HSBC is making a risky bet on China


“HSBC will be forced to think bigger than 12 months ago, by which I mean even greater retrenchment in Western markets, including a more radical downsizing of its US businesses, and a more savage cost reduction programme,” says Ian Gordon, bank analyst at Investec.

“It is an ongoing pivot to Asia, but the key deliverables within its control are making its value-destructive businesses smaller.”

London investors, despite being furious that the bank backed Beijing’s controversial security law in Hong Kong last year, agree that there could be huge growth in the Greater Bay Area, which covers 21,800 square miles and 11 cities including gambling mecca Macau, the most densely populated city in the world. More than 70 million people live in the Greater Bay Area, more than the whole of the UK, with the mega-region’s cities connected by the world’s longest bridge over water.

Investors can see full well that China, where stock valuations hit a record high last year, is where the money is for HSBC, yet they have a growing list of non-financial concerns that is dampening any excitement. As one major shareholder puts it, the bank is “behind the curve on human rights and climate change” and efforts to dispel those fears have proved unsuccessful. Tucker recently held a private meeting with investors to discuss climate change issues, though one person says it came across as insincere, while MPs were left unimpressed by chief executive Noel Quinn’s defence of the bank’s relationship with Beijing last month. The bank has heard the message on climate change – it has pledged to become a net zero carbon emissions bank by 2050 and last week hired its first ever sustainability chief – but there are still questions over its relationship with China.

“From an investor point of view it is negative on the ESG [environmental, social and governance] front. China is more important than the US for them, but that’s the risk. This Chinese relationship is becoming less democratic, not more democratic,” a major shareholder says.

“This Asia strategy can work as long as they can get a strategic positive relationship with China, which is currently in the ‘not proven’ category. If you read the local press it’s pretty hostile to HSBC.”

That puts HSBC’s predicament mildly. In the UK, the bank has been lambasted for backing Beijing’s controversial security law, which criminalises anti-government movements. A global coalition of more than 50 politicians, including ex-Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, wrote to Tucker demanding answers after it froze some pro-democracy activists’ bank accounts. The bank has now replied in a letter Sir Iain says was “deeply disappointing”.

HSBC chairman Mark Tucker is navigating a tricky political and economic path..Credit:Jessica Hromas

He adds: “[It was] a flat statement about their need to obey laws passed by the government. But the real answer is they clearly want to expand in China, which is why they’re not just obeying these laws, but doing so very willingly. It begs the question why anyone who is concerned about China’s behaviour and its abuse of human rights given the bank’s behaviour would bank with HSBC.”

The MPs have now asked for a meeting with the bank. There has been a backlash against HSBC in China after “Princess of Huawei” Meng Wanzhou, daughter of the company’s founder, claimed that HSBC records will reveal top bank executives knew of dealings with Iran at the heart of an extradition case. On Friday, an English judge blocked the release of the documents.

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An investor who sold his stake in the bank last year says the US Huawei drama highlights the difficulty with keeping China on side.

“They are strategically challenged,” he says.

Telegraph, London

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Risky run pays off for Ichi Ban in rugged Adelaide to Port Lincoln yacht race


Two-time Sydney to Hobart yacht race winner Ichi Ban has taken line honours in this year’s Adelaide to Port Lincoln race, making the challenging 156-nautical-mile journey in almost exactly 12 hours.

Ichi Ban’s 3:00am Saturday finish in testing conditions is also likely to deliver the overall title when race times are tallied tomorrow.

That adds up to a rewarding outing for Ichi Ban’s NSW crew, who were unable to defend their 2019 Sydney to Hobart handicap title when Sydney’s COVID-19 outbreak led to the cancellation of the world famous event.

Skipper Matt Allen said COVID worries made for a tricky lead-up to the South Australian race. Ichi Ban was the only interstate entrant after the crew took a calculated risk to make the trip from interstate.

Ichi Ban skipper Matt steps ashore at Port Lincoln after finishing just before 3am on Saturday.(Supplied: Harry Fisher)

Fight down to the wire

South Australian rivals Hooligan and Secret Men’s Business came in half-an-hour later in a pre-dawn tussle for the line, with Hooligan snatching second place just seconds ahead.

