No sale for Australia’s enormous Knickers

Knickers looms above the thousands of other cattle that he feeds with in rural Western Australia.

At some 1,400kg (220st) and 194cm (6ft 4in), the seven-year-old is believed to be the biggest steer in a country home to millions of cattle.

And his size has proved to be his saving grace. When owner Geoff Pearson tried to put him up for auction last month, meat processors said they simply couldn’t handle him – so Knickers avoided the abattoir.

He will now live out the rest of his life on Lake Preston feedlot in Myalup, 136km (85 miles) south of Perth.

“Knickers lives on,” says Mr Pearson, who has been fielding calls from local journalists since the Australian public broadcaster drew attention to the enormous steer – a Holstein Friesian, but significantly taller than the average for that breed.

He was first bought as a “coach” – a steer that leads other cattle – at the age of about 12 months. Steers are castrated males.

“He was always a standout steer from the others, a bit bigger than the rest,” says Mr Pearson. Although “some of his mates” were sent for slaughter at an early age, “he was still a standout so we thought let’s leave him there, he’s not hurting anyone”.

But after a few more rotations of cattle, the cattle farmers “realised he wasn’t stopping growing”. And now he’s too big to sell.

Mr Pearson – who owns about 20,000 cattle – reckons Knickers has a few years left. He’s a hit with the other cattle, who follow him around the paddocks in their hundreds. Many of the cattle are wagyu and are dark brown. Black and white Knickers stands out even more in a pack because of his colour.

An enormous steer in Western Australia is making headlines. At 194cm 'Knickers' is the largest in his category in Australia. Story: #7News

End of Twitter post by @7NewsCQ

And where did the name come from?

“When he was young, when we first got him, we had a Brahman steer [a breed of cattle] which was a friend of his,” explains Mr Pearson. “So his name was bra… so we [had] bra and knickers.

“We never thought he would turn into a big knickers.”

According to the record books, the tallest living steer is Bellino – who was 2.027m tall when he was measured in 2010 in Italy.

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Kushner pressured US officials to inflate Saudi arms deal: Report

Trump’s adviser and son-in-law sought to increase arms sales to ‘symbolically solidify’ US-Saudi ties, report says.

    President Donald Trump’s senior adviser, Jared Kushner, inflated arms sale figures to Saudi Arabia in order to strengthen Washington’s relationship with the Gulf nation, according to an ABC News report.

    Citing two officials and three former White House aides, the US network said on Monday that Kushner, who is also Trump’s son-in-law, pressured US State and Defense Department officials to inflate numbers in his bid to “symbolically solidify the new alliance between the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia”.

    In May 2017, Washington and Riyadh inked a much-touted arms deal estimated at $110bn, a number that critics have long questioned.  

    The deal however, which was signed by Defense Secretary James Mattis and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) in Riyadh during Trump’s first official trip abroad, was a memorandum of intent with “very little legal weight”. 

    “This document does not create any authority to perform any work, award and contract, ‘issue articles from stock’, transfer funds, or otherwise obligate or create a binding commitment in any way either for the United States or the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the document, which ABC obtained of a copy of, states.

    In the run-up to the summit, Kushner was quoted by a White House source as telling colleagues at a national security council meeting that “we need to sell them as much as possible”.

    Unwavering support 

    Another source said there had been an ongoing debate between Kushner and officials at the Departments of Defense and State, respectively, to get a larger number because initially figures would only add up to 15bn. 

    Little progress has been made since the deal was reached however, with the Saudis so far having signed Letters of Offer and Acceptance (LOAs) valued at around $14.5bn for equipment, including helicopters, tanks, ships, weapons and training.

    Riyadh has also passed on a September deadline to acquire the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) that comes with a price tag of $15bn. 

    According to ABC, many of the deals included in the memo lack details as to the type and quantity of equipment to be sold, some of which is not expected to be delivered until after 2022. 

    Kushner and Prince Mohammed developed a close working relationship since Trump’s assumed office in January 2017. 

    Trump, meanwhile, has come out in support of MBS, dismissing a reported CIA assessment that the 33-year-old heir to the Saudi throne had ordered the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the country’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2. 

    On November 20, Trump said he would not take any punitive measure against Riyadh, adding that a halt in arms sales to the kingdom’s would allow China and Russia to fill the void. 

    “If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries,” the president said.

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    South Korea to buy Israeli early warning radar to deter North despite thaw

    SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea plans to buy two Israeli early warning radar systems, it said on Tuesday, as it reinforces air defenses against North Korea despite fast-improving relations.

    The decision to adopt the two Green Pine Block C radar systems, built by ELTA Systems, a subsidiary of state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, was made at a defense acquisition committee, Seoul’s arms procurement agency, DAPA, said.

