NSW coach Brad Fittler adds another five players from Canberra Raiders and South Sydney Rabbitohs, but no room for Adam Reynolds and Campbell Graham


Reynolds and Graham were pushing hard for selection, but missed the squad, which has been assembled from teams which have bowed out of the NRL competition. Graham was a late withdrawal from the preliminary final loss through injury.

Fittler has named all bar seven players of his 27-man squad and will finalise selections after the grand final between Penrith and Melbourne at ANZ Stadium next Sunday night.

Cody Walker is one of five new additions to Brad Fittler’s squad.Credit:Getty Images

The squad will go into camp on the Central Coast on Monday where they will be subject to strict biosecurity protocols.

Wayne Bennett’s Queensland squad has already been decimated with injuries to Kalyn Ponga, Michael Morgan, David Fifita and Moses Mbye while Valentine Holmes will miss the series opener in Adelaide through suspension.

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga has been given special dispensation to join Bennett as an assistant coach for the series after Kevin Walters stepped down from the role after being named Broncos boss.

NSW Blues extended squad

Nathan Brown (Parramatta Eels), Reagan Campbell-Gillard (Parramatta Eels), Damien Cook (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Boyd Cordner (Sydney Roosters), Nick Cotric (Canberra Raiders), Angus Crichton (Sydney Roosters), Tyson Frizell (St George Illawarra Dragons), Clint Gutherson (Parramatta Eels), Payne Haas (Brisbane Broncos), Luke Keary (Sydney Roosters), Zac Lomax (St George Illawarra Dragons), Cameron McInnes (St George Illawarra Dragons), Cameron Murray (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Junior Paulo (Parramatta Eels), Daniel Saifiti (Newcastle Knights), James Tedesco (Sydney Roosters), Jake Trbojevic (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles), Daniel Tupou (Sydney Roosters), Cody Walker (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Jack Wighton (Canberra Raiders)



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US stocks drop after Mnuchin adds to stimulus doubts


US stocks fell after Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin cast doubt on securing a fiscal stimulus deal before the presidential election next month.

The S&P 500 dropped 0.3 per cent, erasing earlier gains, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite fell 0.5 per cent. Amazon stock fell 2 per cent, while Netflix and Adobe fell more than 1 per cent.

Mr Mnuchin said that despite progress in talks with Democrats the two sides remained “far apart” on certain elements of a deal. His comments came during a Milken Institute conference on Wednesday. The prospects of securing a deal before the November poll have slowly eroded over the past few weeks despite ongoing negotiations between Mr Mnuchin and Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives.

“We continue to make progress on certain issues,” Mr Mnuchin said. “On certain issues we continue to be far apart.”

Bank stocks fell despite encouraging signs from third-quarter earnings. The KBW bank index dropped nearly 1 per cent, dragged down by Bank of America, which lost more than 4 per cent, and Wells Fargo, which fell more than 5 per cent.

The decline for the S&P 500 came after the large-cap index gained almost 4 per cent last week, as polls forecast a decisive November election victory for Joe Biden, President Donald Trump’s Democratic challenger. A win by the former vice-president is seen as boosting the prospects for more fiscal stimulus.

Stocks were also hit by news that drug companies Johnson & Johnson and Eli Lilly were halting trials of an experimental Covid-19 vaccine and therapy, respectively, because of safety concerns.

The region-wide Europe Stoxx 600 ended the day flat and the FTSE 100 benchmark of UK blue-chips fell 0.6 per cent.

Sterling traded choppily and within a wide range, ahead of a summit where EU leaders will discuss their future trade relationship with the UK.

The pound slipped 0.5 per cent against the dollar to $1.2869 in early dealings. It then reversed course, rising 0.7 per cent to $1.3030, after a Bloomberg report suggested the UK would stick with talks beyond an October 15 deadline.

Against the euro, sterling was up 0.7 per cent at €1.1086, having started the day 0.3 per cent lower at €1.0981.

At the EU summit starting on Thursday, European leaders are expected to forge their own negotiating plan with Britain, as the deadline for the UK leaving the bloc’s single market and customs union on December 31 looms.

“The more time goes on, the more likely it looks that no deal will happen,” said Peter Westaway, chief economist for Europe at Vanguard.

But he added that the difference between no deal and a basic trade agreement, which meant zero tariffs or quotas but maintained supply chain disruptions, was “slight”.

Ian Tew, a sterling trader at Barclays, said that although the pound was highly sensitive to any hints of sentiment about Brexit, “the market is reacting and acknowledging the tail risk of a no deal”.

The “recent rhetoric and the no-deal phrase is being expressed quite frequently”, he added, raising concerns that “these talks lead to further negativity”.