Hooligan crew member Jacob Keough said conditions were still and slow in Adelaide but the winds picked up to 30 knots as the yachts passed Yorke Peninsula.

“We just managed to sneak in around the jetty there in Port Lincoln.

“We have some locals on board and they know the secrets of Port Lincoln, so the whole team worked together and we got the boat across the line.”

Conditions ‘like a washing machine’

Game On 2 skipper Julian Christopher Newton said it was a sleepless night for the Adelaide crew on a potentially treacherous run between the two cities.

“We took plenty of water on the boat and across the deck. There was substantial swell. It was a tough race,” Newton said.

Skipper Julian Christopher Newton came in sixth on Game On 2.
Game On 2 skipper Julian Christopher Newton manages a smile after “a tough race”.(ABC News: Evelyn Leckie)

Race numbers were dramatically down on the usual 70 yachts, with Victorians unable to enter South Australia and border uncertainty for other potential starters. Twenty one yachts started.

Four yachts turned back to Adelaide on Friday afternoon, after damage sustained from the sea conditions.

Some regard the race as the most challenging after the Sydney to Hobart and Fresh crew member Shelley Fiegert said more eyes were on the South Australian event.

“I think it’s great we want to bring more people here to Port Lincoln, so hopefully — COVID pending next year — we can bring more competitors from interstate,” she said.

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The Chinese Academy Of Sciences Flags 65 ‘Risky’ Journals



AsianScientist (Jan. 5, 2021) – In an advisory published on its website on December 31, 2020, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) has identified 65 ‘risky’ international journals its scientists should avoid. The preliminary tally, reminiscent of Beall’s List of potential predatory journals and publishers, includes periodicals from major publishers such as Wolters Kluwer, John Wiley & Sons, Springer Nature and MDPI.

“The purpose of this list is to remind scientific researchers to choose their publishing platform carefully, and remind publishing institutions to strengthen the quality management of their journals,” the national research institute said in its advisory.

CAS said that the journals had been selected based on both qualitative and quantitative criteria. The indicators, chosen after ‘expert consultation,’ include the number of articles published in each journal; how ‘internationalized’ its authors are; publication fees; and rejection, retraction and self-citation rates. Each journal is then assigned to one of three warning categories corresponding to its level of risk: low, medium or high.

While most institutions do keep their own risk lists of dubious publications, a list issued by China’s national research institute is uniquely impactful, said Ms. Tao Tao, a US-based independent consultant on Chinese academic publications.

The CAS list “could be the most influential, and referred to by many,” she wrote in a LinkedIn post. “Institutions may use it to make their own rules for funding […] authors will try to avoid submitting to these if they could.”

The CAS list comes amid a government-led push for local researchers to publish more of their work in Chinese journals. While China overtook the US to become the world’s top scientific nation in 2020, producing almost a fifth of all peer-reviewed papers published between 2016 and 2018, many of these ended up in international publications. Improving the standards of home-grown journals has become a national priority in recent years, with authorities committing in 2019 to spend more than one billion yuan (~US$145 million) on some 280 local publications over five years.

Meanwhile, the importance of international journals is also waning, marked by the Science Citation Index (SCI)’s de-prioritization in China. Covering more than 9,000 publications worldwide and frequently used as a barometer of international journal quality, the SCI has long been one of the most important research indicators in the country.

Last year, the Chinese Ministry of Education and Ministry of Science and Technology released a document saying it would be reducing its ‘excessive reliance’ on the SCI for academic promotions, job offers and allocation of research funding. All eight journals deemed to be of highest risk on the CAS list are SCI-indexed.

For local researchers like Professor Wei Guo of the Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry at CAS, the worry is that the list’s vague criteria and the lack of differentiation between listed publications and predatory journals could cause irreparable reputational damage, he said.

Predatory journals and publishers, like those on Beall’s List, are entities that accept articles for publication, along with their authors’ fees, without performing requisite quality checks for plagiarism, reproducibility or ethical issues. The eponymous list, first created by American librarian Jeffrey Beall in 2008, was a prominent journal watchdog site with over 1,000 entries of predatory outfits and a large following before its closure in 2017.

