Cathay Pacific has promised a service and Qatar Airways has it aboard its new Boeing 787s, which begin flying to Perth this month.

But using a foreign airline is the only way you can now access inflight internet in Australian skies following Qantas’s decision to abandon its trial aboard A380s from Sydney and Melbourne to Singapore and London and, in the other direction, to Los Angeles.

Qantas said fewer than five per cent of passengers had accessed the serviced during the trial, according with international experience.

But the airline has decided it isn’t worth the hundreds of thousands of dollars per aircraft it must spend to provide the service.

“Naturally, the costs associated with offering a reliable internet connection in-flight are significantly higher than on the ground, particularly when you are flying over vast expanses of ocean and can’t connect to ground towers,” a Qantas spokesman told Fairfax.

The airline points out most of its A380 flights are overnight services and the vast majority of its customers prefer to sleep.

Qantas charged between $12.90 and $39.90 for its data packages in the trial – significantly more than the competition.

The airline says it is now concentrating on upgrading wi-fi access for its customers on the ground. Several months ago, the airline introduced free wi-fi access at its terminals in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.

Qantas’s new international partner, Emirates, has introduced the same technology on its A380 superjumbos with rates starting at $US7.50 for customers using five megabytes of data on their own mobile phones.

Virgin Australia’s partner Singapore Airlines (SIA) starting rates are also cheaper than Qantas’s at $US10 for 10 megabytes.

For the past two decades, Emirates and SIA have always been at the forefront in introducing the latest in-flight gadgets and it has paid off, particularly in Australia.

Emirates began its global marketing campaign two decades ago with the promise of video in every seat. Similarly, SIA gambled on new inflight entertainment (IFE) systems long before they were a proven product.

In the 1990s, IFE systems were full of wires that ran hot, sucked up a huge amount of the available onboard power – apart from anything, just to cool them down. And they were always breaking down; unserviceable IFE become the bane of of the lives of both airlines and their customers.

Qantas was one of the Western airlines that stood back and waited for the technology to become reliable before adopting it – and there’s no doubt who won that battle.

Emirates now has rights to operate more than 20 services a day to Australia and the Australasian region (Australia and New Zealand) now accounts for about a third of its global revenue.

Qantas appears to have made a sound commercial decision about the commercial potential of onboard wi-fi. It’s apparent that it’s never going to be a money-spinner – or at least it won’t be for some time until the cost of the technology comes down.

But it appears it has also given its key competitors another advantage with which to chip away at Qantas’s international market share on services to and from Australia.

Meanwhile, inside Australia, neither Qantas or Virgin Australia appear the least bit interested in providing wi-fi on domestic flights. Both are putting more effort into introducing onboard wi-fi designed just to run IFE applications without the telecommunications applications.

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

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Rape joke backfires on Virgin Mobile US

The offending ad that caused Sir Richard Branson to intervene. This was reportedly an earlier ad in the same campaign.
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Virgin Mobile US has pulled an online ad that appeared to make light of rape after an “epic marketing fail” that forced Sir Richard Branson to publicly intervene.

The ad depicted a man holding a gift while shielding a woman’s eyes with the caption: “The gift of Christmas surprise. Necklace? Or chloroform”.

References to the organic compound, once used as an anaesthetic but also as a tool for criminals to knock out their victims, sparked an immediate online backlash on Twitter after user EverydaySexism published a screenshot of the ad.

Many targeted their rage at Branson, prompting him to write on his blog that the ad was “ill-judged” and the company had “gone too far”.

“Although I don’t own the company, it carries our brand . . . having spoken with them just now they acknowledge a dreadful mistake was made,” Branson wrote.

“The advert, along with the whole calendar, has been removed, never to be seen again.”

An earlier posting reportedly in the Virgin Christmas ad campaign showed Santa giving a thumbs up with the caption: “Sees you when you’re sleeping – ladies”.

Virgin Mobile US is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sprint Nextel.

John Mescall, executive creative director at McCann Worldgroup and the brains behind the recent hit viral ad campaign “Dumb Ways to Die”, said it was “mind-boggling” the ad was made and described it as “an epic marketing fail on all accounts”.

“Humour is a very powerful way for a brand to generate the likeability that is needed to create memorability, but when using humour you have to accept that not everyone is going to enjoy it,” he said.

“It’s very subjective. But I’d imagine there’s one thing we can all agree on: rape jokes are never appropriate, full stop.”

