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News Digests

Stay abreast of what’s happening internationally with developments in corporate public affairs. Here is news that you may find useful and interesting:

Nike sales defy Kaepernick ad campaign backlashND

BBC News, Tuesday September 11 2018

Nike’s online sales grew by 31% in the bank holiday following the launch of its controversial ad campaign, using Colin Kaepernick as the face of the brand. The sales come despite critics encouraging people to destroy Nike goods in protest at the use of Mr Kaepernick. In 2016, the American football player refused to stand for the US national anthem in protest at police brutality. Soon, other players followed suit, in a protest which divided the country and sparked the anger of President Donald Trump. "The research confirms that, at least for now, the company is suffering no negative repercussions in sales,” said the firm Edison Trends, who analysed the data. In announcing the deal, Nike said Kaepernick was "one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation".

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US-made iPhones would cost $150 more, supplier says as tariffs loomND

Lauly Li & Cheng Ting-Fang, Nikkei Asian Review, Tuesday September 11 2018

The time has come for many crucial suppliers to the most valuable technology companies on the planet to make emergency plans to move some production out of China as US President Donald Trump escalates a trade war that risks hitting electronics manufacturers hard. On Friday, Trump said tariffs covering an additional $267 billion of Chinese imports would be “ready to go on short notice”. That’s in addition to an already planned $200 billion round. On Saturday, Trump tweeted an “easy solution” to the tariff problem: “Make your products in the United States instead of China.” Most of Apple’s products are made in China, as are smart speakers by Amazon and Google, Fitbit products and notebooks by HP and Dell. Market watchers say any shift of the supply chain could cause major disruptions.

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Don’t try to be the ‘fun boss’ – and other lessons in ethical leadershipND

Kimberly Nei & Darin Nei, The Harvard Business Review, Monday September 10 2018

We collected personality data and supervisor ratings of ethical behaviour like integrity and accountability on 3,500 leaders across 30 organisations. The organisations included several industries, varied in size from medium to large and were largely multinational. We combined data across these 30 independent studies to ecamine the relationship between personality and ethical leadership across a range of different settings and situations, finding that characteristics relating to certain traits have stronger relationships with unethical behaviour. Here are a few tips based on the findings. First, be humble, not charismatic. Second, be steady and dependable: it will get you further. Next, Remember that modesty is the best policy. Fourth, balance analysis with action. And finally, be vigilant: vulnerability increases over time.

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Alibaba close to signing joint venture with Russian partnersND

Nikkei Asian Review, Monday September 3 2018

China’s version of a “digital silk road” across Eurasia is beginning to take shape, with Alibaba now in “advanced stage negotiations” to form a joint venture ecommerce company with Russian partners. According to sources involved in the deal, Alibaba is close to agreeing a partnership with Russian internet company, and the Russian Direct Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund. The involvement of the RDIF indicates the level of official backing for the plans. Last December, the head of the RDIF Kirill Dmitriev told Russian President Vladimir Putin that the fund planned to soon announce “investment in a number of our internet platforms with the aim of expanding their operations abroad as well as investement with Alibaba in internet logistics infrastructure in Russia”. Last Autumn, while sharing a stage with Mr Putin, Alibaba executive chairman Jack ma said that he thinks “Alibaba should join forces in developing Russia”.

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Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar over secrets actND

BBC News, Monday September 3 2018

A court in Myanmar has sentenced two Reuters journalists to seven years in prison for violating a state secrets act while investigating violence against Rohingyas. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested while carrying official documents which had just been given to them by police officers. The two journalists have maintained their innocence, saying they were set up by police. “I have no fear,” Wa Lone said after the verdict. “I have not done anything wrong. I believe in justice, democracy and freedom.” Reuters editor in chief Stephen Adler said that it was a “sad day for Myanmar”.

