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The greatest show in rock n’ roll

“It’s like a fairytale,” rasps Keith Richards when asked to describe his five decades as a Rolling Stone. Not the kind of fairytale used to soothe troubled infants, perhaps. But the story of the Stones is as fantastical and familiar as any good fable.
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And it’s true – well, most of it. Richards made up the stories about having his blood changed in a Swiss clinic and snorting his father’s ashes; Marianne Faithfull and the Mars bar is a myth. But the tale of the English blues fans who survived drug addiction, arrests, defections and deaths to become the World’s Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band is one of pop culture’s most cherished narratives.

Pity the filmmaker who has to find something new to say about the Stones. Or, rather, don’t, because Brett Morgen was thrilled to get the gig. When Mick Jagger asked the 44-year-old American to make a documentary to mark the band’s 50th anniversary, he jumped at the chance.

“Mick … wanted to do something cinematic, that felt like a movie,” says Morgen, who premiered Crossfire Hurricane at the London Film Festival in October. “I decided to focus on the transition from scruffy anti-heroes to rock royalty.”

The film begins in 1962, the year the Stones formed, and ends it 1981 when their US tour grossed a staggering $US50 million. Unlike previous documentaries – 25×5: The Continuing Adventures of the Rolling Stones (1989), for example – the band members don’t appear on camera. Their voices, recorded during 80 hours of one-on-one interviews, comment directly and indirectly on footage culled from every known archival source.

“It was a collective decision not to film the band members,” Morgen says. “I don’t like talking heads myself. They’re great for broadcast journalism but deadly in a cinema. And Mick said he didn’t want the film to be a bunch of old guys sitting in armchairs talking about the past.”

The Stones sound mostly the way they’ve always sounded. Richards is the unrepentant outlaw; Charlie Watts the reticent, uninterested loner. It’s left to Jagger to provide a few surprises – for example, the depth of his feeling about the death of founding member Brian Jones. Drug addiction left Jones incapable of contributing to the music and, in 1969, Jagger and Richards kicked him out of the group. Three weeks later Jones was found drowned in the pool of his country house.

“Brian is still a very charged subject,” Morgen says. “They all have a very different relationship to him and it’s changed since his death. I think Mick feels a lot of regret nowadays. Now he’s a grandfather and nearly 70, he realises they were just kids back then and didn’t know any better. They all did drugs, but Brian was someone who should never have taken them. Mick said to me several times that if he’d had the knowledge he had today, he would have sent Brian to rehab – or the whole band to rehab.”

Once the film was given the go-ahead, Morgen and his team gained access to every piece of film relating to the band. They compiled 1000 hours of footage, some of which had not been seen by the public. There were 40 hours of outtakes from Cocksucker Blues, the notorious feature about the 1972 US tour, as well as unused sequences shot on a short Irish tour in 1965.

“One of my great finds was some home movies the Stones shot during the 1973 Australian tour,” Morgen says. “It was shot by Mick and he’d pass the camera to Keith and the roadies.” That footage, including shaky images of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, is used in a segment discussing the departure of guitarist Mick Taylor in 1974. It is underscored by the band’s ragged ballad Angie.

“One of the interesting things that came through is that none of the guys had any idea why he [Taylor] left. And this is 35 years later. Keith couldn’t remember, Jagger thought it was a stupid decision and Charlie thought it was because he wanted a solo career. Mick Taylor explains it best. He says he was falling into heroin addiction and wanted to protect himself and his family from that scene.”

Some reviews of Crossfire Hurricane have criticised the documentary, claiming it simply recycles old footage and fails to say anything new. Morgen says “about 40 per cent” of the footage is previously unseen and, in any case, such criticisms miss the point. “When you make a film like this, you take all this material and appropriate it and make something new,” he says. “It’s postmodern film making in a way …”

His take on the band’s story is also contemporary. “The narrative I locked onto was the one about role playing – we all have roles to play and sometimes that role can destroy you,” he says. “These guys were cast to play the bad boys, but they were really quite innocent at first. Their hair was probably an eighth of an inch longer than the Beatles. But after Redlands [a drug raid on Richards’s country house in 1967] things started to get serious and dark. The band turned against the press. At that point they put on a black hat and played that role of the bad guys to the hilt. They are almost devoured by the roles they were playing. But the moment Keith kicks his habit, the story resolves itself … they become respectable.”

Morgen’s decision to end the film in 1981 – he says the Stones would have preferred the documentary to cover a broader period – seems to support the idea the band were a spent force after the release of Tattoo You. The director demurs. “They had a 20-year run in terms of creating incredible original material – that’s more than just about any artist that has walked this planet,” he says. ”And while their musical output might have become more sparse, they certainly fulfilled their destiny as the greatest show in rock’n’roll.”

Crossfire Hurricane

ABC2, Sunday, 8.30pm

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Protection not the answer for car industry: Coalition

The opposition has stepped up its attacks on taxpayer-funded subsidies for the domestic car industry, saying today’s sackings by Ford show the handouts do not work.
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The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, said on Friday that the Coalition supported a ”viable” motor industry but he said the government’s policy of subsidies ”have let a lot of people down”.

