Who’ll Be 2020’s Margaret Chase Smith?

History can sometimes help us through current moments by showing what’s needed and providing inspiration.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of a great act by a great lady. Margaret Chase Smith was a U.S. representative from 1940-49 and a senator from 1949-73. Her name is always followed by “the first”—the first woman to serve as a senator from Maine, first to serve in both the House and Senate, first to have her name placed in nomination for the presidency at a major party convention.

She was generally considered a moderate to liberal Republican, and sometimes called a progressive one. She wanted to provide citizens the help they needed to become fully integrated into society and productive within it.

She was independent and made this clear early. She was initially the only member from Maine to support Lend-Lease and extension of the draft. She survived these votes because she understood her state: It was isolationist but also patriotic, against war but for preparedness, and Mainers didn’t like partisanship messing with foreign policy. She was for civil rights, supported Social Security and Medicare. She had a strong sense of where she was from, and felt the civic romance of it. She told biographer Patricia L. Schmidt that she loved Maine’s small-town church spires, and her dream was to see that each town had the money to buy a spotlight so the white spires could be seen for miles at night.

She faced criticism from the right. No, she’d blandly state on being questioned, union leaders hadn’t endorsed her in the last election, but she couldn’t help it if union members loved her.

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Reframe, renew and reimagine with 2020’s featured innovations at TECHFEST2020 LIVE

  • Among many highlights of festival is 2020’s Featured Innovations session
  • Bring together ecosystem of technologies, consumers, decision makers and innovators

WITH over 200 on-demand sessions from at least 120 global experts featuring insights from industry leaders, new innovative business models and inspiring success stories of tech use from across the world, TECHFEST2020 LIVE is definitely one of the things you need make time for this year.

The three-day digital festival – both virtual and through specially curated exclusive events, as well as live broadcasted conversations – will take place proudly from the centre of George Town, Penang – a UNESCO World Heritage site, from Nov 18-20, 2020.

Despite the uncertainties posed by Covid-19, the Penang state government has decided to move forward with a special edition of the World Congress On Information Technology, with ROAD-TO-WCIT Malaysia and Penang TECHFEST2020 LIVE as the umbrella digital festival, by innovating its style of presentation.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow says: “In fact, this pandemic accelerated the digital transformation planned by the state government.”

While curated and exclusive physical events will take place at the Setia Spice Convention and Exhibition Centre, Bayan Baru, there will be a live telecast via ASTRO which comes with 77% penetration rate in homes throughout Malaysia and online streaming to a global audience of 83 countries with virtual exhibitions, AI-powered B2B matching and networking as well as workshops and masterclasses.

“We should invest wisely and effectively in the new digital world that is upon us. All our experts agree that proper management of the digital revolution is key to future progress,” notes Chow.

In line with Penang2030’s vision for greater participation from all its stakeholders to propel Penang into being a smart state, TECHFEST2020 LIVE’s mission is to reframe technology and better our lives, and to hold innovation accountable for societal good. TECHFEST2020 Live is jointly organised by the National Tech Association of Malaysia, PIKOM and enabled by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC).

TECHFEST’s  logo is a simple symbol made by the hands to signify the act of reframing the need for technology to better humanity; as the promise of the digital age. Every innovation needs to be held accountable for societal good.

TECHFEST2020 LIVE will bring together an ecosystem of technologies, solutions, consumers, key decision makers who influence policies in city planning, mobility and innovators as well as leading industry players responsible in bringing about advancement and growth.  Indeed, there is much to look forward to.

One of the highlights of the festival is 2020’s Featured Innovations session during which innovative products, services and startups will be invited to showcase and build market traction through a home-shopping-talk-show format, the TECH MARKETPLACE. This program aims to list 300 new and emerging tech and put the spotlight on at least 40.


Watch, order, eat

Join in the conversations of how technology is revolutionizing our way of life, more than ever in this time of the coronavirus. Take for example, Dabao, an organic and sustainable Offline-To-Online business plan for F&B ventures. Dabao not only offers ordering tech, a payment gateway and delivery service, it also goes the extra mile by producing customized content and audiences.

It promises a live show to showcase your F&B Business via FB and Instagram, to increase audience engagement, and allow potential customers to watch and then order food, join food discussions and engage in online activity. This platform also allows businesses to share behind-the-scene stories and pictures, combining entertainment, F&B, marketing and social media all in one.


Future’s so bright

You will also come across organisations such as SOLS Energy – a licensed renewable energy specialist operating in Malaysia, which designs, distributes, installs and maintains solar energy systems for residential, commercial and industrial properties.

A few decades ago, households may have had a valid excuse to say no to solar power as it was too expensive. Today, however, solar power produces cheaper electricity than almost all of its alternatives! It is also cleaner, more accessible and more efficient than ever before. What’s more is that Malaysia is the third largest producer of solar cells in the world, next to China and Taiwan.

So why cling to a 150-year old outdated technology? Check out SOLS Energy at TECHFEST and it will show you why it’s time for an upgrade.


Listen up!

From experiential tech and digital lifestyles to ethical tech and urban innovation, the long line of speakers will certainly give you much food for thought. Included in the lineup are Katrina Rausa Chan from the Philippines and David N. Barnes from the United States

Chan is Executive Director of QBO, a public-private initiative geared to support and accelerate the growth of the Filipino tech startup ecosystem. She advises startups and leads overall program activities collaborating closely with ecosystem partners. The Filipina millennial advocates for spurring innovation and technopreneurship as an engine for driving economic growth and global competitiveness in emerging economies.