“We do not know what the ‘warning level’ stands for, and how to distinguish the listed journals from those so-called ‘predatory journals,” Guo told Asian Scientist Magazine. “Chinese researchers would become more reluctant to submit to these journals, even if some of them were once considered to be reputable in their own fields, such as Materials, Sensors and Molecules. I think it is unfair.”

———

Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences; Photo: Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.


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Risky SCG decision puts health advice to the Test


We should extend Malcolm Knox’s “born allowed” to “born to rule” for the SCG Trust. It is obvious that the Trust has undue influence over the Premier and the NSW government. – Tony Simons, Balmain

Data and science contradicts some of the “born allowed” assertions by Malcolm Knox. It may be even safer to attend the SCG this week with half capacity and COVID safety measures in place than in future years when the ground will be full with no safety measures including unlimited shouting and other saliva-projecting activities. – Tony Nicod, Collaroy

Cricket Australia could have saved itself a lot of angst if it had simply changed the order of the Test venues and played the third Test in Brisbane. All associated with the game could have gone from Melbourne to Brisbane without quarantine, while Sydney would have had more time to get the current outbreak under control before the final Test. – Clive Williams, Lavender Bay

It seems incredible, given the other restrictions announced, that the Premier can allow crowds at the SCG for the Sydney Test. However as an immunosuppressed cricket tragic, here is my fevered pitch: make the match the “Pink Mask Test”. This ties into the McGrath Foundation’s support of current breast cancer patients who are immunosuppressed, and therefore at greater risk of catching COVID. Mandatory masks at this event may also protect the Premier, the SCG Trust Board, and Cricket Australia, for it would be devastating if COVID escalated in our community because of this event.- Jeannine Baird, Woronora

How’s this for reassuring where the NSW government’s public health messaging is concerned? Acting Premier John Barilaro’s media conference yesterday included this comment about people from Berala going to the SCG: “If you’re coming from that area or the broader Cumberland area in real terms, we’re almost encouraging to rethink about going to the Test.” Clear as mud. – Kerrie Wehbe, Blacktown

Poor nations have more to gain from expedited jab

The debate on whether Australia should be accelerating the introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine seems to be entirely focused on what is best for our population (“Vaccine can wait, says PM”, January 2-3). We should also take into account the limited supply of doses, worldwide, and the obvious fact that nearly every country has more to gain from early vaccination than we do. On humanitarian grounds alone, Australians should feel happy we can take advantage of our extremely low case numbers and wait a few months for a vaccine while the first millions of doses are used where the need is far, far greater. – Tim McCulloch, Hurlstone Park

I look forward to receiving the vaccine when my turn comes, but as I am living in a relatively safe country, my chances of contracting COVID are minimal. Therefore I would prefer to delay my vaccination and donate it to someone in a third world country where people are at far greater risk of contracting the virus and of dying from it. – Gareth Turner, Louth Park

The US and Britain are among several countries facing months of COVID-19 vaccine shortages. These countries had ordered them for December 2020 delivery. Manufacturers are rushing production to meet these shortfalls. Australia has ordered the vaccines for delivery in March 2021. My guess is that the vaccine suppliers would attempt to fulfill orders made last month which means that Australia is not likely to get any as scheduled. Perhaps that was the PM’s warning to prepare us for this. It’s a tragic case of outsmarting ourselves if this is the case. – Tony Moo, North Sydney

Perhaps it’s time to do a thorough risk-benefit analysis of COVID deaths versus the broader impact of restrictions on our lives, not just the economy. It appears NSW has had less than one death per month in the past 2-3 months, a figure much smaller than in a bad flu season. If we put all our resources into protecting the elderly and the most vulnerable, we could allow things to get back to normal a bit quicker. I’m totally with Gladys on her more balanced approach, and I am in the high-risk group. – Ashley Berry, Toolijooa

The sudden closure of borders causes motorists, caravaners and others to converge en masse on highways in a panic to get home. Many of the drivers are fatigued, travelling long distances, often with small children, and wearing the anxiety of not knowing what other border changes might occur while they’re on the road. There must be national guidelines for border closures. It’s a safety issue for more than COVID reasons. – Helen Atkins, Hamilton South

