Fortescue aims for further cost cuts

Fortescue Metals is targeting a further reduction in costs this financial year but expects to keep its iron ore shipments steady.

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The world’s fourth-largest iron ore exporter shipped 44.7 million tonnes of iron ore in the final three months of 2016/17, up three per cent from a year earlier, and a 13 per cent increase on a weather-impacted third quarter.

That took full year shipments to 170.4 million tonnes, just above the company’s guidance of 165 million to 170 million tonnes.

Cash costs were trimmed seven per cent from the March quarter to a record low of $US12.16 per wet metric tonne, and the full year average of $US12.82/wmt was down 17 per cent.

Chief executive Nev Power said the Pilbara miner is well positioned to continue to improve costs, invest in the core iron ore business and maintain production levels in the 2017/18 financial year.

“We will continue the consistent and predictable performance,” he told reporters.

“Capital management, further strengthening the balance sheet and generating shareholder returns remain our key priorities.”

Fortescue is aiming to hold shipments steady at 170 million tonnes in 2017/18, but could trim cash costs to between $US11 and $US12 per wmt.

The miner said its iron ore realised an average $US53.27 a tonne in the June quarter, or about 77 per cent of the average benchmark price for the top grade.

Discounts between the top grade iron ore and Fortescue’s lower grades have widened in recent months, and the company expects the gap to remain while steel mill profitability and iron ore port stockpiles in China remain at current high levels.

Royal Bank of Canada analyst Paul Hissey said the lower price realisation was the sticking point of Fortescue’s update, and the market may not be fully appreciating its significance.

“It may still be too early to ascertain whether this downgrade is a function of structural change in the steel industry or the result of shorter-term cyclical factors,” he said in a note.

Fortescue expects to realise between 75 and 80 per cent of the benchmark price in 2017/18, but said realisations will remain near the bottom of this range in the first half of the fiscal year.

Fortescue shares were down three cents at $5.27 nearing the end of Thursday’s trading session.

Tiny brain part may hold anti-ageing key

A vital pea-sized component of the brain may be the key to holding back ageing and extending the human lifespan, research suggests.

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The hypothalamus, a small bundle of neurons at the base of the brain, governs how quickly the body ages.

Tests on laboratory mice pinpointed ageing control to a tiny population of adult stem cells within the brain region.

The cells appear to keep a tight rein on ageing.

As their numbers decline naturally with time or if their function is disrupted, the body’s organs and metabolic processes age faster and death occurs earlier.

Humans are likely to respond to the influence of hypothalamus stem cells in just the same way, scientists believe.

Lead investigator Professor Dongsheng Cai, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, said: “Our research shows that the number of hypothalamic neural stem cells naturally declines over the life of the animal and this decline accelerates ageing.

“But we also found that the effects of this loss are not irreversible. By replenishing these stem cells or the molecules they produce, it’s possible to slow and even reverse various aspects of ageing throughout the body.”

The hypothalamus acts like a computer’s central processor, regulating a wide range of biological functions in the body.

One of its most important jobs is to maintain homeostasis – keeping different parts of the body working in a stable, balanced way.

Among the many body functions it influences via a complex array of hormones are temperature control, appetite, blood pressure, heart rate, sleep cycles, sex drive and digestion.

The crucial hypothalamus stem cells are “mother cells” that mature to produce new neurons.

Prof Cai’s team of researchers, whose findings are reported in the journal Nature, looked at what happened to the cells as healthy mice got older.

They found the number of hypothalamus stem cells began to diminish when the animals reached about 10 months, several months before the usual signs of ageing normally start to appear.

When the stem cells in middle-aged mice were selectively disrupted artificially, it led to “greatly accelerated ageing”.

The next step was to inject hypothalamus stem cells into the brains of mice whose supply of the cells had been destroyed, as well as “normal” old mice.

In both groups of animals, various measurements showed ageing was either slowed or reversed.

Late Morris goal delivers U.S. sixth Gold Cup championship

His 14-yard strike came after a cross by U.