In debt markets, traders continued snapping up bonds issued by economically weaker eurozone nations, in the expectation that the European Central Bank would expand its scheme to buy the securities to bolster financial stability through the pandemic.

The yield on Italy’s 10-year bonds, which moves inversely to prices, hovered around a record low at 0.655 per cent. Greece’s 10-year bonds followed the same pattern, yielding 0.757 per cent.

On Tuesday, Italy for the first time issued bonds that pay buyers no interest. With eurozone consumer prices falling and coronavirus cases rising, investors are betting that the ECB will boost the size of its pandemic emergency purchase programme from its current €1.35tn in the coming months.



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Trump diagnosis adds to growing market volatility


Amid the turmoil of US politics, along with clear evidence of another wave of COVID-19 infections in parts of the Northern Hemisphere, President Trump’s illness will be the main driver of markets this week. Market participants will spend the new few weeks speculating about the status of his health and its impact on the US election and the fiscal stimulus.

Despite headwinds for the market last week, sharemarkets rebounded with US equities posting their first weekly gain in four weeks. The rise was led by defensive sectors and small caps, as rhetoric coming out of key US policymakers about the likelihood of a pre-election US fiscal package turned more constructive.

The SPI 200 Futures is up 1.5 per cent to 5853 implying the initial shock of President Trump’s illness has already been priced into the market.

The lift in global stocks during the week failed to inspire the local market, with the ASX 200 clocking-up another week of losses. The declines for Australian stocks were broad-based, with only the local tech sector finishing the trading week in positive territory.

Locally, investors will be closely watching the Reserve Bank of Australia’s latest cash rate decision and the federal government’s budget announcements.

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The consensus in the market is that the government and the RBA will coordinate a “Team Australia” moment: a big spending budget from the government and an easing of monetary policy from the RBA. Market analysts are factoring in slightly greater odds of the RBA cutting the cash rate from 0.25 per cent to 0.1 per cent.

The budget is expected to contain a raft of tax cuts, infrastructure spending, employment support, investment incentives and industry subsidies, that will see the budget deficit balloon to more than $200 billion.

Listen to the Short Squeeze, our weekly markets podcast produced in conjunction with IG here. Episodes last for about 10 minutes and are also available through Spotify and Google Podcasts.

This column was produced in commercial partnership between The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and IG. Information is of a general nature only.



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Spotify adds an interactive feature for podcasts with launch of ‘Polls’ – TechCrunch


Spotify today is introducing a new feature designed to make podcasts more interactive. The company says it’s beginning to test “Polls,” a tool that will allow listeners to engage with podcasts by answering questions posed by the podcast hosts during the show. The polls will appear in the Spotify app, and can be found either on the Now Playing screen or on the podcast episode’s page.

The user can then answer the question and view how their answer stacks up with the rest of the listener base in real-time. They won’t, however, be able to view the results of the poll without first participating themselves.

Participation in polls is entirely optional, Spotify says, and the votes will remain anonymous.

In other words, the goal is not to accumulate individualized data on listeners, but rather give the podcast host a way to better understand their audience. For example, a host could ask the audience to vote on who the next guest should be, or they could ask them to settle a debate that cropped up on the show. Polls will also be able to support either a “choose one” or “choose multiple” option for the answers, to give them some flexibility.

Image Credits: Spotify

Podcasts that support polls will only be able to feature one per episode, and each poll can only pose one question. But there’s no limit to how many total polls the podcast, overall, could include — the creator could offer a poll with every episode, if they preferred.

At launch, the polls feature is only being made available to a small group of beta testers, including The Rewatchables, Incredible Feats with Dan Cummins, and Crime Countdown. Spotify tells TechCrunch it plans to onboard other Spotify Originals and Exclusives over time, as the test progresses. But there’s no specific ETA or timeline for that expansion, at present.

The test will roll out to most Spotify listeners beginning today, September 23. The full Spotify user base will be able to see the polls later on, the company says. This is being considered the start of the beta because no other podcasts have tested the feature ahead of today’s announcement.

This is not the first feature Spotify has introduced to make its app the prefered podcast player.

The company has in the past also rolled out support for podcast playlists, personalized daily podcast recommendations, editorially curated podcast suggestions, and, more recently, video podcasts and podcast top charts. But where many of its other features were designed to attract users to the Spotify app, the addition of Polls is also meant to cater to podcast creators, not just fans.

Spotify today has one of the largest podcast catalogs, now topping 1.5 million podcasts, thanks to its investments in acquiring podcast companies, like Gimlet Media and the Ringer, as well as podcasting tools, like Anchor.