”I hope that future government policies can be much more efficient,” he said.

Ford in Victoria received a $103 million assistance package from the state and federal governments and its US parent company in January this year.

The federal government’s contribution was $34 million and the state government was believed to have invested about $19 million.

But it is axing 212 jobs at Victoria’s Geelong and Broadmeadows plants due to a slump in large car sales and a production reduction.

The shadow industry minister, Sophie Mirabella, said Prime Minister Julia Gillard promised Ford would create 300 jobs in return for the $34 million.

“Julia Gillard has broken her promise to create 300 new jobs and broken her election promise not to introduce a carbon tax. Labor has systematically dismantled business confidence and the economic stability that Australia used to enjoy,” she said.

The shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, has long opposed such industry assistance and declared on Friday morning that ”protection is not the answer”.

”People are not buying Australian-made cars because they don’t want to buy Australian-made cars, and the cars are not meeting their demands as consumers,” he told the Seven Network.

”The government gave $34 million to Ford in January this year, the prime minister said this is going to create an extra 300 jobs, (now) 340 jobs have gone.”

He says it is up to auto manufacturers to create cars Australian consumers want.

”Any time we go down this protection route, we lose out,” he said.

”The bottom line is we need an efficient car, we need cars that Australians want, and then the motor vehicle industry will survive.”

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union says only 33 per cent of Australian governments’ fleets are from Australian car makers, compared with 66 per cent a decade ago.

The Coalition is yet to unveil its car industry policy but the Industry Minster, Greg Combet, said it would be a ”job wrecker”.

”The manufacturing industry is undergoing significant change, particularly as a result of the high value of the Australian dollar, but Labor is committed to working with the auto sector to ensure it has a strong future,” he said.

Dave Smith from the AMWU said that Mr Hockey’s comments scream of someone out of touch with working people.

”Australians love the quality cars we produce. They may not suit former investment bankers who would only feel comfortable in something from Germany – but for many of us, driving a locally made Ford, Holden or Toyota is a matter of pride,” he said.

”But as a former investment banker, we would expect Mr Hockey to have some idea of how market forces work. If Mr Hockey had such knowledge, he may be aware that the decrease in car sales is clearly a result of the GFC, the high Australian dollar and the tariffs imposed on our cars  – not Australians’ love for our locally produced cars.

”Mr Hockey’s side of politics intends to kill the car industry by cutting half a billion dollars in support. That will result in thousands of job losses and ruin the skills and innovation that feed our manufacturing  industry.”

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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Porn film industry threatens to quit LA

Producers claim Measure B will make it too expensive to make adult films in Los Angeles.Los Angeles has been fighting a tide of big-budget movie and television productions quitting the county.
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Now it may face the emigration of another home-grown industry – adult entertainment.

That’s the spectre raised by some of the hundreds of pornography producers in LA after voters approved Measure B, which requires performers to wear condoms and establishes a permission system for adult entertainment shoots.

The law was advocated by AIDS activists who said it would protect performers from disease.

But the measure has been widely panned in the industry, which says mandatory actor testing for HIV is effective and that the law’s real agenda is to put them out of business.

Although it is unclear how the permit system will work, officials estimate it will cost $300,000 a year to enforce. Industry executives and producers contend that will saddle them with high permit fees and force them to create entertainment for which there is no demand.

“People who enjoy adult films do not want to watch actors using condoms – period. So there’s no market for it,” said industry veteran Larry Flynt, whose Hustler publishing and adult video empire is based in Beverly Hills. “We won’t be doing anything in Los Angeles.”

Flynt said he was already planning to shift more production to Mexico, Arizona and Hawaii. Smaller companies may follow.

“The bill will make it too complicated and too expensive to shoot in LA,” said director-producer Glenn King, owner of MeanBitch Productions. “We’re a small business just like anyone else. If we can’t exist under this new law, we’ll have to look at other options.”

Some porn producers have already threatened to move from the San Fernando Valley to other counties in California, or Las Vegas, Miami or even Budapest in Hungary, Europe’s porn production hub.

“These companies are not going to take a chance of losing sales for the sake of complying with Measure B, so they will undoubtedly up and leave,” said Alec Helmy, the president and publisher of XBiz, a trade publication for the industry. “There’s no shortage of locations when it comes to shooting porn. It doesn’t take a lot of equipment and it’s not like shooting Jurassic Park.”

Christian Mann, the general manager of Evil Angel Video, a distributor of adult entertainment, predicted “a lot of the content we distribute will be shot in Europe or outside of Los Angeles”.

Steve Orenstein, the president of Wicked Pictures, whose company has long required performers to use condoms, said Measure B put a further squeeze on a struggling industry.

“They are going to potentially charge thousands of dollars per shoot so they can manage what we’ve already been doing for 14 years,” he said. “This is a bad time to be doing this.”

Adult entertainment boomed after the advent of home video in the 1980s. A decade ago, economists estimated the porn industry in the San Fernando Valley generated 10,000 to 20,000 jobs annually and had $US4 billion in annual sales.

