The key takeaways from Hawks and Bulldogs scratch match


Tim English needed some help. The Western Bulldogs went and got it for him and the early indication is that the athletic big man could cause massive headaches for the rest of the competition in 2021 playing primarily as a key forward.

That was a key takeaway from Wednesday’s practice game against Hawthorn at the Whitten Oval, which resulted in a 15-point win, 15.7 (97) to 12.10 (82) after the Hawks kicked the last four goals of the game.

English kicked two goals but always looked dangerous prowling the forward line, and the Dogs certainly didn’t lose much when 34-year-old Brisbane recruit Stef Martin handled the ruck duties.

The return of competitive football to Melbourne after 264 days could not have gone much better. Much of the hit-out between the two clubs was fast and clean. AFL football general manager Steve Hocking was in attendance and would have been pleased with the spectacle and interestingly, just one 50-metre penalty was played under the new rule banning any movement by a player on the mark. Bulldogs star Marcus Bontempelli was the culprit, creeping sideways and gifting the Hawks a goal in the final quarter as they stormed home.

One pre-season match with limited intensity won’t tell the story, but teams were prepared to kick laterally after winning the free kick and trying to create some overlap run to speed up the game, which is precisely what Hocking is after.

For Hawthorn it was a pleasing afternoon and it already seems like they have found a player. NGA graduate Connor Downie, their fourth selection at last year’s national draft, played a terrific second quarter and was good thereafter. He added much needed run and carry for the Hawks, enjoyed the contest and would seem a likely starter for the Hawks come the start of the home and away season.

They’d also be pleased with key defender Kyle Hartigan, who in his first game since crossing from Adelaide at the end of last season halved many contests and with his spoiling and other defensive acts. He is a readymade replacement for James Frawley.

Luke Breust kicked four goals for the Hawks and got them back in the game, while Tim O’Brien, James Worpel, James Cousins, Changkuoth Jiath and Damon Greaves were also busy. New skipper Ben McEvoy and Jon Ceglar split time in the ruck, while Magpie recruit Tom Phillips played well in bursts and interestingly, was rotated through the centre bounce on several occasions.

Bontempelli was excellent for the Dogs, especially early, while Rhylee West, Hayden Crozier, Mitch Wallis and Caleb Daniel were also prominent. Rookie-listed Lachlan McNeil, a mature-aged recruit from Woodville-West Torrens was among the Bulldogs best and is in the frame for round one selection.

Liberatore left the ground late in the last quarter with blood streaming from his head, no doubt impressing his father, Bulldogs great Tony Liberatore, who was one of a handful of spectators watching the game – which was closed to the public – from behind a fence near the Barkly Street goals.

Both teams were well below full strength. The Dogs were missing Easton Wood, Jack Macrae, Zane Corey, Aaron Naughton and Adam Treloar, while Taylor Duryea, Lewis Young, Ed Richards and 2020 no.1 draft pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan played in the VFL practice game that followed.

Veterans Liam Shiels and Shaun Burgoyne trained beforehand and did not play, joining Jack Gunston, Tom Mitchell, James Sicily, Chad Wingard and Jack Scrimshaw among a talented list of Hawks watching on.

The Bulldogs play Melbourne at Marvel Stadium in their AAMI Community Series clash on March 8, while Hawthorn hosts North Melbourne in Launceston two days before.


Western Bulldogs


Hawthorn





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Wondering how the ACT Budget affects you? Here are five key takeaways


There were few surprises in today’s ACT Budget, one heralded by ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr as a fiscal plan to stimulate the territory’s COVID-19 recovery.

The economic plan is centred around infrastructure and transport growth, comprising the second stage of light rail, and new bridges, roads suburbs and schools.

But at a hip-pocket level, little will change for the average Canberran in the coming few months.

Here’s what it all means for you:

1. You can keep that money in your wallet… for now

The ACT’s COVID-19 financial assistance measures remain in place.(ABC News: David Sciasci)

For most Canberrans, life will appear unchanged to what we have grown accustomed to over the past few months.

The rates rebate introduced when the city’s streets emptied in the winter of 2020 remains in place.

Previously, rates had continued to rise well above inflation each year, but after a $150 rebate was issued in July, most households would have seen their bill fall.

The Government says now that the “heavy lifting is over”, the average annual increase over the coming five years is expected to be 3.75 per cent — but it is open to extending the relief further, if more COVID-19 cases appear.

COVID-19 also led to a range of financial assistance measures, which the ACT Government has extended until the middle of the year.