We were planning a get-together of ten in the private home of a friend who lives alone. New rules limit our numbers to five, but there is no such restriction in hospitality venues. How is it now safer for us to crowd around a table of ten, amid many other patrons at the local pub? – Diane Wilson, Elizabeth Bay

So, just let me get this straight: if I duck into Woolies for 5 minutes I need to wear a mask; but if I sit indoors at a restaurant for 3 hours, at a table with a dozen or more people from various parts of Sydney, I can ditch the mask, and breathe easily? – Ross Duncan, Potts Point

Neither one, nor free for now

An odd time to be proclaiming that we’re “one and free”, when border closures have separated us into eight groups (or nine if you add the area north of Narrabeen lake), and our movements are less free than they have been for 100 years (Letters, January 2-3). – Doug Walker, Baulkham Hills

Why do we need to get the Queen’s permission, via her representative, to change a wordin our national anthem?- Terry Tunkunas, Leura

The replacing of one word in our national anthem still has little effect. Also, that other word remains as is: fair. Fair what? Fair of face and skin? Fair in rights and equality for all? Fair to asylum seekers and refugees? Let’s remove ‘fair’ from the anthem too, as it means bugger all to many of us. – Llieda Wild, Eastwood

My childhood was before decimal currency came in, so I hear these new words, “one and free”, as mispronounced 1/3(d) – half of 2/6. And about as meaningful. – Fran Kirby, Castle Hill

One and free! Ah, takes me back. That’s how much it cost me to see a movie at the Padstow Star in 1960. – Stephen Fardouly, Asquith

We all look forward to the day the PM may change the words to our national anthem again. “Let us all rejoice for we are COVID-free.” – Peter Mortensen, Mortdale

Imbalance of justice

The cases involving high-profile footballers (“Hayne, de Belin trials could deter sexual assault victims”, 2-3 January) are different from usual rape trials. Juries are made up of people who may be sports lovers, people who feel they know the high-profile player and find it difficult to distinguish between footy hero and the person charged with a serious crime. The power imbalance is enormous and the little someone who happens to be the alleged victim is often of little consequence in this setting. – Julie Robinson, Cardiff

Who would want to go through the ordeal of being harangued by a defence attorney and called a liar day after day in addition to being made to re-live a traumatic event? It only needs one person on a jury to have the attitude “she was asking for it” or “boys will be boys” and no unanimous guilty verdict will be possible. The definition of consent needs to be redefined and what defence attorneys are allowed to infer about an alleged victim’s behaviour prior to the alleged assault needs to be restricted. – Bob Vinnicombe, Sefton

Packer’s Crown jewels

Blind Freddie can see that Crown Casino should lose its licence (“The tower teeters,” January 2-3). What is more shadowy is how James Packer was gifted our land for his high-roller, members-only glass and steel tribute to himself. Will we ever know who dealt those cards? Mark Paskal, Clovelly

Home truths

More than 100,000 people are homeless, many low-income earners are in housing stress which means that 30 per cent or more of their income is needed to put a roof over their head, yet residential towers keep going up (“Towers built for investors cost those living inside”, January 2-3). The main reason for this building boom is preferential tax treatment for investors in property – especially negative gearing and capital gains concessions. Renters and first home buyers are priced out of the market and wind up in insecure housing or no housing at all. It is a national disgrace that is ignored by federal and state governments. – Chris Moe, Bensville

Special delivery

Great idea to use drones for urgent medical deliveries and other socially useful purposes. But when our sky is filled with takeaway food and Amazon deliveries, perhaps it’s time to get a shotgun licence (“Pandemic pain adds fuel to the demand for drones”, January 2-3). – Paul Doyle, Glenbrook

Golden gooses

Hopefully, those retirees feeling pleased that they will continue to receive franking credits from their share portfolio and not pay income tax on their superannuation withdrawals will give a thought to just who pays for the government services that this, by definition, wealthier cohort utilise in their ‘golden years’ (“Albanese dumps ‘retiree tax’ from Labor’s platform”, January 2). Answer: it is the working generation. We are toldthat any increase in the superannuation levy comes at the expense of wage increases, so whyaren’t super withdrawals taxed as wages (at various marginal rates) with an offset for the 15 per cent tax paid on contributions and fund earnings? – Maurice Critchley, Kenthurst