The company, however, just lost one of its biggest exclusive podcast stars, Joe Budden, when it failed to come to terms on a new deal, even after offering the creator a significant raise.

Image Credits: Spotify

Spotify has also been facing the downside of its aggressive podcast acquisition strategy in recent days, as it dealt with the backlash over its $100 million exclusive deal with Joe Rogan. The podcast host had been spreading misinformation about the Oregon forest fires, which he later apologized for. But Spotify faced abuse from listeners and bad PR as people became aware of the problem.

That incident highlighted the difficulties with Spotify’s “exclusives” strategy, where it’s not just buying access to a large star and their audience, but also the headaches they bring with them.

In the meantime, it’s continues to try and woo more podcasters to join its platform by offering creative tools and features, like these new Polls.

During the test, Polls will be available for 90% of of users across all markets, on both iOS and Android devices.



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Air quality in New Westminster, B.C., worse than New Delhi as pier fire adds to wildfire smoke


Smoke blowing into parts of southern B.C. for the past three days has been so bad it landed Vancouver in the top three spots on a list of major cities that have the worst air quality in the world.

And the smoke from Washington state wildfires keeps coming.

Vancouver landed in the second spot this week, with its air quality deemed “unhealthy” at a rating of 160 on the website IQ Air. Vancouver’s air was ranked worse to breathe than that of Los Angeles, but not as hazardous as Portland’s, rated at 305.

The air quality index alerts people to unhealthy levels of pollutants including particulate matter that can be inhaled into the lungs. At the levels found in Vancouver, people are urged to shelter indoors, especially given the risk to health from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

But Vancouver isn’t the only bad place to breathe in B.C.

On Sunday, the waterfront park in New Westminster, a small community east of Vancouver, caught fire. It is still smouldering and belching toxins over the Fraser River. 

By Tuesday, that made New Westminster’s air quality — about 155 according to IQ Air — worse than that of New Delhi, India, where it was 129.

By late Wednesday, New Westminster’s and Vancouver’s air were about the same. 

‘Not much more my lungs can take’

Smoke from wildfires in the U.S. West Coast, coupled with New Westminster’s Pier Park fire, created a “double whammy,” said Dr. Christopher Carlsten, who heads the University of British Columbia’s respiratory medicine department.

He says he’s never seen the Pacific Northwest — from Oregon to southern B.C. — so smoky for so long.

“I am confident that’s unprecedented,” said Carlsten. “It’s certainly extremely, extremely unusual.”

Air quality is aggravating his patients’ breathing problems — and probably those of anybody else with underlying respiratory conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or heart conditions.

The ‘Wow Westminster’ public art installation, made of shipping containers, seen through a smoky haze on Wednesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

For Shelley Watson of New Westminster, the choking smoke and haze was already unbearable.

Then the Pier Park fire broke out near her home. By Tuesday, Watson was forced to flee the city to calm her raging headache and cough.

“There’s not much more that my lungs can take as far as the toxicity of this smoke,” she said.

Watson runs four fans, two air conditioners with jams towels under the doors — but the acrid smoke continues to seep into her home.

“When [the creosote smell] first hits you are just horrified by how awful it is,” said Watson.

In a croaky voice, she says she can barely see the Pattullo Bridge, usually visible out her window.

Sun umbrellas survived the fire on the smouldering pier, with charred sections of wood visible from above. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The headaches and nausea that Watson and others are experiencing is probably because of the petrochemical-fuelled fire, according to Carlsten.

Old pilings burning under the pier are infused with creosote, a tar-like substance that preserves wood standing in the water. 

Creosote preservatives are generally coal tars containing polyaromatic hydrocarbons which can harm the lungs. Prolonged or extreme exposure to smoke from this burning chemical can cause long-term asthma-like symptoms in healthy people — and may also lead to cancer, he said.

Carlsten can’t recall such a thick smoke haze and particulate pollution lasting this long in this province.

“This will pass, but it’s crazy how frequent and compounding all these things are,” he said.

Smoke continues to drift above the burned wharf. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

But clear skies are not on the horizon yet. New Westminster’s Fire Chief Tim Armstrong says the Pier Park fire — cause still unknown — may smoulder for weeks.

Environment Canada senior meteorologist Carmen Hartt said a special team is monitoring the toxic plume emanating from New Westminster’s waterfront. A stagnant air mass and varied winds mean “nobody is really safe from smoke from that fire in any direction,” for kilometres, according to Hartt.

