Commonwealth Bank of Australia CEO apologies for financial planning scandal
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Commonwealth Bank of Australia CEO apologies for financial planning scandal

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Ian Narev, the CEO of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, this morning “unreservedly” apologised to clients who lost money in a scandal involving the bank’s financial planning services arm.

Last week, a Senate enquiry found financial advisers from the Commonwealth Bank had made high-risk investments of clients’ money without the clients’ permission, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars lost. The Senate enquiry called for a Royal Commission into the bank, and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

Mr Narev stated the bank’s performance in providing financial advice was “unacceptable”, and the bank was launching a scheme to compensate clients who lost money due to the planners’ actions.

In a statement Mr Narev said, “Poor advice provided by some of our advisers between 2003 and 2012 caused financial loss and distress and I am truly sorry for that. […] There have been changes in management, structure and culture. We have also invested in new systems, implemented new processes, enhanced adviser supervision and improved training.”

An investigation by Fairfax Media instigated the Senate inquiry into the Commonwealth Bank’s financial planning division and ASIC.

Whistleblower Jeff Morris, who reported the misconduct of the bank to ASIC six years ago, said in an article for The Sydney Morning Herald that neither the bank nor ASIC should be in control of the compensation program.

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Electronic voting disputed in France
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Electronic voting disputed in France

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

In France, voting has traditionally been a low-tech experience: voters isolate themselves in a booth, put a pre-printed sheet of paper indicating their candidate of choice into an envelope. After officials verify the voter’s identity, the voter drops the envelope into the ballot box and signs the voting roll. French electoral law rather strictly codifies the proceedings. Since 1988, ballot boxes must be transparent so that voters and observers can witness that no envelopes are present at the start of the vote and that no envelopes are added except those of the duly counted and authorized voters. Candidates can send representatives to witness every part of the process. In the evening, votes are counted by volunteers under heavy supervision, following specific procedures.

In the past, voting machines, though authorized by law, were scarce. But this year, during presidential elections (the first round was April 22, the second is on May 6), the country is shaken by controversy about the machines intended to count about 1.5 million votes.

As in the United States, there is a group of academic computer scientists that oppose voting machines. They argue that voting machines replace a public, easily understandable counting process, where large-scale fraud would entail large-scale corruption, by an opaque process where votes are counted by machines that voters have to blindly trust. Voting machines have to be approved by the Ministry of the Interior, but this approval is based on confidential reports by private companies. Opponents to the machines point out that the Ministry was long held by Nicolas Sarkozy, who happens to be the leading candidate. Opponents also list a number of weaknesses and discrepancies that have occurred in other countries using voting machines.

All main political parties except UMP, Mr Sarkozy’s ruling party, oppose the voting machines. Some citizens have filed for court injunctions against the voting machines. Opponents have given detailed instructions that voting witnesses should check whether the machines correspond exactly to an approved type, including software versions, and fulfill all legal conditions. In a sign of the frenzy over the issue, on April 12 the Ministry of the Interior issued a last-minute authorization for a specific model (hardware, firmware). The stakes are high: votes on unapproved machines should be canceled by the Constitutional Council for the official count.

The opposition has crystallized on the Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux. Issy’s mayor, André Santini is a well-known technophile; his city organizes a “World E-Gov Forum”. Here too, last minute fixes are at work. The machines delivered to the city are of a yet-to-be-approved type. The manufacturer, the American company ES&S voting systems, is now delivering older 2005 machines. Le Monde reports that other municipalities have already replaced their recent machines by an older, approved, model.

Proponents of the machines, such as the French company France Élection, claim they are being defamed and dispute the competence of their critics. Elected officials supporting the machines claim the machines save on paper, time, and the need to find volunteers to count votes.

Detroit chemical plant experiences explosions, fire; residents evacuated/Brief
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Detroit chemical plant experiences explosions, fire; residents evacuated/Brief

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The EQ Resource Recovery Inc. and EQ Holding Company chemical processing plant near Romulus, Michigan, about 15 miles southwest of Detroit, was the scene of explosions and fire on Tuesday evening, continuing into Wednesday. The cause of the explosions and fire has not yet been determined.