Iain McDonald, founder of digital marketing agency Amnesia Razorfish, said some areas in advertising were “just no go”, particularly when there is a risk people could be hurt or offended.

“Bad taste jokes don’t work well for brands, especially in a social world where the power is very much with the consumer,” he said.

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

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Australian royal prank inquiry weighed

The Australian media watchdog is considering fast tracking an inquiry into Sydney radio station 2Day FM over its prank call to the London hospital caring for the Duchess of Cambridge last week.
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Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy told reporters in Sydney on Monday that the Australian Communications and Media Authority had taken the rare step of talking directly to 2Day FM to work out if an inquiry is needed into the call which preceded the death of a British nurse.

Usually, Australian consumers make complaints first to the media outlet concerned. If the complaint is unresolved, then ACMA becomes involved.

“The ACMA is talking to 2Day FM about the facts and issues surrounding the prank call,” Senator Conroy said.

”There is a provision for them to take action directly themselves … Hopefully we’ll hear from them shortly.”

On Sunday, NSW Police said they had been contacted by London Metropolitan Police about the prank, but there had been no specific request for information.

ACMA had earlier confirmed the volume of complaints matched the outcry over broadcaster Alan Jones saying the Prime Minister’s father had died of shame and Kyle Sandilands’s description of a female journalist as a ”fat slag.”

Senator Conroy noted that ACMA was an independent regulator, ”it’s not for me to tell them what to do,” but added that it was a ”very tragic set of circumstances”.

ACMA has the power to negotiate penalties with broadcasters (for example, when 2GB offered to Mr Jones have fact-checking training after he made false claims about climate change), impose licence conditions (2Day already has two; both for the Kyle and Jackie O show), or to suspend or revoke licences. The latter has never been done in Australia.

The chairman of Southern Cross Austereo has written to the London hospital that received 2Day FM’s notorious prank phone call to reassure them that immediate action would be taken over the incident.

Austereo suspended all advertising on 2Day FM on Saturday in response to an advertiser boycott after the suspected suicide of nurse Jacintha Saldanha, 46, who was taken in by the prank call.

Ad sales revenue was already under pressure, slumping 10 per cent in the three months to the end of September.

On Monday, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott told reporters in Sydney that the dust should be allowed to settled on the death of Ms Saldanha before there was debate on media regulation.

”This is a terrible tragedy, it’s a terrible tragedy for all involved. It was a prank that went horribly wrong. I think all we can do it mourn and grieve for everyone involved.”

With Ben Butler, Harriet Alexander, Julia MedewSupport is available for anyone who may be distressed by calling Lifeline 131 114, Mensline 1300 789 978, Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.

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Places in the heart: Marilynne Paspaley

As a ”typical cynical” teenager, Marilynne Paspaley thought Broome and its pearls boring. Fast forward and the WA businesswoman admits she adores this Kimberley town.
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I love looking at Broome’s landscape. The desert meets the sea and it has a unique beauty and contrasting colours. And you just can’t beat the beach — the ocean changes all day and still captures and surprises me. There is a softness about the colours that is calming and contemplative. We have the most wonderful sunsets and moonlight and a billion stars.

I saw my first Broome pearl when I was very young. My father was a master pearler here.I remember when I was a typical, cynical 16-year-old and I told my father that I thought pearl jewellery was boring. He gave me the challenge to create something beautiful and I made a magnificent bracelet, which was very exciting.

I used to go to the Shinju Matsuri, Broome’s Festival of the Pearl, when it was a genuine celebration of the end of the pearling season. It was a hidden treasure in those days and I met people from around the world who came to Broome just for that festival. There was feasting in the different communities – the Japanese, the Chinese and the general population.

The region’s food has always been fabulous because of the fresh local produce. One of my favourite foods is pearl meat. I like it raw with lemon or cooked with butter and olive oil, or Italian-style in a tomato sauce with champagne.

Broome has an incredible mix of blood and culture and is full of talented, creative people, including a wealth of recognised indigenous artists. There is a simplicity and natural beauty here that keeps you grounded and connected with everything and everyone around you.

Interview: Mal Chenu.

This series of articles produced with support from Tourism Australia.

Share your Australian Places in the Heart with Australia’s 3.7 million Facebook fans at Facebook上海夜网m/SeeAustralia

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Redskins and Cowboys score comeback wins

The Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys both came back from the brink of defeat to win their National Football League games on Sunday and stay in contention for the playoffs.
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On a roller-coaster Week 14, full of drama and upsets, the Redskins beat the Baltimore Ravens 31-28 in overtime despite losing star rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III to a knee injury in the final quarter.

