Archive Month: April 2019
Apr 29 , 2019 / By :

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is planning about Y3.

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5 trillion ($A36.94 billion) in stimulus, including subsidies and job-creating programs, to help pull the world’s third-largest economy out of recession.

Officials on Friday said details of the plan would be approved by the Cabinet on Saturday as it wrapped up work for 2014. The plan reportedly includes 420 billion yen in help for stagnant regional economies.

Abe took office for a third term on Wednesday and faced strong pressure to do something to restore growth after a sales tax hike in April put Japan back in recession.

Data released on Friday showed inflation eased slightly in November as household spending dropped, hindering the government’s effort to get the economy out of recession and back to sustainable growth.

Core consumer prices, excluding food, rose 2.7 per cent, while the inflation rate, excluding food and energy, was 2.1 per cent. The inflation rate was 2.9 per cent in October.

Overall incomes fell 1.1 per cent in November from a year earlier, while household spending was down 2.5 per cent. Unemployment was flat at 3.5 per cent.

Abe’s stimulus plan will focus on providing more support to lower income families and to Japan’s regions where growth has stagnated, reports said on Friday.

Japan’s central bank is buying up to 80 trillion yen in assets each month, mostly government bonds, to help spur inflation, but so far has not attained its target of two per cent price increases overall. Meanwhile, since wage increases have not kept pace with inflation, rising share prices and corporate profits have done little to stimulate consumer demand, apart from a rush of purchasing ahead of the April tax hike.

A large share of the proposed support for local governments will be handouts to local governments, to be used for shopping vouchers to entice people to spend more, local media reported.

The government will also provide funds to back loans to small and medium size businesses that have struggled with rising costs thanks to a weakening yen, which has boosted the prices Japanese pay for energy, food and other imported goods.

Another key aim is to ensure improved job prospects for younger Japanese in regions that are suffering severe population decline as jobseekers crowd into the cities.

Not all of the proposals enjoy universal support. Talk of tax breaks for companies that relocate offices out of Tokyo and into regional cities worries officials in the capital trying to boost investment in the city.

“Japan won’t move forward unless Tokyo leads the country as a locomotive,” the Jiji news agency cited Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe as saying in a recent interview. “Tokyo should not be regarded as evil.”

Apr 29 , 2019 / By :

Islamists have killed at least 22 soldiers after a surprise attack in which they used speedboats in a failed bid to seize some of Libya’s main oil terminals.

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The fighting in the oil-rich region came as pro-government forces lost ground to Islamist militias in the eastern city of Benghazi, where jihadists beheaded six people and killed another 14, military officials said.

The militiamen belonging to the Fajr Libya, or Libya Dawn, launched the attack on Al-Sidra port by firing rockets from speedboats, setting an oil tank on fire, security sources said on Friday.

Soldiers damaged three of the vessels before clashes in which the militants were eventually repelled.

“These speedboats had fired several rockets at the terminals of Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra and one of them hit a tank south of Al-Sidra port which then caught fire,” said Ali al-Hassi, security spokesman for the region.

Al-Sidra is in the “oil crescent” region that has been the scene of recent fighting between government forces and Fajr Libya.

The latest clashes pushed oil prices higher in Asia on Friday, with US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for February delivery rising US28 cents to $US56.12, while Brent for February gained US13 cents to $US60.37.

Witnesses said the attack was launched overnight, and reported seeing smoke from the burning oil tank.

Military and medical sources said 18 soldiers and a Fajr Libya fighter were killed in Sirte, and another four soldiers were slain in Al-Sidra.

Most of the dead soldiers belonged to the 136th battalion responsible for monitoring a power plant west of Sirte, the sources said.

Since the clashes erupted on December 13, the country’s oil production has dropped to nearly 350,000 barrels per day compared with 800,000 previously, according to industry experts.

“The armed forces on Thursday repelled an attack in which the Fajr Libya militia tried to seize the Al-Sidra oil terminal,” said Hassi.

A medical source at Ibn Sina hospital in Sirte earlier said the facility had received 18 bodies from the fighting.

The 136th battalion is affiliated with the military, and most its fighters are from a tribe loyal to former general Khalifa Haftar.

A military official said Haftar’s forces and pro-government troops had lost several positions in Benghazi to Islamist militias in the past 24 hours.

“Islamist gunmen seized large parts of Al-Lithi in south-central Benghazi, setting fire to 45 homes of people linked to Haftar and pro-government forces,” the official said.

The official, who declined to be named, said six people were beheaded and 14 others killed in the attacks.

Haftar’s forces have been fighting alongside forces from the internationally recognised government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani to overrun Islamists from Benghazi.

In other violence, on Thursday three Fajr Libya men were killed in a raid in Tripoli, which Islamists seized in the summer after fierce fighting with nationalist forces.

