Sunak announces new rescue package for businesses hit by Covid lockdowns


Rishi Sunak has increased help for workers and businesses hit by Covid lockdowns in a financial rescue package issued less than a month after his last bailout.

It includes more wage support for businesses struggling to keep employees on full time, more generous help for the self-employed and further cash grants for hospitality firms forced to shut.

As he returned to the Commons to announce billions of pounds more in cash aid, Mr Sunak acknowledged that the picture had darkened since he presented his winter economy plan on September 24.

He rejected demands that he increase the subsidy paid to workers in businesses forced to shut in Tier 3 areas. That will remain at two thirds rather than the 80 per cent paid in the original scheme. However he tweaked the job support scheme announced last month as part of his winter economy plan after criticism that it did not give businesses enough incentive to keep workers on shorter hours.

He promised employers who could only afford to take back workers part-time that the government would pick up a greater proportion of the cash needed to top up their wages. Under the original scheme employers had to find one third of the cost of unworked hours, with employees losing a third and the government picking up the remaining third to a maximum of £700 a month.

In the new scheme businesses will pay only 5 per cent of unworked hours and workers need to work only a fifth of their usual hours to qualify.

The Treasury said this meant that if someone was being paid £587 for their unworked hours the government would contribute £543 and the employer only £44.

For the self-employed, Mr Sunak announced a grant increase from up to £1,875 a month to up to £3,750 a month, raising to 40 per cent the amount of lost profits compensated in a new package worth £3.1 billion in the three months ahead.

In a move to address anger in parts of the country subjected to Tier 3 restrictions, he announced cash grants for hospitality firms forced to close worth £3,000 a month, which will be backdated. Businesses in Tier 2 areas can access grants worth up to £2,000.

He said: “Let me speak first to the people of Liverpool, Lancashire, South Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, and indeed other areas moving into or already living under heightened health restrictions. I understand your frustration. People need to know this is not for ever. These are temporary restrictions to help control the spread of the virus. There are difficult days and weeks ahead but we will get through this together. People are not on their own. We have an economic plan that will protect the jobs and livelihoods of the British people wherever they live and whatever their situation.”

Anneliese Dodds, for Labour, criticised Mr Sunak for failing to anticipate the economic damage caused by the second Covid wave and the regional lockdowns.

Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, a think tank, said: “The chancellor is making the right call in reducing employer contributions in the job support scheme. Asking employers to pay too much towards the wages of workers when not working was the major design flaw in the scheme he announced less than a month ago. The reduction should be very significant to ensure firms have a strong incentive to cut hours rather than jobs.”





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How COVID hit SEQ’s public transport usage


Griffith University transport expert Matthew Burke said this decision stood in positive contrast to other countries that immediately cut public transport services to save costs, causing “terrible” impacts to low-income workers in particular.

“We have a couple of factors that is different to the rest of the world. The first is that one in six passengers on the TransLink network in SEQ are tertiary students,” Dr Burke said.

“So with the universities basically still running off-campus and online teaching, there is one in six trips that has pretty much vanished from the network.”

And with universities predicting a return to in-person teaching only in the second half of 2021, those trips are not likely to return in the immediate future.

“The public transport networks are exceptionally radial in south-east Queensland, that is they all tend to head in to the Brisbane CBD,” Dr Burke said.

“No more so than our rail network, which everything runs to Roma Street and Central, and with office workers very much continuing to work from home in large numbers, that has meant that those services have really seen a decline.”

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With companies now considering whether to keep workers at home and reduce their inner-city office spaces, or bring workers in just for a few days a week, Dr Burke said the “big debate” remained about if this was the new normal.

“Beyond that, there is also an avoidance function which is happening here, where people are – if they have a choice – choosing to avoid public transport and choosing other modes,” he said.

Brisbane City Council, who operates buses and ferries in agreement with TransLink, released figures on Tuesday showing monthly bus and ferry patronage is still well below 2019 figures.

The sharpest difference, naturally, was during April and May when the entire state ground to a halt.