It’s a shame that Labor is dropping its policy of removing franking credits because – no matter how the government tries to spin it – getting a refund for tax that has not been paid is unfair and, in the current pandemic, unaffordable. – Leo Sorbello, West Ryde

No better for aged

Seeing Cabinet papers from 2000 on the aged care outcry over treatment of the elderly in one nursing home (“Public outrage over the treatment of aged care residents”, January 2-3) and the subsequent anger over problems within the broader industry, could have been from 2020. Nothing has changed. We still have poor staffing, a lack of registered nurses and failings in oversight. – Eira Battaglia, Seaforth

Throw the books at them

A bar on the roof of the Mitchell building at the State Library? Oh dear (“Rooftop small bar part of library’s next chapter”, January 2-3). I never imagined feeling so thankful that my dear grandfather, W.H. Ifould (the former principal librarian of NSW), is dead. – Susan Newman, Mona Vale

Chip off the gold block

“I am my mother’s son,” writes Prince Harry (“Duke and Duchess welcome 2021 with new website”, January 2-3). Damn right: inherited wealth and addicted to publicity. Angus McLeod, Cremorne

Swimming in data

I read with interest Richard Glover’s article regarding the regional semantics of what to call your beach attire (“By jingo, border closures keep out the icy pole set”, January 2-3). I conducted a survey to see what the Medical Mums of Australia prefer (mums who are doctors). There were 1022 responses and the winner is: bathers (312), followed by swimmers (299), togs (263), swimsuit (58), cossie or cozzie (49) and swimming costume (41). This set of data is surely of national significance. – Celia Bradford, Warrawee

Boring books a plus

I have been interested to read your correspondents’ choices of boring novels, particularly since three of the most-mentioned novels – Silas Marner, Wuthering Heights and Vance Palmer’s The Passage were chosen by our English teacher for our Leaving Certificate year. The novels played a significant part in my choosing to be a teacher … of mathematics. Tony Everett, Wareemba

Robert Hosking (Letters, January 1), I absolutely loved Vance Palmer’s The Passage and still have my well-thumbed copy from high school (1963). I spotted a man reading it at the Wisemans Ferry Hotel recently and regret not approaching him for his opinion. Might have been you. Helen Kershaw, Killara

When I left home, my mother kept up my education by sending a selection of classics. The first was Madame Bovary, which was the most depressing novel I had ever read. No. 2, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, was even more so. The third was Crime and Punishment. I can just imagine Dostoevsky saying: “Hold my beer.” – Colin Campbell, Coogee

The digital view

Online comment from the story that attracted the most reader feedback yesterday on smh.com.au
“’Better to hand out a mask than a fine’: Calls for free masks”
From Concerned: ‘‘Giving out masks would help ensure compliance and will save a fortune if it saves even one hospitalisation. Money well spent. We have the PPE in storage, now is the time to wheel it out and distribute it at least until the vaccination program rolls out.’’

  • To submit a letter to The Sydney Morning Herald, email letters@smh.com.au. Click here for tips on how to submit letters.

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Bronte Beach revellers slammed for risky Christmas Day gathering at Sydney beach


“People in the northern beaches have been doing their part big-time to give not only themselves but the rest of Sydney safe,” he said.

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“It is absolutely appalling to see what was clearly a group of people, a large gathering of people who didn’t give a damn about the rest of Sydney.

“Let me tell you, that event, I am hoping, will not become a super spreader event. But it has every chance that it could be.”

Mr Hazzard said that in the earlier stages of the pandemic, the state “had some challenges with backpackers who clearly wanted to party in the eastern suburbs”.

“It cannot go on,” he said.

“There is still a major risk for us with COVID, and my message to those people and people who know any of those people, is tell them to stop it, cut it out, or you may well end up with the virus itself … or you may end up being part of a super spreader event.

“Many of those backpackers come here to Australia and are enjoying the relative freedoms we have here.

“If they were in Europe right now, most of them would be in lockdown and not even allowed outside the front door. The fact that you can go out is a privilege, and it should be respected in an appropriate way, in accordance with the government’s requirements.”

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Gérald Darmanin, Macron’s risky gamble – POLITICO



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PARIS — As a place to keep your enemies closer, Beauvau, the stately Parisian building reserved for French interior ministersis as close as it gets.