The Cowboys, still mourning the death of linebacker Jerry Brown who was killed in a car crash on Saturday, kicked a field goal as time expired to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals 20-19 in Ohio.

The Atlanta Falcons suffered a shock 30-20 loss, only their second of the season, to the struggling Carolina Panthers, while the Indianapolis Colts inched closer to booking a spot in the postseason with a 27-23 victory over the Tennessee Titans.

The Ravens (9-4) were on the verge of clinching their spot and the AFC North division when they led the Redskins 28-20 with 30 seconds to go and dangerman Griffin out of the game.

But Redskins backup quarterback Kirk Cousins threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon, then ran for the two-point conversion to force overtime.

Kai Forbath sealed Washington’s fourth straight win with a 34-yard field goal.

The Cowboys won for the fourth consecutive time to join the Redskins at 7-6 in the NFC East standings, just one win behind the reigning Super Bowl champions, the New York Giants, who were hosting the New Orleans Saints in a later game.

Dan Bailey booted a 40-yard field goal on the final play of the game after the Cowboys had trailed by nine points at the end of the third quarter.

FALCONS SHOCKED

The Falcons, already assured of their place in the playoffs, trailed 23-0 early in the third quarter against the Panthers, whose second year quarterback, Cam Newton, ran 116 yards and passed for 287.

Atlanta replied with three touchdowns but it was all too late to prevent the Panthers from recording another upset on a day full of comebacks and surprises.

The Colts, once again marshaled by rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, came back from a 13-point deficit to beat the Titans, securing the win with two late field goals from Adam Vinatieri.

The Minnesota Vikings beat the Chicago Bears 21-14 in an all NFC North clash that opened the way for the Green Bay Packers to grab the outright lead in the division if they won Sunday’s late feature game against Detroit.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, despite having Ben Roethlisberger back in action, were beaten 34-24 at home by the San Diego Chargers, harming their chance of making the playoffs. Philip Rivers threw three touchdown passes for the Chargers.

The Philadelphia Eagles scored two touchdowns in the last four minutes including one as time expired to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23-21 and end their eight-game losing streak.

Reuters

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Action all too real as movie interrupted by car chase drama

Crash … the stolen car crashed into this green hatchback.A quiet night in front of the television turned into a live action drama for one Sydney resident when a man was arrested outside his home for allegedly leading police on a high-speed pursuit in the city’s inner east.
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The resident was watching the action flick The Bourne Identity in his living room in Paddington just after 1am on Monday when the sirens he initially thought were coming from his television seemed too realistic even for Hollywood.

“We thought the sirens were part of the movie, and then we realised they were getting closer,” the man, who did not want to be named, said.

He then heard a crash, which “sounded like a lot of broken metal and a lot of screeching tyres”, and ran outside to find a Ford Territory, which police said was stolen, had hit a small hatchback.

Police said officers had stopped the black Territory in Bondi Junction about 1am and the driver was unable to provide identification.

When officers went to their car to conduct checks, the driver allegedly mounted the gutter and hit the police car before speeding away.

Police chased the car, which allegedly reached speeds of 160km/h in a 60km/h zone.

Police said the Territory ran through a red light and struck a green hatchback at the intersection of Flinders Street and Moore Park Road in Paddington, before the driver again sped away and mounted a footpath, causing a large amount of property, suspected of being stolen, to fall from the boot.

The driver ran from the car before officers chased him and arrested him.

The 32-year-old driver was taken to the Prince of Wales Hospital for medical checks. He is expected to be questioned later today.

A female constable was taken to the same hospital for observation after the crash.

The man driving the green hatchback did not require treatment.

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

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Too high a price to pay

‘The chickens are included!’: Auctioneer Stephen Whitelaw at the auction of a Californian bungalow in Thornbury. It sold for $950,000.If 2012’s underperforming real estate market has a silver lining it could well be a sharper focus by vendors and agents on accurate price quoting. The New South Wales and South Australian governments are cracking down on the illegal practice of underquoting and Melbourne agents face rising pressure from buyers to provide accurate price guides.
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A new study by the Carlton North-based buyer advocate Secret Agent compares the advertised quote ranges of 324 inner suburban properties offered for sale between September and November with their eventual sale prices.