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Coca-cola bets on coffee with $5.1 billion deal for CostaND

Michael J. de la Merced, The New York Times, Friday August 31 2018

Coca-cola announced Friday that it planned to buy Costa, one of the world’s largest coffee chains for $5.1 billion US cash. The deal is Coke’s biggest ever acquisition of a brand, and will make it the third-largest player in the coffee shop industry, well behind Starbucks and just behind McDonalds. The deal is part of a larger war from big companies getting into the coffee business in an attempt to capture the fast-rising coffee consumption habits around the world. Coke’s sales have been falling for five years, as consumers move away from the sugary drinks that long underpinned its business empire.

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Trump announces ‘incredible’ trade deal with MexicoND

BBC News, Tuesday August 28 2018

US President Donald Trump announced an apparent breakthrough in renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on Tuesday, saying the agreed terms would make for an “incredible” deal that was “much more fair”. The treaty has been being reviewed for the past year, but in the last five weeks, Canada – the third country in the pact – has not been part of the discussions. "We will see whether or not we decide to put up Canada or just do a separate deal with Canada," Mr Trump said. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he had spoken with President Trump after the breakthrough with Canada, saying the pair had had a “constructive conversation”. A spokesman for Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said the country is “encouraged” by the progress made by the US and Mexico but did not comment on the specific terms. “We will only sign a new NAFTA that is good for Canada and good for the middle class. Canada’s signature is required,” spokesman Adam Austen said.

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Greece emerges from Eurozone bailout programmeND

BBC News, Monday August 20 2018

For the first time in eight years, Greece is now free to borrow money on the financial markets, after successfully completing a three-year Eurozone bailout programme designed to help it cope with the fallout from its debt crisis. Greece’s freedom to manage its own economic affairs will be somewhat tempered by enhanced surveillance from the European Union’s executive, the European Commission, however. This is designed to ensure Athens does not backtrack on reforms agreed with its lenders. Eventually, the bailout loans will have to be repaid. "For a political system to have gone through these years of austerity, this depth of economic hardship, and maintained a functioning society, a functioning democracy, is testament to the robustness of Greece as a modern state. Greece has saved the euro,” said Professor Kevin Featherstone, director of the Hellenic Observatory at the London School of Economics.

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Tech surveillance laws proposed by Australian Government 'aggressive', critics sayND

Ariel Bogle, ABC News, Monday August 20 2018

Security experts have labelled new laws that would compel global technology companies to assist Australian spy agencies and police “aggressive”. If passed, the assistance and access bill would introduce expansive new powers to help law enforcement officers investigate criminal activity online. Australia's proposed laws represent a significant step up in the fight against the criminal use of encrypted communications, according to security researcher Christopher Parsons of The Citizen Lab in Toronto, Canada. Among other provisions, the bill proposes three key ways for technology companies, software developers and others to assist spy agencies and police: a technical assistance request, where a company can choose to voluntarily help, such as give details about the development of a new online service; a technical assistance notice, where a company is required to give assistance if they can; and a technical capability notice, where a company must build a new function so it can assist police, as long as it does not force encryption to be broken.

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Saudi Arabia suspends Toronto flights in row with CanadaND

BBC News, Tuesday 7 August 2018

Saudi Arabia’s state airliner has suspended its direct flights to Toronto following Canada’s call for the release of detained activists for women’s rights and civil society. It has also frozen all trade and expelled Canada’s ambassador over what it calls “interference”. Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said she was “deeply concerned” by the diplomat’s expulsion, but added that “Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, including women’s rights and freedom of expression around the world.” In what appeared to be a further sign of deteriorating Canada-Saudi relations, a verified Twitter account with reported links to Saudi authorities shared an image of a plane flying towards Toronto’s famous CN Tower. The image was overlaid with text, including a quote which read “he who with what doesn’t concern him finds what doesn’t please him.”

