World’s top tennis players to participate in exhibition matches in Adelaide ahead of Australian Open


Adelaide will host some of the world’s best tennis players in the lead-up to this year’s Australian Open.

Players from more than 100 countries will arrive into Australia on chartered flights funded by Tennis Australia before beginning their mandatory 14-day quarantine.

With all lead-up tournaments being played in Melbourne this year due to COVID-19, the vast majority of players and their entourage will isolate in Melbourne.

But with 1,270 people arriving, Tennis Australia has been forced to find an alternative location for some, with Victoria only allowing a certain number of people to be in hotel quarantine.

“We approached the South Australian Government about the possibility of them quarantining at least 50 people,” Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley told the Tennis Channel.

“The Premier there agreed to host 50 people in a quarantine bubble and have those players play an exhibition.

“So we chose — which is the best way to do it — the top three men and top three women and they’ll play an exhibition on January 29 and 30 and they’ll go to Adelaide and be able to quarantine.”

World number one Novak Djokovic playing in the French Open in October (Reuters: Christian Hartmann)

Players in both Adelaide and Melbourne will be under the same quarantine conditions, granted five hours each day outside of their hotel room to train, with strict measures put in place.

Those in Adelaide will play exhibition matches across January 29 and 30, before tournaments commence in Melbourne on the 31st.

The first match of the Australian Open will be played on February 8.

Premier Steven Marshall said hosting the event would “showcase just how well South Australia has done with the coronavirus”.

“We have been working with Tennis Australia, SA Health and SA Police to be able to bring in a very small number of the top seeds to play a lead-up match at Memorial Drive,” he said.

Tennis Australia and Tennis South Australia declined to comment.

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Elon Musk ousts Jeff Bezos as world’s richest person


Elon Musk has overtaken Jeff Bezos to become the world’s richest person after his net worth surged to almost $US190 billion ($245 billion) following an extraordinary year for electric car company Tesla.

Tesla shares rose by 7 per cent on Thursday, pushing the company past Facebook in value and making Mr Musk’s 20 per cent stake worth $US138 billion ($178 billion). He also owns a stake in privately held rocket company SpaceX.

Elon Musk has now overtaken Amazon boss Jeff Bezos in the billionaires race. Credit:Bloomberg

The surge in Tesla’s share price left 49-year-old Mr Musk around $US1.5 billion richer than Amazon founder Mr Bezos, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index, a ranking of the world’s wealthiest people.

Mr Musk was worth just $US27 billion ($35 billion) at the start of 2020 but his fortune has rocketed due to a 760 per cent jump in Tesla shares over the past year, as the pandemic -triggered a rush into tech stocks. Separately, overnight, the tech-heavy Nasdaq closed above 13,000 for the first time.

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Congress: Set to begin world’s largest vaccination drive, says PM Modi


New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday praised the scientists and technicians for the two ‘Made in India’ Covid-19 vaccines approved by the government a day earlier. Meanwhile, the centre continued to lash out at the opposition for raising doubts over the vaccine developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech.

“The new year has brought with it a new achievement. Indian scientists have not developed just one, but two Covid vaccines,” the PM said, addressing the National Metrology Conclave. “We are on the threshold of starting the largest vaccination programme in the world. The entire country is indebted to all scientists and technicians.”

The centre slammed opposition leaders for questioning the efficacy of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. A number of opposition leaders from the Congress, Samajwadi Party and other parties had raised concern over completion of trials and efficacy of Covaxin.

“Congress and other parties are doing petty politics over vaccines. This will badly impact the morale of the Indian scientists who have achieved his feat,” BJP spokesman Sambit Patra said at a presser in Delhi. “It’s a matter of pride that two indigenous vaccines have been given approval for clinical usage. It’s another step towards PM Modi’s AatmaNirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India).”

Congress leaders such as Shashi Tharoor, Jairam Ramesh and Anand Sharma had raised concern over Covaxin, saying its phase three trial was not yet complete. SP leader Akhilesh Yadav had said he won’t take the “BJP’s vaccine”.