Firefighters announced their intention to let the fire burn itself out, which was estimated will take approximately 8 hours. However, parts of the fire continued to burn as of Wednesday evening. There were evacuations of approximately 3000 residents from the area, but no reports of any serious injuries or fatalities. However, approximately 20 people were treated for breathing problems at nearby Oakwood Annapolis Hospital. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is analyzing soot in the area to determine whether it poses a substantial health risk. The company in question has been the target of numerous enforcement actions by the EPA in the past, including a $240,000 fine in 1999.

A major chemical processed at the plant is acetone, the main ingredient in nail polish remover, which is known to be toxic in high dosages, especially to those with lung conditions. Acetone is also an eye and skin irritant.

Romulus is the site of the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW), the primary airport for the Detroit area and a hub for Northwest Airlines. There was no indication that airport service would be affected.

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Christchurch can host 2011 Rugby World Cup final
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Christchurch can host 2011 Rugby World Cup final

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Christchurch, New Zealand‘s Jade stadium says they can host the 2011 Rugby World Cup final if Auckland can’t make a decision on whether or not they should build a new stadium on the waterfront or upgrade Auckland’s current stadium, Eden Park, costing NZ$500 million and $385 million respectively.

Jade Stadium would be able to host the final if they were to include temporary seating to accommodate 60,000 people, required by the International Rugby Board (IRB).

Gary Moore, mayor of Christchurch, said that if they were selected to host the final then they will ask the government for $80 million. The stadium is already planning for an upgrade, worth $60 million but that money will be funded from private and charitable organisations as well as the local and central governments. The current upgrade will see Jade stadium’s seating capacity grow to 43,000 and if they host a quarter-final or semi-final then temporary seating will increase the seats to 55,000.

Trevor Mallard, the Minister of Sport, said that the Auckland City Council and the Auckland Regional Council have both been given about two weeks to tell the government which decision it supports. If they cannot come to a decision then the final will most likely be given to Jade stadium, Christchurch. The least likeliest of all decisions, an upgrade of Carlaw park, but that is designated for a retirement home and on private land.

Mr Moore said that he and “stadium officials had offered Jade Stadium as a back-up final venue at a recent informal meeting with Mallard because of the continuing Auckland divisions over a site. This is about New Zealand Inc, not about Christchurch versus Auckland. What we have said to Trevor Mallard is we are able to put a stadium into Christchurch that would accommodate the numbers they would need as an insurance policy if Auckland cannot get its act together. The Government knows that when Christchurch or Canterbury puts its hand up it delivers with excellence.”

Bryan Pearson, chief executive of Vbase, the company which manages Jade Stadium, said: “It was not uncommon for major sporting venues to add temporary seating for big events. London had included temporary seating for some stadiums as part of its successful Olympic hosting bid. It was not a low-rent option, and was a commercially prudent way to marry short-term opportunity with long-term legacy.”

Mr Pearson hopes that Jade Stadium will not be used for the final as he understands why the government wants a national stadium, “Let’s hope this gets sorted and we can focus our attentions on playing a very major supporting role. We are only a third the size of Auckland, so what we can sustain post-World Cup is nowhere near what Auckland can.”

Warwick Taylor, former All Black, said it will be great if Christchurch can host the final even though he played in the 1987 final at Eden Park. Though Mr Taylor does say that an Auckland stadium is a better idea as a 60,000 seat stadium is more viable in such a large population city. Mr Taylor said that he “had great memories playing at Eden Park and in some ways would hate to see it lose the final. But I also like the idea of a national stadium.”

The New Zealand Rugby Union said that a waterfront stadium and an upgrade of Eden Park are the only two options being considered, and no other stadiums are being considered.

A lot of people are confirming that Christchurch will be able to cope with the huge amount of visitors that would arrive for the final as Christchurch has the highest per capita amount of restaurants and bars in Australasia. The city also features numerous hotels.