But declining DVD sales and the availability of free porn on the internet have hammered the local industry. The number of producers in LA has fallen to about 300, from 500 at its peak in 2005, Helmy said.

Although porn production accounts for less than 5 per cent of all film permits in the county, the industry is an important player in the local entertainment economy.

About 5000 adult films are shot in Los Angeles County each year in warehouses and private homes, according to industry estimates. FilmLA, a non-profit group that handles film permits for the city and the county, issues about 500 permits a year for adult entertainment shoots.

“I don’t know how many of the companies will leave but there would be an impact for the region if the adult film industry were to truly pack up and leave California,” said the president of FilmLA, Paul Audley.

The films mostly fly under the radar but occasionally cause a backlash. In 2006, residents of a neighbourhood in Encino complained to officials about an onslaught of porn filming, including during the Easter holiday.

The Free Speech Coalition, the adult film lobbying group that has threatened to file a legal challenge against Measure B, estimates its industry generates about $US1 billion a year in economic benefits to Los Angeles County and employs about 10,000 people. Among them are make-up artists, hair stylists, audio engineers, lighting technicians and other crew members, many of whom moonlight on porn shows to supplement their income from conventional film shoots.

“What’s kept the adult industry at the technical level it’s at is the fact that we’ve got access to all these people who are working on these big pictures,” said Jimmy Broadway, owner of Severe Society Films in LA. “They’re going to have to find other work, or be willing to travel.”


The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Global drug survey to rank Australian use

Party drugs … Australian drug use will be rated in a global survey.Drug and alcohol treatments are on the rise in Australia, new research shows, but little real-time information is available about how, why and what drugs mainstream Australia is using.
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Fairfax Media is partnering with the Global Drugs Survey, created by Adam Winstock, a Consultant Addiction Psychiatrist and researcher based in London, to help create the largest and most up-to-date snapshot of drug and alcohol use in Australia, and how we compare with the rest of the world.

Dr Winstock said last year’s survey, which 15,000 people filled out globally, including 500 from Australia, showed that, for many, drug use was characterised by confusion and dishonesty.

“People are appalling at knowing how their drug use compares to other people,” he said. “My favourite statistic from last year was 20 per cent of people who were alcohol dependent using the World Health Organisation screening tool thought their drinking was average or less than average.”

Nearly 40 per cent of people who had been asked about their drug use by their GP either lied and said they never used drugs, or downplayed their use. About 22 per cent of alcohol drinkers did the same.

The survey is being launched in Australia today, but will also be run in the US, in partnership with NBC, and in the UK, with The Guardian, Mixmag and the Gay Times.

Dr Winstock said he created the project to capture a broader snapshot of drug use than is usually available.

“Most governments are interested in drug use patterns among the sickest and most disadvantaged,” he said. “But that represents a fraction of the people who use drugs”.

Results of the survey have been published in the British Medical Journal, the Lancet and Addiction, and have helped produce a project called the drugs meter, where people can find out how their drug use compares to others.

Research released today shows drug and alcohol treatments have increased in Australia over the past year, with alcohol the drug most likely to get people into trouble.

Almost half the drug treatment episodes in 2010 to 2011 were for alcohol problems, according to data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

There were about 150,500 treatment sessions in that time, up from about 145,600 the year before.

You can take part of the global drugs survey over the next month on this website.

The Australian results will be published exclusively by Fairfax early in 2013.

The survey will ask a range of questions about your use of specific drugs, what happens if you are caught with them, new drug trends and the consequences of your drug use.

It will also ask about the short- and long-term benefits and harms of different drugs.

For example, last year, participants said cannabis had the most short-term psychological benefits, while alcohol had the most short-term social benefits. Alcohol was voted most harmful when it came to short-term physical, psychological and social effects.

Drugs covered by the survey include cocaine, ecstasy, cannabis, ketamine, mephedrone, alcohol, tobacco, “legal highs” and prescription medicines such as temazepam and opioid painkillers.

The survey is anonymous and secure, and takes about 20 to 25 minutes to complete.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Mercedes-Benz new model onslaught

Mercedes Benz Mercedes Benz
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Mercedes Benz

Mercedes-Benz is set to unleash its biggest model onslaught in recent history over the next 18 months, with at least seven new models due by mid-2014.

The new model ambush kicks off in December with the hot new B-Class, the B250, which is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine with 155kW and 350Nm, and can sprint from 0-100km/h in just 6.8 seconds – quicker than a VW Golf GTI.

The C-Class range will see the addition of the C250 Sport in December, and will be available in all body styles. It has been tuned by Mercedes-Benz performance arm AMG, and gets unique wheels, a body kit, sports suspension and a retuned computer for better performance.

The CLS Shooting Brake hits showrooms in February. Essentially a station-wagon version of the swoopy CLS four-door coupe, the new Shooting Brake will be offered in a range of trim levels, but all will come with a standard AMG styling package including a body kit and AMG wheels. The Shooting Brake versions will cost about $10,000 more than their equivalent sedan variants.

Included in that is the CLS250 CDI, a cheaper diesel variant which will be priced at about $110,000 for the sedan model – a hefty discount off the next-cheapest version, the CLS350 (priced at $159,200).