“Whenever India achieves something to be proud of, it has become a practice for Congress and other opposition parties to crib about the same,” said Patra. He called Congress a “mutant virus, which always tries to misguide the people of the country”.

On Sunday, the BJP’s national president JP Nadda had taken the lead in attacking the opposition over the vaccine and he was followed by a number of BJP leaders and Union ministers. “Within a year of the Covid-19 pandemic coming to India, our scientists and innovators have worked hard for a vaccine to cure this pandemic. While the entire nation is happy about this, the opposition led by the Congress is filled with anger, ridicule and disdain,” Nadda had said in a post on Twitter. Union health minister Harsh Vardhan too has sought to allay concerns over the vaccines on social media since Sunday.



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In 2021, All the World’s a Stage


You have to go into this year with dreams, there’s no other way to do it. We’re still in an epic struggle, and it will be a while before things settle down into some approximation of normal. Dreams are how we got through 2020, or maybe not dreams precisely but a picture you kept in your head that helped you keep going, that captured what you missed and will have again. It was a picture of When the Pandemic is Over and we carried it in our psychic wallets.

My friend John’s picture: He’s in Fenway Park, the seats are full and close together, and he orders a Fenway Frank and chowder, and the other people in the row pass them down without fear or masks. Someone gets a hit and no one’s afraid to cheer. He is certain this will come.

My friend the professor would see this: He and his students are in a room, and he is teaching them. For what seems like forever they’ve been postage-size faces on Gallery View on Zoom, which is how they see him. But in his head they’re together and know each other and he’s Mr. Chips again, not Max Headroom.

A friend who’s a reporter kept in her head the idea of future spontaneity. She’d be on the phone with a friend: Whatcha doin’? Wanna get in a car and get lost? What if we just show up and surprise them? Let’s see who’s in town.

My vision of 2021, the picture I held of that future, came into my head in early summer. This would come: We are gathered in a darkened theater, 1,500 of us, for the first time since March 2020. The orchestra starts, the curtain rises, and on the stage a crowded old railroad coach is in full cry. The train conductor booms, “River City next station stop!” And in the audience applause starts, unplanned, just erupting, and the actors playing the salesmen on the train play through. “Ya can talk-talk-talk. . . . Ya can talk all ya wanna, but it’s different than it was.” Suddenly a tall man in a natty suit comes forward: “Gentlemen, you intrigue me. I think I’ll have to give Iowa a try.” It’s Professor Harold Hill, the Music Man. He’s played by Hugh Jackman. We’re at the revival that was supposed to open in 2020. Now pent-up emotion really breaks out and what builds is a wave of unstoppable cheers, and then we can’t help it, we stand. And Mr. Jackman understands this moment, and after a minute he stops the show, and in a great flourish, as if speaking for all the history of the theater past and present, makes a deep and graceful bow. As if theater itself were bowing to all of those by whom it lives.



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Ram temple will make Ayodhya world’s cultural capital: Seer


The upcoming temple of Lord Ram in Ayodhya will connect all his devotees and help the Uttar Pradesh town emerge as the cultural capital of the world, said the treasurer of the trust overseeing the project on Thursday. A nationwide public campaign to collect funds for the temple will be launched on January 15, said Swami Govind Dev Giriji Maharaj, treasurer, Shri Ram Janmbhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust.

The aim behind the campaign is to reach out to 11 crore households in four lakh villages across the country, said the seer at a press conference here.

Giriji Maharaj said during the donation drive, coupons worth Rs 1,000, Rs 100 and Rs 10 will be used and collected funds will be immediately deposited into the designated bank account of the trust.

“Our aim is to make Ayodhya the cultural capital of the world after the completion of the Ram temple by connecting the devotees of Lord Ram from India, Asia and the world,” said he.

“We aim to reach out to 11 crore households in four lakh villages in the country during the special mass contact drive,” Giriji Maharaj said.