Barnes, meanwhile, is the Vice President, Global Workforce Policy, at the IBM Corporation. He leads IBM’s global agenda in workforce public policy and is based in Washington DC, and oversees IBM’s advocacy on a range of issues including the future of work, labour and employment rules, skills, diversity, global workforce deployment, and corporate responsibility. He engages on the future of work with government leaders and in multilateral forums such as the G7, the EU, and at the OECD where he is Vice Chair of the [email protected] Employment, Labour and Social Affairs Committee. David speaks at a range of venues such as the G7, OECD, APEC and EU Presidency, and organizations such as Chatham House, the Brookings Institute, and the World Bank.

Meanwhile, the ASOCIO Smart City Summit 2020 and the international network of Smart Cities Council will be launching its exclusive and advanced ASEAN version of their Future Cities Academy with its Smart Cities Practitioner Certificate, allowing policy makers and practitioners to be recognised for their knowledge and effort in advancing the role that technology and data can play in generating economic, social and environmental value for our communities.


Drum roll please!

The 2020 WITSA Global ICT Excellence Awards Is back and this time the awards will  be presented, live, to the world’s winners whose use and applications of Information & Communications Technology (ICT) exhibit exceptional achievement within nine categories. These are excellent examples of ICT deployment which have made a difference for the community of interest whether it is to provide public services, boosting profits or advancing connectivity.

WITSA or The World Information Technology and Services Alliance is a consortium of over 80 information and communications technology (ICT) industry associations from economies around the world. WITSA members represent over 90 percent of the world ICT market. As the global voice of the ICT industry, WITSA is dedicated to advocating policies that advance the industry’s growth and development; facilitating international trade and investment in IT products and services; strengthening WITSA’s national industry associations through the sharing of knowledge, experience, and critical information; providing members with a vast network of contacts in nearly every geographic region of the world.

To date, the WITSA Global ICT Excellence Award winners have positioned themselves as leaders and top innovators by fully realizing the potential of ICT to grow the bottom line as well as to provide better service to citizens, improve health care, and provide trust and transparency in government. The Awards are remarkable for its large number of highly qualified nominees, selected from among the entire 90-country WITSA global network.


The 9 categories for this year’s awards are:

1. COVID-19 Tech Solutions for Cities & Localities

2. COVID-19 Tech Solutions for Countries or Regions

3. COVID-19 Best Industry Solutions

4. Public/Private Partnership Award

5. Digital Opportunity/Inclusion Award

6. Sustainable Growth Award

7. Innovative eHealth Solutions Award

8. Digital Innovation Award

9. E-Education & Learning Award

Malaysia is well-represented in her submission across all the categories but do we have the outstanding winner? There’s really a lot to look forward to. So, keep your eyes glued to http://techfest.my and www.wcit2020.org.

Media contact for Penang TECHFEST2020 LIVE: Nurul Nasir, General Manager +60122352312

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2020’s Most Overweight and Obese States in America

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and things are not looking good for the nation. People can become offended by the wording, but the facts don’t change, fat is the new normal according to data from the Centers for Diesease Control and Prevention.


However, beyond the obvious health issues, the cost of obesity threatens individuals and organizations as it weighs down the healthcare system. It’s like a perfect storm of a population that gets sicker and sicker as it, literally, grows, and with that comes more expense and the need for more healthcare resources to be devoted to a problem that might be, arguably, self-inflicted.



This is probably the point where you might see a thousand personal trainers jump up and scream about comorbidity, health, and exercise.


That’s great, but there is no escaping the fact that as memberships in gyms and health clubs has increased over the last three decades, as more money has gone into the fitness industry, the increase in obesity rates has not seen a commensurate decline, in fact, the opposite.


Source: Axios


There are also some interesting factors at play in the level of obesity, For example, while West Virginia has the lowest percentage of overweight adults, it has the second highest percentage of obese adults meaning that there is no middle ground.


The problem is, frankly, very, very big. But at the end of the day, the data shows that high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholestrol pretty much track with the worst states in the charts. You can check out the infographic on obesity factors among states here.


The Facts About the High Cost of Being Fat

  • $294.6 Billion: Estimated medical cost of diabetes in the U.S. in 2019.
  • $9,506: Average annual diabetes-related health care costs for patients.
  • 2.3: Number of times by which a diabetes patient’s health care costs increase.
  • 14 & 18 Years: Reduction in the average male and female type 1 diabetes patient’s life expectancy, respectively.
  • 88 million: Number of American adults who have “prediabetes” (84% of them don’t know they have it).
  • 70%: Chances of developing diabetes if both your parents have type 2 diabetes.


The following data breaks down the top 20 states by prevalence of obesity, courtesy of Wallethub. Where does your state rank? And do you know why?


It’s worth asking the question whether there is a culture of obesity that can be identified by state and what are the demographic, socio-economic, and cultural factors driving the statistics.


Going to the gym or exercising more or eating better doesn’t seem to resonate equally across state boundaries. Figuring out why is an important part of finding solutions that aren’t just the usual fitness industry quick fixes and promises.


1 = FattestStateTotal Score‘Obesity & Overweight Prevalence’ Rank‘Health Consequences’ Rank‘Food & Fitness’ Rank
1West Virginia74.66219
6South Carolina65.858174
20North Dakota58.21142846

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Election 2020’s fundamental question: ‘What defines America?’

President Donald Trump has spent much of the past four years pushing boundaries and breaking through norms and traditions that have long defined American democracy.

He’s declined to sever ties with his businesses while in office, saying “the president can’t have a conflict of interest.” During a summit with the Japanese prime minister, the president’s Mar-a-Lago club charged the government $3 for Mr. Trump’s own glass of water.

He’s tried to harness the powers of U.S. justice for his own benefit, publicly pushing his attorney general to jail political adversaries such as former President Barack Obama for unsubstantiated “treasonous” actions.

