International: Trump’s Son-in-Law Named as White House Advisor

President-elect Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner has been appointed as senior White House advisor to work on trade deals and foreign policy.

Kushner, husband to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, accepted the position after receiving legal advice that he would not be violating the 1967 anti-nepotism law. Kushner’s lawyer, Jamie Gorelick argues on Monday that the law does not apply to the White House.

“Even without that law, two DC Circuit decisions strongly suggest that the White House Office is not an ‘agency’ under the anti-nepotism statute, a position supported by the views of the Justice Department under presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush,” said Gorelick.

In a statement, Trump said Kushner would be “an invaluable member of my team as I set and execute an ambitious agenda, putting the American people first.” The statement also said that Kushner would waive his salary while employed in the administration.

“It is an honour to serve our country,” said Kushner in the same statement. “I am energised by the shared passion of the President-elect and the American people and I am humbled by the opportunity to join this very talented team.”

Kushner was one of Trump’s campaign advisors during the elections, working in the campaign’s digital aspects. Kushner has also been assisting Trump during the transition period, coordinating communication between the president-elect’s team and foreign leaders and officials.

Kushner will be stepping down from his position as CEO of real estate company Kushner Companies in an effort to diminish conflict-of-interest concerns. In a statement, Gorelick said Kushner “is committed to complying with federal ethics laws.”

Technology: iPhone Turns 10

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the original iPhone, which was first introduced by late Apple founder Steve Jobs in an Apple conference.

On January 9, 2007, Jobs said: “Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything. One’s very fortunate if you get to work on just one of these in your career. Apple has been very fortunate that it’s been able to introduce a few of these into the world. In 1984, we introduced the Macintosh. It didn’t just change Apple, it changed the whole computer industry. In 2001 we introduced the first iPod, and it didn’t just change the way we all listened to music, it changed the entire music industry. Well, today we’re introducing three revolutionary products…”

These three revolutionary products – an iPod, a phone, and an “internet mobile communicator” –  were later revealed to be “not three separate devices, and we are calling it iPhone. Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone. And here it is.”

Jobs unveiled a smartphone with a 3.5 inch touchscreen and features like web browser, music player, weather and map apps, which would turn out revolutionary for mobile and communication technology.

The touchscreen technology was the main driver in making the device a dominant force in the market, Foad Fadaghi, managing director at technology analyst firm Telsyte said. “With the arrival of the third party app store and 3G connectivity the iPhone really started to help the device take off,” Fadaghi said.

iPhone also helped drive the smartphone market to condense multiple features, such as camera and music player, into one device, said Dr Christine Satchell, mobile device expert at Queensland University of Technology. “The smartphone both democratised internet access and improved it for many millions of people,” Fadaghi said.

Although iPhone was one of Apple’s biggest moneymaker, the sales of the latest iPhone 7 have been sluggish. The company’s operating profit declined 16 percent to $60 billion due to a decline in the sales of the device for the first time since it came out a decade ago.

However, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook said the anniversary only marks the beginning. “iPhone is an essential part of our customers’ lives, and today more than ever it is redefining the way we communicate, entertain, work and live,” Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook said in a statement. “iPhone set the standard for mobile computing in its first decade and we are just getting started. The best is yet to come.”

International: Lawyers for President Park Geun-hye Say Impeachment Should Be Reversed

Lawyers for South Korean president Park Geun-hye said her impeachment should be reversed as there is not enough evidence to justify ejecting her from office.

Lawmakers voted on December 9 to impeach Park by a 234-56 margin, suspending her power until the Constitutional Court decides whether to uphold the legislature’s impeachment.

The resolution submitted by lawmakers cited 13 charges, including constitutional violations and legal offenses. However, Park’s legal team said that these charges lack any basis.

“We see no grounds for impeachment and it should be struck down,” said Lee Joong-hwan, one of the three attorneys representing Park on Friday.

Park has been accused of colluding with friend Choi Soon-sil, who has been indicted, to extort money and favours from businesses. Choi also allegedly meddled in state affairs by influencing the president on a number of state projects as well as through her possession of classified documents.

Public protests have broken out since October, with two million people hitting the streets on the November 26 demonstration.

Park has denied charges of power abuse. “Not for a single moment have I pursued my personal interests,” Park said in her third and final address to the nation on November 29. “I have carried forward these state projects for I believed them to be public business for the nation.”

Parliamentary investigators from the independent counsel team have been denied access to Park’s residence in the Blue House due to concerns of national security.

“Several warrants have been issued for the search, but their execution has been thwarted,” said Lee Kyu-chul, the team’s spokesperson.

“We are currently reviewing related laws to see if we may (raid the office).”

Finance: What’s Up With The Australian Housing Market?

According to Louis Christopher of SQM Research, on record the Australian housing market has hit its second most overvalued point, potentially drawing closer towards “a dangerous national housing bubble”.

He has stated that “the national property market was overvalued by 22 per cent, which was only lower than 2003 when it hit 25 per cent” and was driven specifically by Sydney and Melbourne, both capital cities having already entered that bubble.

