By Balazs Koranyi and Rob Taylor OSLO/CANBERRA (Reuters) - Two center-left governments on opposite sides of the globe are likely to lose power this month, despite both presiding over commodity-fuelled booms while other economies sank into crisis. Voters in Australia and Norway are almost certain to boot out their governments within a couple of days of each other, fed up with blunders and scandals, and worried that wealth created by high minerals and oil prices has not been spent wisely. Opinion polls indicate sound defeats for Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in parliamentary elections on Sept 7 and his Norwegian Labour counterpart Jens Stoltenberg on Sept 9. In both countries a weariness with parties that have served relatively long terms is mixed with concern that the economic miracles are fading, leaving the countries badly prepared for life after the resources boom. Oslo lawyer Peter Isaksen gives Stoltenberg no credit for Norway's good times. "The government doesn't set the oil price, so that's not their merit, and we have become dangerously dependent on oil," said Isaksen, who describes himself as a swing voter. "And I'm really tired of them." "It's a comfortable life now but I'm not so sure about the future," Isaksen added. Australia's dusty outback and the frigid seas off Norway are worlds apart, but wealth from there has helped both economies to prosper over the past decade. An unprecedented commodities boom made them among the richest countries in the world, insulated from years of international economic crisis after the 2008 financial crash. Australia has enjoyed 22 years without a recession, thanks to appetite for its iron ore and coal, while Norway's per capita GDP hit $100,000 this year on booming oil and gas exports. The United Nations have ranked the two as the best places to live. While some similarities are striking, so are the differences. Rudd's Labor party has been beset by a long-running leadership struggle, while the wider election campaign has sunk at times into smear. Rupert Murdoch's Sydney tabloid newspaper, for instance, has depicted Rudd as a bumbling Nazi running a "mob". By contrast Nordic civility has characterized the Norwegian campaign. The government's handling of Norway's darkest post-war day two years ago - when Anders Behring Breivik slaughtered 77 people, most of them young members of Stoltenberg's Labour party - has been a taboo issue. But the outcomes are likely to be similar. The latest Norwegian opinion poll showed a four-party conservative opposition bloc on course to win 95 seats in parliament, 10 more than it needs for a majority. In Australia, polls give the opposition conservatives 53 percent support to Labor's 47 percent, enough to sweep Rudd's minority government aside. WASTED BOOM? Australia's bull run, propelled by China's until recently insatiable demand for natural resources, lifted household net wealth by over a quarter in the past decade to $728,000 while keeping unemployment at a relatively low 5.7 percent - a level undreamed of throughout most of Europe, outside Norway. But with the good times have come rising living costs and a soaring Australian dollar, hurting other sectors of the economy such as manufacturing and retail. Mining wages are now the second highest in the world, trailing only those in Norway's energy industry, creating huge pressure for other industries competing for workers. Car manufacturing has been hit particularly hard while consumers have started saving much more and borrowing a lot less, a poisonous mixture for the retail sector. Aside from the economy, Rudd's government has struggled to handle asylum seekers trying to head for the country and to stop human trafficking. "Voters want governments that do two things: manage the economy and national security. People think they have done neither," Nick Economou, a political scientist at Monash University in Melbourne said. The federal or "Commonwealth" government has raised the mining tax, citing Norway's 78 percent levy on oil income as an example, while easing the burden on the low-paid. Overall it has failed to rein in a budget shortfall in a country where surpluses are normal and deficit is a dirty word. "The Commonwealth Government has not saved enough of the proceeds of the boom. Tax decreases and spending increases have been larger than Australia can afford in the long run," the Grattan Institute, a think tank funded mostly by the government said. "Underlying budget deficits now need to be repaired in more difficult times." Growth in both countries remains high compared with most other developed economies but shows signs that more difficult times do lie ahead. Australia's economy grew 3.1 percent in 2012 but in the first quarter this year the annual rate slipped to 2.5 percent, and is forecast to have stayed at that level in the second as demand and prices for its commodities cool. Norway has followed an eerily similar path, as record investments in the offshore oil sector pushed wages and the currency sharply higher, leaving traditional industries unable to compete on their already struggling overseas markets. Growth is