More than 78 per cent of the properties sold for prices above the high end of their quoted range. But the prices they fetched exceeded their quotes by an average of 8 per cent, and many experts would regard this as acceptable. Agents use comparable sales data and should be able to quote within 10 per cent of the selling price for most properties.

Secret Agent director Paul Osborne said when a property was quoted at ”$700,000-plus” and sold for $701,000 it was counted as selling above its quote. The survey showed 36 of 38 properties in Richmond sold for more than their quote. Properties in Fitzroy and Flemington were far more likely to sell within or below their quote.

Overall, the selling prices of the 324 properties, including 180 houses, exceeded their quoted range by a median $65,000.

At the onset of a property sale, a vendor and an agent sign a listing authority. Vendors can (but don’t have to) nominate the price they will sell for on this legal document. But the agent must appraise the property and provide an estimated selling price or price range.

”If the vendor writes on the authority, ‘I want $800,000’, even though the agent appraises the property at $650,000 to $700,000, then the agent must quote $800,000,” JPP Buyer Advocates director Ian James said.

He said more agents were removing all price quoting from advertisements and more vendors were writing ‘To be advised’ in the price section of authorities. ”Agents are buying the listing by telling the vendor they will get a lot more than what they really will, and they then low-quote to potential buyers,” he said.

NSW Fair Trading officers last month attended 20 Sydney auctions in a blitz on under-quoting.

The South Australia government has introduced a bill that will make it illegal for properties to be passed in at a higher price than the reserve, which must be set at no more than 10 per cent of the price acceptable to the vendor and listed on the listing authority contract.

In today’s more transparent market some buyers are voting with their feet. Mal James, of James Buyer Advocates, said he was seeing more buyers who refused to consider properties listed by agents who had a reputation for low-quoting. ”Owners should know they are losing buyers,” he said.

He isn’t impressed with agents who tell buyers ”we have interest around” a certain figure. ”A one-off figure is not an appropriate way to put a value on a home,” he said. ”Homes really do have a wide range.”

Real Estate Institute of Victoria spokesman Robert Larocca said the REIV and Consumer Affairs Victoria encouraged agents to offer a price quote range, rather than plus-style quotes.

Saturday’s auction clearance rate was 60 per cent for the 811 auctions reported to the institute.

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‘She’s not pretty’ – meet a real hobbit

A new evidence-based image of the tiny hobbit species – known officially as Homo floresiensis.SHE’S not what you’d call a classic beauty. Her chin is non-existent and her forehead less than flattering. But a new evidence-based image of the tiny hobbit species – known officially as Homo floresiensis – is about scientific accuracy, not aesthetics.
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Released on Monday, the 2D image was created by facial anthropologist Susan Hayes from the University of Wollongong.

“She’s not pretty,” Dr Hayes said after working on the project for eight months. “She doesn’t have those hyper-feminine features such as big eyes; there isn’t much of a forehead.”

With a background in forensic science, Dr Hayes created the image using high-resolution 3D imaging and CT scan data obtained from a female hobbit skull that dates back about 17,000 years.

The information was loaded into a computer graphic program, which allowed Dr Hayes to reconstruct the skull. The face and its features were then added, based on the skull’s structural attributes.

“Compared to other archaic hominins, there was a remarkable amount of information there,” she said.

Dr Hayes also analysed existing portraits by other palaeo-artists. She said the earlier depictions were largely dominated by monkey features, whereas her findings suggested modern anatomical features were more appropriate.

“As a Homo floresiensis she is closer to us than to a chimpanzee, which is our closest relative,” Dr Hayes said. “She is certainly more us than them.”

The remains of Homo floresiensis were unearthed by Professor Mike Morwood and the Liang Bua archaeological team in Flores, Indonesia, in 2003.

Dr Hayes said the task was an extraordinary challenge.

“She’s taken me a bit longer than I’d anticipated, has caused more than a few headaches along the way, but I’m pleased with both the methodological development and the final results,” Dr Hayes said.

Homo floresiensis lived on the Indonesian island of Flores until about 17,000 years ago. Nicknamed hobbits because of their diminutive size – at less than a metre tall – remains of at least 13 members of the species were unearthed between 2001 and 2004.

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

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Expect the unexpected to keep 2013 a lucky one

At the end of any investment period, you can produce a list of the 10 best-performing stocks and the 10 worst-performing stocks and, despite all the highbrow debate, opinions and blah-blah-blah, these lists are all you need to know.
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As we look forward to 2013, which will surely be a better year, all we need to do is guess what’s going to be on these lists in 12 months’ time. How do we do that? Simple.