In April 2019, 7.6 million trips were taken on Brisbane’s bus network: in April 2020, just 1.3 million – a decline of 81 per cent.

By September this year, however, patronage was still down by 45 per cent on buses and 48 per cent on ferries, which were hard-hit by the loss of international and domestic tourists.

Earlier this week, Queensland Police Assistant Commissioner Ben Marcus said police were seeing more people on the roads, and congestion almost worse than pre-COVID levels, triggering a worrying rise in the road toll.

The council’s public and active transport committee chairman Ryan Murphy said it was “hard to predict” if or when patronage would return to pre-COVID numbers.

“While there is no community transmission in Queensland, commuters can have a total confidence that our public transport is safe to use,” Cr Murphy said.

“There has been a noticeable shift in more people travelling actively, for both commuting and recreation and we’ve seen significantly more people using the riverwalks and bikeways.

“I think this is a positive change that residents are exploring different travel options and getting outside and enjoying our wonderful climate and active travel options.”

Dr Burke said the decision to keep public transport services at pre-COVID schedules meant people could travel quite safely while staying socially distanced.

“Two things we can be really proud of,” Dr Burke said.

“A: that we’ve kept up services to people – at great cost, TransLink’s wearing that cost – and B: we’ve managed to keep those operations as COVID-safe as possible.

“I think we can do more and further encourage mask-wearing on public transport, and … if the numbers pick up in Queensland we will need to move to making masks mandatory as they did in Victoria.”

A TransLink spokesperson said the agency had added more services to help people socially distance while travelling, and while there were no plans to cap numbers on public transport, it would continue to monitor capacity and take advice from Queensland Health.

But while services have stayed operating as normal, and people can ideally find space on public transport to travel safely, the cost is not sustainable in the long term, Dr Burke said.

“It’s unsustainable – we couldn’t do it for three years,” he said.

The TransLink spokesperson did not provide details on the agency’s timeline for any discussions about reducing services if patronage figures remained low, saying it was an “essential service”.

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Motorcyclist in hit and run dies


A motorcyclist who was struck in a hit and run incident in Alice Springs last week has died in hospital interstate, police disclosed this afternoon.

“The five occupants of the vehicle which struck the 47-year-old man, will have their charges upgraded,” says a media release.

“The three youth offenders involved in the incident will appear in court tomorrow.

“One man has been remanded in custody to appear at a later date, and the other man will appear in court on November 3.

“A report will be prepared for the coroner,” says the report.

IMAGE: A Facebook post by prominent local Wayne Thompson who started a donations appeal for the man who died today.



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Buckle up, investors. The stimulus talks’ rollercoaster is nothing compared to what could hit the markets next


Up on optimistic headlines, down on uncertainty.

With investors’ eyes glued to Capitol Hill, the market’s daily gyrations have become commonplace in recent days.

“It’s all about fiscal stimulus,” Charles Schwab’s chief investment strategist Liz Ann Sonders tells Fortune, as negotiations between the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over a new stimulus deal come down to the wire. “That’s the factor I think is driving most of the intraday swings right now.”

On Tuesday, Speaker Pelosi signaled some progress over new stimulus as Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill wrote “both sides are serious about finding a compromise” in a tweet Tuesday following a call between Speaker Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

That conversation came on the day of a deadline Speaker Pelosi set for Tuesday to get a deal on the table, though she appeared to walk back that hard deadline, aiming for a bill drafted by the end of the week. Republican Senators led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pose a roadblock to passing the deal, however, as McConnell reportedly told the White House not to accept a Democrat bill before the election.

The daily back and forth has meant a rocky few days for investors. The S&P 500 is down 1.3% over the past five trading days, but closed roughly 0.5% higher Tuesday on hopes a deal was within reach. Still, intraday swings have been choppy over the past week; the Dow, at one point on Wednesday fell 225 points in the span of an hour as the CBOE Volatility Index, or VIX, spiked. The big concern: should a deal not get done soon, some Wall Street observers estimate as much as a 5% to 10% hit to markets.