also expected to slow this year to 2.5 percent, according to the central bank, from 3.4 percent in 2012. Even this may prove overoptimistic; second quarter GDP was much weaker than forecast as the industries outside the energy sector suffer and households cut spending sharply. The oil sector, which accounts for a fifth of the economy, is working to capacity and keeping unemployment below 3 percent, but bankruptcies in traditional industries were up 46 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier while productivity growth stagnated. The Norwegian state is saving oil wealth, amassing $750 billion or $150,000 per man, woman and child. But the opposition accuses the government of wasteful spending, saying it should plough more into infrastructure, health and care of the elderly. "The state has become a lot bigger but not any better, a lot of people will argue, and there's a lot of credibility in that argument," Johannes Bergh, a political analyst at the Institute for Social Research in Oslo said. "People will argue they didn't do enough to prepare for Norway after the oil." More than anything, many Australians and Norwegians just want a change. For Rudd, the biggest problem is voters' anger about a de-stabilizing leadership fight that has lasted for much of Labor's six years in power. In 2010 Rudd was ousted by Julia Gillard, only for Rudd to stage a counter-coup this year after much bitter and very public infighting. "What they did to Rudd, they should never have done. That's played so badly with people, and they've never forgiven them for what happened," says Sydney voter Trish McCudden, 66, a lifelong Labor supporter now considering a switch to the Greens. Ruling without a parliamentary majority for three years only added to the trouble as the government was often forced into messy compromises and policy flip-flops, infuriating voters. DARK SHADOW For Stoltenberg, the fight is with history and a dark shadow that has hung over Norway since Breivik attacked the government building and a Labour Party youth camp. "Talking about the attack is a taboo in the campaign, not least because the attack was on Labour itself," Terje Knutsen, a political science professor at the University of Bergen said. However, a government commission determined that the Stoltenberg administration, the police and security services had made several blunders and Breivik's attack may have been preventable. "That report created a strong feeling they are not fit to govern," Knutsen said. Stoltenberg, who won elections in 2005 and 2009, also seems at odds with a Norwegian political culture that does not favor long-serving leaders. On top of a brief first term more than a decade ago, he has been in office for the past eight years, the longest stint for any leader in half a century. He is now bidding for a third straight term, something no Norwegian prime minister has achieved. (Additional reporting by Wayne Cole and Michael Sin in Sydney and Joachim Dagenborg in Oslo; editing by David Stamp)
- The Week
Biden did not, in fact, remove Trump's 'Diet Coke button' from the Resolute Desk, White House clarifies
The new Biden administration has yet not disclosed the secrets of Area 51 or explained what the Air Force really knows about UFOs, but it did clarify, at least, the mystery of the vanished "Diet Coke button" former President Donald Trump would use to summon refreshments in the Oval Office. The usher button, as it is formally known, is not gone, even if it is no longer used to summon Diet Cokes, a White House official tells Politico.The White House official "unfortunately wouldn't say what Biden will use the button for," Politico's Daniel Lippman writes, suggesting Biden might summon Orange Gatorade and not the obvious answer, ice cream — or, let's get real, coffee. What's more, there are evidently two usher buttons in the Oval Office, one at the Resolute Desk and the other next to the chair by the fireplace, a former White House official told Politico, adding that Trump didn't actually use the Diet Coke button all that much because "he would usually just verbally ask the valets, who were around all day, for what he needed."In any case, it is not the placement of the button that matters, of course, but how you use it. And Biden will presumably know better than to order ice cream treats during a top-secret national security briefing.More stories from theweek.com Democrats are getting Chuck Grassleyed MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell permanently banned from Twitter Josh Hawley knows exactly what he's doing