Firefighters work to douse the Westminster Pier Park fire that destroyed sections of the old pier and damaged the “W” shaped Wow Westminster sculpture. Picture taken from the SkyTrain on Sept. 14. (Submitted by Miles Stoelwinder)

As for the wildfire smoke, there’s a bit of rain — 20 millimetres or so —  in the forecast for southern B.C. leading into the weekend. Along with shifting winds that means the region will get a reprieve from the smoke blowing north from the U.S. wildfires, she said, but it won’t fully disappear until next week.

“Next week it’s looking really good to see another rain event. That should do a lot of good for the air quality,” said Hartt.

Longer term she said that there may be more smoke events in the coming months. Fires from California, through Oregon and Washington are not under control, and colder weather won’t hit California for months.



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Mexico adds more than 90,000 tax-paying jobs in August – IMSS



FILE PHOTO: A man packs goods in a supermarket in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico November 15, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

September 12, 2020

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s labor market added 92,390 formal tax-paying jobs in August, data from social security institute IMSS showed on Saturday, as the country’s economy claws back jobs lost from the coronavirus spurred slowdown.

The Mexican economy has been especially hard hit by the pandemic, with health authorities confirming on Friday that the official death toll has surpassed 70,000, the fourth highest number of deaths globally.

The economy is seen contracting by up to 13% this year, the deepest downturn since the 1930s-era Great Depression.

Despite the modest August job gains, following several months of losses, the labor market has bled 833,100 formal jobs so far this year, according to IMSS data.

Formal jobs stem from contracts and include defined pay and tax obligations, while informal jobs mostly operate in cash and outside the law.

Slightly more than half of Mexican workers are thought to be employed informally.

(Reporting by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Daniel Wallis)





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New Biden ad blitz slams rioting, blames president for violence: ‘Donald Trump adds fuel to every fire’


The Joe Biden campaign is pushing ahead with a major swing-state ad blitz addressing the rioting that’s gripped many U.S. cities head-on and blaming President Trump for the violence, casting the Democratic nominee as a calming force who will “lower the temperature” of the national discourse.

The ad is titled “Be Not Afraid,” a quote from Pope John Paul II, and is adapted from a speech Biden gave Monday in Pittsburgh. It will air on major cable news networks as well as stations in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

“Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. It’s lawlessness, plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted,” Biden says as stark images of burnt-out cars and buildings flash on the screen. “Fires are burning and we have a president who fans the flames. He can’t stop the violence because for years he’s fomented it.”

TRUMP ALLIES CHALLENGE BIDEN’S TOUGHER TONE ON RIOTS, NOTE SUPPORT FOR FUND BAILING OUT PROTESTERS

The Biden campaign said the ad is part of a $45 million broadcast and digital ad buy just this week — a staggering sum of money for even a presidential campaign to drop. It comes as the Biden campaign has begun to emphasize its condemnations of rioting and violence in recent days after Republicans have hammered the message for weeks and harshly criticized the Biden campaign for the lack of attention paid to the unrest at the Democratic National Convention (DNC).

Trump allies have challenged the sincerity of the tone change by the Biden campaign. Meanwhile, the Biden campaign has noted that the nominee has condemned the violence on several occasions throughout the summer, even to the point of backlash from some on the left.

Biden has certainly mentioned the rioting — perpetrated almost exclusively by far-left actors — far less on the virtual campaign trail than Trump, who has made it perhaps the top talking point of his campaign. But he has occasionally condemned the violence with statements as early as May 31 in the wake of George Floyd’s death in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department.

“As predicted, Joe Biden today failed to condemn the left-wing mobs burning, looting, and terrorizing American cities,” Trump campaign Communications Director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement Monday after Biden used a speech in Pittsburgh to denounce rioters and looters as well as accuse Trump of fueling the tensions. “He failed to apologize for his campaign staff donating to a fund which bailed violent criminals out of jail in Minneapolis.”

Biden Rapid Response Director Andrew Bates shot back: “How can anyone take Trump seriously when he refuses to condemn someone who shot protestors on tape — killing two — and is currently in custody? There is one candidate for president who unequivocally condemns violence, and that candidate is Joe Biden.”

The individual Bates was referring to is facing homicide charges for a shooting in Kenosha, Wis., though his lawyers maintain his actions were in self-defense.

Murtaugh in a tweet reacting to the ad buy said the tens of millions in spending by the Biden campaign are necessary because voters “have seen the weakness, seen him calling them ‘peaceful protesters’ while blaming police.”

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In a departure from many of its other ads, the new Biden spot on the riots does not mention the coronavirus pandemic. It could be a signal of more focus on the unrest from both campaigns down the stretch as many have noted Americans’ revulsion to the looting, arson and other crime that takes place during the riots, which often happen at night stemming from protests against police brutality and racism.