They include support for rates, motor vehicle registration, public transport, utilities and tenancy relief.

There will also be no increase in combined water and sewerage bills for ACT households in 2020-21 and, in the coming year, it is expected there will be a 2.56 per cent reduction in electricity bills, with the average annual bill going down by $3.

Finally, the Government’s pledge to introduce free bulky waste will go ahead with its fast-tracked scheme set to roll out this year, starting with the central suburbs.

2. You’ll notice more cranes in the sky

An aerial view of a new suburb with townhouses and apartments.
The Canberra housing market is booming, and supporting infrastructure has followed.(ABC News: Toby Hunt)

The construction and housing boom the ACT has witnessed in recent months is only going to continue.

In outlining its economic forecast after 12 months of social upheaval, the ACT Government pointed to a better outcome than expected due to anticipated strong land sales.

And with that will come a number of major infrastructure projects.

Projects outlined include the new suburb of Whitlam in the Molonglo Valley and a renewed precinct on Lathlain Street at the Belconnen Town Centre.

There’s also funds for a new CIT campus and bus interchange in Woden — costed at $278 million — and for the much-anticipated expansion of the Canberra Hospital.

In Gungahlin, two schools have been slated for development in Kenny and Taylor, while Margaret Hendry Primary School will be expanded.

An artists impression shows a light rail vehicle travelling down the middle of Commonwealth Avenue, cars on either side.
The second stage of Canberra’s light rail project has been split into two parts, the first connecting Civic to Lake Burley Griffin.(Supplied: ACT Government)

John Gorton Drive will be extended, including building a new bridge across the Molonglo River.

Work upgrading the Monaro Highway will continue, while a feasibility study has been announced for improving capacity and safety along Parkes Way.

But the feather in the cap is stage 2A of Canberra’s light rail network, expected to begin construction this year, with $2.1 million invested in extending the light rail network from Alinga Street to Commonwealth Park.

3. The Budget is in the red, but there’s green on every page

A small catchment in Canberra
Climate action and renewable energy are a focus of the ACT Government.(Supplied: ACT Environment and Planning)

In the wake of the 2020 election, this Budget has a strong focus on the environment.

The ACT Greens won six seats in October, more than in any previous election, and secured a number of cabinet positions.

The result is a an economic plan brought about by a Labor-Greens Government committed to renewable energy, even while tackling the challenge of COVID-19.

A five-year program to improve building efficiency and sustainability for social and public housing, lower income owner occupiers, and the lowest performing rental properties is outlined in the Budget, costed at $50 million.

The Government will also put $150 million towards the Sustainable Household Scheme, offering zero-interest loans of up to $15,000 to help households with the upfront costs of investing in rooftop solar panels, battery storage, zero emission vehicles and efficient electric appliances.

Rows and rows of white boxes line underneath windmills.
Funds have been invested to build a Big Battery, much like Hornsdale Power Reserve in South Australia.(ABC News)

Net emissions have already been reduced by 40 per cent in the ACT, and the next steps will be to work towards zero net emissions.

This goal will be in no small way helped along by a $100 million commitment over five years to install the Big Canberra Battery.

$50 million has also been set aside for the Vulnerable Household Energy Support Scheme, which is aimed at encouraging people to shift to zero-emissions vehicles.

The renewable energy approach will also extend to the city’s transport network, with plans to electrify the upcoming Woden Bus Depot, enabling the charging of electric buses, costed at $800,000.

“Our investments today, along with our participation in research and pilot projects, will cement the ACT’s status as a hub for renewables innovation.”

4. COVID-19 and health remain in focus

82-year-old Brian Pinker receives the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from nurse.
The COVID-19 vaccine program will be jointly funded by the ACT and Commonwealth governments.(AP: Steve Parsons/Pool)

More than 100 Canberrans contracted COVID-19 last year and many more were impacted in less direct ways.

Today’s Budget outlines measures to keep Canberrans healthy by providing more walk-in centres, mental health support, and pathology services.

A new walk-in centre will be trialled in Coombs, and four other centres — slated for south Tuggeranong, west Belconnen, the inner south, and north Gungahlin — have been costed at $2 million.

The ACT Government will also spend $20 million to help roll out the COVID-19 vaccine in Canberra, in addition to the Commonwealth’s investment.

Canberra hospital building
Funds for the Canberra Hospital expansion were outlined in the Budget.(ABC News: Ben Harris)

Meanwhile, the Mental Health Support Package has been extended to June 30, 2021.