President Joe Biden will continue his flurry of executive orders on Monday, signing a new directive to require the federal government to “buy American” for products and services. Why it matters: The executive action is yet another attempt by Biden to accomplish goals administratively without waiting for the backing of Congress. The new order echoes Biden's $400 billion campaign pledge to increase government purchases of American goods.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.What they're saying: "President Biden is ensuring that when the federal government spends taxpayer dollars they are spent on American made goods by American workers and with American-made component parts," the White House said in a fact sheet.The big picture: Biden’s action kick offs another week in which the president will seek to undo many Trump policies with executive actions, while signaling the direction that he wants to take the country. * Biden will also reaffirm his support for the Jones Act, which requires maritime shipments between American ports to be carried on U.S. vessels. * Last week, Biden signed an order to attempt to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors and workers to $15 an hour.The bottom line: Former President Trump also attempted to force the federal government to rely on U.S. manufacturers for procurement with "buy American" provisions. * But supply chains — with some parts and components made outside of the U.S. — require long and complicated efforts to boost domestic manufacturing. Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
The death toll from storm Eloise rose to at least 13 on Monday after heavy winds, rain and flooding destroyed buildings, drowned crops and displaced thousands in parts of southern Africa. Eloise weakened from a cyclone to a tropical storm after making landfall in central Mozambique on Saturday, but continued to dump rain on Zimbabwe, eSwatini - formerly known as Swaziland - South Africa and Botswana. Six people were killed in Mozambique, the country's National Institute for Disaster Risk Management and Reduction (INGD) reported, while the number of displaced people rose to more than 8,000, with thousands of homes wrecked or flooded.
- The Week
In an interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Monday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said his caucus won't allow Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to dictate the agenda in the Democratic-led 50-50 Senate or demand an end to the legislative filibuster as a precondition for a power-sharing pact. "We've told McConnell no on the organizing resolution, and that's that. So there's no negotiations on that," Schumer said, suggesting he had a secret plan. "There are ways to deal with him."Maddow included an update when she broadcast the interview Monday night. "While we were airing that right now, and you were watching it, Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell just put out a statement that he is folding on this" and willl "agree to go forward with what Sen. Schumer told him he must," she said. "Sen. Mitch McConnell has caved and Sen. Schumer has won that fight. That was quick. Let's see what else we can do."> No sooner has the portion of Rachel Maddow's interview with Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer aired than Mitch McConnell has put out a statement that he is folding, ending the stand-off. pic.twitter.com/9qR1jpKXkf> > -- Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) January 26, 2021McConnell said he would allow the Senate to move forward because two Democrats had reiterated their opposition to ending the filibuster, effectively taking that option off the table. Maddow asked Schumer about that, too, and he didn't answer directly."The caucus is united with the belief that I have: We must get big, strong, bold things done," Schumer said. The Democratic caucus is also "totally united" that "we will not let Mitch McConnell dictate to us what we will do and not do," and "we have tools that we can use," notably the budget reconciliation process," he added. "We will come together as a caucus and figure it out."> "We will not let Mitch McConnell dictate to us what we will do and not do." Here's Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer earlier in his interview with Rachel Maddow, talking about the filibuster specifically, and getting things done. pic.twitter.com/xOAKWfe2Fu> > -- Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) January 26, 2021Schumer also suggested he is not interested in playing cat-and-mouse with McConnell's Republicans again. Watch below. > "We will not repeat that mistake." Senate Majority Leader Schumer cites Obama era lessons in prioritizing legislation over bad faith Republican 'bipartisanship.' pic.twitter.com/gpc1kBP45w> > -- Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) January 26, 2021More stories from theweek.com Democrats are getting Chuck Grassleyed Biden did not, in fact, remove Trump's 'Diet Coke button' from the Resolute Desk, White House clarifies MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell permanently banned from Twitter
- Associated Press
Five days into her new role, Jill Biden signaled Monday that she'll be a more active first lady, with a trio of virtual appearances before governors' spouses, young Latinos and library officials. Jill Biden's early moves seemed designed to signal that she intends to be more active than her predecessor, Melania Trump. Mrs. Trump often allowed weeks to pass between her public appearances.
- Los Angeles Times Opinion
Gov. Newsom needs to do a better job communicating California's statewide COVID restrictions with the public, and with other state officials.