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Transurban doubles profit as toll revenue soars to $2.34bND

Patrick Hatch, The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 7 August 2018

Higher road-user fees have helped to more than double Tollroad giant Transurban’s annual net profit to $468 million, the company revealed on Tuesday. Its revenue grew 8.7 percent last financial year to $2.34 billion, off the back of traffic growth of 2.2 percent acros its network of tollroads across Australia and North America. Growth was most significant in Melbourne, where revenue from CityLink jumped 13.4 per cent to $780 million. Traffic grew 1.4 per cent in total on that road, with some disruption due to works on the Tullamarine freeway, but the number of trucks using the road grew almost 9 per cent. That, along with higher truck fees, resulted in the jump in revenue, Transurban said. In North America, where Transurban earns almost ten percent of its revenue from roads in the Greater Washington Area, revenue grew 7.1 percent on traffic growth of 1.9 percent. The company also received a little help from President Trump’s corporate tax cut in the shape of a $105 million boost from a deferred tax asset.

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Apple, Facebook and YouTube Remove Content From Alex Jones and InfowarsND

Jack Nicas, The New York Times, Monday 6 August 2018

Alex Jones, founder of Infowars – a right-wing site that has been a leading peddler of false information online – found most of his posts and videos deleted by technology firms on Monday. Apple, Google, Facebook and Spotify severely restricted Mr Jones’ reach, in one of the tech companies’ most aggressive efforts against misinformation yet. Some of Mr Jones’ dark and bizarre theories spread online include that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax and that Democrats run a global sex ring. Apple was the first to make its move, removing content on Sunday, with the others following the day after. Deleting content is a tricky business for tech companies, who have long desired to combat misinformation online but have been reluctant to become arbiters of truth. On the move, an Apple spokesperson said “Apple does not tolerate hate speech.”

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Missing evidence base for big calls on infrastructure costs us allND

Hugh Batrouney, The Conversation, Tuesday July 10 2018

When the case for big transport projects is made without due analysis, we risk building the wrong projects, robbing ourselves of the infrastructure our booming cities need to be more liveable. Given how fast our big cities are growing, decisions cannot continue to be made based on limited or misleading information. Two stark examples – proposed rail links to Western Sydney and Melbourne airports and road congestion charges – illustrate the problem in different ways. These proposed rail links show how governments continue to make huge taxpayer commitments to projects before they fully understand the costs, benefits and risks. In the case of the recently announced multi-billion dollar investments in airport rail in Western Sydney and Melbourne, neither project has a business case. Despite this, both sides of politics were keen to commit to their building. Regarding Melbourne airport rail, the project’s route still has not been resolved, nor have its costs, ticket pricing structure or potential benefits. Too many big infrastructure calls in Australia are based on misleading information or wafer-thin evidence. We need to do better.

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The Brexiteers are defeating BrexitND

David A. Graham, The Atlantic, Monday July 9 2018

On Monday, Johnson, the British foreign secretary, resigned from the government rather than back Primer Minister Theresa May’s proposal for British departure from the European Union. He is the second minister in two days to leave May’s cabinet, following David Davis, the secretary in charge of Brexit. After a weekend working out an offer from Britain to the EU, May’s pitch to cabinet members was to toe the line or leave. That line was not ‘hard’ enough for Johnson, who wrote in his resignation letter that he did not believe the UK was likely to achieve the independence and autonomy that voters demanded in the Brexit vote. “We are truly headed for the status of colony – and many will struggle to see the economic or political advantages of that particular arrangement,” he wrote.

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Ex-News Corp exec Peter Tonagh in line to head public broadcaster efficiency reviewND

Max Mason, The Australian Financial Review, Friday July 6 2018

Former Foxtel chief executive Peter Tonagh could lead the efficiency review of the ABC and SBS, according to sources. Mr Tonagh left News Corp earlier this year, which has led some to be concerned about his eligibility to run an efficiency review into public broadcasting. The sources said however that Mr Tonagh was well respected, had experience in running TV stations and had admiration for the ABC and SBS’s missions. Communications Minister Mitch Fifield declined to comment on who would lead the efficiency review, but made clear it would not consider changes to either the public broadcaster’s charter, the editorial policies of the national broadcasters, allowing advertising on the ABC, charging for digital services, privatisation or a merger of the two channels.