He’s attacked in advance the outcome of the upcoming presidential election, falsely saying mail-in balloting is inherently fraudulent. He tells his supporters that Democrats can win only if voting is “rigged.”

In many ways President Trump may simply be the apotheosis of long-standing strains and problems with the great machinery of democratic governance established by the Constitution in 1788. The rise of toxic, tribal partisanship has made the nation’s political combat much fiercer. Both parties are beginning to regard the other as not just opponents, but perhaps enemies. Both may be beginning to lose faith in the fairness of the rules of the U.S. political system.

But on top of these existing problems, Mr. Trump has piled an “extraordinary rhetorical audacity and recklessness” that has had “severe costs,” in the words of Obama White House counsel Bob Bauer. This may have damaged not just political norms, but the underlying values they represent: tolerance of opponents, forbearance in the use of power, belief in the power of voting.

It’s these values, not norms and traditions per se, that really need defending, say experts on democratic rise and decline. If they decay too much, the parties may think the game of democracy is in fact no longer worth playing, and become locked in a downward spiral of mutually abusive hardball tactics.

The good news is that this is far from foreordained. For instance, Mr. Bauer and co-author Jack Goldsmith, a top Justice Department official under President George W. Bush, in “After Trump: Reconstructing the Presidency,” have compiled a list of more than 50 proposed legislative and executive changes that could plug and patch over holes and faults exposed by the president during the past four years. 

Others, including Democrats in Congress, have begun similar efforts. Their point is to have a national reform effort for democracy following Mr. Trump’s exit, whenever that is. The model is the post-Watergate era, when there was at least something of a bipartisan national consensus that things had gone badly wrong and needed to be fixed.

After all, the ability to change and correct course is fundamental to democracy, says Sheri Berman, a professor of political science at Barnard College and author of “Democracy and Dictatorship in Europe: From the Ancien Régime to the Present Day.”

Supporters of President Donald Trump gather for a campaign rally at Opa-Locka Executive Airport, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, in Opa-Locka, Fla.

Democratic elections can be break points that push national politics in a transformative direction, as they did in the U.S. following Watergate or the onset of the Great Depression.

In the short run, Professor Berman says she’s worried about the 2020 vote and the possibility of a crisis instigated by fraud charges and court intervention. But for the long run she’s more hopeful. 

“I’m an optimist about democracies’ ability to shift course and remedy mistakes,” she says.

How to break a vicious cycle

Not all Americans share that optimism. In fact, many are pessimistic or worried about the state of the nation’s democracy and government, according to polls.

According to recent Pew Research Center figures, 59% of Americans are “not satisfied” with the way democracy is working in the country. By way of contrast, the same figure among Canadian citizens is 33%.

Only 46% of Americans agree that the nation is “run for the benefit of all,” according to Pew. That’s down from 65% who agreed with that statement in 2002. And only a quarter of U.S. citizens believe America’s system of democracy is getting stronger, according to a Democracy Project survey. Sixty-eight percent think democracy is getting weaker.

“Confidence in our governing institutions has been weakening over many years, and key pillars of our democracy, including the rule of law and freedom of the press, are under strain,” concludes a special report of The Democracy Project, a joint venture of Freedom House, the Penn Biden Center, and the George W. Bush Institute at Southern Methodist University.

One way to understand what’s happening to American democracy is to think of it as a game in which both sides want to keep playing for an infinite number of rounds, say experts. It’s important that neither side is ever permanently defeated, or becomes so angry and demoralized that it wants to stop playing.

Two key unwritten democratic norms underlie this system, write Harvard University government professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt in their 2018 book, “How Democracies Die.” The first is mutual toleration, in which each side accepts the other as legitimate. The second is forbearance, in which politicians resist the temptation to use temporary control of political institutions to maximum advantage.

Both have eroded in recent years, says Professor Levitsky in an interview.

“It’s definitely gotten worse,” he says. “It was an especially speedy effect.”

A protester opposed to the Senate’s race to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett is removed by police after chaining themselves to a railing and holding a sign while sitting atop the statue Contemplation of Justice, at the Supreme Court building in Washington, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020.

The obvious example for this is the partisan struggle over Supreme Court nominations. The GOP-controlled Senate denied Democratic Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a hearing in President Barack Obama’s last year in office, then turned around and pushed through Trump nominee Amy Coney Barrett under similar circumstances. 

Republicans, for their part, cite what they perceive to be harsh Democratic treatment of other nominees, including Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 and the failed nomination of Robert Bork in 1987, as partial justification for their tough tactics. They also point out that the party that controls the Senate can do what it likes.

In response, some Democrats are now calling for an expansion of the Supreme Court if Joe Biden is elected president and the party wins the Senate, along with a possible end to the Senate filibuster.

“There is much greater pressure in at least a wing of the Democratic Party for hardball moves. Even at the rank and file level,” says Professor Levitsky. 

He and co-author Professor Ziblatt support some sort of Democratic response to what they characterize as minority rule in the United States, in which the party that wins the popular vote can still lose in the Electoral College. That response might include ending the Senate filibuster, and extending statehood to Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.

Other experts worry that this sort of thing in other countries has tended to further ignite a tit-for-tat cycle. If a Democratic Party in control of Congress and the White House names two new states, what would happen the next time the GOP is in the same position? Division of states to add yet more senators? It’s easy for parties to take short-term gains, while believing against evidence that they’ll be able to temper the long-term cost when the other party is in power.

“Once you get into this sort of vicious cycle, it is very hard to break,” says Professor Berman of Barnard College.