“Voluntary donations from Rambhakts will be accepted for which coupons of Rs 10, Rs 100 and Rs 1,000 will be made available,” he said.

Addressing a press conference in Nagpur on December 28, the trust’s treasurer had said the construction of the Ram Temple complex, including the main structure, is estimated to cost around Rs 1,100 crore and is expected to be completed in three-and-a-half years.





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Stewart McSweyn runs world’s fastest mile for 2020, becoming the quickest Australian for 15 years



Australian distance running star Stewart McSweyn has capped an unprecedented year in remarkable style at the most unlikely of venues.

Competing in a Tasmanian Christmas Carnival meet at Penguin (population 3,849 at last count), McSweyn powered to victory in the mile race in three minutes 50.61 seconds, on Tuesday night.

It was the fastest mile run anywhere in the world in 2020 and the quickest by an Australian in 15 years.

“Penguin’s probably not a place most people associate with running fast so it was pretty cool to put up such a good performance in front of a great crowd,” said McSweyn, who hails from nearby King Island.

“It’s one of those old tracks like you’d find in many places around Australia.

“Obviously nowhere near the standard of the tracks we get in Europe, especially in the Diamond Leagues.

“But for a rural place it was a really decent track.”

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The win capped a remarkable season for the 25-year-old, who also broke the long-standing national 1,500m and 3,000m records on the Diamond League circuit and is now shaping as a genuine medal shot at the rescheduled 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

While many of Australia’s biggest track and field stars chose to remain home due to concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic, McSweyn and his Melbourne Track Club teammates headed to Europe for the northern hemisphere summer.

The decision paid off, even though the likes of McSweyn and training partners including Ryan and Genevieve Gregson, Brett Robinson and Matthew Ramsden had to endure a nervous two-week wait in London before finally securing a flight home in late October.

Then there was a compulsory two-week stint in quarantine in Brisbane, which at least allowed McSweyn to catch up on his university studies.

“Definitely we’ve got an advantage,” McSweyn said.

“I was able to use 2020 as a practice run for 2021.

“Having a lot of high-standard races overseas gave us an advantage because it’s hard if you’ve had a year off to try and find your best again straight away.”

McSweyn’s favourite performance of the year came in Doha in late September, when he won the 1,500m to consign Ryan Gregson’s 10-year-old national mark to the history books.

“Not because I broke the record but purely because I was able to execute the race I wanted to execute,” he said.

“The Diamond League is where everyone is watching and you can put yourself on the map.

“That’s the biggest race I’ve ever won.”

McSweyn has yet to decide on his racing program for the Tokyo Games, although the 1,500m is shaping as the number one priority.

AAP



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The downward spiral of the world’s biggest fintech giant


  • The pressure campaign on Ant Group has been escalating since the government abruptly halted the company’s plans for a record-breaking share listing last month.
  • Ever since the fintech giant was accused of ‘turning a blind eye’ on regulatory compliance issues, China’s central bank orders Ant Group to overhaul its business.
  • We look into the wild ride Ant Group is ending the year with as well as its founder Jack Ma’s ongoing relationship issues with the country’s market watchdog.

It has been more than a month since Chinese regulators abruptly suspended Ant Group’s blockbuster US$37 billion initial public offerings (IPOs) in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Pressure ever since has not subsided, if anything, it has only escalated. 

It all started when Chinese regulators and Communist Party officials have set about reining in its billionaire founder and controlling shareholder Jack Ma’s sprawling financial empire after the latter publicly criticized the country’s regulatory system in October for stifling innovation.

Now, it appears like there is going to be a rewriting of the narrative of the world’s biggest fintech giant. Bloomberg News reported on Sunday citing a statement from the People’s Bank of China that Ant’s executives have been told to return the Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. affiliate to its payments roots. The directive implies that its credit, insurance, and investment product lines may need to be dumped, though the central bank stopped short of calling for the company to be broken up.