Possibly the most important Mercedes-Benz model in recent years – the new A-Class, arrives in March. There will be three variants, including two petrols and a diesel from launch. Pricing starts at $35,600.

The hotly anticipated AMG version, the A45 AMG, arrives in August, packing a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with about 250kW of power and 400Nm of torque – it’s likely to push the price towards $70,000.

Mercedes-Benz Australia corporate communications manager Jerry Stamoulis says Australia will get the new A45 AMG just a few weeks after its global launch, and that could mean some problems with supply in the initial phases of its rollout.

The company expects the arrival of the AMG A-Class to increase overall AMG sales by 50 per cent. In 2012, AMG sales have jumped by about 30 per cent, with the C-Class models up by 80 per cent. Stamoulis says the performance arm “is the big success story this year”.

At the other end of the size scale is the new GL seven-seat SUV. It goes on sale in April, and Mercedes-Benz is promising even more standard gear but with a similar price to the current version. Expect it to be close to the current price of $119,270 plus on-road costs for the base-model GL350 diesel.

The facelifted E-Class sedan and wagon go on sale in June. Expect similar engines and more technology, possibly including a few innovations trickling down from the new S-Class.

The E-Class Cabriolet and Coupe will arrive in September alongside the new AMG E-Class model. The company is being secretive about what the new E63 will offer that’ll make it significantly different to the current model, so stay tuned for more.

Mercedes-Benz’s technological tour-de-force, the S-Class, will arrive in November. Laden with several new safety technologies and boasting refined styling and lots of luxury, the new model will wave the flag at the top of the luxury car maker’s lineup.

Last of all for 2013 will be the new CLA. The small four-door sedan – which has been labelled the “mini CLS” by some – will give Benz a stylish new player in the market to sit above the A-Class hatchback.

It may be small in theory, but the new CLA will actually be bigger than the current-generation C-Class at 4.63 metres long (the C is 4.59m).

On the topic of the C-Class, its replacement will land in Australia in 2014. Exact timing isn’t yet confirmed, but the new model is expected to grow significantly compared to the current version, with length tipped to jump by 10 centimetres and width by about 4.3cm

Rumours persist of a new convertible version of the C-Class, which could make its world debut some time in 2014.

While nothing has been confirmed, spokesman Jerry Stamoulis says Mercedes-Benz Australia would be keen to get any new C-Class convertible model.

“The C-Class is so strong for us, we’ll take anything they make,” he says.

The timeline: New Mercedes-Benz models due soon

December 2012 – B250 hatch and C250 Sport in all body shapes.

February 2013 – Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake and CLS250 CDI

March 2013 – Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatch

April 2013 – Mercedes-Benz GL-Class SUV

June 2013 – Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan and wagon

August 2013 – Mercedes-Benz A-Class A45 AMG

September 2013 – Mercedes-Benz E-Class coupe, cabriolet and AMG variants

November 2013 – Mercedes-Benz S-Class limousine

December 2013 – Mercedes-Benz CLA small sedan

Mid-2014 – All-new Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Late-2014 – Mercedes-Benz C-Class cabriolet

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Hands on: Apple Maps turn-by-turn

Will turn-by-turn sat-nav directions help restore Australia’s confidence in Apple Maps?It really was amazing that Apple let a half-finished product like Apple Maps out the door without at least dubbing it a “beta” version as a disclaimer. It somewhat spoiled the launch of iOS6 and the iPhone 5 although, to be honest, if it wasn’t Apple Maps then people would have found something else to complain about. Looking for something wrong with the latest gadget, Apple or otherwise, is one of the new blood sports of the internet.As Apple works hard to improve Apple Maps, this week Australians finally got a taste of its sat-nav features. The phone issues turn-by-turn directions on the screen, read aloud in a Siri-style voice. Turn-by-turn navigation is only available on the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5 and iPad 2 or later with cellular data capability. If you’re using an iPhone 4 then Apple Maps will calculate routes and display turning information, but it won’t update automatically as you drive. This is disappointing considering the iPhone 4 is clearly capable of running a full sat-nav app.There was a time when I considered spoken directions essential so you can keep your eyes on the road, but I’ve changed my mind in recent years. Pictures of complicated intersections are easier to interpret than spoken instructions and it’s much easier to take a wrong turn if you’re only listening to the phone. Having the phone constantly interrupting can also cause a certain level of tension during long family drives (especially when you’re testing some new gadget but supposed to be on a relaxing family holiday).Tested on my iPhone 5 review unit, on loan from Telstra, Apple Maps’ sat-nav features are spartan but functional. You’re given a choice of several routes with estimated travel times, but no way to edit routes or add extra destinations. Once you’re on the road you get big, green road sign-style notifications of turns, while Siri’s pronunciation is pretty good. It’s easy to see where you’re going because, unlike some sat-nav apps, Apple doesn’t try to cram too much information into the maps.When you’re weaving through the back streets, Apple Maps does a good job of explaining and displaying close turns. It also copes well when you take a wrong turn, quickly and quietly recalculating. You’ve got no advanced onscreen information such as your current speed, but you can tap the screen to see your ETA.As a regular user of the TomTom app, one of my frustrations is that Apple Maps’ 3D view isn’t as close to eye level as TomTom. Apple Maps does grow on you after a while, especially with the taller iPhone 5 letting you see further into the distance. The phone can tell which direction you’re facing and turn the view, which is good and bad. If you’re waiting at an intersection but the road on the other side veers off on an angle, the road ahead runs off the screen you can’t look ahead for the next turn.The TomTom also does a better job of indicating lane changes and exits. I do like the fact that Apple Maps makes it easy to search for destinations by name when you don’t have a street address, whereas TomTom is too reliant on Facebook data for these kinds of searches.As for the accuracy of Apple’s maps, so far I haven’t encountered any problems navigating the street-level maps but I’ve only been playing with it for a short time. You hear plenty of horror stories but in my experience the problems with Apple Maps are more big picture than at street level. For example many country towns are marked in the wrong location, but once you get down to street level the roads are accurate.If I ask Apple Maps to take me to Mildura I’ll end up in a national park more than 50 kms to the south. It even gets the name of the park wrong, to add insult to injury. But if I search for “Walnut Avenue, Mildura” it takes me to the right spot. You can see what I mean in the image above. Apple Maps is supposedly powered by TomTom, but if I ask the TomTom app to take me to Mildura it takes me to the centre of town. Take a look at regional maps and Apple Maps places quite a few towns in the wrong spot. Many of the towns on the Murray aren’t anywhere near the river according to Apple Maps. It’s simply unacceptable.Apple Maps’ turn-by-turn features aren’t too bad, considering that it’s free, but the inaccuracies in the maps means it still needs to rate a fail compared to something like the TomTom or Navigon app. If you’ve been using a paid app you’re very unlikely to abandon it for Apple Maps. Near enough just isn’t good enough when it comes to satellite navigation and there’s a long road ahead before you can have complete faith in Apple Maps.
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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Big gains on small improvements