In any period, the stocks that move are not the stocks that do what was expected, but the stocks that do things that weren’t expected.

If BHP hits its consensus forecasts, for instance, it won’t be on the list. Share prices move on new information and surprises, rather than expectations being hit and forecasts being fulfilled.

There is no money to be made from consensus forecasts. What moves share prices is changes in consensus forecasts and expectations.

So forget what’s cheap or expensive on current forecasts and forget what everyone expects. Imagine instead what’s going to surprise us.

Your job for 2013 is to get a gin and tonic, sit by the pool, shut your eyes and imagine what’s going to happen next year that no one expects.

This year, the ASX 200 was up 11 per cent, and the themes were pretty obvious. Anything to do with resources has underperformed and anything to do with banks, real estate investment trusts, healthcare, utilities, infrastructure and defensive stocks such as gambling have outperformed.

The 2012 performers list, which includes the banks and Telstra, might be characterised as a ”safe income” list. But it isn’t safe income at all; a lot of these stocks have below-average yields.

It is a ”reliable earnings” list. Westfield, for instance, has no earnings growth and a low yield (4.7 per cent), but is up 33 per cent this year.

All these stocks were bought because they represented businesses with low-risk, often regulated earnings, and not necessarily earnings growth.

The question is what’s going to happen in the coming year that no one expects. Here are some possibilities. Don’t laugh.

Someone sells a term deposit and puts the money into equities. Imagine that!

The new Chinese regime upgrades official growth domestic product growth forecasts. The resources sector goes into uptrend.

The US housing market leads a US economic recovery, driving cyclical growth stocks.

Fear subsides and the ”safety bubble” deflates. Suddenly, a lot of boring stocks with no growth are going to look heavily overbought.

The Australian dollar falls and currency stocks come into focus.

Retailers have a good Christmas.

At the moment, there is no faith in retail earnings forecasts. But what if retailers move from talking about a ”challenging outlook” and ”we cannot provide any earnings guidance” to an ”improving consumer outlook” and ”expecting earnings growth of X per cent for the full year”?

Consensus forecasts have some major retail stocks on a 10 per cent to 13 per cent gross yield. Imagine if that turned out to be true.

Now get yourself a gin and tonic, and see what you can come up with.

Marcus Padley is a stockbroker with Patersons Securities and the author of sharemarket newsletter Marcus Today. For a free trial, see marcustoday上海夜网m.au. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of Patersons.

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

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Actuaries walk the walk on women’s super

Rice Warner Actuaries wants to pay its female employees more superannuation than its male employees and has applied to the Human Rights Commission for an exemption from the Sex Discrimination Act.
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Rice Warner, which provides management consulting and actuarial advice to the financial services industry, wants to pay its women workers an additional 1.5 percentage points above the 9 per cent superannuation guarantee. The push follows the release of its report Valuing females and rewarding them in retirement, which identifies the barriers that leave women with less retirement income. The report, written by Rice Warner’s deputy chief executive officer, Melissa Fuller, suggests employers could be doing more to help close the retirement savings gap.

Rice Warner estimates its female employees will live on average three years longer than men and undertook modelling to calculate how much additional super would be required to cover this period. As well as living longer, the report says women retire two years earlier.

One of the main reasons women retire with less than men is that women are paid less. The Australian Bureau of Statistics said this year that the gender pay gap was 17.4 per cent. The biggest gap, of 33 per cent, is in the financial services sector.

To help women with their retirement savings, the report says the government could include the superannuation guarantee on its paid parental leave scheme. The scheme is 18 weeks on the minimum wage with no superannuation guarantee. The Coalition has a policy of 26 weeks on full salary, capped at $150,000, with the superannuation guarantee.

The planned increase in the superannuation guarantee – from 9 per cent to 12 per cent in the financial year beginning July 1, 2019 – will help boost Australia’s super balances over time.

But Fuller says women need to engage with their retirement savings. ”Super funds and employers can help make women aware of the issues, but women have to take action themselves,” she says.

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Stock-ing fillers for mum

Share the love … buy your mother stocks that will grow steadily. Illustration: Simon BoschTricky things, Christmas presents, especially for your mum. How many facials and cookbooks does she need? And why punish her for your lack of creativity?
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This year, do something different. Buy your mum something that will last and grow over the years. Then, when she’s ready, she can sell it and do what she wants with the proceeds.