Young Canberrans will continue to be targeted in this program, having been identified as among the hardest-hit by the pandemic when it comes to mental health issues.

5. It could all fall apart very easily

The Chief Minister is cautiously optimistic that the territory is in a better fiscal position than expected.

The ACT has the nation’s lowest unemployment rate and forecast economic growth is at an average of 2.7 per cent a year for the next four years.

And the 10,000 jobs that were lost as a result of the pandemic have been gained back.

But continued strong growth hinges on the COVID-19 vaccine program rolling out from February and the country opening back up to international travel from July 2021.

It is also contingent on the territory not falling victim to further outbreaks of coronavirus.

This “downside scenario” is laid out in the Budget papers, which plainly state the city’s reliance on international travellers, particularly university students.

“This would hamper the recovery of the ACT economy, with economic growth and employment becoming sluggish and remaining well below long run growth rates over the entire forecast period,” Mr Barr said.

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The key takeaways for global markets in 2020


Stocks have established one record after another while economies have had to deal with another wave of COVID-19 hospitalisations and deaths that has surprised most in terms of intensity and speed of spread while complicating the journey to vaccine-induced herd immunity.Explanations

Chasing price action

Unless you are, as I am, a great believer in the overwhelming influence on markets of ample and predictable central bank liquidity, particularly from the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, it has been difficult to find a durable narrative to explain and predict this year’s exceptional price action in financial markets.

Indeed, rather than narratives leading market action, market action has led to a series of consensus explanations that often proved serially inconsistent.

I can think of several examples, including the three conflicting political narratives that were embraced widely by market participants in the middle of the year to “explain” consistently rising stocks: High prospects for the re-election of President Donald Trump with a lower-tax, less-regulation agenda; a divided government that would keep it sidelined and allow business to flourish unhindered by interference; and a blue (Democratic Party) wave that would result in huge fiscal stimulus that would significantly boost demand.

The dual liquidity phenomenon

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This year investors experienced illiquidity in what are the biggest and traditionally the most liquid markets and liquidity in usually illiquid segments. Specifically, March will be remembered as the moment when even flows in US Treasury bonds, the benchmark of all global benchmarks, were disrupted sharply.

A few weeks later, the Fed’s intervention in markets, including surprise purchases of high-yield securities, injected liquidity far and wide and induced “cross over” investors to venture well away from their normal habitat.

By the end of the year, the deep belief in an everlasting “central bank put” has meant that, of all risks facing investors, those associated with liquidity have returned to being the most underappreciated.

The search for risk mitigation

The more central banks have succeeded in repressing market yields on “risk free” government bonds (and confronted investors with little to no income and adversely asymmetric price risk), the more investors have searched for new and more attractive ways to mitigate risk – so much so that a growing number of market commentators commented during 2020 on the prospective death of the traditional 60/40 stock-bond portfolio.

Many investors, and particularly those facing negative yields on government bonds, have ventured to other areas of the fixed-income market in an attempt to offset the risks associated with their considerable equity positions.

What started as purchases of short-maturity investment-grade bonds – on the correct premise that the Fed has put them under a protective umbrella with its own buying – has evolved to include debt with significantly higher default risk, such as high-yield and some emerging-market bonds.

Others have adopted more of a basket approach, adding gold, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to what traditionally consisted just of government bonds.

The lack of emerging-market accidents

Emerging economies have found themselves in a perfect economic storm because of COVID-related disruptions. Because of the global economic “sudden stop” and the geographically uneven recovery that has followed, many have seen export revenues collapse, tourism earnings disappear and inflows of foreign direct investment evaporate, with some even facing the prospects of outflows.

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Yet, with the exception of pre-existing condition countries such as Argentina, Ecuador and Lebanon, the vast majority of emerging markets avoided debt defaults and significant restructurings. Indeed, with liquidity returning quickly to financial markets, and with investors encouraged to search aggressively for greater yields, a record level of EM bonds was issued at exceptionally low risk spreads and overall yields.

Combined, and unlike what most have faced around the world, these five factors add up to a year that has given investors a great deal of what they could wish for – especially in terms of handsome returns with notably low volatility outside of a few weeks around March that seem to have been quickly forgotten.

They are also factors that speak to the dominant market influence of central banks, which anchors an unhealthy co-dependent relationship that most investors are keen to continue regardless of the declining benefits for longer-term economic and financial well-being, together with mounting collateral damage and the spread of unintended consequences.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Mohamed A. El-Erian is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is president of Queens’ College, Cambridge; chief economic adviser at Allianz SE, the parent company of Pimco where he served as CEO and co-CIO; and chair of Gramercy Fund Management. His books include ‘The Only Game in Town’ and ‘When Markets Collide.’