Considering how Ant’s origin story comes from the ubiquitous Alipay service that piggybacked off the success of Alibaba’s expanding e-commerce empire, the real money was to be made on all the extras. 

Financial clampdown, then what?

Truth be told, Regulators in China have played give-and-take with Ant for years. Most recently, basically shows Beijing ordering Ant to overhaul lucrative parts of its business after accusing it of “turning a blind eye” to regulatory issues in the latest official broadside at Ma’s online empire. It happened three days after China’s State Administration for Market Regulation announced that it had launched an antitrust investigation into Ma’s e-commerce platform Alibaba — also China’s biggest tech company — for possible monopolistic practices. 

Ant’s response? It would “greatly” improve compliance by conducting an overhaul of its business. “The rectification is an opportunity for Ant Group to strengthen the foundation for our business to grow with full compliance.”

But if we were to look deeper, by removing entire categories of financial services, Beijing not only reduces Ant’s value but freezes its growth prospects, Bloomberg said. To put into context, the company’s payments business expanded just 13% in the first half, from a year prior, while digital finance grew 57%. 

Hence, in a worst-case scenario, Ant could lose 63% of an operation that posted almost 60% growth, leaving it with a much smaller and slower business. PBOC’s Vice Governor Pan Gongsheng pointed out on Sunday that Ant needs a significant operational restructuring and it should set up a separate holding company to ensure capital adequacy and regulatory compliance.

Ant should also be fully licensed to operate its personal credit business, and be more transparent about its third-party payment transactions and not engage in unfair competition, Pan said, adding that Ant representatives met on Saturday with officials from the PBOC and other Chinese banking, securities and foreign exchange regulators.

According to him, during the meeting, regulators pointed out Ant’s issues including its poor corporate governance, defiance of regulatory demands, illegal regulatory arbitrary, the use of its market advantage to squeeze out competitors and harming consumers’ legal interests.

All of this came a month after China issuing draft rules aimed at preventing monopolistic behavior by internet firms, and the Politburo this month vowed to strengthen anti-monopoly efforts in 2021 and rein in “disorderly capital expansion.” Chinese authorities have been reining in other large companies after they expanded aggressively abroad or into businesses that weren’t close to their core activities, and took on what regulators regarded as an excessive risk.

Regulators also warned internet giants this month to brace for increased scrutiny, as it slapped fines and announced probes into mergers involving Alibaba and Tencent Holdings Ltd.





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China to overtake US to be world’s biggest economy by 2028 due to COVID-19, says report


China will overtake the US to become the world”s biggest economy by 2028, five years earlier than previously forecast, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a report has found.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), a UK-based think tank, said in its annual World Economic League Table released on Saturday that one of the impacts of the global health crisis as been “to redistribute economic momentum with Asia doing best and Europe worst”.

China’s “skilful management of the pandemic” and the long-term impact the pandemic will have on Western growth means China’s “relative performance has improved.”

“We now think that the Chinese economy in dollar terms will overtake the US economy in 2028, a full 5 years earlier than we thought last year,” the report states.

It notes for instance that authorities reacted “vigorously” to the COVID-19 crisis, thus inflicting less damage on the economy. As a result, while most Western economies are expected to register negative growth for the year, China is forecast to record a 2 per cent growth rate.

It is then expected to grow by an annual 5.7 per cent between 2021-205 and 4.5 per cent annually from 2026 to 2030 and then 3.9 per cent the following five years.

In contrast, the US is projected to grow by an annual 1.9 per cent from 2022 to 2024 and then by 1.6 per cent following a “strong post-pandemic rebound” next year.

“For some time, an overarching theme of global economics has been the economic and soft power struggle between the United States and China. The Covid-19 pandemic and corresponding economic fallout have certainly tipped this rivalry in China’s favour,” the report says.

The US is the world’s most impacted country having lost more than 330,000 lives to the pandemic and recorded nearly 19 million infections since the beginning of the outbreak, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.



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China set to surpass U.S. as world’s biggest economy by 2028, says report


The national flags of the U.S. and China waving outside a building.