Shares are a great Christmas present. Trouble is, there aren’t many bargains in Australia right now. Intelligent Investor’s Buy list sported 34 companies just more than a year ago. Now it features 14.

But, like many people doing their Christmas shopping on overseas websites, you’ll find bargains in Europe and the US. And one or two safe bets here.

So here’s the gift idea: make use of our strong currency and buy your mum a cheap overseas stock. Failing that, a reasonably priced local retailer will make a great stocking filler.

Now, you don’t want your mum worrying. Steer clear of any of those dodgy resources and technology stocks. Buy her enduring franchises that will grow steadily and pay her a decent dividend.

Woolworths is a good example. While Coles’s revival is getting all the media attention, Woolies remains the superior business, with far higher margins.

Metcash is the company losing in the battle between these two giants. Stick with the best: Woolies.

On a forecast price-earnings ratio of 17, it isn’t especially cheap but the fully franked dividend yield of 4.3 per cent will come in handy.

If mum is a little more adventurous, how about its British equivalent, Tesco? Tesco, the company where Woolies gets most of its great ideas, trades on a price-earnings ratio of just 10. It also boasts a 4.5 per cent dividend yield.

Ah, you say, mum might be OK with a local stock, but an international retailer? Too risky.

So here’s your argument, to be gently presented over a few wines and a bit of turkey.

Tesco is now the world’s fourth-largest retailer and dominates British grocery sales. Its Clubcard loyalty scheme and stunningly successful move into private label (40 per cent of its products are now Tesco-branded) have boosted its British market share from 10 per cent in 1990 to 31 per cent today.

The group’s operating margin of 5.8 per cent is well above its British and international peers, and 30 per cent of its operating profit comes from an international operation.

No wonder, you explain, that earnings per share have risen at an average annualised rate of 11 per cent in the past decade.

If she’s still not happy, you have two aces up your sleeve.

First, tell her Tesco is, in fact, a massive property portfolio with a retailer attached. The property is on the books at £22 billion ($33.8 billion), but management estimates it has a market value of £37 billion. The company’s net debt of £6.8 billion pales into insignificance in this context.

Tesco’s market capitalisation is about the price of its property portfolio. Tell mum she’s getting the supermarket business free.

Second – and this will be fun – tell her she bought in cheaper than Warren Buffett.

After the company announced a profit downgrade in January, Buffett increased his stake to more than 5 per cent of the business, paying a price that’s potentially a few percentage points more than you paid just before Christmas.

How good is that? She got in at a price cheaper than the world’s greatest investor. (Yes, you paid for it, but still.) If the only words your mum hears from your pitch are ”profit downgrade”, you’ll need to explain why Tesco is so cheap. You’ll need to admit this is a textbook case of a high-quality business going through tough times – that’s why it’s cheap.

But Buffett, like you, believes these problems are temporary.

The company is also a good hedge against inflation, which might be important if Britain resumes quantitative easing.

And, with the Australian dollar strong against the pound, Tesco offers useful currency diversification should the dollar eventually weaken.

If Tesco turns things around in a few years, your mum can sit on the dividends or cash in a little of her stake and take a trip to Britain to inspect her investment.

That’s got to be better than another facial, hasn’t it?

This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 282288). Nathan Bell is the research director at Intelligent Investor, intelligentinvestor上海夜网m.au.

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Dad accidentally shoots son, 7, outside gun shop

A 7-year-old boy had been buckling himself into his safety seat in the back of his father’s truck when he was shot to death after a handgun accidentally went off as his father got in the front seat, police said on Sunday.
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Joseph V. Loughrey, 44, told police he had been trying to sell the guns on Saturday at Twigs Reloading Den in East Lackawannock Township, 60 miles north of Pittsburgh. He unloaded the magazine at home, but didn’t realize a bullet was still in the chamber, Lt. Eric Hermick said. His son, Craig Allen Loughrey, was shot in the chest and died at the scene.

State police Lt. Eric Hermick said Sunday the father had secured a rifle in the back of the truck and placed his pistol on the console when the handgun went off. Hermick said police are reviewing surveillance video from the store, which helped lay out the chain of events; the video is not being released.

“It is very clear-cut exactly what transpired here,” Hermick said of what he called clearly an accident. “As he’s laying it down, it discharges.”

An autopsy was scheduled for Sunday and the results of the investigation will be given to Mercer County District Attorney Robert G. Kochems, Hermick said. A message left with Kochems was not immediately returned Sunday.