Christopher has announced that “The current tempo has picked up particularly in Sydney. Melbourne has had about 15 per cent per annum price gains, I know that is a little bit higher at what the official numbers suggest but it is our view that, that is what the market has done. And our expectation is that the current trends will continue well into next year.’’

Melbourne had hit its highest overvaluation level of 40 per cent and Sydney was at its second highest level of overvaluation at 40 per cent as well.

Mr Christopher also warned in his latest report that “if the Reserve Bank of Australia didn’t lift interest rates or encourage the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority to clamp down on home lending, the national market could enter bubble territory.”

Hobart values would increase between 7 per cent and 12 per cent, Brisbane between 3 per cent and 7 per cent, Adelaide between 2 per cent and 4 per cent, and Canberra between 3 per cent and 7 per cent.

Fortunately, the report has predicted values in Perth would drop between 8 per cent and 4 per cent and drop in Darwin between 9 per cent and 5 per cent.

This news article was completely sourced by News.com.au

National: Trump’s Presidency Might Disrupt Australia-US Refugee Resettlement Deal

The election of Donald Trump into US presidency could overturn the Australia-US refugee resettlement deal, experts say.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that refugees on Nauru and Manus Island would be relocated to the US through a one-off deal.

Under the deal, refugees who do not accept resettlement to the US would be sent to Nauru and provided a 20-year visa to stay or return to their origin country.

However, concerns arise that Trump might not keep the agreement when he takes office in January.

“In all likelihood, the only way it’s going to happen is if the refugees are transferred to the US before inauguration day [January 20],” Niels Frenzen, immigration clinic director at the University of Southern California school of law told Radio National.

“If the US has not already begun its own vetting or so-called background checks until now, if you look at the time the US has taken to vet Syrian refugees … it’s unlikely that that could be accomplished in a few months.”

Mark Krikorian, the executive director at the Centre for Immigration Studies said Trump, whose policies contradicts the agreement, might not keep the deal.

“We [America] have a good relationship with Australia — one of our closest allies in the world,” Krikorian said.

“If this were a unique situation that there was no way for Australia to deal with, I could see extending them a helping hand, but this is just a matter of shipping these illegal immigrants to the United States.”

Both Krikorian and Frenzen suggest that the resettlement could be finished before January 20 under several conditions.

Frenzen said refugees could be settled before Trump’s inauguration if vetting had been “ongoing” and the US had been negotiating with Australia since January.

Krikorian also suggested that President Barack Obama might accelerate the processing period, as he had previously sped up the assessment of Syrian refugees from 18-24 months to only three months.

“It’s entirely possible the administration will rush the admission of the illegal immigrants you all have offshore in order to get them in under the wire before January 20 when Trump becomes president,” said Krikorian.

International: Trump’s Appointment of Stephen Bannon Stirs Controversy

US President-elect Donald Trump has stirred controversy over his appointment of Stephen Bannon as the White House chief strategist.

Bannon was Trump’s campaign leader and the chief executive of conservative website Breitbart News, which he declared in July as “the platform for the alt-right”. The website has accused President Barack Obama of importing “more hating Muslims”, relating influx of refugees to disease spread, and telling female victims of cyberbullying to “just log off” and stop “screwing up the internet for men”.

Bannon has been accused of changing the Breitbart site to attract far-right, extremist followers, with anti-“globalist” views. Southern Poverty Law Centre tweeted, “Stephen Bannon was the main driver behind Breitbart becoming a white, ethno-nationalist propaganda mill.” The Council on American-Islamic Relations also criticised the website for publishing “misogynistic and racist stories targeting women, people of colour and immigrants.”

“[Bannon] is a vindictive, nasty figure, infamous for verbally abusing supposed friends and threatening enemies,” Ben Shapiro, former Breitbart editor said earlier this year.

In 1996, Bannon’s ex-wife, Mary Louise Piccard accused him of domestic violence. In 2007, Bannon allegedly objected sending his daughters to a California school because he “didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews”.

Bannon also said that women leaders in the US “wouldn’t be a bunch of dykes that came from the 7 Sisters schools”, but they would instead be “pro-family” and “have husbands”.

Bannon has expressed dislike of cultural and political elites. In 2010, Bannon told Political Vindication Radio, “What we need to do is bitch-slap the Republican Party.” Last year, he accused House speaker Paul Ryan of being “a total and complete sellout of the American people.”

“What drives Steve is the way the political establishment is holding back American politics,” said Joel Pollak, editor at large at Breitbart.

“It is a sad day when a man who presided over the premier website of the ‘alt-right’ – a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed antisemites and racists – is slated to be a senior staff member in the people’s house,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive at the Anti-Defamation League.

 

National: Turnbull Says Cabinet May Consider Changes to Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act 18C

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has indicated that his cabinet is considering an inquiry into freedom of speech in relation to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, a backflip from his August statement that the Government had “much more pressing priorities”.

Section 18C makes it unlawful to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” people based on their race or ethnicity.

Turnbull said the Coalition conservatives’ calls for a parliamentary inquiry into the issue had “considerable merit”.