“This is not a recipe for democratic health”

President Trump’s supporters often say he was elected in 2016 to shake up the status quo, and that breaking norms and old traditions is just what they expected him to do. Complaints about the threat he poses to the existing order is simply liberal pearl-clutching, in this view.

In addition, he has just taken advantage of existing trends, they say. He’s built and expanded on things that were already happening.

But that’s something that truly authoritarian leaders often do, says Valerie Jane Bunce, a professor of government at Cornell University who specializes in the rise and fall of democracies. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and others have exploited existing institutional weaknesses to carry out anti-democratic agendas, Professor Bunce says.

“Trump is unique in how far he has gone in this direction and how easy it was for him to do so as a result of both political polarization … and the decline of U.S. political institutions,” she says in an email.

The partisan polarization of America long predates the Trump era. For decades, American social identity has gradually been aligning with political identity, producing parties that are not only ideologically different – liberal versus conservative – but racially, educationally, and religiously distinct as well. The result: an increasingly powerful “my team” effect, to the point where members of both parties hold highly unfavorable views of their opponents.

Polarization is what protected President Trump after he was impeached for improperly pressuring the president of Ukraine to open an investigation into former Vice President Biden and his son Hunter Biden. The trial vote in the Senate was a virtually straight party affair, with all but one Republican, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, voting to acquit.

Polarization is what’s kept Senate Republicans in general lockstep behind President Trump since, given his hold on their party’s base and lawmakers’ fear of being challenged in a primary by a more pro-Trump supporter, or belittled by a Trump tweet for being insufficiently supportive.

Polarization will also likely exist long after President Trump has left the stage, says Jeffrey Stonecash, professor emeritus of political science at Syracuse University. To understand it, we need to examine the ideas and values that drive it – which groups embrace some ideas and not others, and how those groups politically align, he argues.

At the heart of all this is a question, Professor Stonecash says: What defines America? 

“A fundamental argument coming out of the Democratic Party is that things are not fair,” he says. “You have a Republican Party making a moral argument that’s fundamentally different … that it’s not about ‘fairness,’ it’s about who’s more deserving.”

President Donald Trump signs an executive order during a news conference at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020.

As for the decline of U.S. political institutions, President Trump has benefited from the gridlock that has overtaken Congress in recent decades, weakening its ability to counter the executive branch. The presidency, meanwhile, has been correspondingly gaining in power. Presidents George W. Bush and Obama both made aggressive moves with executive orders, after all; both ignored Congress on war powers when it suited them. In that sense, with executive orders that have mandated big changes in U.S. immigration policy, the raiding of Pentagon accounts to fund the southern border wall, and the assassination of a leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, President Trump is simply taking precedent and dialing it up several notches.

“This is not a recipe for democratic health,” says Professor Berman. 

Recipe for Washington reform?

If President Trump wins the 2020 election, his norm-breaking and stretching of Oval Office powers – things his opponents often label abuse of power – will undoubtedly continue. He will likely see reelection as voter acceptance of his behavior.

It might even accelerate, given that the president has over the past four years steadily weeded out top officials who try to block some of his efforts. For instance, Attorney General Barr has so far ignored Mr. Trump’s public insistence that he arrest former President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden on unsubstantiated charges that they have launched a “coup.” Could the president possibly find a new attorney general who would carry out such incendiary action? 

Mr. Trump to this point in his presidency has not actually acted in an unfettered manner, says Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith. He has faced some pushback from government institutions. He was impeached by the House earlier this year, after all.

Courts have blocked or forced major changes to his travel ban and other administration efforts. Aides have sat on or refused requests they deemed controversial or illegal, such as Mr. Trump’s insistence in 2017 that special counsel Robert Mueller be fired.

Thus at least some of the guardrails of American democracy remain in place.

“Norms can work,” says Professor Goldsmith.

If Mr. Biden is elected president and Democrats win a majority in both the Senate and House, however, Washington is likely to see a major effort to produce a package of democracy reforms intended to repair and rebuild the norms and traditions shattered in recent years.

The analogy may be to the 1970s, when following the turmoil of Vietnam and the Nixon era, Congress reformed the civil service and presidential record-keeping and transparency while passing major laws such as the War Powers Act, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Privacy Act, the Inspector General Act, and other open government bills.

“If Biden wins, I suspect there will be an attempt to engage in reforms kind of like after Watergate,” says Professor Berman of Barnard College.

House Democrats have already begun drawing up a list of reforms, which includes among other things a mechanism to enforce the Constitutional ban on presidents accepting things of value from foreign nations, reassertion of congressional control of the power of the purse, a requirement that political campaigns report suspicious foreign contacts to the FBI, and limits on presidential emergency powers.

Mr. Bauer and Professor Goldsmith, who served a Democratic and a Republican administration respectively, have fleshed out an extensive blueprint of possible overhauls in their “After Trump” book.

“The proposals are based on the assumption that there may be more Trumps in the future,” says Professor Goldsmith. “The goal is to put constraints in place.” 

Addressing financial conflicts of interest should be one reform priority, they urge. They recommend writing in law a requirement that presidents and vice presidents and candidates for those offices disclose their annual tax returns. They also urge that Congress bar presidents from active or supervisory roles in the oversight of any business, even if such a role is informal.

Ensuring Justice Department independence is another priority, the pair say. That means amending internal department rules and guidance to emphasize ethical principles insulating law enforcement decisions from improper partisan political considerations.

They would also prohibit presidents from pardoning themselves and change bribery laws to make clear that it is illegal to dangle pardons to bribe witnesses or obstruct justice.

The point is not to cut down the presidency. America needs a powerful chief executive to ensure effective national governing. The point is to ensure that voters retain confidence that presidents – of either party – can’t go too far.