Charles Schwab’s Sonders believes we’ll continue to see these “bouts” of volatility in the near-term tied to stimulus, but she argues another market-moving event is still on the horizon that could potentially fuel even more sustained volatility than stimulus negations: a contested election.

Market observers and strategists have been counseling clients on what a contested election might do to equities, and many dread what kind of volatility we’d see in the event of a dragged-out election decision. Some investors are also planning ahead, buying options and futures on a bet things will be volatile after Nov. 3.

“When you look at what’s been going on in the volatility futures, there had been an easing of concerns about a contested election. But when you get closer [to the election] as polls tighten, which is often the case, I think some of that uncertainty might increase again,” says Sonders. “Save for stimulus issues, I think that remains probably the biggest volatility driver between now and the election.”

What’s more, despite the hand-wringing on the Street, Sonders argues investors may not be fully appreciating the risk of a contested election dragging on as long as (if not longer than) the Bush-Gore contested election in 2000, when the winner wasn’t declared until roughly six weeks after Election Day. “I think that’s a volatility driver that’s not priced in,” she believes.

Scott Knapp, chief market strategist at CUNA Mutual Group, concurs. He’s not convinced “the markets are anticipating a contested election right now, and for that reason, if one did occur, it would likely be a market-mover,” he wrote in a note Wednesday.

If there is a contested election, he reasons, it would be similar to what has happened throughout 2020 “of actual events differing from expectations.”

“It would be a low-probability event that produces a very negative market-moving surprise,” Knapp argues.

The bottom line for investors? “A more elevated and sustained level of volatility probably comes if we have a contested election issue, especially if it’s a protracted one,” Sonders says. Indeed, other strategists like Charlie Ripley, senior investment strategist for Allianz Investment Management, expect “markets to maintain an elevated level of volatility leading up to, and possibly beyond, the November 3 election day,” he wrote in a note Tuesday. “We’ve been saying it’s not so much who gets elected but more so how that takes place,” he told Fortune Wednesday.

As for this week, Sonders suggests investors keep an eye on the presidential debate on Thursday, which could possibly shift poll numbers or the betting market.

“That could be a volatility driver or a market mover,” she adds.

More must-read finance coverage from Fortune:





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Why Do People Hire a Hit Man?


Criminologists have a name for a person who hires a hit man: instigator. They also confirm what news stories suggest: Lots of instigators get caught because they don’t know what they’re doing. After all, most of us don’t socialize with professional killers. The average person therefore looks to acquaintances or neighbors for referrals, or finds his way to criminal bottom-feeders who are likely to be inept and inexperienced. The former may be inclined to call law enforcement, while the latter may lose their nerve or botch the job. Which helps explain why so many murders for hire don’t produce any dead bodies.

In 2003, the Australian Institute of Criminology published an analysis of 163 contract-killing cases (some completed, others merely attempted) in Australia; it remains one of the most significant studies ever conducted of the subject. The authors determined that 2 percent of all murders in Australia were contract killings and that contracts were, in some cases, surprisingly affordable. One unfulfilled contract was for 500 Australian dollars; another job was completed for just $2,000. Among other key findings, nearly 20 percent of all contracts involved a romantic relationship gone wrong, and 16 percent were financially motivated.

Another study, this one of contract killings in Tennessee, found instigators pretty evenly split between men and women. This is notable, given that almost all conventional murders are committed by men. But it tracks with the fact that women are almost as likely as men to wish someone dead. In The Murderer Next Door: Why the Mind Is Designed to Kill, David M. Buss, an evolutionary psychologist, reports that “91 percent of men and 84 percent of women have had at least one vivid fantasy about killing someone.”

What of the people who are hired to kill? Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist who has consulted on a dozen murder-for-hire cases, told me that virtually all of the contract killers he’s examined display moderate to severe psychopathy. “Psychopathy, as a constellation of personality traits, gives them both the aggression and the emotional detachment to be able to carry out an act like this for money,” he says. Other experts I spoke with believe that both parties to a contract killing are engaged in psychological distancing. The contractor comforts himself by saying, This is my job. I’m just following orders. The instigator thinks, I’m not a murderer—he’s the one pulling the trigger.