- NBC News
Brittney Gilliam had taken her family for a "Sunday funday" when officers with guns drawn ordered her and the four underage girls with her to exit the car.
- Yahoo News Video
Israeli authorities on Monday extradited a former teacher accused of sexually abusing her former students in Australia, capping a six-year legal battle that had strained relations between the two governments and antagonized Australia's Jewish community.
An explosion was heard in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh on Tuesday and the cause was not immediately known. Several witnesses also reported hearing two loud bangs and seeing a small plume of smoke above the capital just before 1 P.M. local time (10 A.M. GMT). Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV cited local reports of an explosion and videos circulating on social media purporting to show a missile being intercepted over Riyadh.
- Associated Press
President Joe Biden has brought back Dr. Kevin O'Connor as his physician, replacing President Donald Trump's doctor with the one who oversaw his care when he was vice president. The White House confirmed that Dr. Sean Conley, the Navy commander who served as the head of the White House Medical Unit under Trump and oversaw his treatment when he was hospitalized with COVID-19, will assume a teaching role at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. O'Connor, a retired Army colonel, was Biden's doctor during his entire tenure as vice president, having remained in the role at Biden's request.
Charlotte’s most popular millennial politician dad, Democratic state senator Jeff Jackson, will announce a bid for U.S. Senate this morning, kicking off a 2022 race for Richard Burr’s seat that could include Lara Trump on the Republican side.Why it matters: After a 2020 Senate race that was one of the most expensive on record, North Carolina again figures to be a pricey fight for the balance of power in the midterms.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here. * A potential matchup between a member of the Trump family and Jackson — a media-savvy attorney and National Guardsman who in every campaign makes a point to say that his opponents are good people — certainly won’t diminish that intrigue. * Jackson, a father of three, told his wife Marisa that if he were to win the primary, they could expect “$100 million in negative ads, just tearing me down” in the general. * As they watched the riots at the Capitol on Jan. 6, Marisa told him, “You have to run.”Context: Many people remember the 2020 Senate race mainly for Democrat Cal Cunningham’s cringey texts and affair, which he was forced to apologize for. Cunningham was a veteran who also hinged his campaign on his character. * “There are going to be easy comparisons to make,” Jackson said. “But as the campaign goes on, within 60-90 days they’ll see that this is a completely different campaign and I’m a completely different person.” * State Sen. Erica Smith, who got 35% against Cunningham in the 2020 Democratic primary, is running again in 2022.In a Jan. 21 interview with Real America’s Voice, Lara Trump said of a Senate run: “It’s possible. … We can’t stay away for long. We’re all again in this fight for the rest of our lives in some form.” * Former Gov. Pat McCrory is also considering a run in the Republican primary.Fun fact: Jackson has about 200,000 followers across Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, not bad for a local politician whose district only sees about 110,000 votes cast. His following took off one icy day in February 2015, when he was alone in the state capitol tweeting about all the bills he was passing with unanimous support. Of course he was the only one voting. * “This is going to be like, ‘Night at the Museum’ except at the end we’ll have a stronger middle class,” he tweeted.Find more stories like this one in the forthcoming Axios Charlotte newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard. * Sign up here.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- NBC News
The eight other current and former police officers were indicted in what authorities described as a long-term scheme to steal overtime money.