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S. midfielder Gyasi Zardes ricocheted off Clint Dempsey and landed perfectly for forward Morris, who sent the ball past the diving arms of replacement Jamaican goalkeeper Dwayne Miller.

Jose Altidore had given the hosts the lead just before halftime when his perfectly judged free kick curled over the defensive wall and a diving Miller into the net.

The goal was sweet redemption for Morris, whose defensive error in the second half allowed Jamaican midfielder Vaughn Watson to tie the game 1-1 in the 50th minute.

“He made up for it,” U.S. coach Bruce Arena, who is undefeated in 14 games since taking the reigns in November, told reporters after the match.

“It was a big step that he took tonight.”

Morris, who graduated from nearby Stanford University, lost his man close to the goal and Watson responded by delivering a six-yard strike off an assist by Kemar Lawrence, the hero from Jamaica’s upset 1-0 win over Mexico on Sunday.

The tone of the match had changed when Jamaican goalie and team captain Andre Blake was forced to leave midway through the first half after American Kellyn Acosta stepped on his hand while taking a shot on goal.

Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore said the injury to the standout 26-year-old may require stitches but insisted it was not serious.

The Reggae Boyz ran the Americans close during the entire match, playing tenacious defence and using their speed to push the tempo on offence.

But the Americans, who had nearly 70 percent ball possession, were eventually able to wear the opposition defence down.

“Congratulations to the U.S. team, they did a good job tonight,” Whitmore said. “But the sky is the limit for us, we just have to keep on working.”

The annual championship of North America, Central America and Caribbean played out before a half-full Levi’s stadium in Santa Clara, California, home to the state’s famed Silicon Valley.

(Reporting by Rory Carroll; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

NSW abandons council mergers in backflip

Questions have been asked about NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s ability to implement the government’s agenda after another policy backflip, this time on the controversial council mergers plan.

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Ms Berejiklian on Thursday conceded defeat in her fight to forcibly merge more than a dozen Sydney councils.

Citing protracted legal battles with several councils and the uncertainty this was causing ratepayers, the premier admitted the government had failed to effectively implement the policy, but defended its merit.

“Is the policy the right one? Yes. Did we get the implementation wrong? Absolutely,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.

“This is a decision that’s weighed heavily on the government.”

The government’s about-face on amalgamations has occurred after several other policy backdowns, including the failed attempt to ban greyhound racing and changes to the NSW fire services levy.

The amalgamations of 14 councils currently challenging their amalgamations will no longer proceed, but those local governments already merged will remain.

The amalgamation policy was dealt a blow earlier this year when the NSW Court of Appeal blocked a forced merger between Ku-ring-gai and Hornsby councils due to a lack of “procedural fairness”.

The High Court was also due to hear Woollahra council’s challenge to the merger with Waverley and Randwick in Sydney’s east.

Ms Berejiklian in January decided to walk away from planned amalgamations in the bush, but she forged ahead with those in the city.

The premier on Thursday said she still believed the policy was “absolutely the right thing to do” for councils in metropolitan areas.

“But when some councils choose to use ratepayer money and take this issue to court, that is outside of our control and we did not anticipate how long those processes would take.”

There are 20 already-amalgamated councils across NSW.

Local government elections for the merged councils and the 14 affected by Thursday’s announcement will be held on September 9.

Woollahra Mayor Toni Zelzter described the government’s decision as “a great day for local democracy”.

Opposition leader Luke Foley says the back down is another example of the NSW government abandoning policy on the run.

“Another day, another backflip. It’s not so much a case of a bad policy, as a bad government,” Mr Foley told reporters.

The Labor leader also questioned whether Ms Berejiklian would consider re-introducing forced mergers in the future.

Mr Foley said the government should give rate-payers in local government areas that had already been amalgamated the opportunity to vote on whether they could de-merge.

“If the government has a skerrick of decency, what they’ll do is allow plebiscites, democratic votes in all those council areas where forced mergers exist today,” he said.

Tiahleigh Palmer’s foster brother jailed for lying to police in murder investigation

The mother of slain Brisbane schoolgirl Tiahleigh Palmer says the justice system has let her daughter down after her foster brother was jailed for a minimum of three months.