Park Dietz, a forensic psychiatrist who has testified in court cases of criminals ranging from serial killers (Jeffrey Dahmer) to deranged assassins (John Hinckley Jr.), has another theory as to why homicidal people hire help. “My prime suspect is the depiction of hit men in popular culture, such as films, TV, video games, and novels,” Dietz told me, noting that the last time he entered hit man into Netflix, hundreds of results appeared. According to Dietz, such entertainment gives “the illusion that this is a service available to anyone.” In a world where dangerous or unpleasant tasks are routinely outsourced, a viewer might think, Well, why not this too?


This article appears in the July 2019 print edition with the headline “Hired Guns.”

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.



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Youths run from stolen car as man fights for his life after hit and run. Update.


Police have arrested boys aged 13, 15 and 16 and a man aged 19 after a hit and run incident that left a man fighting for his life in the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

They were charged after the vehicle they were travelling in went through a red traffic light, colliding with a motorcyclist.

The vehicle failed to stop at the scene, where the 47-year-old male rider suffered life threatening injuries. The man remains in a critical condition.

The 19-year-old and the youths aged 16 and 13 were arrested when they ran from a stolen motor vehicle which was spiked by a police tyre deflation device on Grevilla Drive late on Thursday, police say.

A fourth person, a 15-year-old boy, was arrested by detectives from the Alice Springs Criminal Investigation Branch late yesterday.

Charges laid include hit and run cause serious harm; fail to rescue and provide help; drive unlicensed.

The four have been bailed to appear before court at a later date. Police continue to conduct inquiries to identify the fifth person who was in the vehicle at the time.

UPDATE Oct 17 @ 4.40pm

Police have charged a fifth person. A 19-year-old man was arrested by detectives at a home in Sadadeen earlier today.

He will appear before the local court on charges including hit and run cause serious harm and fail to rescue / provide help.

The other 19-year-old man, who was arrested and charged by police on Thursday night, was remanded in custody until Monday, October 19.



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Police officer hit by car and man arrested during pursuit through Adelaide suburbs


A South Australian Police officer has been injured and a man has been arrested during a car chase through Adelaide’s suburbs this afternoon.

A white Isuzu utility was reported stolen from a Noarlunga Centre car wash, in Adelaide’s southern suburbs, on Thursday morning.

It was spotted by police on Flaxmill Road at Christie Downs around 12:30pm on Friday.

Officers did not pursue the car — instead, the PolAir helicopter was deployed to monitor it for more than 30 minutes throughout Adelaide’s southern and western suburbs.

A police officer was hit by a different car, driven by a member of the public, as he lay road spikes on Anzac Highway at Everard Park.

The car was dumped at Glenelg, west of Adelaide.(ABC News: Steve Opie)

He received minor injuries and was treated by paramedics at the scene.

The offending vehicle was later found abandoned near Colley Terrace, Glenelg, with the male driver running away from the scene.

The man was caught and arrested in a nearby carpark.

Two police cars parked on the side of a road with police and witnesses gathered around a potential crime scene
A man was arrested on Anzac Highway at Glenelg on Friday afternoon.(ABC News; Stephen Opie)

Anzac Highway is currently closed to city-bound traffic from South Road at Everard Park.

More cars stolen, further arrests

Police say another four cars were stolen from Noarlunga on Thursday and two more people have so far been arrested.

A late-model Ford Fiesta was stolen and spotted on Flaxmill Road at Christie Downs on Friday morning.

The car did not stop for police and was followed down the Southern Expressway, then to Main South Road.

It blew a tyre and two men abandoned the car on Pimpala Road.

After a short foot-chase, a 21-year-old man from Morphett Vale and 19-year-old from Adelaide’s southern suburbs were arrested and charged with criminal trespass and illegal use of a motor vehicle.

Police are continuing investigations and are looking for three remaining stolen cars:

  • 2017 blue Toyota RAV4, registration S9893BTL
  • 2008 blue Ford XR6, registration S262ALS
  • 2020 Kia Sorento SUV, NSW registration CW15YX



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