The prestigious office, a stone’s throw from the Elysée presidential palace, is where President Emmanuel Macron decided to put Gérald Darmanin, a high-profile catch for the president from the once-dominant conservative Les Républicains party.

The 38-year-old minister has been a key asset to consolidate the right-leaning part of Macron’s electorate. He will be on the front line starting January to defend Macron’s bill to combat Islamist radicalism, a high-stake initiative in the wake of a recent wave of terror attacks initially pitched as a way to fight “separatism.”

But heated debates surrounding both the separatism bill and a separate security bill have highlighted the political risks for Macron himself of putting Darmanin in such a sensitive job.

Darmanin’s unapologetic style and hard line on security and secularism, the latter being arguably France’s most politically charged issue, made some members of Macron’s majority furious and attracted unwanted international attention, which has hurt the president’s carefully crafted image as Europe’s liberal champion.

“For now, [Macron] has tried to tame [Darmanin] and to use him opportunistically, while knowing that he dreams of emerging as a conservative leader in the next decade,” said an early joiner of Macron’s party La République En Marche (LREM), who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “It is a dangerous bet, as Macron is alienating the left wing of his voters and is betting on someone who has always been rooting for one person only, himself,” they added. 

Darmanin, who has never been shy about his ambitions, explicitly threatened Macron with campaigning against the president if he didn’t get the interior ministry job ahead of a reshuffle this summer, several insiders told POLITICO.

Darmanin ran Nicolas Sarkozy’s campaign for the conservative primaries before joining Macron in 2017 as a junior budget minister. His lightning-fast promotion raised eyebrows and fueled comparisons with former President Nicolas Sarkozy, one of his political mentors.

The powerful post he now holds was Sarkozy’s own stepping stone to the presidency.

Macron, who campaigned on socially progressive values, is now in part betting his political future on someone who supported a new measure to ban veils for young girls in December, sparked a controversy in October by criticizing dedicated aisles in supermarkets for halal and kosher food, and once opposed gay marriage.

As interior minister, Darmanin has been a staunch defender of the country’s police, notably in the debate surrounding the rough handling of protesters or alleged racist violence by security forces.

But recent controversies left the government’s rising star weakened. To ease tensions on law enforcement, Macron announced a high-level consultation on police reform, a move in which he reportedly sidelined Darmanin.

Ideological stretch

The young conservative himself was surprised when Macron asked him to join his government after the 2017 election. “What is astonishing is not that Emmanuel Macron appointed a conservative minister to the budget, but that he appointed me, who voted against all the European treaties,” Darmanin told Le Monde last February.

For several months prior to the election, Darmanin had been criticizing Macron’s liberalism and his past as a banker. In an op-ed published by L’Opinion in early 2017, he denounced “Mr. Macron’s champagne socialist populism.”

“Far from being the remedy of a sick country, [his election] will on the contrary be its definitive poison [and] would precipitate France into institutional instability and lead to the break-up of our political life,” he wrote.

Darmanin changed his mind about Macron after the presidential debate with far-right leader Marine Le Pen, said Cécile Collin Tréheux, who was his political adviser for more than 10 years. He then decided to join Macron because conservative Édouard Philippe was appointed as prime minister, she said, but only after seeking advice from his mentors.

A call with Sarkozy and fellow conservative Northern Region President Xavier Bertrand convinced him to leave his political party and embrace La République En Marche’s movement, Collin Tréheux added. Despite being fired from Les Républicains after he took the job, Darmanin has always kept very close ties with key conservative figures.

In his previous position as junior budget minister, he threw several dinners and parties with right-leaning members of the government, or Sarkozy, according to several insiders.

“Macron is aware of this friendship with Sarkozy and Gérald is very transparent about it,” said Collin Tréheux, who added that Darmanin had made great efforts to prove his loyalty to LREM.

Political boxer

These efforts did not convince everyone in Macron’s majority, where Darmanin is still seen as a boxing showman, according to several members of the National Assembly. “He is capable of giving blows but also of receiving them,” said a ministerial staffer. While many acknowledge Darmanin’s very political mindset, doubts remain regarding his loyalty: “It’s not a question of ‘if’ he’ll betray, but of ‘when’ he’ll betray,” another early joiner of LREM said. 