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Essendon’s four takeaways from club review


Essendon president Paul Brasher has revealed the four major themes to emerge from the club’s recent review.

Speaking on SEN’s Whateley on Wednesday morning, Brasher says the review sought feedback from a sample of 40 people from the club and within the broader football business, allowing for anybody with strong views on the direction of the club to be heard.

Ultimately, Basher believes much of the feedback boiled down to four key themes.

“One of them is about the brand. We’ve been hearing a bit from outside the club anyway on what does the club stand for? What’s its brand? What’s its vision? What’s the style of play look like? How do we know what Essendon looks like on and off the field? That would be the first one,” Brasher said.

“The second would be around standards and accountabilities. If you look at what their (John Worsfold and Ben Rutten) particular styles are, there’s a spectrum that has player empowerment at one end and absolute rigid standards and accountability at the other. John’s a bit more the empowerment end whereas Ben’s more towards the standards end. We think moving forward we need much clearer standards of accountability.

“The third is around honesty and connection, and that’s the ability to give and receive constructive feedback which in turn means having relationships between all parties involved that allow them to take it and give it the way it’s intended.

“And the fourth one is around player leadership and development of players. You know, not too many clubs get a Luke Hodge, but we’re looking to recruit more people with obvious leadership skills and more importantly we’ll be developing our existing players and getting them to the point of being very, very strong leaders.

Brasher reinstated his belief that if the club can achieve these four themes, the primary focus will be accomplished.

“Our number one objective is to win premierships,” Basher said.

“So if you start with that and work your way down in terms of what it means for behaviors, what it means in terms of game style, you start to get a cohesive picture that says we’re really focused on just that.”







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Schumpeter – Takeaways from McDonald’s remarkable comeback | Business


CHRIS KEMPCZINSKI is anything but supersized. One year into his tenure, the CEO of McDonald’s is a lean-framed 52-year-old who runs marathons. Hard to believe, then, that he eats a McDonald’s meal twice a day, five days a week. “There are days when I’m indulgent and days when I’m careful about what I’m eating, but I eat a lot of McDonald’s,” he admits in an interview. Indeed he puts many of his best customers to shame. On average, the top 10% of Big Mac bingers visit his restaurants a fifth as regularly as he does.

Perhaps he is making up for lost time. Unusually for a McDonald’s boss, he is not a company lifer. He joined in 2015, hired by his predecessor, Steve Easterbrook, when McDonald’s was on the verge of meltdown. It was floundering in its attempts to compete with innovative American upstarts, such as Chipotle and Shake Shack. Its premises were shabby even as it offered hundreds of items on the menu that many of its customers could not afford. Critics called it a parasite on society, paying low wages and promoting obesity. Mr Kempczinski acknowledges that it suffered from hubris. Under Mr Easterbrook, who took charge in 2015, the mission was to shake it out of its complacency.

What followed was a lesson in corporate renewal that could have made Mr Easterbrook a megastar CEO had he not been fired last year for having a consensual relationship with an employee. (McDonald’s has recently sued him for allegedly concealing other sexual relationships and wants to recover a big pay-off.) Yet sensibly Mr Kempczinski is sticking to the programme. Unlike many new bosses overeager to tear up the legacy of their disgraced predecessors, he unveiled a new strategy on November 9th that builds on the work started in recent years. In the midst of a pandemic, it offers a valuable lesson of its own. Never let a crisis go to waste.

The seeds of the revival of McDonald’s started with a simple decision that is surprisingly easy to get wrong: go back to basics. From 2015 onwards, it pared back its array of menu offerings and focused on price and quality. It recommitted to Ray Kroc’s beloved business model, increasing the share of franchises last year to 93% (of almost 39,000 restaurants), up from 82% in 2015. That provided it with higher-margin and steadier royalty and rental income. It streamlined its sprawling international operations, selling control of its restaurants in China and Hong Kong. The results were impressive. Across McDonald’s sales exceeded $100bn last year; its operating margins, thinner than a frazzled patty in most of the restaurant industry, ballooned to 43%. And its share price sizzled. Since 2015 its market value has almost doubled to $160bn.