The AGM season must seem like a horror film for many investors. Seemingly every time a senior executive opens his or her mouth at one of these annual general meetings, there is a profit downgrade.
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Companies both big and small are being hit by either an underwhelming sales line due to depressed activity, or by lower profit margins as businesses all attempt to reduce costs at the same time.

The high profile downgrades at the big end of town have been builder James Hardie’s 35 per cent fall in its first half profit, chemicals producer Orica’s $367 million write-down. QBE seems to be in an endless cycle of profit warnings, Incitec Pivot says the soaring gas price is effecting production, while Origin Energy, which you would think is in a good position with the escalating price of electricity, flagged flat earnings.

Big and small are getting hit

At the smaller end it’s also been pretty miserable. Shares in market darling Webjet slumped after it warned of “very low growth levels”. In mining services, equipment leasing group Emeco said hiring rates were much lower than expected, and dairy products manufacturer Warrnambool Cheese is being hit by a pincer movement of low Australian dollar prices for its milk and declining profit margins due to intense competition.

One fund manager told Under the Radar, in an air of despair: “This is what happens when you become one of the most expensive countries in the world to do business”.

Oh, and it doesn’t help that the high Australian dollar (promoting importing), structural industry changes (the internet), the depressed housing market, and rents that are very high by world standards, are all making life difficult for industrial companies, and in particular manufacturers and retailers. No it does not!

A stock picker’s market

But then, almost in the same breath, he added: “All you can do is pick stocks that are going better than the others.” Inspirational stuff for his unit holders, we are sure.

For what it’s worth, Radar believes he’s right: stock picking is always the way to make money, but we also think that depressed current earnings are a good thing for a stock price, especially (surprise surprise) in small caps.

Not only do many of the companies Radar looks at offer decent yields of 5 per cent plus, but their earnings are forecast to grow at a faster rate than the economy because they are not constrained by it. Most, if not all of the industrial companies we tip, are gaining market share at a fast rate – you just have to read our issue out yesterday to see this.

Look out for the mining minnows!

But in a twist, Radar believes that the place where the fastest growth will occur is the small cap resources companies that have secured a path to production through adequate funding. These companies are out there and they will be the big beneficiaries if commodities prices show any sign of life in the next 12 months.

In some cases, Radar is spotting these companies trading at big discounts to the replacement value of their production plants!

I hear what you’re saying: What about all the doom and gloom in Europe? Isn’t America, still the world’s biggest economy, going to fall off the fiscal cliff? Isn’t China’s growth coming off?

Radar has two words for you: priced in.

As another fund manager said, on the demand side, “if these economies muddle through, it won’t take much in terms of growth to see commodities prices maintain their current levels because there is so much despair out there.”

On the supply side, Radar hopes not to sound like a stock broker here, but it’s actually a positive to see the big resource giants like BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto pulling or delaying big projects. This means that the supply of commodities such as iron ore and coal will remain tight for years to come.

Long before the stock broking analysts raise their commodity price assumptions and increase their net present values (NPVs) for the miners, it will be reflected in the share prices. And the big returns will be in the little miners. In the words of yet another small cap fund manager:

“The smaller miners are producers with enormous leverage. You’re talking about a 10-bagger if commodities move up and the production issues get sorted out.”