- The Guardian
Trump ally, who claims lawsuit against him is ‘act of intimidation to censor the exercise of free speech’, threatened New York Post Giuliani in Washington in November. On Monday, Dominion sued Giuliani in federal court in Washington, over his claims about supposed electoral fraud. Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin/AP On Monday, Rudy Giuliani called a $1.3bn lawsuit brought against him by Dominion Voting Systems “another act of intimidation by the hate-filled left wing to wipe out and censor the exercise of free speech”. But Giuliani has himself previously threatened to censor the exercise of free speech with legal action. The former New York mayor turned Trump attorney was invoking current rightwing complaints against so-called “cancel culture”, in which freedom of speech is supposedly curtailed. But in June 2001, the New York Post ran a story about an extra-marital affair. Giuliani told reporters: “I will consider suing them for libel – defamation. What the New York Post did is scurrilous, I believe it’s malicious and I’m prepared to prove that in court if I have to.” First amendment protection of freedom of the press makes it difficult for US public officials to mount libel lawsuits, even if reports are proved to be wrong. Giuliani did not take the Post to court. On Monday, Dominion sued Giuliani in federal court in Washington, over his claims about supposed electoral fraud, made as part of Donald Trump’s baseless attempts to overturn defeat by Joe Biden, efforts which culminated in the deadly attack on the US Capitol on 6 January. “Dominion brings this action to set the record straight,” the complaint said, “to vindicate the company’s rights under civil law, to recover compensatory and punitive damages, and to stand up for itself, its employees, and the electoral process.” Dominion’s lawyer, Thomas Clare, told the New York Times the company could sue others, including Trump. “We’re not ruling anybody out,” he said. “Obviously, this lawsuit against the president’s lawyer moves one step closer to the former president and understanding what his role was and wasn’t.” Some experts said Dominion might itself count as a public figure, and thus have a hard time winning its case. Giuliani said he might counter-sue Dominion. “The amount being asked for is, quite obviously, intended to frighten people of faint heart. It is another act of intimidation by the hate-filled left wing to wipe out and censor the exercise of free speech, as well as the ability of lawyers to defend their clients vigorously. As such, we will investigate a countersuit against them for violating these constitutional rights,” he said. It remains to be seen if Giuliani will follow through. Nearly 20 years ago, he did not. Giuliani threatened to sue the Post over its story about how, as the New York Daily News described it, the mayor and his “girlfriend Judith Nathan [were] using the posh St Regis Hotel as a ‘secret love nest’”. Negotiations between Giuliani and the Post followed but nearly six weeks later, on 18 July, the Daily News reported that Giuliani had not made good on his threat. “When I’m ready to decide, you’ll be the first to know,” he said. “But I don’t get rushed into anything.”
- The Independent
First family orders sesame bagels with cream cheese
Donald Trump opened an office in Florida on Monday that will handle his duties as a former U.S. president and seek to further his administration's agenda. "The Office will be responsible for managing President Trump's correspondence, public statements, appearances, and official activities to advance the interests of the United States and to carry on the agenda of the Trump Administration through advocacy, organizing, and public activism," a statement said. The announcement came on the same day the House of Representatives delivered to the Senate an impeachment article charging Trump with inciting insurrection in a speech to supporters before the deadly attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6.
- Associated Press
Indonesian authorities have detained the Iranian and Chinese crewmembers of two tankers that were seized for illegally transferring oil in Indonesian waters, an official said Tuesday. “MT Freya did the oil spilling,” Pramandita said.
A Chinese-born Canadian known as Asia’s “El Chapo” has been arrested in Amsterdam on Friday. Tse Chi Lop, 57, reportedly made up to $17.7 billion a year as the alleged leader of Asia’s biggest crime syndicate in history, referred to by its members as “The Company” and by law enforcers as "Sam Gor" Tse allegedly conducted Sam Gor’s operations in Hong Kong, Macau and Southeast Asia. It turns out Tse was responsible for 70% of the drugs that reach Australia.
- NBC News
He said he spotted a carseat on the curb while delivering package, but at first did not realize there was a baby in it.
The United States on Monday approved all transactions involving Yemen's Houthi movement for the next month as Washington reviews a Trump administration designation of the Iran-aligned group as a foreign terrorist organization. The move appeared designed to allay fears of companies and banks involved in commercial trade to Yemen, which relies almost solely on imports. The Treasury Department in a Frequently Asked Question specifically stated that foreign banks will not be exposed to sanctions "if they knowingly conduct or facilitate a transaction" for the Houthis.
- The Independent
Giuliani slams ‘hate-filled left-wing’ as he responds to $1.3bn defamation lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems
Donald Trump’s personal lawyer claims legal action is intended to ‘frighten people of faint heart’