As it recovered its financial footing, it turned to investing in the future. But counter-intuitively, it probably benefited by not rushing. According to John Gordon, a San Diego-based restaurant consultant, its franchisee model makes it hard to move fast—and important to build consensus. It tests new ideas out in local markets before suggesting them to franchisees worldwide. Its ownership of the land under franchisees’ restaurants gives it a joint interest with them in co-investing in refurbishments and technological upgrades. Not only does this help woo customers by reinforcing the brand, it also supports the value of the land. In recent years McDonald’s and its franchisees have invested heavily in installing kiosks for touchscreen ordering and making other improvements such as two-lane drive-throughs. Last year the company made its biggest acquisition in years, buying a tech firm that helps personalise the drive-through experience. The overhauls may have cost franchisees a lot. But over the course of the covid-19 pandemic, they have started to reap the benefits.

That is because McDonald’s has used the crisis to step up the pace of its transformation, resulting in big sales surges in recent months, especially in America. With the interiors of many of its restaurants closed, it has relied on the roll-out of its digital, drive-through and delivery initiatives, all of which encourage a more “contactless” experience that it believes will outlast the pandemic. Recalling Kroc’s aphorism that “We’re not in the hamburger business. We’re in show business,” it has dazzled customers with customised menus by superstar rappers such as Travis Scott. And it has made old favourites, such as Big Macs and Quarter Pounders, central to its menu, which adds to simplicity in the kitchen and speeds up customer service. Over the next two years it hopes a long-awaited digital loyalty programme will enhance sales growth and maintain margins at their elevated levels of 2019. With a covid vaccine, it could do even better.

Many challenges remain for Mr Kempczinski. On food, McDonald’s is a laggard when it comes to chicken sandwiches and plant-based products. It promises a Crispy Chicken Sandwich and non-meat McPlant soon. The former is vital to catch up with competitors such as Chick-fil-A. The company says it is shifting marketing away from sales drives towards promoting itself as a community-focused-brand, but not everyone likes the pious tone. “Social Justice Warriors are now running McDonald’s Corporation. Stuff that has nothing to do with selling Big Macs,” says one franchisee quoted in an analyst’s report. McDonald’s faces two lawsuits from former and current black franchisees, alleging racial discrimination by pushing them into poor areas. It refutes the accusations.

From Big Macs to big data

Its ubiquity means McDonald’s is often in the news for the wrong reasons. But as a corporate turnaround, it is a compelling story. Instead of suffering from a tech onslaught as many bricks-and-mortar chains have, it has turned itself into a digital pioneer. Instead of hunkering down during the pandemic, it has embraced new ways of doing business. Despite Mr Kempczinski’s baptism of fire, even the leadership transition has been the best the industry has seen in years, says Sara Senatore of Bernstein, an investment firm. He should not be harshly judged for his frequency at the lunch counters. So far he has earned all the Quarter Pounders he can eat.

This article appeared in the Business section of the print edition under the headline “The big McComeback”

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Five take-aways from the Vatican’s explosive McCarrick report


In 1999, when McCarrick was being considered to take over the Archdiocese of New York, Cardinal John O’Connor of New York wrote a six-page letter to the Vatican’s ambassador to the US. He raised concerns that McCarrick had asked young adult men to sleep in his bed with him and that some priests had experienced psychological trauma from McCarrick’s inappropriate behaviour.

“I regret that I would have to recommend very strongly against such promotion, particularly if to a Cardinatial See,” O’Connor said. “Nevertheless, I subject my comments to higher authority and most particularly our Holy Father.”

Vatican leaders shared the assessment with John Paul. But the pope dismissed the allegations after McCarrick wrote him a letter directly denying them, and he elevated McCarrick anyway to the Archdiocese of Washington, one of the most prominent positions in the country. “McCarrick’s direct relationship with John Paul II also likely had an impact on the Pope’s decision making,” the report said.

The Vatican blames three American bishops

John Paul initially requested an investigation into the allegations, but the Vatican now suggests it was deceived by three bishops in New Jersey, who provided “inaccurate and incomplete information” to the Holy See, the report said.

“This inaccurate information appears likely to have impacted the conclusions of John Paul II’s advisors and, consequently, of John Paul II himself,” the report said, shifting some blame.

The allegations were dismissed as “rumour,” the report said, and “McCarrick’s denial was believed.” The bishops were also asked to keep that inquiry a secret.

The report also describes a disturbing account from a New Jersey priest, Monsignor Dominic Bottino, who said he had witnessed two of the New Jersey bishops watch McCarrick touch a man’s crotch in 1990, and neither informed the pope of that incident.

Pope Benedict XVI ousted but declined to investigate McCarrick

Soon after Benedict became pope in 2005, he quickly extended McCarrick’s tenure as archbishop of Washington.