    DAPA did not specify the value of the order, but an official at the defense ministry put it at 330 billion won ($292 million), saying the systems would be deployed in the early 2020s.

    The project is intended to boost South Korea’s capabilities to “detect and track ballistic missiles from a long distance at an early stage”, DAPA said in a statement. It did not mention North Korea.

    But South Korea’s defense ministry said last December it would buy additional early warning radars after North Korea successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile and declared completion of the “state nuclear force” a month earlier.

    Reclusive North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

    North Korea has for years pursued nuclear and missile programs in defiance of U.N. sanctions. But the two Koreas moved to defrost their relations this year, clinching a comprehensive military agreement at their summit in September in Pyongyang aimed at defusing military tensions around the heavily fortified border.

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump pledged to work toward denuclearization at their landmark June summit in Singapore, but the agreement was short on specifics and negotiations have made little headway since.

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    DBS to almost double staff, triple revenue of Mideast private banking

    DUBAI (Reuters) – DBS (DBSM.SI), Southeast Asia’s largest bank, said it would almost double its Dubai private banking staff in its bid to triple revenue for those operations in the Middle East by 2023, capitalizing on a shift of investments towards Asia.

    The Singapore bank is joining Citibank (C.N) and other global lenders expanding wealth management operations in the region. The prospective client base includes wealthy Middle East business people, family offices and non-resident Indians.

    DBS said it planned to double headcount for its private bank in Dubai by 2023 from about 11 now to about 20.

    “This region is not yet a big part of our wealth management revenues today as we are an Asian bank but its the fastest growing part,” said Tan Su Shan, group head of wealth management and consumer banking. “It’s been growing at double digits.”

    Wealth management contributes about 2.6 billion Singapore dollars ($1.89 billion) to DBS revenues, she said.

    In the past, clients in the region would focus investments towards Switzerland, United States and Britain, Rudiger von Wedel, managing director and head of international at DBS Private Bank, told a news conference.

    “The whole focus of the region is shifting towards the East,” he said. “What I have seen since 2012-2013 is more and more shift towards Asia.”

    Other banks are also expanding in the region.

    Citibank (C.N) aims to lift its wealth management customer base by 18 percent in the United Arab Emirates in 2018 and 24 percent in 2019. Citi’s wealth management business would see a 21 percent growth in revenue in 2018 in the UAE, said Venkat Mahadevan, retail bank head for the Middle East at Citibank.

    The number of people in the Middle East with individual assets of more than $500 million is projected to grow by 28 percent to 500 in 2022, according to the Knight Frank 2018 Wealth report.

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    Teenager charged ‘after rape overheard on PlayStation stream’

    A teenager was overheard through his PlayStation console raping a girl, police say.

    Daniel Enrique Fabian, 18, has now been arrested and charged as it is alleged he left his microphone on during a game break and a female was heard in distress repeatedly saying "no".

    The gamer was playing Grand Theft Auto on his PlayStation at the time at his home when the offence is said to have happened.

    The alleged victim, thought to be just 15 years old, has told police in New Port Richey, western Florida, she was held down and raped by Fabian.

    The suspect has been charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious battery on a victim between ages 12 and 15 years old.

    Police have reportedly contacted other gamers playing on the same stream Fabian was using at the time of the alleged attack back in June.

    It’s said the girl repeatedly said "no" during the 15-minute break in play.

    Fabian is being held on a $30,000 (£23,000) bond at a Florida detention centre, according to local media.

    Grand Theft Auto is a popular series of video games in which the user attempts to rise through the ranks of the criminal underworld.

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    ESM head not worried about Italy losing market access

    LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) – The head of the euro zone bailout fund Klaus Regling said on Tuesday he was not worried about Italy losing market access amid a dispute with the European Commission on Rome’s expansionary 2019 budget, which the EU executive says breaks EU fiscal rules.

    The European Commission took a first step last week to disciplining Italy over the budget after Rome refused to change it, raising the stakes in a dispute that has alarmed the whole euro zone and could eventually lead to fines.

    Hopes that Italy was poised to curb its spending plans set off a rally in financial markets on Monday, with Italy’s benchmark bond-yield spread over the German equivalent falling to its tightest level in more than a month.

    However, the Italian government said later on Monday that it was sticking to its main 2019 budget goals for now as it awaited a cost analysis of its main spending measures, but left open the possibility of eventually cutting its deficit target.

    “Italy has problems. But they are not comparable to Greece for instance. So sometimes when I hear Italy is the new Greece … that’s just nonsense,” Regling told reporters.

    “The underlying fundamentals are much better in Italy than they were in Greece a few years ago. Italy has a current account surplus which means Italy does not need to attract capital from foreigners on a regular basis,” he said.