And yes, 10-bagger implies a ten-fold gain.

Click here to access the fortnightly newsletter Under the Radar Report: Small Caps, edited by Richard Hemming. Visit here for more Under the Radar articles.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

MOTORING: New BMW maxi-scooters

Think of a scooter. Odds-on you are thinking Vespa or similar, a cheery little thing with an engine capacity around 175cc and automatic transmission.
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Fun and desirability factors dissect at about nine on the scale and get higher as summer approaches. Just the thing for zippy tripping around town and across the suburbs.

Now think of a sports/touring motorcycle. Big, beefy, looks a little mean, lots of power, good handling, the sort of bike that makes a long ride easy.

Finally, think of a merger of those two extremes, a high-tech scooter with a big heart, sophisticated suspension, excellent brakes and ride comfort and handling that simply don’t belong on a scooter. Or, on the other hand, a mid-sized bike with a comfortable riding position, onboard luggage space and an automatic transmission as well as the ride, comfort and handling features.

Welcome to BMW’s new C600 Sport and C650 GT pair, the German company’s take on the increasingly popular maxi-scooter concept and arguably the best execution of it to date, drawing on its experience with big touring bikes and parlaying it into the parameters of the traditional scooter. Sort of.

Forget air-cooling and small-to-moderate capacity single-cylinder engines for this machine and think liquid-cooling for a 650cc (OK, 647cc to be absolutely correct) parallel-twin with double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and fuel-injection.

The engine (made by Taiwanese motorcycle manufacturer Kymco, incidentally) is laid almost horizontally in a complex tubular frame so that its head is approximately level with the rider’s feet, a move that necessitates a high bulge in the floorpan and negates the notion of scooters having a flat floor.

Power output is a hefty 44 kilowatts at a reasonably low 7500 rpm and the 66 Newton metres of torque is at full strength at 6000 rpm. That means a weight to power ratio of 5.65 kilograms per kilowatt for the Sport and 5.93 for the GT. Put another way, BMW’s popular and quite sprightly 320i sedan, with 135 kilowatts available, has a 10.92-kilogram-per-kilowatt ratio.

In one of those ‘‘by the way’’ things, BMW designed and tuned the engine to have an offset firing order in a bid to make it sound and feel like a V-twin. It doesn’t, by the way, except for a nice little snap, crackle and pop moment when the throttle is snapped from wide open to fully-closed. But it is a reasonably smooth and lively power unit and its continuously variable automatic transmission means it is never caught napping, even on a spirited ride.

And this is where it becomes interesting because, by definition, scooters are urban runners with storage for a backpack and a lunchbox, manoeuvrable lightweights that can be slotted into invisible gaps in traffic and tucked into tight corners for parking.

The new Beemers? They can do some of that. The storage issue is a given, the under-seat space generous but with a 249-kilogram ready-to-roll weight (Sport) and 261kilograms for the GT the maxis are not quite as easy to throw around and, coupled with the overall length (2155mm for the Sport, 2218mm for GT) means they don’t nip quite as easily into tight spots in traffic, nor are they quite as easy to walk into a tight parking space and the width doesn’t help.

Sport is 877mm wide and GT 916mm and while the measure is made at the handlebars, both scooters have reasonable bulk below the rider’s backside, about the point the feet are placed on the ground during parking. I stand 185.5cm and take that to 188cm in boots and even I was on tip-toe whenever I stopped.

No, the C600 is more at home on open roads, living for those moments when it can cruise happily or have its throttle cracked open for some serious acceleration (BMW claims 7.1 seconds for the 0-100km/h dash for the Sport and 7.5 seconds for the GT and after giving both bikes a bit of stick I have no reason to doubt those claims).

Suspension design of the C600 pair (for clarification, the scooters share frames, engines, transmissions, wheels, tyres, suspensions and brakes but vary on bodywork, seats and standard equipment levels) is extremely sophisticated for a scooter with 40mm-diameter inverted front forks and a rear aluminium swing arm that mounts to the rear of the frame (the usual motorcycle practice) rather than the rear of the engine casing (the usual scooter practice).

Its coil-over spring/damper unit lays almost horizontally and connects at the rear to an extension off the swing arm and at the front to the frame’s midpoint.

Riding on 15-inch wheels with quite beefy rubber both Sport and GT give good accounts of themselves and on a seriously good rider’s road are solid performers, even in the hands of a relative novice such as myself, the sort of rider, it must be said, at whom BMW is aiming this pair.

Firing a scooter down a tight, twisting road with lots of undulations, switchbacks, hairpins and a fair degree of poor surfacing is not something that would normally be contemplated. But doing so on, at first, the Sport before making the return trip on the GT, was a piece of cake and any apprehension over my inexperience decreased as the day wore on and the fun factor rose.

Both machines, it must be said, are extremely forgiving and respond beautifully to throttle control and slight touches on the brake levers.

The 270mm diameter cross-drilled brake rotors and four-pot calipers are more than capable and one huge emergency brake application going into a tighter-than-expected corner showed not only the practicality of putting anti-lock brakes on a bike but the massive stopping power available to riders.