“You can’t stop future Trumps if you think this is only behavior a Republican president would engage in,” says Professor Goldsmith. 

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The Atlantic Daily: Why the 2020s Are So Worrisome

Every weekday evening, our editors guide you through the biggest stories of the day, help you discover new ideas, and surprise you with moments of delight. Subscribe to get this delivered to your inbox.

Getty / The Atlantic

America’s political schisms are so profound that we risk a repeat of the 1850s, when the country was on the precipice of the Civil War.

Two Atlantic writers warn that the 2020s could mark another dangerous decade for the American experiment. This time, the split is between those who embrace the country’s diverse future and those who fear it.

Should Donald Trump win, America will enter an 1850s-style death spiral.

On the left and right, “extremism will spread, mutate into new forms, and gradually become entrenched in more areas of American life,” Anne Applebaum argues.

A Joe Biden victory wouldn’t necessarily soothe the nation’s wounds.

Especially if the GOP deepens “its reliance on the most racially resentful white voters,” Ronald Brownstein writes.

Further reading: In retrospect, The Office’s Dwight Schrute was a bellwether for this tense new period in American politics, Megan Garber argues.

Matt Huynh

1. Watch a scary movie.

Here are 25 of the best horror films you can stream, ranked by scariness.

2. If you plan to celebrate, be sure to take precautions.

“In much of the country, staying home is still the safest choice,” our health writer Amanda Mull warns. If you decide to trick-or-treat, plan with your neighbors to modify the activity for safety.

3. Read a scary book.

Our weekly guide to the best in books celebrates the genre’s masters of fright, including Maurice Sendak, R. L. Stine, and Stephen King.

4. Familiarize yourself with everything that crawls, slithers, or shrieks in the night.

Explore the evolutionary roots of our fear of bats. Meet the kingsnake—and find out how it got its name. Tap into a black widow spider’s shudder-inducing sixth sense.

5. Eat all the candy.

And while you do, read this delightful story on how children assign value to various treats. No, we will not trade our Snickers for your Tootsie Roll.

6. Prepare yourself for the end of daylight saving time.

Avoid an unnecessary Sunday scare by planning your bedtime accordingly on Halloween night. As if by witchcraft, clocks will jump backwards by an hour. (We know; we hate it too.)

Thanks for reading. This email was written by Caroline Mimbs Nyce, with help from Haley Weiss.

Did someone forward you this newsletter? Sign up here. Need help? Contact Customer Care.

Looking for an easy-to-make cocktail for Halloween? Our deputy editor Ross Andersen recommends the Bobby Burns, a spiced and smoky blend of scotch, sweet vermouth, and Bénédictine, stirred and served up in a chilled coupe glass. If you aren’t drinking, try iced ginger beer with bitters instead. Either will pair well with the pop and crackle of a fire and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, the perfect autumn novel.

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2020’s most fitting footy finale

Not since Sydney and West Coast played in successive grand finals has there been a decider with anything like this neutrality.

No team has an edge in grand finals at night. This is the first one.

Eye of the Tiger: Richmond’s Marlion Pickett is into his second AFL premiership decider.Credit:Getty Images

There is mercifully no one in a hyperbaric chamber marathon. There is no Barry Hall, Trent Cotchin MRO/tribunal/appeals board/supreme court drama.

And, sadly, there is no romantic team to borrow for the finals – no Western Bulldogs, no St Kilda, no drought breaker – who can engage the agnostic.

In fact most of the rest of the football world is tired of the success of both teams and would quite like them both to lose. The neutral follower has quickly rediscovered their dislike for the hubris of Richmond fans once they re-emerged after a dormant 30 years. (Tiger fans, and fans of any team to be fair, rightly enough could not care less what the rest of the football world thinks.)

The closest this game gets to sentimentality is to farewell Gary Ablett. The idea that the last game of one of the greatest players ever could be in a premiership victory is the definition of going out on a high.

Cooking with Gaz: The farewell tour marches on for Geelong veteran Gary Ablett.

Cooking with Gaz: The farewell tour marches on for Geelong veteran Gary Ablett.Credit:Glenn Hunt/The Age

It is a game where recent history offers only scant guidance for what might happen. Yes, Richmond won comfortably last time – Geelong kicked only one goal in three quarters – but that game was not at the Gabba but at Metricon Stadium, a ground the Tigers prefer, and the Cats were coming off a five-day break compared to Richmond’s nine.

Perhaps the most likely indicator of future performance from that game was that Dylan Grimes was the best player on the ground. Grimes doesn’t have bad games so we can assume that to be a constant for this week.

Significantly, the home-and- away season form of clubs in this peculiar year has been an unreliable guide to what will happen in the finals. Richmond beat Brisbane in the season and lost in the qualifying final; Collingwood were belted by the Eagles in season and shocked them in finals; ditto Port and Richmond and Geelong and Port flipping results from season to post-season.


If we reach back to last year Cats spearhead Tom Hawkins, an All-Australian in 2020, did not play when Richmond beat the Cats by 19 points in the preliminary final.

History thus offers little for us in this context. Consequently we will be witness to a game of rare evenness that will be defined, and most likely decided, by what separates the teams. What defines the teams in style and make-up is what will define the contest.

Richmond play a chaotic, fast-paced game where claiming territory is more important than keeping possession. Geelong, by contrast, play a game predicated on strength not speed, of winning the ball and not giving it back. They play a game of ownership of the ball and careful use of it to find a way to goal.


Would Joe Daniher have been the difference for Brisbane on Saturday night? He certainly wouldn’t have hurt.

Eric Hipwood again showed he is not the player to build an attack around. He is not a primary key target and will hopefully be a better player when playing in a third tall role with Daniher as the main man.