But he reversed course by the end of the year, based on “new details” about allegations against McCarrick, and “urgently sought” to replace McCarrick in the role. By Easter 2006, McCarrick was out.

A group with Catholic Laity for Orthodox Bishops and Reform, gathers to pray, left, as John Wojnowski, right, holds a sign outside the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See in Washington last year.Credit:AP

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, an official in the Holy See’s Secretariat of State, wrote two letters in 2006 and 2008 urging a church investigation of rumours about McCarrick. Instead of formally investigating the claims, however, Benedict authorised a Vatican official to “appeal to McCarrick’s conscience” and ask him to “maintain a lower profile and minimise travel.” But this request was not a formal command, and McCarrick continued to freely travel the globe on behalf of Catholic causes and institutions.

Vigano became the Vatican ambassador to the US in 2011 and was asked to conduct an inquiry to determine whether the allegations against McCarrick were credible. The report says that “Vigano did not take these steps.”

Francis did nothing until 2017

Pope Francis was aware there were rumours of wrongdoing, but until 2017, the report said, no one provided him with any documentation of the allegations. Francis believed everything had already been reviewed by John Paul. He also knew that under his predecessor, Benedict, McCarrick had remained active, so he saw no need to alter the church’s approach.

Pope Francis reaches out to hug Cardinal Archbishop emeritus Theodore McCarrick in 2015.

Pope Francis reaches out to hug Cardinal Archbishop emeritus Theodore McCarrick in 2015.Credit:Washington Post

In June 2017, the Archdiocese of New York learnt of an allegation of sexual abuse by McCarrick of a minor decades earlier. Soon after, Francis requested McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals.

Unusual for the Vatican to investigate its highest leaders

Francis first promised a “thorough study” of the Vatican’s handling of the McCarrick case in 2018. The long-awaited result is a highly unusual public investigation of abuses and cover-ups spanning decades and reaching to the highest levels of the Vatican’s own ranks.

The report will have wide implications for a global church that has been roiled for decades over its mishandling of sexual abuse by clergy.

John Paul is not just a pope — he is also a saint. At his fast-tracked canonisation mass in 2014, Francis praised him as “the pope of the family”.

The church now has to reckon with the fact that one of its most beloved pontiffs is implicated is one of its most notorious scandals.

The New York Times

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ICICI Bank Q2 takeaways: Record profit, prudent provisioning & more


NEW DELHI: A record net profit, an improvement in asset quality, a fall in sequential provisioning, recovery in disbursements to pre-Covid levels, soft NIM and increase in mobile transactions were some of the key highlights of ICICI Bank‘s September quarter results.

Record profit
While a multifold jump in profit in ICICI Bank’s September quarter results was expected, a 6.5 times jump in year-on-year profit beat analysts estimates. The Rs 4,251 crore profit reported by the bank was its highest ever quarterly profit so far. The growth was aided by the bank’s low base, as the lender incurred taxes of Rs 3,712 crore in the year-ago quarter due to one -time additional charge. This past quarter, total expenses for the bank stood at Rs 1,015 crore.

The numbers were also boosted by the bank’s treasury income, which jumped on Rs 305 crore worth stake sale by the bank in ICICI Securities during the quarter.

Disbursements at pre-Covid levels
The bank said, there has been a substantial month-on-month increase in disbursements across retail products.

It noted that mortgage disbursements crossed pre-Covid levels and reached an all-time monthly high in September. Auto loan disbursements, it said, continued to rise since June and have reached pre-Covid levels in September, reflecting the rise in passenger car sales. “Disbursements across the rural portfolio have crossed pre-Covid levels in the months of August and September 2020,” the bank said.

Credit card spends recovered to about 85 per cent of pre-Covid levels in September 2020, led by increased spends in categories such as health & wellness, electronics and e-commerce,” the bank said.

Prudent provisioning

The bank made provisions and contingencies amounting to Rs 2,995 crore for the September quarter, compared with Rs 2,507 crore in the year-ago quarter. The numbers, however, included Rs 497 crore in provisions that the bank made on a prudent basis on loans aggregating to Rs 1,410 crore. These loans, the bank said, were not classified as non-performing pursuant to the Supreme Court’s interim order.

According to ET NOW, the bank’s President Sandeep Batra said that the bank has not utilised any Covid-related provision in the September quarter. The bank said it held Covid-19 related provisions worth Rs 8,772 crore as of September 30. Batra said, Covid provisions will completely cushion the bank’s balance sheet. He said this while suggesting that his bank is seeing a small amount of restructuring applications.