If New Zealand cannot deliver a final in a 60,000 seat World Class stadium then the IRB will allocated the final to another country.

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Northrop Grumman and Airbus parent EADS defeat Boeing for $40 billion US airtanker contract
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Northrop Grumman and Airbus parent EADS defeat Boeing for $40 billion US airtanker contract

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Northrop Grumman and Airbus parent company European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company EADS N.V. (EADS) have unexpectedly defeated Boeing for a US$40 billion (GB£20.1 billion) contract to supply the United States Air Force (USAF) with 179 new aerial refueling tankers at a rate of 15 a year.

It is the biggest contract of its kind since the Joint Strike Fighter program. That contract was fought for between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, Lockheed ultimately winning the contest.

JSA Research defence analysist Paul Nesbit said that Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) operations across the aircraft’s fifty-year service life could push the value of the contract as high as US$100 billion. Northrop Grumman CEO Ron Sugar said in an interview “Everyone told us we were crazy, that we had no chance. But we took a big swing and in this case, we hit a home run.”

USAF officials said that the contract had been awarded based on competence, track record and competitive pricing, with UBS analyst David Strauss saying “The key decision was the amount of fuel the bigger plane could carry. In the armed services, you can never have too much gas in the air.” USAF also denied that creating jobs in the US was a factor; job supply had been the reason Boeing were expected to win, with the airframer promising 44,000 new positions at 300 suppliers in 40 states.

The Northrop Grumman KC-45 tankers – more often known as KC-30s – are based on the Airbus A330 MRTT. The first four aircraft will be assembled at the main Airbus factory in Toulouse, France but by 2010-11 production of the remainder will be carried out at a facility in Mobile, Alabama. This is thought likely to create 1,500 to 2,000 jobs and support 25,000 others. 60% of the parts will be supplied by domestic manufacturers. EADS had previously announced plans to shift much production to the US due to the current weakness of the dollar.

General Arthur Lichte, head of USAF’s Mobility Command, said it is hoped the first aircraft can be tested in 2010 and in operation three years afterwards. USAF’s chief of staff General Duncan McNab stated “The tanker is the number-one procurement priority for us right now. It is the first step in our critical commitment to recapitalize our aging fleet to move, supply, and position assets anywhere.”

At a time when our economy is hurting, this is a blow not only to our state, but more than 40 states across the country who would help build this national plane.

There is still a possibility of Boeing challenging the decision; Boeing themselves were successfuly challenged by Lockheed and Sikorsky in 2006 over a US$10 billion contract to supply search and rescue helicopters to the Pentagon. A statement by Boeing given by Boeing spokesman William Barksdale said “Obviously we are very disappointed… Once we have reviewed the details behind the award, we will make a decision concerning our possible options.”

Washington senator Patty Murray, who hails from the same state where Boeing bases their commercial airliner operations, said in a critical statement “We are shocked that the Air Force tapped a European company and its foreign workers to provide a tanker to our American military. At a time when our economy is hurting, this decision to outsource our tankers is a blow to the American aerospace industry, American workers and America’s military.”

Washington representative Norm Dicks said he too was “shocked”, releasing a statement saying “This decision is even more disappointing because the Air Force had previously favored the Boeing 767 tanker and we were prepared to move forward with the production of 100 tankers in 2003, before the process was halted due to the Boeing scandal. I regret that it has taken so long to respond to what was—and is—an urgent need to replace these older aircraft. And even more regrettable is the decision to award the contract to Airbus, which has consistently used unfair European government subsidies to take jobs away from American aircraft workers.”

Kansas senator Sam Brownback said “It’s stunning to me that we would outsource the production of these airplanes to Europe instead of building them in America. I’ll be calling upon the Secretary of Defense for a full debriefing and expect there will be a protest of the award by Boeing.” Todd Tiahrt, a Kansas representative, said “We should have an American tanker built by an American company with American workers. I cannot believe we would create French jobs in place of Kansas jobs.”

A group of Washington politicians released a joint statement saying “We will be asking tough questions about the decision to outsource this contract… At a time when our economy is hurting, this is a blow not only to our state, but more than 40 states across the country who would help build this national plane.”