In last year’s grand final a debutant rookie thrilled in Marlion Pickett. This year it might be a recycled journeyman rookie at the other end of his football life.

On the ball: Lachie Henderson in action for Geelong during their preliminary final win over Brisbane.

On the ball: Lachie Henderson in action for Geelong during their preliminary final win over Brisbane.Credit:Getty Images

Lachie Henderson, 30, was cut from the Cats’ primary list and re-rookied last year. He has been influential for Geelong in this finals series.


Chris Fagan, like his fellow coaching elder Brett Ratten, displayed his class and perspective immediately after the Lions’ finals exit.

He was more mindful of the many people in football and elsewhere who have lost jobs – not games – this year.

Most Viewed in Sport


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View: Tanishq advertisement controversy and India 2020’s creepy-crawlers

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor tweeted, ‘If Hindu-Muslim ‘ekatvam’ irks them so much, why don’t they boycott the longest surviving symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity in the world — India?’


The other issue is ‘fear’. BJP patriarch L K Advani had chastised the media during the Emergency when he said, ‘You were asked to bend, you crawled.’ There is no Emergency today. Yet, the crawling has become pervasive. With exceptions, the media crawls for the fear of being rapped on the knuckles by fearsome rappers.

By Omkar GoswamiPonder briefly on a thought experiment. Transport yourself to Germany of September 1934, after the death of President Paul von Hindenburg and the passing of the German referendum by a large majority that combined the posts of president and chancellor into a single one. Under that new chancellorship, would any German company have come up with an advertisement showing an aged Jewish man blessing an Aryan German lass?You can bet all

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Montaigne tells Kurt Fearnley on One Plus One about accepting Eurovision 2020’s cancellation due to coronavirus

If the world hadn’t been hit by a literal pandemic, Jess Cero (AKA singer-songwriter Montaigne) would have been performing on one of the world’s biggest stages this year: Eurovision.

Except, coronavirus did happen.

And the month after she won Australia Decides, Australia’s selection contest for Eurovision, the song contest-proper was cancelled.

Montaigne wouldn’t describe herself as a “big” Eurovision fan, she tells Kurt Fearnley on ABC’s One Plus One, Sydney’s Lyric Theatre their backdrop.

The 25-year-old clarifies: “I’ve never been a [Eurovision] obsessive in the way that I see it in a lot of people. I really like the theatricality, the melodrama and the over-the-topness.

“And it’s also like the World Cup of music … I like the idea of everyone communing around this thing they love and sharing it, and supporting art that they love.”

World’s biggest Eurovision fan or not, a lot of work went into creating Montaigne’s winning 2020 song, Don’t Break Me, and the performance behind it.

All this to say, when Eurovision was cancelled, it hurt.

Montaigne tells Kurt Fearnley, right, she was devastated when Eurovision was cancelled.(ABC)

Heres how Montaigne got over Eurovision being scrapped

“I was quite devastated for the first sort of three hours,” she says.

“It would have been a super wonderful opportunity … but at the end of the day I also really love being at home and I love having a home life and I also cherished the opportunity to rest and not do anything for a while as well.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.

Montaigne performs an at-home concert for Eurovision.

“I have three housemates who I get along with and my partner, who I’ve also been visiting, has four housemates … so I’ve had people around me.”

And at a time when many artists are struggling financially due to a lack of gigs, Montaigne says she’s doing well in terms of money — even without work.

But there’s more on the horizon.

A few weeks after it was announced Eurovision 2020 was cancelled, Montaigne was confirmed as Australia’s 2021 entrant.

If she doesn’t end up getting to take to the Eurovision stage in 2021, Montaigne says she “won’t be in despair”.

“I’m very fine with it at this point. I accept that the world has just changed trajectory forever … so, if it doesn’t happen next year then I feel quite grounded about it.”

The notion of being grounded is a recurring theme for the 25-year-old.

So how did a self-described introvert whose Instagram postings often consist of her gardening endeavours turn into a pop singer by another name?

How Jess Cerro became Montaigne

Born to a mother from the Philippines and a father from Argentina, Montaigne spent the first four years of her life in Malaysia, where her dad played soccer professionally.

The sport has had an incalculable influence on her life — hence the “Eurovision is kind of the World Cup of music” line.

But music was always there too, Montaigne says.

Montaigne looks slightly to the right and smiles as she rests her arm on a sofa. She wears football gear, her hair is short.
Montaigne, pictured here as a child, was born in Malaysia, where she lived for the first four years of her life.(Supplied: Jess Cerro)

“My parents love music and I always heard it around the house and they were always very encouraging,” she explains.

She credits her heritage for the undercurrent of unbridled emotion often found in her songs.

“And also a certain loudness and a certain boldness maybe comes from [that], because Argentinians and South Americans are pretty ‘heart on sleeve’ people, and so are Filippino people for sure,” she contemplates.

The stage name, meanwhile, came from philosopher Alain de Botton’s The Consolations of Philosophy — a book she read barely into adulthood.

Performing pop while staying true to her roots

Montaigne recognises how far she is from the stereotype of someone who performs pop music. As a “small-scale local celebrity”, she feels the pressure to conform to it, too.

Having been raised by parents who didn’t allow her to go out drinking and partying, Montaigne says she simply didn’t understand that world before entering it.

A school-aged Montaigne smiles as she stands in front of a microphone in her blue uniform.
Montaigne says her parents kept her from partying when she was a teenager.(Supplied: Jess Cerro)

“And then when I did finally get to that world when I was an adult and I was living out of home, I didn’t enjoy it, but that’s because I’m an introvert.”

Instead of attempting to adhere to notions of what a pop artist “should be”, Montaigne says she hasn’t tried to change.