“[Trump’s] failure to call on his own supporters to stop acting as an armed militia in this country shows how weak he is,” Biden says in the ad, a reference to the individual facing homicide charges, whose self-defense claim Trump seemed to back this week, as well as caravans of Trump supporters, which Trump has encouraged, that have entered cities like Portland during riots. An apparent Trump supporter was shot over the weekend in Portland.

“If I were president my language would be less divisive,” Biden says in closing the ad. “I’d be looking to lower the temperature in this country, not raise it. Donald Trump is determined to instill fear in America because Donald Trump adds fuel to every fire. This is not who we are. I believe we’ll be guided by the words of Pope John Paul II, words drawn from the Scripture: Be not afraid.”

Fox News’ Allie Raffa contributed to this report. 





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Coronavirus: Canada adds 427 new cases, 8 deaths – National


Canada added 427 new cases of the coronavirus Thursday and eight deaths.

The country now has 126,779 cases total and 9,109 deaths.

Read more:
Ontario reports 118 new coronavirus cases, 1 death; total cases at 41,813

Ontario reported 118 new cases Thursday, bringing the provincial total to 41,813 — an increase from Wednesday’s 88 and sending its daily tally to above 100 again. It is the highest case count reported in the last week.

About 90 per cent of the province’s cases have been resolved, with 77 more added Thursday.

One new death was reported to bring the province’s death toll to 2,803.






Coronavirus: Quebec will not shut down daycare network if second wave hits


Coronavirus: Quebec will not shut down daycare network if second wave hits

Quebec is reporting a triple-digit jump in its cases after 111 new infections were reported Thursday.

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The province has seen 62,056 COVID-19 cases to date — the highest in the country. There are 55,008 recoveries in total.

Hospitalizations increased by five from the previous day, for a total of 115. Of those, 15 patients are in intensive care, an increase of three from the previous day.

Read more:
Quebec reports 111 new coronavirus cases, 3 additional deaths

Authorities also reported three additional deaths, but only one of those occurred in the last 24 hours.

Since the pandemic began in March, Quebec continues to have the highest death toll in Canada. As of Thursday, there have been 5,750 deaths.

Nova Scotia added no new cases to its current active five, and New Brunswick also reported no new cases to add to its seven active cases. There are no New Brunswickers in hospital for COVID-19 as of Thursday.

Newfoundland and Labrador and PEI reported no new cases or deaths.






Coronavirus: Nova Scotia to further loosen restrictions on long-term care homes


Coronavirus: Nova Scotia to further loosen restrictions on long-term care homes

Manitoba health officials reported one new death from COVID-19 Thursday and 22 new cases, as another outbreak has been declared at a personal care home in the province.

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They bring the province’s total number of confirmed and probable cases identified since March to 1,064. As of Thursday Manitoba had 407 active cases of COVID-19, health officials said.

Saskatchewan reported five new cases Thursday and seven more recoveries.

Read more:
Saskatchewan sees 5 new coronavirus infections as active cases continue to drop

There are currently 58 active cases in the province, with three of them currently in hospital — one is receiving inpatient care and two are in intensive care.

No new deaths were added to the 24 recorded so far in the province.

Alberta announced two more people have died as a result of COVID-19 in the province — a man in his 90s and one in his 70s.






Alberta reports 2 additional COVID-19 deaths Thursday


Alberta reports 2 additional COVID-19 deaths Thursday

 

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The two deaths brought the total number of people who have lost their lives in Alberta as a result of the novel coronavirus is 237.

There were 108 new cases across Alberta over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of active cases to 1,158.

Forty-nine people across Alberta are in hospital as a result of the virus, with seven of those individuals in intensive care.

Read more:
2 new deaths and 108 new cases in Alberta as a result of COVID-19

There have been 13,318 novel coronavirus cases in Alberta since the start of the pandemic, with 11,923 of those cases having recovered.

British Columbia reported 64 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and four epi-linked cases (probable but not lab-confirmed cases), along with another death in long-term care.

It brought the province’s death toll to 204.






COVID-19 cases hitting record highs in British Columbia, Alberta


COVID-19 cases hitting record highs in British Columbia, Alberta

Active cases edged back up to 906 after dipping slightly the day prior.

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Twenty-two people remained in hospital, with seven of them in critical care.

About 79 per cent of B.C.’s 5,372 total cases have recovered.

Read more:
B.C. reports 68 new coronavirus cases and one new death

No new cases or deaths were reported in any of the territories.

There have been 24,290,710 reported cases worldwide and 828,134 deaths so far, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In the United States, there has been 5,859,810 reported cases and 180,523 deaths.

— With files from Global News staff


© 2020 The Canadian Press





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