Non-interest income, NIM ease

For the quarter, the bank’s non-interest income, excluding treasury income, stood at Rs 3,486 crore compared with Rs 3,854 crore YoY. Fee income fell to Rs 3,139 crore from Rs 3,478 crore YoY, even as it was up 49 per cent sequentially. The bank said a sequential rise in fee income suggested increase in customer spending, borrowing and investment activity.

ICICI Bank said retail fees accounted for 76 per cent of total fees during the quarter. Treasury income for the bank came in at Rs 542 crore compared with Rs 341 crore YoY. This included Rs 305 crore raised by the bank by selling 2 per cent stake in ICICI Securities during the quarter.

Net interest margin (NIM) for the quarter stood at 3.57 per cent for the quarter compared with 3.69 per cent in the June quarter and 3.64 per cent in the year-ago quarter. It reflects surplus liquidity with the bank, ICICI Bank said.

Retail outperforms corporate credit growth

The bank said its retail loan portfolio rose 13 per cent year-on-year and comprised 65.8 per cent of the total loan portfolio as of September 30.

“Including non-fund outstanding, retail was 53.6 per cent of the total portfolio. Growth in the domestic corporate portfolio was about 7 per cent year-on-year. The domestic advances grew 10 per cent. Total advances rose 6 per cent year-on-year to Rs 6,52,608 crore from Rs 6,13,359 crore YoY,” the bank said.

Deposit growth at 20%

The bank said its total deposits rose 20 per cent year-on-year to Rs 8,32,936 crore. Average current account deposits increased 21 per cent, it said, while suggesting that the average savings account deposits were up 15 per cent, while total term deposits were up 26 per cent to Rs 4,68,356 crore.

Mobile transactions jump 65%

The volume of mobile banking transactions increased 65 per cent YoY, with the value of merchants acquiring transactions on Unified Payments Interface (UPI) rising 287 per cent YoY.

“Digital channels like internet, mobile banking, POS and others accounted for over 90 per cent of the savings account transactions in the six months ended September 30, 2020,” the bank said.

BB and below book drops

The private lender said its fund-based and non-fund based outstanding to borrowers rated BB and below (excluding non performing assets) decreased to Rs 16,167 crore for the quarter compared with Rs 17,110 crore as on June 30, 2020.





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Donald Trump refused to disavow QAnon, Joe Biden dodged court packing. Here are the key takeaways from the town halls that replaced the debate


In lieu of a second debate, US President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden faced off in an unusual format, holding two town halls with voters, on two different US networks, at the same exact time.

The two candidates kept up the duality by taking contrasting approaches to the night.

Here’s what you missed.

Same format. Two totally different styles

It was the Trump campaign’s refusal to agree to a rule change, itself brought on by a Presidential COVID-19 diagnosis, that led to the second presidential debate being cancelled.

Joe Biden participated in a town hall on ABC America. Donald Trump appeared in the same format on NBC.(Carolyn Kaster: AP)

We’ll never know how things would have played out on a town hall stage with both candidates. But in their own theatres, Trump and Biden leaned into the styles they’ve cultivated all campaign.

Before voters had a chance to ask him any questions in Miami, Florida, Trump sparred with NBC moderator Savannah Guthrie (who won praise for her forceful handling of the President) as he has with plenty of other media figures in his four years as President.

After the event, a spokesperson for Trump’s campaign declared that the President “defeated” Guthrie, and derided her as a “surrogate” for the Biden’s campaign.

The President fiercely defended his administration’s record and, when backed into corners on issues not favourable for him, attacked his opponent instead.

His answers were often short, forceful and broad, despite questions from voters and urging from the moderator about specifics.

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Biden spoke to roughly 20 undecided voters for 90 minutes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where his support with swing voters will be crucial to beating Trump.

The former vice-president used his time to dig into the finer points of his policies, but occasionally rambled or strayed from his message and seldom landed a concise or impactful soundbite.

The moderator, ABC America’s chief news anchor George Stephanopolous, gave Biden a few forceful steers, but largely failed to evoke a newsworthy moment from the candidate.

Like Trump, Biden’s style was consistent with how he’s framed himself on the campaign trail — as a return to a less exciting era of politics.

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Trump’s QAnon answer is likely to get the day’s headlines

Like he did in the first debate with white supremacy, the President gave his critics an opening by failing to disavow the Qanon conspiracy theory.