On December 16, a warplane belonging to Fajr Libya fired missiles at a sector to the west of Al-Sidra, in the first such raid in the energy-rich region.

More than three years after dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled and killed in a NATO-backed revolt, Libya is still awash with weapons and powerful militias, and has rival parliaments as well as governments.

Apr 29 , 2019 / By :

New American flyer Comanche was leading three of her fellow super maxis, but torrid conditions took a toll on the smaller boats on the opening night of the Sydney to Hobart race.

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Strong southerly winds of up to 30 knots pummelled the fleet, which was reduced from 117 to 110, with seven boats retiring in the first seven-and-a-half hours.

At the front, Comanche, which impressively won the early dash to be first through Sydney Heads, was around two nautical miles ahead of seven-times line honours winner Wild Oats XI.

Two other supermaxis, Perpetual LOYAL and Ragamuffin 100, were a further three-and-a-half and six miles adrift, respectively.

The fifth supermaxi, RIO 100, struggled in the heavy conditions and was lagging in eighth, with Giacomo, Black Jack and Alive, filling fifth to seventh spots, respectively.

The leaders were well off race record pace.

Of the retired yachts, 1997 line honours winner Brindabella was the biggest boat and highest profile casualty.

The 21-year-old 80-footer pulled out with rudder bearings issues.

Barely two hours had elapsed before news of the first casualties emerged.

Sydney-based boats Bear Necessity (rudder damage) and Accessional Coarse Language Too (steering damage) and Victorian yacht Tina of Melbourne (hull damage) were among the first wave of stricken vessels to stop racing.

Triton (forestay damage), Wiilyama (torn mainsail), Brindabella and Last Tango (sail damage) were later additions to the mounting list.

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While the southerlies were expected to lash the fleet throughout the night, significantly higher conditions were forecast to arrive at some stage of Saturday morning.

Among the early frontrunners on handicap were British 68-footer Titania of Cowes, NSW 40-footer Ariel and New Zealand Volvo 70 boat Giacomo.

Apr 29 , 2019 / By :

Australians in Thailand have paid tribute to the thousands of victims of the Boxing Day tsunami, which brought death, ruin and destruction to resort beaches 10 years ago.

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The tsunamis spread despair and destruction over 14 countries around the Indian Ocean, and left a death toll of more than 225,000.

For Australians, the anniversary will bring back scenes from Thailand – the initial shocking video of waves smashing beaches recognisable to so many, and the stories of holidaymakers who would never make it home.

Of the 26 Australians who died in the 2004 catastrophe, 23 were lost in Thailand.

Former Sydney lifeguard Grant Young paddled out into the surf at Khao Lak on Friday morning and scattered frangipanis in the water, his personal tribute to the victims.

His first visit to Thailand was two months after the disaster, when he was struck by the character of the people he met.

“I fell in love with the place,” he told AAP.

“They’re that sort of people, they just get on with life, they don’t sit around.

“But a lot of people are afraid of another tsunami coming through.

“I know Thai people who won’t go anywhere near the water now.”

Jorja Braden took time out from her holiday to reflect at Khao Lak’s tsunami memorial.

“It’s a bit unreal being here on a holiday at the beach,” the Sydney woman said.

“You can’t imagine what it was like here 10 years ago.

“It was at the forefront of my mind, 10 years ago, imagine the horror that happened, what would you do? The devastation must have been horrible.”

Khao Lak was the worst-hit part of Thailand’s southern coast, with at least 4000 victims.

The tsunami’s power was enough to drive a 60-tonne police boat two kilometres inshore.

The hundreds of mostly thatched buildings in its path were simply obliterated.

Among the victims were honeymooners Moi Vogel, 32, and Christian Nott, 34.

Ms Vogel, a Sydney television producer, had last called home on Christmas Day, to tell her father she was expecting a child to her photographer husband.

Most Australian lives were lost at Phuket, which was less seriously impacted by the tsunami, but back then hosted more tourists from Australia than any other country.

One of the first Aussies to be feared dead was Melbourne teenager Paul Giardina.

Paul, 16, had Down syndrome and a limited ability to speak. He became separated in the water from his father Joe.

They’d been having breakfast in the beachfront restaurant of the Seaview Hotel when the water burst through.

Australians also died at Phi Phi island, including Melbourne AFL player Troy Broadbridge.

The footballer, 24, and his new wife Trisha, also on their honeymoon, were walking on the beach when the tide came up and eventually separated them.

At least 5400 people were killed in Thailand, which suffered doubly from the blow to tourism, which was flat for a year.

Now booming again, Thailand is keen to reassure the world it is ready should another disaster strike.

Part of the commemorations to take place on Friday at the police boat T813 – now a permanent on-land memorial at Khao Lak – are disaster readiness displays and drills.

Thai Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-o-cha will speak, ahead of a candlelight tribute.

In Phuket, an annual tradition of lighting candles in the sand at Patong Beach will continue.