    Asked if he was worried about a worst-case scenario of Italy losing market access if investors lose confidence in Italian public finances, Regling said: “The worst possible scenario is not the most likely one. I am not worried about Italy losing market access. I am more worried about the low growth we have seen in Italy for the past 20 to 25 years.”

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    How Pollution Can Hurt the Health of the Economy

    One argument for rolling back environmental regulations — as is occurring under the Trump administration — is that a lighter touch on industry will lift investment and economic growth.

    But increased pollution can also have long-term negative economic consequences. The effects on health are bad enough on their own, and are well understood.

    ● Particulate matter — a significant recent concern in California because of wildfires — as well as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and ozone can aggravate people’s airways, degrade lung function and worsen asthma.

    ● Carbon monoxide can cause problems for people with some types of heart disease and, at very high levels (usually indoors), can lead to dizziness, confusion, unconsciousness and death.

    ● Lead can cause cardiovascular and neurological problems. Pollution to groundwater from industrial waste can also harm health.

    Less well understood is how this can affect things like educational and economic outcomes. Many studies, some focused on regions of the United States, others on cities elsewhere, have documented this kind of relationship: It’s harder to perform well at work or school if you don’t feel well. Additionally, if school performance suffers as a result of health problems, that threatens long-term work and earnings prospects.

    Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of pollution. The fetal origins hypothesis posits that environmental conditions before birth can affect development, health and well-being. Daniel Prinz, a Harvard Ph.D. candidate, is an author of a recent paper on the subject. “The evidence is overwhelming that pollutants encountered in utero can cause long-term harm,” Mr. Prinz said. (I was a co-author on this paper, along with two Harvard health economists, David Cutler and Michael Chernew.)

    The 1970 amendment to the Clean Air Act significantly reduced air pollution in certain areas, offering a research opportunity. A study published last year in the Journal of Political Economy looked at the level of pollution experienced by children born in each year between 1969 and 1974, and also their earnings 30 or more years later. The study found that exposure to lower levels of pollution in their birth years led to higher earnings by age 30 and at least $4,300 more over their lifetimes, or $6.5 billion per affected cohort.

    Another study, by authors from Northwestern and the University of Florida, examined the test scores of 13,000 children born in Florida between 1994 and 2002, when the E.P.A. cleaned up many Superfund sites.

    The children were all in families with one child born before and one after a nearby Superfund site cleanup. That meant one child was exposed, in utero, to a higher level of environmental toxicity than the other. The study found that children conceived within two miles of a Superfund site before it was cleaned up had lower elementary school standardized test scores than the siblings born later. They were also 40 percent more likely to repeat a grade; 6.6 percentage points more likely to be suspended from school; and 10 percentage points more likely to be diagnosed with a cognitive disability.

    But it doesn’t take decades to see pollution’s effect. One study of the 39 largest school districts in Texas found that when carbon monoxide levels were higher, children were more likely to be absent from school. Janet Currie, a Princeton economist, was an author of the study.

    “Pollution harms everyone,” she said. “But kids are hit the hardest. Pollution impacts kids’ health in the short and long term, and ultimately translates into poorer labor market outcomes — lower productivity at work and lower incomes.”

    Another study examined the effects of carbon monoxide and particulate matter on Israeli students’ performance on high school exit exams that were required for college admissions. It found worse performance when pollution was greater. Scores on tests administered on one of the days ranked in the top 5 percent in carbon monoxide pollution were about 14 percent lower than average, for example.

    The quantity of work produced by people can degrade at higher levels of pollution. A study found that higher concentrations of fine particulate matter depressed the productivity of pear packers in Northern California. In another study, the same authors found that when pollution was higher, Chinese call center workers took more breaks.

    Pollution may also affect the quality of work, which is much harder to measure. An intriguing study in the Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists got at this issue by examining how accurately baseball umpires called balls and strikes under different pollution conditions.

    Since 2008, pitch calls have been checked by Major League Baseball with an electronic system. In a typical game, an umpire makes 140 ball/strike calls. When there was a 150 percent increase over average carbon monoxide levels or the same increase in small particulate matter, the study found an average of 1.4 additional incorrect calls. Levels of pollution that high occur in about one in 10 games.

    Over the very long term, economic growth has been a boon to health and longevity. But when that growth is achieved through increased pollution, that can harm both health as well as longer-term economic prospects. And pollution from large-scale environmental events like the California fires may also challenge productivity at school and work, even for children only now in utero.