Darmanin’s positions have always been harder to swallow for LREM members than those of center-right Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire or former conservative Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, a more moderate figure.

In the past, Darmanin has openly spoken out and voted against gay marriage, criticized the influence of gender studies in identity politics and pointed fingers at Tourcoing’s Roma population during his mayoral campaign for the Northern town. He has since turned away from these opinions, according to Collin Tréheux.

Some have accused him of catering to the far right, including by using language coming from political fringes shortly after his nomination.

When asked what Darmanin’s red line was when it comes to far-right ideas, Collin Tréheux described him as “one of the few to openly say that we must speak with the far right.” Darmanin meets or reads influential voices from the far end of the political spectrum, such as essayists Alain Finkielkraut or Éric Zemmour, according to Darmanin’s advisers and journalist Ludovic Vigogne’s biography “Tout restera en famille” (“Everything Will Stay in the Family”).

In 2016, he wrote an essay pledging for a French Islam — which he sent to Macron who was Finance minister at the time — where he suggests banning “any clothing that ostensibly proselytizes or tends to discriminate against women.” In the text, he also proposed the creation of a French Muslim Council whose leadership would be shared between a “minister of worship and secularism” and a Grand Council of Islam of France. All mosques would have to be approved by the ministry of worship and be affiliated with the Grand Council.

The government’s draft measures meant to fight Islamism echo some of these proposals, albeit with a softer approach, for instance by requesting that imams sign a “charter of republican values.”

A work-in-progress persona

Before being appointed interior minister, Darmanin faced complaints by two women accusing him in one case of “abuse of weakness” (an allegation of sexual assault) and the other of rape. The first case was dismissed, while the other is still under investigation. Darmanin hasn’t been charged in either of these cases.

The minister said he had “the past of a young man” but denied allegations of sexual violence.

His friend Franck Giovannucci, a conservative politician who has known him since 2000, joked about the fact that Darmanin was an “activist for heterosexuality” who “likes women” but is not the harasser some described. “I don’t believe the behavior that he is accused of is [compatible with] the Gérald I know.”

Still, the episode overshadowed his rapid political rise and put a spotlight on his personal background, other aspects of which he had until then used to his own political advantage.

The son of a concierge mother and a small-shop owner of Algerian, Armenian and Maltese descent, Gérald Moussa Darmanin fell into politics at the age of 16 when he discovered the late President Jacques Chirac’s conservative party RPR.

The young man soon got noticed by party heavyweights, who advised him to leave Paris to build his political career, which he did. It was in the Northern region that Darmanin won his first political successes, taking the town of Tourcoing from the Socialists who had run the city for 30 years in a surprise victory. He then became one of the country’s youngest lawmakers in 2012.

Since that time, his introduction speeches have been well-rehearsed. In one of the first profiles written on Darmanin by a university classmate and seen by POLITICO, the young politician tells the story of his working-class background, and his Algerian grandfather who fought for France during the country’s war of independence and passed down knowledge of Charles de Gaulle’s political values.

He and his press advisers have since provided more details, such as the fact that Darmanin knows every song from popular singers Renaud or George Brassens and even had to sing in the subway to pay for his studies while he battled Parisian elites to make his way in politics.

“I don’t believe he ever had to sing in the subway,” said the classmate of Sciences Po Lille university on condition of anonymity, who recalls an ambitious Darmanin who had already worked as a parliamentary assistant for conservative MP Isabelle Vasseur before joining then-MEP Jacques Toubon.

Political opponents from Darmanin in Tourcoing also mock his alleged fight with Parisian elites, as the young minister spent his high school years in an elite private school in the center of Paris.

Vincent Lannoo, former socialist deputy mayor of Tourcoing, said there was a part of “bluff” in Darmanin’s own storytelling.

“I am convinced that he is someone who is fundamentally reactionary but so desperate to take power he is ready for many things,” he said. “He very copiously betrayed his political clan from the start by taking the constituency of [his former conservative boss] Christian Vanneste; it has become a habit ever since.”