Alabama Governor Bob Riley said “To say this is a great day for Alabama is a monumental understatement. This will go down in history as one of our greatest days.” Ralph Crosby, EADS’s North America CEO and ex Northrop executive commented the business has “committed our full resources to support this vital program for our prime contractor, Northrop Grumman, the Air Force, and the war fighters that this system will serve for decades to come. We already have begun the work necessary to expand our U.S. industrial footprint in support of this important program.”

EADS chief executive Louis Gallois commented “This major selection is a win-win for our customers, for allied industrial cooperation and for EADS. It signals a quantum-leap forward in our commitment to the US defence customer, reflects and supports our global strategy to increase EADS’s industrial presence in key markets and our goal to balance the company’s defence and commercial portfolios.” General Arthur Lichte said “This will be an American tanker, flown by American airmen with an American flag on its tail and, every day, it will be saving American lives.

Boeing had initially agreed to lease 100 tankers, but in 2003 a scandal erupted when it emerged that Boeing executive Michael M. Sears arranged a job for USAF official Darleen Druyun while negotiations were still underway. Both served jail sentences for corruption charges and a competition was opened up to award a new contract.

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Second Arab-Israeli bulldozer attack in July 2008
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Second Arab-Israeli bulldozer attack in July 2008

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sixteen were wounded, one seriously when a Palestinian rammed a backhoe loader into a bus followed by attacks on several other vehicles Tuesday afternoon in Jerusalem before he was shot dead by the security forces. This is the second such incident in Jerusalem in three weeks. A spokesman for the Israeli police said that a civilian shot the vehicle’s driver but the bulldozer was still running. A police patrol continued shooting until the driver died.

The bulldozer driver who was, according to witnesses, wearing a large white skullcap common to religious Muslims, first hit the No. 13 bus on its side and then chased it while raising the shovel of his front-end loader, the driver managed to make a right turn and get away from the bulldozer which then went on to zig zag across the street and hit further cars until it came to a stop following the driver being gunned down.

Today’s bulldozer attack is a reminder of what Israelis have courageously lived with on a daily basis for far too long.

Speaking in Amman, United States presidential candidate Barack Obama said: “Today’s bulldozer attack is a reminder of what Israelis have courageously lived with on a daily basis for far too long. I strongly condemn this attack and will always support Israel in confronting terrorism and pursuing lasting peace and security.”

After the attack, which follows a similar attack on July 2, and the indictment of six Israeli-Arabs from Jerusalem accused of belonging to a terrorist cell, Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, said: “We should reconsider the employment of these people.”

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New Zealand Government announces record surplus
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New Zealand Government announces record surplus

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Today the New Zealand Government announced that they had a record surplus of NZ$11.5 billion for the 2005 and 2006 financial year. This amount was $2.5 billion more than the government expected to get, however $1.8 billion of the surplus was because of a change to the recording of the tax take.

However the surplus is now going to put more pressure on the government to put tax cuts on the cards. Both the Labour and United Future parties are reviewing cutting business tax. But the National party says that with the big surplus they can afford to cut both business tax and personal tax.

However finance minister, Doctor Michael Cullen, said the amount of cash available for tax cuts will be clearer in December.

John Key, finance spokesman for National, said: “The surplus makes a mockery of claims made by Michael Cullen before the last election that tax cuts were unaffordable and would put at risk core primary services. When surpluses are this enormous, any veiled hope the government had that it is not overtaxing people will rapidly evaporate.”

Cullen said: “The Government’s “robust” financial position was a firm base for the future, but it was not an indication of how much room he had for tax cuts or spending.”

Phil O’Reilly, Chief Executive of Business New Zealand said: “The business tax reduction from 33 to 30 cents planned for April 2008 could be brought forward to April 2007. The last time the business rate was cut, in 1989, business tax revenue actually went up. In the decade before 1989, revenue averaged around $1 billion a year, while in the decade after, it averaged nearly $3 billion a year – in other words, revenue nearly tripled.