She hasn’t shied away from making very public political statements either — both loud and subtle.

More blatant?

The decision to scrawl calls to action on her bare skin at the ARIA awards in both 2016 (“people over profit”) and in 2018 (“stop Adani”).

A woman speaks into a microphone while holding an aria award. On her chest is written people over profit.
Montaigne’s “people over profit” 2016 ARIA Awards statement was followed by a “stop Adani” message at the 2018 iteration of the event.(AAP: Paul Miller)

The clown ruffle at her neck in Don’t Break Me, meanwhile, lays bare Montaigne’s desire to find and create meaning in even the smallest of details in her work.

“It can mean a fool … and then there’s also the art of clowning … and then the other layer is supposed to represent the everyday person and the way the elite saw workers and labourers,” Montaigne explains.

“I ended up just settling for feeling silly in a relationship that you thought was good and healthy and now it’s sort of falling apart and there’s a communication breakdown and you don’t feel like you’re being listened to.

“And being a clown who was a woman was a good way to take on that full imagery, but also to subvert the notion of what a woman should look like and be.”

Why Montaigne’s art and activism collide

Despite having been so publicly political, speaking out about the injustices she perceives in the world is something Montaigne grapples with.

“I’m always evaluating how best to be an activist as a public-facing person,” she says.

For a time, she was also dealing with a lot of anger.

“[I was] just being indignant about the state of the world … And I think it is good to be aware of those things, but it’s empty to put out that anger and awareness without following it up with action.

Montaigne wears blue as she stands next to her partner, Pat, who holds a bag and a glass of wine. They both look into the camera
Montaigne, pictured with her partner, right, who works in political activism.(Supplied: Jess Cerro)

“I still don’t know what the best way [is].”

But Montaigne still believes there’s power in having conversations. And she’s committed to being publicly open about her queer identity.

“You can only be what you can see,” she says.

“If queer people don’t have representation and visibility in public spaces, they’re going to feel invalidated, because the dominant narrative throughout history is that straight, cis, white men rule, and are the norm, and white women by extension.”

Watch the full interview with Montaigne on One Plus One on ABC iview.

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Forecast of net overseas migration for the 2020s

Abul Rizvi examines the forecast of net overseas migration for the following decade under current government visa policies.

THE PRIME MINISTER says the coronavirus crisis will drive net overseas migration in 2020-21 to 85% of its level for 2018-19. But what would net overseas migration average during the decade of the 2020s under current policy settings?

This is a critical question the treasurer will need to address in the 2021 Intergenerational Report. Table 1 provides a forecast of net overseas migration for the decade of the 2020s assuming current policy settings are maintained for the whole decade.

Table 1: Forecast of net overseas migration for the decade of 2020s.

(Source: ABS Cat 3412 and Author Calculations)

The above forecast of average net migration during the decade of the 2020s at 174,800 per annum assumes average real economic growth for most of the 2020s at around 2.3% per annum, as per the forecast for the decade of the 2020s in the 2007 Intergenerational Report. It also assumes a weak labour market consistent with a significantly more aged population and a declining working age to population (WAP) ratio.

Net overseas migration during the past decade averaged 215,706 per annum compared to the forecast average net overseas migration in the 2019 Budget of 268,000 per annum. The 2019 Budget forecast for net overseas migration and fertility rising to 1.9 babies per woman was highly unrealistic, even before the coronavirus crisis.

Note that 2.3% real economic growth is still well above the average real economic growth across the OECD as a whole post-WAP peak. It is, however, well below the 3% average real economic growth assumed in the ten-year plan published with the 2019 Budget.

The forecast also assumes the overall migration program will be delivered at around 160,000 in most years with a one-third to two-third balance in favour of the skill stream (including onshore grants). Note, net overseas migration in 2014-15 was 184,030 when we had an unemployment rate of 6% and a much larger migration program of 190,000. This highlights the impact of a weak labour market on net overseas migration.

It is also assumed the Humanitarian Program will be delivered at the current level of around 18,000 with around 2,000 to 3,000 visa grants per annum to onshore asylum seekers.

The extended four-year wait for access to social security by newly arrived migrants was temporarily suspended at the start of the coronavirus crisis. The net overseas migration forecast in Table 1 assumes the four-year wait will resume for most of the decade thus driving up permanent resident departures.

Students (1)

The forecast assumes that the changes to student visa requirements made in September 2019 continue, particularly for the sub-continent, leading to reduced arrivals (around 10%-12% reduction on 2018-19) and a higher portion of departures due to fewer onshore stay opportunities. The forecast also assumes offshore student visa grants for Chinese nationals will continue to decline with Australia’s deteriorating relations with China.

It is highly unlikely that additional offshore student visa grants from other source countries (such as Colombia) would be sufficient to offset the much stronger decline from Australia’s three major source countries for students (China, India and Nepal) in the nine months to end-March 2019. This was before the full impact of the coronavirus on offshore student visa grants.

The Australian Skills Quality Authority has taken some limited steps to tighten policy on private VET colleges that should also reduce demand.

Overall, this means substantial long-term shrinkage in Australian universities, VET providers, schools and associated businesses under current policy settings. Given the speed with which the industry had grown in the past 5-6 years, some decline was inevitable even without the coronavirus crisis.

But this will mean that areas of Australia’s major capital cities, where most overseas students live, study and work, will be severely impacted, limiting recovery in the surrounding areas even after international borders are opened.

Skilled temporary entry (2)

The forecast assumes the tightened skilled temporary entry policy introduced in 2017-18 continues and the decline in the number of people in this category in Australia that started from 2013-14 also continues. That will be exacerbated by a weaker economy and labour market, noting that this category is the most sensitive to fluctuations in the economy.