In the Northern region, Darmanin is accused by some of opportunism, including prominent members of his own camp who accused him of treason several times. “In politics, there is no lies or treason, just opportunities,” said his friend Giovanucci.





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How to make risky decisions more strategic



By Derek D. Rucker3 minute Read

Business often requires bold actions on important decisions such as launching an innovative idea, creating a new advertising campaign, or changing the direction of a company. These decisions offer a rare opportunity to acquire a valued “psychological currency,” in the form of a mental payoff: courage.

Courage might even be viewed as one of the psychological enticements of doing business. It’s a reward people receive for taking bold actions, whether it comes to buying stocks, becoming an entrepreneur, or changing the direction of the company. The motivational force of courage might even contribute to the recent spurt in new businesses being started at the fastest rate in a decade, hoping to capitalize on an evolving economy.

Conventional wisdom states that people are generally risk-averse, especially when it comes to monetary losses from gambling. People generally choose smaller, safer bets over larger, riskier ones. However, recent research that David Gal of the University of Illinois at Chicago and I conducted shows a different pattern of results when people make major or important life decisions. People exhibit a preference for larger and risky options, such as leaving the security of a safe job to start a business. A potential contributing factor is that people want to feel, see themselves as, and ultimately be, courageous.

Boldness is a fundamental requirement of pursuing high-risk, high-reward outcomes in many endeavors. In our research, we observed people were more prone to take riskier options such as putting themselves all in to win or lose by making a gusty call in a football game instead of playing for overtime, or opting for riskier medical treatments with more positive payouts versus safer alternatives with less-positive payouts.

Many faces of courage

Too often, people mistakenly assume courage is pursuing something without fear. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is acknowledging fear and going forward with your eyes open despite that. Business abounds with such opportunities: buying a risky stock, starting your own business, or engaging in a hostile takeover.

There are other aspects to courage as well. Aristotle linked courage to the pursuit of a higher purpose. For those in business, this could be accomplished by important decisions that allow growth, mastery, and realizing potential. Courage is enhanced by making the choice for yourself—an act of free will feels courageous.

Courage is not all risky actions. It’s the result of measured and appropriate actions. Granted, at times it’s hard to discern between pursuing something with heroism versus reckless abandon. Given the natural attraction we have to see ourselves as courageous, how can we help ourselves make good decisions over reckless ones? Here are five steps to take.

1. Stop and ask

Don’t do anything purely in the service of courage. Ask yourself: What am I doing and why am I doing this? This simple approach can help build the muscle of self-awareness. Balance the desire for boldness with business acumen. Weighing the risk/reward of your actions can increase your odds.

2. Seek out a neutral mentor

A useful person to give you feedback is a powerful ally. Even more important is to solicit that feedback from someone who is neutral—who is uninvolved in the outcome of your decision (e.g., not a partner or coworker). A neutral mentor increases your chances of receiving unbiased feedback.

3. Don’t just win, make the right plays

It’s easy to get caught up in the end goal. Even more important than winning the game, however, is the successful execution of every play. Focus on the success of each step in launching and scaling your business as opposed to purely the end objective.

4. Hold yourself accountable

Business decisions often include a number of options, each associated with different levels of risk. Weigh the risk/reward of each option to identify what straddles the line between feasible and fulfilling.

5. Always reassess

With each success or failure, reevaluate your decisions. If you’re diligent, you will likely see a pattern. Are you too focused on making big bets so that you appear bold? Or do you appreciate the importance of the smaller bets until that opportune big move comes along? Assessing your results will help you fine-tune your decision-making.

As a leader, you’ll need to instill courage throughout the organization to keep innovation alive and ideas fresh. However, it is important to assess whether your actions reflect blind obedience to the desire to feel courageous or reflect sound and wise business decisions.


Derek D. Rucker is a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.






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Is social media fuelling risky cosmetic surgery and body dysmorphia? – Channel 4 News


It might just start with a filter, adding fake lashes to your selfie, or smoothing out the frown lines in some rosy, flattering light. But the life of a would-be influencer is not all that its airbrushed perfection would appear. As more and more young people turn to social media as a way of making money in an uncertain world, health experts have warned of a rise in body dysmorphia and cosmetic surgery, including some highly risky operations. And we should warn you: there are some highly graphic images in this report.



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