“Let me ask you about QAnon. It is this theory that Democrats are a satanic paedophile ring and that you are the saviour of that. Now, can you just once and for all state that that is completely not true?” Guthrie asked.

“I know nothing about QAnon,” Trump responded.

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Donald Trump was asked to disavow Qanon.

Guthrie was quick to point out she had just told Trump what it was, and the President replied:

Only hours before the debate YouTube announced it would join Facebook and Twitter in banning content related to the conspiracy theory because it was used to “justify real-world violence.”

President Donald Trump speaks during an NBC News Town Hall
Donald Trump sparred with the moderator in the town hall.(AP: Evan Vucci)

This isn’t the first time Trump has been asked about the conspiracy theory, or its adherents’ apparent support of his presidency. In August, the President told a White House press briefing that he understood the group “likes me very much”.

His refusal to condemn another fringe group, one that Trump’s own FBI reportedly labelled a domestic terrorist threat, will ensure the answer chews up the post-debate conversation at a time when the President was looking to amp up the heat on his opponent instead.

Biden promises an answer on court-packing

Biden, on the other hand, did little to steal headlines or make waves.

He said outright that his support for the 1994 crime bill was a mistake. He affirmed that he didn’t want to ban fracking. He said he’d encourage governors to implement a COVID-19 mask mandate, but that he wouldn’t have the power as President to do it himself.

But these are all things he or his campaign has said before, just delivered in a new format.

The answer that got the most immediate attention was not an answer at all. It was the promise of an answer at a later date.

The issue was whether he would try to expand the number of justices serving on the Supreme Court — an act colloquially known as “court packing” — in light of Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation, which is looking all but guaranteed.

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Questions about court packing have dogged Joe Biden’s campaign in recent weeks.

The Biden-Harris ticket has struggled to voice a satisfactory answer to the question of court-packing.

In one poll 54 per cent of Americans said they are opposed to the measure, but should Biden win the presidency, having a conservative majority on the court could make it difficult to pass the kind of substantial legislative changes necessary for implementing the Democratic policy platform.

His running mate, Kamala Harris, also skirted the question during last week’s vice-presidential debate.

Pressed by Stephanopoulos, Biden said he was open to “considering what happens” after he sees how the Senate handles Barrett’s nomination.

He finally said he would announce a formal stance after the Senate confirmation vote but ahead of the election, which could be as narrow a window as three days in a year when record numbers of Americans are voting early.

Trump said he ‘doesn’t remember’ being tested before the debate. Biden said being tested was ‘decency’

The White House has been criticised for a lack of transparent, and at times deliberately unclear, information regarding the President’s coronavirus diagnosis.

Trump was given a chance to clear up one of the key outstanding issues — whether or not he returned a negative test before the first presidential debate.

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Joe Biden plans to attend the final debate, and says he gets tested for COVID-19 every day.

Biden was asked to conclude his own town hall by responding to whether he’d “demand” Trump get tested before any future debates. He said he expected Trump to abide by the rules laid out by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

“And by the way, I take a test every day. I took a test before I came up here,” he said.

Biden made no mention of the fact that two campaign staff working with his running mate, Kamala Harris, tested positive earlier in the day.

Harris has suspended in-person campaign events until Sunday local time.

The final debate is (most likely) still happening

The dual town halls of U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and U.S. President Donald Trump
Most Americans had to choose which town hall they wanted to watch.(Reuters: Octavio Jones)

Both candidates are scheduled to appear next Friday (AEDT) in-person, on the same stage, for the last of the scheduled debates.

Given the events that led to the odd spectacle of duelling town halls, Biden was asked if he would still attend.

“I’m confident the Cleveland Clinic [which oversees health and safety related to the debate] will not let happen what happened last time. I think they’ll demand it’ll be safe,” Biden said.

Trump wasn’t asked if he would still appear.

Bottles of hand sanitizer put out by the Joe Biden campaign
The coronavirus pandemic and the election campaign have collided in more ways than one.(AP: Michael Perez)

A significant outstanding question is whether or not the Commission on Presidential Debates will stick by its pledge to introduce more “structure” after significant criticism of the first debate.

The Trump campaign showed that it was unwilling to compromise on a format change by declining a virtual contest. The prospect of introducing a change like a mute button at the final debate seems similarly likely to be something that could cause the President to back out again.

Any assumption about the likelihood of a final debate has to factor in whether the election campaign can even go seven days without being upended in some way by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the same day of these town hall events, and as extraordinary measures are already happening to make an in-person debate during a pandemic even possible, the United States blew past 8 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 217,000 confirmed deaths.



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