“It [tax] should be put to use in a way that truly benefits New Zealand,” O’Reilly added.

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Wikinews Shorts: April 9, 2007
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Wikinews Shorts: April 9, 2007

A compilation of brief news reports for Monday, April 9, 2007.

Contents

  • 1 Three-year-old New Zealander chokes to death on candy
  • 2 Golf: Zach Johnson wins 71st Masters
  • 3 New York couple taking taxi to Arizona
  • 4 Vocational nurse charged with fatal Houston fire
  • 5 Iran starts industrial-scale production of nuclear fuel

The New Zealand Police has reported that a three-year-old boy choked to death on Saturday afternoon, due to what they believe was a piece of candy at his birthday party.

The parents did call New Zealand’s emergency number, 1-1-1, after their son alerted his parents to the fact that he was choking. The paramedics were unable to revive the Napier boy when they arrived at the scene.

The case has been referred to a coroner.

Sources


Relatively unknown golfer Zach Johnson won the 71st Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. Johnson shot 3-under-par 69 in Sunday’s fourth round, to win by 2 strokes over Tiger Woods, Retief Goosen, and Rory Sabbattini.

Johnson won a purse worth US$1,305,000 and a lifetime qualification to the Masters Tournament, held annually at the Augusta National Golf Club.

Sources


A couple living in New York City have decided to take a taxi all the way to Arizona. Betty and Bob Matas are retiring and leaving the city for good. What started as joke, has become reality, in part to spare their cats from traveling in a jetliner cargo-hold. They have negotiated a US$3,000 flat fee instead of the metered rate, which was estimated at US$5,000.

Sources


A vocational nurse working for Dr. John Capriotti, a plastic surgeon, was accused of setting the fire that wounded several and killed three people in Houston, Texas on March 28. She was allegedly trying to cover up the fact that she hadn’t completed the paperwork for an upcoming audit.

The fire began in Dr. Capriotti’s office on the fifth floor and quickly spread to the sixth. Arson investigators from the Houston Fire Department, the FBI and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had been working to determine the source of the fire.

Sources


Iran announced that it has started industrial scale production of nuclear fuel involving hundreds of centrifuges. The announcement comes as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reasserts his nation’s nuclear rights in the face of two rounds of sanctions by the UN Security Council, which is seeking a halt to such work.

The United States denounced the declaration, saying it showed Iran was defying the international community.

Sources



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APEC leaders wear Driza-Bones for group photo
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APEC leaders wear Driza-Bones for group photo

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Leaders attending the APEC summit in Sydney, Australia have worn Driza-Bone coats for their traditional group photo in front of the Sydney Opera House. In APEC tradition, leaders wear attire which draws inspiration from the host nation’s national costume.

Australia’s choice was made by Prime Minister John Howard and his wife Janette. Australia does not have a national costume. In an APEC statement it was revealed that Driza-Bone had been consulted to produce an outfit that “captures the essence of Australia’s culture and environment.”

“Driza-Bone coats were born over 100 years ago when a sailor fashioned waterproof coats out of windjammer sails for protection against the harsh Australian trade winds,” the statement said.

“These coats were also perfect for people working on the vast Australian continent and have since been adapted into the perfect riding and outback attire.”

The custom-made knee-length coats worn by the leaders were the traditional dark brown of all Driza-Bones and had differing colours for the lapels and linings – slate blue for Australia’s vast coastline, mustard yellow for the sun and sand; red ochre for the outback and eucalyptus green for the bush. Leaders were given the choice over which highlight colour they wanted.

The choice of costume was a closely guarded secret by Australia officials, with speculation rife throughout the media. It has been suggested that the costume could include “budgie smugglers” (male swimwear)- and thongs (flip flops) to represent the beach;blue singlets and shorts favoured by labourers or khaki gear in memory of Steve Irwin.

The group photo is said to be one of the most anticipated parts of the APEC summit, with people wanting to see which leader looks the “silliest”. In the past leaders have been dressed in silk tunics, leather bomber jackets and Batik-print shirts.

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