Teh Eng Koon | AFP via Getty Images

China will overtake the United States to become the world’s biggest economy in 2028, five years earlier than previously estimated due to the contrasting recoveries of the two countries from the Covid-19 pandemic, a think tank said.

“For some time, an overarching theme of global economics has been the economic and soft power struggle between the United States and China,” the Centre for Economics and Business Research said in an annual report published on Saturday. “The COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding economic fallout have certainly tipped this rivalry in China’s favour.”

The CEBR said China’s “skilful management of the pandemic”, with its strict early lockdown, and hits to long-term growth in the West meant China’s relative economic performance had improved.

China looked set for average economic growth of 5.7% a year from 2021-25 before slowing to 4.5% a year from 2026-30.

While the United States was likely to have a strong post-pandemic rebound in 2021, its growth would slow to 1.9% a year between 2022 and 2024, and then to 1.6% after that.

Japan would remain the world’s third-biggest economy, in dollar terms, until the early 2030s when it would be overtaken by India, pushing Germany down from fourth to fifth.

The United Kingdom, currently the fifth-biggest economy by the CEBR’s measure, would slip to sixth place from 2024.

However, despite a hit in 2021 from its exit from the European Union’s single market, British GDP in dollars was forecast to be 23% higher than France’s by 2035, helped by Britain’s lead in the increasingly important digital economy.

Europe accounted for 19% of output in the top 10 global economies in 2020 but that will fall to 12% by 2035, or lower if there is an acrimonious split between the EU and Britain, the CEBR said.

It also said the pandemic’s impact on the global economy was likely to show up in higher inflation, not slower growth.

“We see an economic cycle with rising interest rates in the mid-2020s,” it said, posing a challenge for governments which have borrowed massively to fund their response to the COVID-19 crisis. “But the underlying trends that have been accelerated by this point to a greener and more tech-based world as we move into the 2030s.”



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China to leapfrog US as world’s biggest economy by 2028 – think tank


Logo of Centre for Economics and Business Research, one of the UK’s leading economics consultancies.

LONDON, Dec 26 (Reuters) – China will overtake the United States to become the world’s biggest economy in 2028, five years earlier than previously estimated due to the contrasting recoveries of the two countries from the COVID-19 pandemic, a think tank said.

“For some time, an overarching theme of global economics has been the economic and soft power struggle between the United States and China,” the Centre for Economics and Business Research said in an annual report published on Saturday.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding economic fallout have certainly tipped this rivalry in China’s favour.”

The CEBR said China’s “skilful management of the pandemic”, with its strict early lockdown, and hits to long-term growth in the West meant China’s relative economic performance had improved.

China looked set for average economic growth of 5.7% a year from 2021-25 before slowing to 4.5% a year from 2026-30.

While the United States was likely to have a strong post-pandemic rebound in 2021, its growth would slow to 1.9% a year between 2022 and 2024, and then to 1.6% after that.

Japan would remain the world’s third-biggest economy, in dollar terms, until the early 2030s when it would be overtaken by India, pushing Germany down from fourth to fifth.

The United Kingdom, currently the fifth-biggest economy by the CEBR’s measure, would slip to sixth place from 2024.

However, despite a hit in 2021 from its exit from the European Union’s single market, British GDP in dollars was forecast to be 23% higher than France’s by 2035, helped by Britain’s lead in the increasingly important digital economy.

Europe accounted for 19% of output in the top 10 global economies in 2020 but that will fall to 12% by 2035, or lower if there is an acrimonious split between the EU and Britain, the CEBR said.

It also said the pandemic’s impact on the global economy was likely to show up in higher inflation, not slower growth.

“We see an economic cycle with rising interest rates in the mid-2020s,” it said, posing a challenge for governments which have borrowed massively to fund their response to the COVID-19 crisis.

“But the underlying trends that have been accelerated by this point to a greener and more tech-based world as we move into the 2030s.” — REUTERS










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