Hermick said the father was very distraught and cooperative; he said he doubts there will be charges, but that it’s up to the district attorney. The father could face charges, including involuntary manslaughter, Hermick said.

“It’s obviously negligent and reckless to some degree,” he said. “It’s obviously in that gray area, where it’s a true accident. But is there negligence or recklessness with him not clearing the chamber?”

A message left at a telephone listing in the father’s name was not returned.

AP

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2Day threats mount as prank anger rises

Jacintha Saldanha and her two children, taken from Facebook. Sorry … Mel Greig and Michael Christian.
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The boss of the radio station facing global condemnation after the death of a British nurse targeted in a radio prank said staff from the station tried at least five times to contact those involved in the call.

The station, 2Day FM, and broadcasters Michael Christian and Mel Greig, are under fire after nurse Jacintha Saldanha died in an apparent suicide after the call gained worldwide notoriety.

The pair had claimed to be Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles, and asked after the condition of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, who was in the King Edward VII hospital suffering from an acute form of morning sickness.

Mrs Saldanha answered Greig’s questions, referring to her as ‘‘ma’am’’.

Rhys Holleran, chief executive of 2Day FM’s parent company Austereo, reiterated on Monday that what had occurred was “a deeply tragic, unforseen circumstance” but that he was satisfied that the appropriate checks were conducted before the pre-recorded segment was broadcast.

“It is absolutely true to say that we actually did attempt to contact those people on multiple occasions. We rang them up to discuss what we had recorded. We attempted to contact them on no less than five occasions. We did want to speak to them about it,” he told Melbourne radio station 3AW.

Later, he said: “The day prior [to Mrs Saldahna’s death], people took it as a harmless prank in good humour.”

Greig and Christian’s program has been suspended and advertising on the station has been suspended until Wednesday. The station has not yet said when, or if, the presenters will return to the airwaves.

All Austereo staff were called to a meeting on Monday at 9am; employees have been gagged from speaking publicly.

Mr Holleran’s comments come as online vigilante group Anonymous is believed to have threatened the broadcaster in light of Mrs Saldanha’s death.

Using a new account on YouTube with the group’s branding, a person wearing a mask similar to that used by Anonymous members said 2Day FM was “directly responsible” for Mrs Saldanha’s death.

The video, uploaded from an account named An-onym Oz, purports to be from Anonymous but contains a spelling error in its opening titles. ‘‘Hello citizens of the world, we are Anonyomous,’’ it reads.

“We have listened to your excuses. We have heard the word ’prank’ a million times,” the person in the video says, in a digitally altered voice.

“We have studied the facts and found you guilty of murder. You have placed yourself in an untenable position. You have placed your advertisers at risk – their databases, their websites, their online advertising.

“We are Anonymous and hereby demand you terminate the contracts of Mel Greig and Michael Christian. We will not listen to any more excuses. We will not let you escape your responsibility. You have a funeral to pay for. We are Anonymous. We are legion. We are amongst you. Expect us. This is not a prank call; this is no laughing matter. This is your one and only chance to make amends. You have one week to do so.”

In Australia, New South Wales police are now helping Scotland Yard with its investigation into Mrs Saldanha’s death.

Mr Holleran said on Monday that he had not spoken to police “at this point in time”.

He said he did not believe any Australian Communications and Media Authority codes governing radio broadcasts had been breached or that the station’s licence was in jeopardy.

He said the company was happy to discuss the issue with any investigators.

“I’m sure that in the time ahead, there will be questions, and we’re happy to participate in that process, of course we are,” Mr Holleran said.

“We have said we won’t be running that style of call until we do [investigate] … this isn’t a witch-hunt and I don’t intend for it to be that way.

“If it’s appropriate to make changes, we will make changes, make no mistake about that.”

He would not comment on how much the fallout was costing the station financially and rejected suggestions of cultural problems at the station in light of repeated scandals, largely ignited by host Kyle Sandilands.

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

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12 days of Christmas on the cards

People can be generous to a fault at this time of the year, but if you bought all the gifts in The 12 Days of Christmas on your credit card, you would be out of pocket more than $25,000 and potentially be paying off the debt for 42 years.
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Weekend Money tallied the partridge, the pear tree, the white swans (black ones would have been a lot cheaper), a day’s milking from a farmhand and the services of the Williamstown RSL Pipe Band, among other things, to find out how much the gifts in the Christmas carol would cost.