While this category recovered strongly after the Global Financial Crisis, that appears unlikely after the coronavirus crisis given the very different design of these visas since 2017-18.

Visitors (3)

The key assumption for this grouping is that the rapid increase in the contribution of visitors to net overseas migration over the past 5-6 years due to Australia’s fifth and largest wave of asylum seekers (mostly unsuccessful) is brought under some greater control. The risk is that the control measures are poorly targeted. That would have a highly negative impact on Australia’s tourism industry and may also result in refoulement of genuine refugees.

The extent to which visitors are applying after arrival for other visas, particularly partner visas, is likely to continue given the growing size of the partner backlog.

Working holidaymakers (4)

Assumes the decline in the stock of working holidaymakers (WHMs) ceases and remains around the level for 2018-19. That would allow for some further decline in the subclass 417 visa (working holidaymakers) and an increase in subclass 462 (work and holiday visa) as country caps on these are progressively raised.

The successful legal challenge to the so-called “backpacker tax” and the addition of a third year on a WHM visa may enable some regrowth in WHMs, but this would be offset by the weak labour market, on-going social media reports of exploitation and tightening of pathways for WHMs to extend stay on other visas after arrival.

There is also some question around whether demand for subclass 462 from China would remain strong given current diplomatic tensions.

The other potential impact on WHM numbers include:

  • successful measures to reduce abuse of the asylum system for labour hire companies to deliver cheap labour to farmers in particular — this would increase demand for WHMs; and
  • possible introduction of an agricultural visa along the lines of that in the USA, thus reducing demand for WHMs.

Other temporary entrants (5)

There are likely to be three key drivers in this grouping.

Firstly, a steady increase in the new temporary parent visa category which has a cap of 15,000 visas per annum. In the longer term, a key issue with this category will be whether or not many of the temporary parents are willing to leave Australia after their five-year visas expire. There will also be issues around the cost of health and aged care as private insurance may only cover part of these costs.

Secondly, there are now over 100,000 temporary graduates in Australia. This number will continue to rise for a number of years as overseas students already in Australia complete their courses and secure this post-study visa. But as pathways for temporary graduates to extend stay and/or secure permanent residence have been severely limited, departures on this visa will rise, especially with a weak labour market.

(Source: Data.Gov, Aust Migration Statistics)

Finally, we may also see an increase in departures of unsuccessful asylum seekers who are unable to keep working due to no work rights (and assuming the Department of Home Affairs and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal start to get on top of the current asylum seeker backlog and a weak labour market).

A key issue here will be whether DHA will move to increase removal and return of failed asylum seekers or continue to give this function a low priority so as not to upset farmers and other employers who rely on asylum seekers for cheap labour (see Chart 1, which highlights a steady decline in overall removals and returns despite the surge in unsuccessful asylum seekers).

Permanent family (6)

The key to this category is how the Government manages the growing backlog of partner visas which is now over 100,000 when cases at the AAT are included. With limited places available compared to the application rate, the backlog will continue to grow.

Part of the onshore backlog may be cleared while international borders are closed. This will be limited, however, because of the Government’s reluctance to abandon the two-thirds skill stream versus one-third family stream policy.

An increasing number of partners who are living overseas will seek to avoid the long wait to be reunited with Australian partners living here by entering the country on visitor visas and then applying onshore. Alternatively, more couples may choose to live in another country in order to be together.

The Government’s (most likely unlawful) limit on partner visas may come undone if there is a successful legal challenge to its management of partners. That would increase permanent family arrivals.

Permanent skilled (7)

The forecast assumes the Government will maintain its current historically very small number of places in the Skilled Independent category (SC 189) — other than for New Zealand citizens who are already in Australia. Apart from NZ citizens, this category disproportionately draws on people who apply from overseas and hence contributes more to permanent skilled net overseas migration arrivals.

Current policy is to rely mainly on state/territory governments to sponsor migrants predominantly from those already in Australia (thus not adding directly to net migration). But this also carries substantial long-term risks.

The new Global Talent Independent visa is designed to add to Australia’s talent pool. Indications are, however, that this visa may effectively become a replacement for employer sponsorships and be driven largely by people already in Australia.

Humanitarian and special eligibility (8)

The forecast assumes the Government maintains the Humanitarian Program at around current levels with around 2,000 to 3,000 successful onshore asylum seekers each year securing permanent residence.

Permanent other (9)

This category is largely for existing Australian permanent residents who leave Australia for more than 12 months on a Resident Return visa.

The forecast assumes the current rate of Resident Return movements is maintained.

New Zealand citizens (10)

The movement of New Zealand citizens is largely driven by the relative state of the two labour markets. Since around 2013-14, New Zealand’s unemployment rate has been around one percentage point lower than Australia’s and hence net movement of New Zealand citizens to Australia has been relatively low.

The forecast assumes the NZ and Australian economy and labour market are both relatively weak with the relativities of recent years maintained.

Australian citizens (11)

The forecast assumes the rate of Australian citizen movements of the past five years is maintained, noting that Australia’s relatively weak economy from around the time of the Abbott Government led to a sharp increase in the net number of Australian citizens leaving Australia.

Impact on Australia’s population directions

Net migration averaging around 175,000 per annum plus a fertility rate of around 1.65 babies per woman would result in Australia’s projected population growth rate falling sharply compared to that assumed in the 2019 ten-year plan.

It would also lead to a sharp acceleration in population ageing that would severely limit per capita economic growth and put additional pressure on government budgets.

Abul Rizvi is an Independent Australia columnist and a former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Immigration, currently undertaking a PhD on Australia’s immigration policies. You can follow Abul on Twitter @RizviAbul.

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