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Josh Thorburn, 21, was sentenced in the Beenleigh District Court on Thursday to 15 months’ imprisonment, to be suspended after three months, for perjury and perverting the course of justice.

Thorburn admitted lying to police and the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) on multiple occasions during the investigation into Tiahleigh’s murder in October 2015.

Tiahleigh’s mother Cindy, who was part of a packed gallery for the sentencing, indicated she would seek to have Thorburn’s sentence reviewed.

“The justice system has let us down horribly today,” Ms Palmer said outside court.

“Most of all they’ve let down Tiahleigh and her fight for justice.”

A supplied image obtained Sat. Nov. 7, 2015 shows Tiahleigh Palmer, 12, who was last seen outside Marsden State High School.QLD POLICE

The court heard Thorburn was called to a family meeting regarding Tiahleigh after arriving home on October 29.

Fearful of his father Richard and what he might do, Thorburn lied to police on two occasions about seeing Tiahleigh the morning after police allege she was murdered.

During a CCC hearing into the alleged crime in June 2016, Thorburn again claimed to have seen Tiahleigh on October 30, 2015 and denied knowing about any sexual activity she was involved in or who had killed her.

Judge Craig Chowdhury said while he accepted Thorburn had an “acute fear” of his father and was being pressured by his parents to lie, he had time and opportunity to tell the truth.

“A significant police investigation was substantially obstructed,” Judge Chowdhury said.

Thorburn’s father Richard has been charged with Tiahleigh’s murder while his younger brother Trent is facing charges of incest, perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Thorburn’s mother Julene was expected to face sentencing on Thursday on perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice charges but her matter has been adjourned after she changed lawyers.

Food spend hurt by power costs: Coles boss

Rising living costs and low wage growth are forcing many households to swap healthy food for cheaper packaged goods in a “disastrous” trend, Coles supermarket boss John Durkan says.

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Mr Durkan said soaring power prices in particular are a key constraint on spending for consumers who, as a result, are tightening their belts when it comes to buying food.

“At a time when incomes are not growing much, many households are having to confront large price rises in other areas of everyday living,” the Coles managing director said in a speech at the American Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.

“We are seeing people really being affected by utility prices across the board.

“They are having to choose not only what they are going to feed their family but how much of it, which is disastrous as far as I am concerned.”

Mr Durkan said Coles customers, particularly in lower socio-economic areas, are shifting from buying premium products to the supermarket giant’s own range of private label products, and are spending less on fresh produce and fresh meat.

“Undoubtedly this is happening,” Mr Durkan told reporters.

“In essence, these households are being forced to trade off healthier options for their families.”

Spending on groceries and food items was one of the most common sources of expenditure reduction, according to consumer surveys, despite relatively low food and grocery price inflation over the period, Mr Durkan said.

Research commissioned by Coles on cost of living trends in Australia shows consumers are paying higher prices for utilities, childcare, health and education, which in turn is contributing to cautious spending.

The report, which draws data between 2011 and 2015 from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling and consumer surveys, notes the cost increases had a greater impact on lower income families than wealthier households.

Mr Durkan also said that while many Australian suppliers support lower prices, some multinational companies, such as Heinz and Coca-Cola, are charging Australians more for their products than in overseas grocery markets.

“This is frustrating to me because often the price differences relate to the same product made and sourced from the same place,” he said.

Coles and rival Woolworths are both pushing to increase their private label product ranges as part of their strategy to cut prices and save margins.

Mr Durkan said Coles will continue to invest in lowering prices but insisted the move would not depress the supermarket giant’s earnings, instead helping to ensure longer term growth.

Macquarie says bank levy hits it hardest

Macquarie Group expects to make another annual profit of around $2.

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2 billion despite the impact of the federal government’s new bank levy.

The banking and financial services group said its performance in the first quarter of its 2017/18 fiscal year, which ends in March, was in line with expectations – stronger than a year ago but weaker than the final quarter of its 2016/17 year.

Macquarie said it benefited from improved trading conditions in its commodities and global markets operations, and growth continued in its banking and financial services operations, particularly in mortgages, deposits and business banking.