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Scientists create new building material out of fungus, rice and glassND

Tien Huynh and Mitchell Jones, The Conversation, Wednesday June 20 2018

Would you live in a house made of fungus? It could be the key to a new low-carbon, fire resistant and termite-deterring building material. Known as mycelium composite, this material uses fungus to combine agricultural and industrial waste to create lightweight but strong bricks. It’s cheaper than synthetic plastics or engineered wood, and reduces the amount of waste that goes to landfill. Making the fungal bricks is a low-energy and zero carbon process, and their structure means they can be moulded into many shapes. In more good news, rice hulls and glass waste, which make up much of the material, are easy to find. In Australia alone, we generate about 600,000 tonnes of glass waste a year, and rice has an annual global consumption of more than 480 million metric tonnes. Usually, the rice hulls and glass waste are incinerated or sent to landfill, so the new material created by the authors offers a cost-effective way to reduce waste.

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Telstra slashing 8,000 jobs to cut costs, but shares still slammedND

Michael Janda, ABC News, Wednesday June 20 2018

Thousands of Telstra employees will lose their jobs as the company has announced an overhaul, but investors remain concerned by falling profits, sending the telco’s shares to a seven-year low. Telstra said its targeting a further $1 billion in cost-cutting by the 2022 financial year, taking total cost reductions to $2.5 billion. Telstra said that the lost jobs would largely be drawn from management, with one in four executive and middle management positions to go. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described the announcement as ‘heartbreaking’ for the workers involved, saying he had spoken with Telstra CEO Andy Penn last night and he was confident Telstra would support its former workers in the transition to other jobs. “When one company reduces its workforce, there are other companies and new companies, including other telecommunication companies, creating new opportunities and jobs,” he said.

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General Electric dropped from Dow after more than a centuryND

Matt Phillips, The New York Times, Tuesday June 19 2018

General Electric was dropped from the blue-chip index late Tuesday and replaced by the Walgreens Boots Alliance Drugstore chain. It was the last remaining original member of the Dow Jones industrial average. Over the last year, G.E.’s shares have fallen 55 percent, compared with a 15 percent gain for the Dow. G.E., which closed Tuesday at $12.95, has the lowest share price of any of the index’s 30 components. The removal of G.E., which will formally occur on June 26, reflects a shift in the economic composition of the United States, which long ago moved away from heavy industry toward services such as technology, finance and healthcare.

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As the shaky US-North Korea summit is set to begin, the parties must search for common interestND

Benjamin Habib, The Conversation, Monday June 11 2018

US President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un will meet on Tuesday for their much talked about summit in Singapore. For the event to be productive, the negotiations will need a base line shared interest that both parties can agree on. Given the long standing trust deficit between the two nations, it is worthwhile asking exactly what the two countries have to offer each other. Short of denuclearisation, North Korea can offer goodwill gestures, a nuclear freeze and testing moratorium. Trump has hinted that he might offer a formal treaty between North and South on ending the war. In terms of negotiating leverage, both parties have strengths and weaknesses, but the strategic importance of Seoul means that any attack on the South Korean capital would be devastating for the US. Summits are symbols that act as markers in a much broader process of relationship-building. This summit could be part of a process of a gradual evolution in the US-North Korea relationship.

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Italy’s new government wants to deport 500,000 peopleND

The Economist, Thursday June 7 2018

No sooner had Italy’s new Prime Minister Matteo Salvini been sworn in than he was proclaiming his eagerness to kick the 500,000-600,000 immigrants who are supposedly living without authorisation in Italy. “The good times for illegals are over,” he said. “Get ready to pack your bags.” Mr Salvini branded the NGOS who save migrants from drowning in the Mediterranean and land them in Italian ports (with the permission of Italian authorities) as “substitute people smugglers, and announced that migrants who are refused humanitarian protection will be shut into closed encampments from here on in. One reason that this cannot already happen is that most of the countries of origin of migrants refuse to have them back, but Mr Salvini said that he intends to negotiate more repatriation commitments.

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