And the price differences? Sport is moderately bare bones in terms of equipment and it is reflected in the price. Anti-lock brakes are standard as is the ‘‘flex case’’ storage unit for helmet storage when the bike is parked. It gets a windscreen but it is manually adjustable through three positions. Everything else is on the options list.

The GT, on the other hand, gets LED indicators, heated hand grips and seats, a tyre pressure monitor, 60-litre under-seat storage bin and electric windscreen adjustment.

After riding both I can say that the GT would be my cup of tea. Bigger and heavier, admittedly, but comfortable for long rides.

Riding in city traffic though would be a bit of a chore and that remains the difficult bit to reconcile.

BMW C600 SPORT (C650 GT)


$13,990 (Sport), $15,990 (GT). Prices do not include statutory and dealer charges or options.


Length: 2155mm (2218mm)

Width: 877mm (916mm)

Seat height: 810mm (780mm)

Wheelbase: 1591mm

Steering head angle: 64.6°

Weight: 249kg (261kg)


Fuel-injected, 647 cc, liquid-cooled parallel twin with double overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. 44 kW at 7500 rpm, 66 Nm at 6000 rpm. Continuously-variable automatic with centrifugal clutch.


Aluminium bridge frame with bolt-on rear frame, mid-mounted engine, chain drive, twin 270mm front disc brakes, single 270mm rear disc, floating double-piston calipers, anti-lock braking.


Inverted front fork with 115mm spring travel, single-sided rear swing arm with 115mm travel. 15 x 3.5-inch front and 15 x 4.5-inch rear alloy wheels with 120/70R15 front and 160/60R15 rear tyres.


Fuel type/capacity: Premium/16 litres.

Efficiency: 4.8 litres/100km (claimed).

Like: Comfort, engine, ride/handling.

Dislike: Low-speed heaviness and manoeuvrability.

Main rivals:

Honda Integra, Suzuki Burgman 650, Piaggio X9 Evolution 500.

EASY RIDER: BMW’s new cross-over scooter.

RESPONSIVE: The new BMW scooter is extremely forgiving and responds beautifully to throttle control.

SPEED AND COMFORT: BMW’s C650 GT and C600 Sport pair are the same but different and represent the new upper limits of the scooter class.

Last word: our readers’ best comments, Letters, posts and Tweets this week

Cardinal George Pell has been told to resign as Archbishop of Sydney.Every week The Herald receives thousands of comments, Tweets, Facebook posts and Letters to the Editor. These are some of this week’s best. And join the conversation at smh上海夜网; facebook上海夜网m/sydneymorningherald; twitter上海夜网m/smh and write to us at [email protected]上海夜网
Shanghai night field


Cardinal George Pell’s response to a royal commission into paedophilia

Just a point of clarification: Pell can only speak for his own area of control which is Sydney. He has no control over other church areas. For someone reason he has a higher profile than other bishops/cardinals in Australia, probably due to his right wing, protect the church approach. He is not the CEO of the Catholic Church in Australia. Having said all that he contradicts himself. If a priest suspects that another priest is guilty of paedophilia he should not only not hear confession he should immediately go to the police. The state laws need to reflect this so that the priest who suspects and takes no action, or only reports it to the church management should be charged.

The laws of the state must override the laws of a religion (any religion or sect of that religion).

Reality, smh上海夜网

I fully support Pell. When will the nanny state interfereing with matters that should clearly be resolved by the religious organisations themselves. Every religion has its own traditions and culture. Be it poligamous marriage under sharia law, divorce procedures dictated by the Beit Din or enforced celebacy and subsequent child abuse by the Catholic church. People involved in these organisations are not beholden to the same laws as the rest of society. It should be recognised that ethical principles are not universal, but rather human constructs that exist within certain groups.

Matt, smh上海夜网

#pell has put the church and himself in a position that is completely opposite to the teachings of Jesus

@visionpete, Twitter

Pell is resolute, priests who have heard pedophiles’ confessions should not answer questions at royal commission. People are leaving [Catholic Church]

@stingos2004, Twitter

Satan is speaking. It takes the Royal Commission to bring him out & talk to the general public. They have been covering these child sexual abuse cases for 70 years!! Whilst I have nothing against this religion (just don’t preach to me), I have everything against those who run the organization from top to bottom & involve in these cases including the cover-ups.

Ashley A. Ting, facebook上海夜网m/sydneymorningherald

Cardinal, if this disgusting behaviour hadn’t been covered up all these years we wouldn’t have to see this continually re run as you call it. No longer can we say what happens in confession stays in confession when we are dealing with this disgusting treatment of children. A few Hail Mary’s as penance is not enough. Surely you can see what harm this has done to the Catholic faith & Christianity in general. People turn away from the church and one day we may all live in a country where being a Christian you will be ostracised and in my opinion that will be a sad day!!

Mark Fitzgerald, facebook上海夜网m/sydneymorningherald

Will the recommendations of a royal commission into child abuse fare any better than those from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody or will we end up with another 339 recommendations no one has the courage to implement?