The company has forecast an annual profit broadly in line with the previous year’s record $2.2 billion.

Speaking at Macquarie’s annual general meeting, chairman Peter Warne said the federal government’s bank levy will have an estimated pre-tax annual cost of $66 million, effectively raising Macquarie Bank’s tax rate from 34 per cent to 41 per cent.

The levy applies to non-retail deposit liabilities held by Australia’s big four banks and Macquarie Bank.

“The new tax will have a disproportionately higher impact on Macquarie Bank compared to the major Australian banks given our business mix is more heavily weighted to wholesale and international business,” Mr Warne said.

Approximately one third of Macquarie Bank’s earnings in 2016/17 were generated by its Australian operations, Mr Warne said, and the bank has a market share of about two per cent on most Australian banking products.

“Given the relatively small size of our Australian banking business we were surprised by our inclusion in the group to pay this levy,” he said.

“We have also expressed our concern to the government given the benefit we bring to domestic competition and innovation, the role we play in bringing offshore income into the Australian economy, and the potential for unintended consequences resulting from the levy.”

There was a sizeable 15 per cent vote against Macquarie’s executive remuneration at Thursday’s AGM, though that is well below the 25 per cent level required to register a so-called ‘first strike’.

Mr Moore’s remuneration rose to $18.7 million in 2016/17, including $12.6 million in share-based pay, while the total pay for Macquarie’s top executives rose to more than $126 million.

Macquarie shares gained $1.04 to $87.37.

Need to complete antibiotics questioned

The need to complete a full course of antibiotics has been questioned by experts in the UK, who argue the deeply embedded message puts patients at unnecessary risk from antibiotic resistance.

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It’s argued in a leading medical journal that there is “little evidence” that supports the idea that stopping treatment early encourages antibiotic resistance.

In an editorial published in the BMJ, Professor of infectious diseases Martin Llewelyn and colleagues at Brighton and Sussex Medical School say its time for policy makers and doctors to drop this message.

They say the “complete the course” notion ignores the fact that different patients respond to treatments in different ways, they said, and added: “Currently, we largely ignore this fact and instead make indication specific recommendations for antibiotic duration that are based on poor evidence.

“This situation is changing in hospital practice, where biomarkers of treatment response can guide when to stop antibiotic treatment.

“Outside hospital, where repeated testing may not be feasible, patients might be best advised to stop treatment when they feel better, in direct contradiction of WHO (World Health Organisation) advice.”

For common bacterial infections no evidence exists that stopping antibiotic treatment early increases a patient’s risk of resistant infection, the experts said.

Reducing unnecessary antibiotic use is essential to mitigate antibiotic resistance, they argued, adding that antibiotics are a “precious and finite natural resource” which should be given to each patient with a tailored treatment duration.

Associate Professor of Infectious Diseases at the Australian National University Sanjaya Senanayake it’s definitely a conversation worth having.

But, he says, says clinical trials to prove a need for much shorter antibiotic courses.

“We don’t want to reduce antibiotic resistance at the expense of people getting complications because their infection wasn’t treated properly in the first place,” Assoc Prof Senanayake told AAP.

“For example Golden Staph in the blood stream we treat for two weeks with intravenous antibiotics because we know if you treat less than that there’s a chance it could come back and if it does there’s a significantly bad outcome,” he said.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) says there will be no change in prescribing recommendations just yet.

“As more clinical evidence comes into play we will reflect that in our guidelines but we need to be sure we are not doing any harm,” said Dr Tony Bartone, Vice President of the AMA.

An entire course of antibiotics doesn’t always mean consuming an entire packet and patients should double check with their doctor the length of treatment required, advised Dr Bartone.

“It might be a five day course or a seven day course and you may have a 10 packet and penicillin is one that comes to mind,” he said.

Britain vows to step-up Pacific engagement

Britain is planning to send two new aircraft carriers to the Asia-Pacific as it promises to step up its engagement in the region and with Australia.

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North Korea and China were discussed “in depth” at a meeting of the two nations’ foreign and defence ministers in Sydney on Thursday.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the international rules-based order that has underpinned peace, stability and security in the region is under strain.