“There is a view that the bar that is set is too low, in other words, that proscribing conduct which insults and offends is too much a restriction on free speech,” Turnbull told ABC Radio on Monday.

Turnbull also called for the Human Rights Commission to “urgently review” the way it handles section 18C complaints after a Brisbane judge dismissed a case against three Queensland students.

The students were accused of social media vilification of an Indigenous officer on campus.

“What it shows is that the Human Rights Commission must urgently review the way in which it manages these cases,” he said.

“To have a case like that – which will have involved the expenditure of considerable Commonwealth money, taxpayers’ money, considerable money on behalf of the students, imposed enormous stress on them – and have it chucked out, struck out as having no reasonable prospects of success, what the court was saying, what the judge was saying to the Human Rights Commission is, ‘You’ve been wasting the court’s time. You’ve been wasting government money.'”

A number of Coalition politicians have voiced their support for an inquiry.

Liberal senator Cory Bernardi tweeted, “It’s about time, but the real question is why it has taken so long? The abuse of 18C has been evident for years.”

Liberal backbencher Andrew Hastie said while the Government would like to protect minorities, it also sought to defend “one of the most important elements of democracy, which is free speech”.

The opposition has criticised Turnbull’s backflip. “The Prime Minister is willing to trade race hate protections to protect himself from his backbench,” said Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

National: One Nation Senator Denies Climate Change is Happening

One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts has claimed that the CSIRO’s climate change science had no “empirical proof”.

In his Monday press conference, Roberts released his 42-page report titled “On Climate, CSIRO Lacks Empirical Proof”, in which he wrote that the agency “relies on unscientific Australian and overseas manipulations of data that have fabricated warming temperatures”.

Roberts also published his letter to Dr Larry Marshall of the CSIRO, saying that climate policies is detrimental to “key industries” and people’s job security.

The report also criticised former Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s carbon tax policy and claimed that Great Barrier Reef is not “dying”.

“We have had complete failure of science in policies that has cost Australian taxpayers and citizens and Queensland residents billions of dollars and has cost lives,” said Roberts in the press conference.

Roberts said the CSIRO and weather bureau should face an independent inquiry over the lack of “empirical evidence” that human activity affects climate.

The CSIRO maintained its position in a statement: “CSIRO stands behind its peer-reviewed science on environment, climate and climate change.”

National: Barnaby Joyce Accuses ALP of Communism

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has accused the Labor party of “communism” in a speech at the National Farmers’ Federation Congress in Canberra.

Joyce said foreign ownership was a threat to patriotism, and that Labor’s policies, including native vegetation management, would result in “dispossession” and therefore communism.

“I thought about how Labor dispossess people of their private assets with tree-clearing guidelines – ‘vegetation management’ as it’s euphemistically called,” Joyce said.

“This essentially took away ownership from private individuals and gave it to the community. The dispossession of the individual for the community benefit, without the community paying for it.

“While I was marking my 184th lamb that I’d just picked up, I thought, ‘there’s a word for this — it’s called communism’.”

Joyce closed his speech by repeating his statement on opposing foreign ownership of agricultural land. “It’s the whole essence of patriotism, the love of one’s country is best delivered when you own that country,” Joyce said.

“The love of one’s country is best delivered when you own that country. I may like your car but I love mine. Likewise, I find your house very interesting but I want to go home to mine … And believe me, there’s one thing that people are not keen to do and that is die for a rented country.”

When asked whether his speech was too harsh given the presence of Chinese ambassador Cheng Jingye in the congress, Joyce told ABC, “China more than anybody is moving towards a market economy. Ever since (former leader) Deng Xiaoping decided that was the direction they should go, they’ve been exceptionally good at it and private ownership fundamentally underpins your attachment to an asset.

“I love the fact that if my daughters want to, they can go on to the farm that I bought – that’s my aspiration, that’s what makes Australia a great place, and it does build up this idea of patriotism – the love of the earth that you stand on because your indelible connection to it and I’m sure a lot of indigenous Australians would agree with me as well.”

Labor’s Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Joel Fitzgibbon said Joyce’s populist statement on foreign ownership “is a zero sum game”.

“Overcoming those challenges and capitalizing on the opportunities will take new thinking, hard work and co-operation,” Fitzgibbon said.

“And it will require all of us to spend more time talking in positive rather than in negative tones.”

International: 1960s Activist and Politician Tom Hayden Dies

American social activist and politician Tom Hayden has died at the age of 76 in California following stroke-related complications.

Hayden was a key figure for the anti-war and civil rights movements in the 1960s. He was the founding member of Students for a Democratic Society and the main author of the group’s 1962 manifesto Port Huron Statement.

Hayden was one of the organizers of the 1968 anti-war protests at the Democratic National Convention, for which he was convicted on incitement and conspiracy charges. He was also involved in Martin Luther King’s civil disobedience campaign against racial segregation.

Hayden won the 1982 election to California state Assembly after a number of losses and went on to win a state Senate seat in 1992. In total, Hayden served for 18 years.

Hayden has written and edited 20 books on politics and inequality and has taught at UCLA, Scripps College, Pitzer College, Occidental College, and the Harvard Institute of Politics.