The carol repeats the previous day’s gifts and adds a new one as each day goes by, but we reckoned no one’s ”true love” would want 12 partridges in 12 pear trees – no matter how much they welcomed your attentions – so we kept it simple (see table).

We then asked financial products researcher RateCity to work out how long it would take to pay off the $25,042 total, assuming you had a rewards-linked card (as you would if you went around spending that sort of money) and paid only the minimum required each month.

It turns out, with a card charging 19.42 per cent interest (the average for a rewards card), and a minimum repayment of just 2.35 per cent of the balance (again average), the debt would take 42 years to clear, at a cost of $52,650 in interest.

And that doesn’t include the $135 annual fee you would pay for the average points-based credit card.

The $180 in shopping vouchers RateCity estimates you would earn on the average rewards card for that spending hardly compensates for an interest bill of $4702 in the first year alone.

The bottom line is you would still be paying for Christmas 2012 in 2054.

As unlikely as that might seem, it’s a fact that three-quarters of the collective debt on our credit cards is rolled over each month – about $35 million out of the $49 million outstanding at the end of the month. At an interest rate of 20 per cent, that’s about $7 million in interest a year.

It’s true Australians have become more reluctant to use credit cards. But card balances have their usual spike in February, even during the worst of the global financial crisis, as the bills arrive for gifts and holidays bought in December and January.

And it’s at this time of year, Reserve Bank data shows, that people leave a bit more on their cards for payment next time.

”We’ve seen how pre-Christmas shopping on expensive credit cards can make for a very unhappy new year,” says Penelope Hill, the advice services manager at MoneyHelp, a financial counselling service run by the Consumer Action Law Centre.

To make sure Christmas cheer lasts throughout the year, we’ve pulled together holiday advice from consumer and financial groups. This year, much of the advice focuses on online shopping, over which there’s concern about how easy it is to tick and click, as well as the potential for the theft of personal information for financial fraud.

Don’t fall for the glitter

Hill of MoneyHelp says giving gifts is one of the most rewarding parts of the holiday season, but people should look out for sales gimmicks aimed at getting them to spend more than they planned. ”Take a deep breath before typing in your credit card details, and consider your financial position before buying,” she says.

Make a list and check it twice

Set a budget for Christmas spending, write a shopping list of gifts and treats, then stick to it. Even if it’s not your habit, keep a record of your card spending and check the daily total against your budget.

Think twice before applying for more credit

It may be tempting, but if you couldn’t afford a higher credit limit last month, can you afford it now?

Protect your personal information

”Christmas shopping online can be convenient, easy and find terrific bargains,” says the senior manager for fraud and financial crimes at Abacus Australian Mutuals, Leanne Vale. ”But make sure you know the seller is legitimate, you are confident in the product purchased and your credit card details are protected.” Provide card details only to secure sites that have the symbol of a locked padlock in the browser.

Don’t forget your phone

Most people are aware of the need to have security software installed on their computers, but with smartphones just as likely to be used for banking and shopping, we need firewalls, antivirus protection and strong passwords for these devices as well. ”It’s particularly important to ensure shopping using your mobile phone or other digital devices is safe,” Vale says. See staysmartonline.gov.au.

Tell your bank about your travel plans

If you’re taking advantage of the strong Australian dollar and going overseas, tell your bank and give them your contact details, the Australian Bankers Association says. The bank needs to know there’s a logical explanation for those transactions in New York, and how to reach you if they suspect fraudulent activity on your account.

Use the card extras you’ve paid for

The number of credit cards offering ”premium services” has doubled in the past year, says a RateCity spokeswoman, Michelle Hutchison. One of the most popular additions is the ”price guarantee scheme”, under which cardholders can claim a refund of the difference between what they paid for an item and the cheaper price if it goes on sale. These cards have annual fees of $100 to $150, and have interest rates as high as 23 per cent, so make sure they earn their keep. Also check if your card insurance covers the excess for insurance on your rental car.

Know your rights

Under Australian consumer law, goods must be of acceptable quality and fit for their purpose. If there’s a major defect, the consumer – not the supplier or manufacturer – gets to choose whether they want a refund, replacement or repair. If the defect is minor and can be repaired, the consumer cannot demand a refund but can ask the supplier to fix the problem. It’s up to the supplier to offer a refund, replacement or repair. People who receive goods and services as gifts have the same rights as consumers who buy direct.

❏ By the way, if you were to follow The 12 Days of Christmas to the last turtle dove, the total cost would be $119,240 – and you would probably be accused of stalking.

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

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