Peter Fyfe, Letters

It should be abundantly clear to all but the wilfully blind that the problems the Catholic Church faces regarding sexual abuse by priests and brothers would be greatly reduced if women were in positions of authority in that institution. Sadly, as the revelations of abuse in non-church organisations demonstrates, some men and some, but very many fewer, women will abuse positions of trust in relation to children. As tradition is the only reason argued against allowing women to share fully in the ministry of the Catholic Church it is long overdue for this tradition to be abandoned for the benefit of all but particularly children.

Robert McKenna, Letters

Accusations made against NSW Labor’s Eddie Obeid at ICAC

Even by the appalling standards of the NSW ALP Right Sussex Street tribe, the rise of Eddie Obeid to “he who must be Obeid” status is a wonderment to behold.

Can anyone cite one single, solitary thing that would associate Obeid with Labor values, philosophies and principles?

Keith Parsons, Letters

By the time the ICAC inquiry is over, I suspect the commission may owe an apology to the Rum Corps.

Frank McGrath, Letters

There just is no end to the organised “factions” in the ALP. I’m not sure if this was the case 50 years ago but the way its done both state and federally is the party’s greatest weakness. Truly able people miss out on the perfect job for them in government because they’re in the wrong faction. This is a mentality from a primary school yard, not thinking adults. The Libs sort of had it with the loony religeous Right in NSW (dead now under O’Farrell) but it was amateur hour compared to Labor.

wennicks, smh上海夜网

The drawn first Test

During the first cricket Test, a great deal of airtime and considerable newspaper space has been given to the inequities of the no-ball law ( ‘Umpiring dramas sit firmly on players’ shoulders,’ Sportsday,November 14). Yet not a word has been spoken or written about the unfairness of the achaic rule which ruled out a replacement for South Africa’s J.P. Duminy, injured before he had a chance to strap on a pad, leaving his side a man short and without one of their key batsmen. In most other team sports, replacements for injured players are permitted. It allows for a level playing field and it is time cricket authorities followed suit.

Garth Clarke, Letters

This South African side lacks desperation and a resolve to really want to win.The worst of the lot is their Captain,who is aimless and uninspiring.They hope for things to go their way rather than make things happen.They lost the initiative yesterday completely,that’s not the effort you expect from the world’s no1.ranked team.

Rod, smh上海夜网

GABBA does it again. A batsmens paradise bad for cricket. They did it for the 2012 Ashes Test as well. Needs to be even

@SteveMitch2500 to @SMHsport

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

An oil junior set to pump

ROC Oil is an international oil company based in Australia. Its activities include oil and gas production, exploration and development, with exploration assets and activities located in the UK, Mauritania, Australia, Africa, China and NZ. (Check our scorecard here.)
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Financials and Management

Named after the mythical Persian equivalent of the phoenix, ROC’s share price, appropriately enough, has come back from the dead after the company produced a second consecutive net profit for FY12, even if adjusted earnings per share remained negative. While production is nonetheless down from previous years, better cost control and hopes for production from a second field in China’s Beibu Gulf should support levels from here. (Check the ROC Oil estimated value chart here.)


ROC’s share price has been in a bear market until recently, with significant falls before producing tangible earnings. The trailing PE ratio cannot be used as a credible valuation proxy with a short period of earnings history, nevertheless it has “bottomed” only three times recently. (Check the price/earnings ratio chart here.)

FARMs proprietary positioning system has recently upgraded from “Hold” to a “Buy Half” signal as market sentiment increases regarding a more favourable earnings outlook.

With the current price slightly below this year’s estimate and well below next year’s estimate of value, there is a considerable margin of safety to justify a larger 4 per cent portfolio allocation. (Check the return on equity chart/earnings per share chart here.)

Macro and Risk

Though geographically diversified in its exploration portfolio, ROC’s focus is on the Beibu/Tonkin Gulf, between Vietnam and Hainan in the South China Sea. While a different area to the disputed Spratly Islands to the south, the region is not without sovereign or political risk considering China’s diplomatic troubles with its neighbours, not to mention the relatively opaque nature of China’s foreign investment and resource licensing systems.

ROC’s focus has upside however, namely in Asia’s higher-than-average oil prices and its close proximity to a burgeoning market. Experience in the Beibu Gulf also gives ROC a degree of expertise that could be leveraged in its Malaysian projects north of Sarawak and also in the South China Sea. ROC also has operations in Britain, Western Australia and Victoria. (Check the cash flow chart here.)

The bottom line

As it approaches first oil in the Beibu Gulf, ROC’s share price rally looks set to continue. And while the oil price outlook remains uncertain we also believe this will produce further upside in the medium-term based on the US recovery and a period of stability following China’s Politburo handover. With operations in the South China Sea, ROC is not immune from sovereign risk but this is mitigated somewhat by the company’s share price discount to near and long-term value estimates. (See a snapshot of the bottom line here.)

Michael Feller is an investment analyst at Macro Investor, Australia’s leading independent investment newsletter covering stocks, trades, property and trades. This week Macro Investor is doing a special edition on the future of the Australian oil and gas sector. A free 21 day trial is available.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.