    Austin Frakt is director of the Partnered Evidence-Based Policy Resource Center at the V.A. Boston Healthcare System; associate professor with Boston University’s School of Public Health; and adjunct associate professor with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He blogs at The Incidental Economist. @afrakt

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    Japan's Line partners Mizuho, Tencent in fintech drive; shares jump

    TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese chat app operator Line Corp (3938.T) will set up a bank with Mizuho Financial Group Inc (8411.T) and also partner China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd (0700.HK) to offer mobile payment services – plans which saw its stock rise 13 percent on Tuesday.

    Pending regulatory approval, the bank will provide financial services to Line’s almost 80 million users from 2020, Line and Mizuho said, without detailing the services to be offered. Line will hold 51 percent of the bank with Mizuho owning the rest.

    Separately, Line said Japanese retailers offering Line Pay services will be able to process payments from Chinese tourists using Tencent’s WeChat Pay beginning early next year.

    The moves come as Line seeks alternative revenue streams to offset stagnating user numbers for its eponymous flagship app, expanding into areas such as payments, stock broking, insurance and cryptocurrencies.

    “We expect financial services to start contributing to profit in the medium term,” Line Chief Executive Takeshi Idezawa said at a strategy briefing. “We are making big investments in fintech and AI,” he said, referring to financial technology and artificial intelligence.

    Japan’s tech firms are increasingly looking for growth by offering financial services to their existing user base. The trend has also been seen at retailers in recent years, with convenience store operator Lawson Inc (2651.T) entering the banking sector just last month.

    For traditional lenders such as Mizuho, hamstrung by years of low interest rates, tie-ups with tech firms offer an opportunity to attract younger, tech-savvy customers.

    “It will give us a point of contact with a young generation, which we megabanks are not good at reaching,” said Mizuho’s head of retail banking, Toshitsugu Okabe.

    Mizuho joins another of Japan’s financial giants, Nomura Holdings Inc (8604.T), in teaming up with Line. In May, the country’s biggest brokerage and investment banking group said it would set up an internet-focused securities brokerage with Line.

    News of the tie-ups on Tuesday lifted Line shares to close up 13 percent, adding about $1 billion to the firm’s market value. The stock is still down more than 16 percent this year. Mizuho and Tencent’s shares were flat.

    GRAPHIC: Thin green Line –

    With its growing number of Chinese tourists, Japan is increasingly attractive for China’s tech titans, with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA.N) affiliate Ant Financial and ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing announcing services in recent months. Both Alibaba and Didi Chuxing are portfolio companies of Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp (9984.T).

    Japan has been slow to move to cashless payments, with a rush of entrants such as Line Pay and SoftBank-backed PayPay encouraging consumers to use QR code-based payments, which have become widespread in China, India and elsewhere.

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    British and Dutch regulators fine Uber for 2016 data hack

    (Reuters) – British and Dutch regulators on Tuesday fined ride-hailing service Uber [UBER.UL] for failing to protect customers’ personal information during a 2016 cyber attack involving millions of users.

    Names, mobile phone numbers and email addresses were compromised in the breach, which involved 57 million users worldwide. That included 2.7 million user accounts in Britain, representing the vast majority of people using the ride-hailing service in the country.

    The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in Britain fined the company 385,000 pounds ($490,760) while the Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA) imposed 600,000 euro ($678,780) fine.

    “This was not only a serious failure of data security on Uber’s part, but a complete disregard for the customers and drivers whose personal information was stolen,” ICO Director of Investigations Steve Eckersley said in a statement.

    “At the time, no steps were taken to inform anyone affected by the breach, or to offer help and support. That left them vulnerable.”

    The ICO also said that the records of almost 82,000 drivers based in the UK – which included details of journeys made and how much they were paid – were also taken during the incident in October and November 2016.

    The breach occurred before the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) earlier this year, which would empower the ICO to issue fines up to 17 million pounds or 4 percent of a company’s global turnover.

    Uber, which has also faced licensing problems in London and a long-running legal battle over workers’ rights for its British drivers, said it had changed data practices since 2016 and this year hired a chief privacy officer and data protection officer.

    “We’re pleased to close this chapter on the data incident from 2016,” Uber said in a statement.

    “As we shared with European authorities during their investigations, we’ve made a number of technical improvements to the security of our systems both in the immediate wake of the incident as well as in the years since.”

    The breach affected 174,000 people in the Netherlands and the Dutch DPA said it was fining Uber for failing to report the incident within 72 hours of its discovery.

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    Trump rallies for embattled Senator Hyde-Smith in Mississippi

    Ahead of US midterm finale, President Trump held two rallies to drum up support for Cindy Hyde-Smith.

      US President Donald Trump has been campaigning in Mississippi ahead of a special Senate runoff election.

      He has held two rallies to drum up support for Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, who is facing an equally controversial Democratic challenger Mike Espy.


      Al Jazeera’s John Hendren reports from Tupelo, Mississippi.

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