“We spoke about the challenges including in the South China Sea and we had a long discussion about the Pacific and the opportunities for deeper British engagement in our part of the world,” she told reporters.

They agreed to identify opportunities to conduct – where possible – joint activities when the two countries have ships or planes in the area at the same time.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said one of the first things Britain will do when two new “colossal” aircraft carriers are ready is send them on a freedom of navigation operation in the waters of Korea and Japan.

“To vindicate our belief in the rules-based international system and in the freedom of navigation through those waterways which are absolutely vital for world trade,” he told reporters.

Late last year, Britain sent a squadron of Typhoon aircraft to conduct joint air drills with Japan amid heightened tension over the East and South China seas.

Both countries on Friday reiterated calls for China to use its influence over North Korea to get the pariah state to abandon its missile program.

It comes amid reports the Pentagon predicts Kim Jong-un will be able to make reliable, nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles as early as next year.

Defence Minister Marise Payne said Australia has been consistent in calling on North Korea to stop its provocative actions.

“Its long-term interests, the region’s long-term interests and the world’s long-term interests would be best served by them ceasing their nuclear activity and ballistic missile programs and engaging positively with the international community,” she said.

British Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon echoed her sentiments, saying the tests were dangerous, illegal and in breach of United Nations obligations.

He said it was not possible to put together a missile program like North Korea’s without assistance from the outside – whether it be financial, commercial or scientific.

“It is now for Beijing to use the influence it has over the North Korean regime to get it to abandon its program,” he said.

Victorian university students slam ‘no Chinese’ posters

The posters written in Chinese declared: ‘Attention! This is a place that prohibits Chinese people to enter.

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Any offence is subject to prosecution or possible deportation’.

Covered with logos from the National Union of Students, the Monash Chinese Student Association, and the Chinese Student and Scholars Association at the University of Melbourne were displayed in several locations around university campuses.

Shocked students took to social media to vent their disgust.

@CSSAunimelb @CSSAUM @UMSUunimelb tell me this is a joke! Otherwise I’ll report discrimination to @unimelb

— Lisa Lu (@lisatinglu) July 24, 2017“No Chinese Allowed” signs seen around universities in Melbourne 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/dMj07zK6BH pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/RiXNVQaoEg

— Cheng Liu (@liu_da_cheng) July 24, 2017

A white supremacist group called ‘Antipodean Resistance’ claimed responsibility for the posters on their Twitter page which contains posts praising Hitler.

And it appears their attack on two Melbourne universities was not the first one.

On the group’s Twitter page there are incidents of members posting racist material at other university campuses in Sydney, Brisbane and Newcastle.

Nonwhites get PRANKED, told that Chinese are not allowed in two universities, report to the office or be deported: 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/PxVlei5wbl pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/ejY7ya1Mkd

— AntipodeanResistance (@NS_Australia) July 24, 2017

Universities were quick to remove the offensive material, saying “this does not reflect the ethics of our community.”

“The University finds this material and associated behaviour reprehensible,” a Monash University spokesperson said in a statement.

“This disgusting behaviour has occurred before at Monash and other Australian universities and the community is sick of it.”

The NUS and Chinese student association at Monash and the University of Melbourne said in a joint statement they would not rule out legal action against perpetrators.

“Our society has been maliciously slandered by these notices put up around the university campus and it has created a harmful and poisonous atmosphere for all students.”

Students at Monash University held anti-racism campaigns across campus in response to the posters.

“Any Chinese-speaking student would have been shocked and confused to find these around campus. It’s a disgrace,” Monash Student Association Environment and Social Justice Department said in a social media post.

“This year we’ve seen pro-Nazi, pro-fascist, pro-Hanson, anti-migrant, anti-Muslim, and now anti-Chinese leaflets and posters on and around Clayton [campus].”

“This just confirms our commitment to taking a public stand against racism and all other forms of prejudice and discrimination.”

Students launch anti-racism capaign across campuss after offensive posters were posted around campuses.MSA Environment and Social Justice Department

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