Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Bitcoin's 9,000,000% Rise This Decade Leaves the Skeptics Aghast

If in the throes of this bull market’s earliest stages of recovery someone told you to forgo stocks, forget commodities, renounce fixed-income assets and buy an unknown digital token, the first of its kind, and watch it grow beyond your wildest dreams, you’d call them crazy, right?

Emerging out of the ashes of the financial crisis, Bitcoin was created as a bypass to the banks and government agencies mired in Wall Street’s greatest calamity in decades. At first, it was slow to break through, muddied by a slew of scandals: fraud, thefts and scams that turned away many and brought closer regulatory scrutiny. But once it burst into the mainstream, it proved to be the decade’s best-performing asset.

The largest digital token, trading around $7,200, has posted gains of more than 9,000,000% since July 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Bitcoin really captured that wild technology enthusiasm that ‘this time is different,’” said Peter Atwater, the president of Financial Insyghts and an adjunct professor at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

The performance over the past 10 years, even with its huge run-up and subsequent mega-crash, leaves all others in the dust. It’s a massive windfall for those whoHODL’ed through its ups and downs, even as it continues to provide fodder for get-rich-quick schemes. For some, the never-ending fantasy of continually hitting that payoff still helps to keep Bitcoin’s momentum going.

Nothing else comes even close to beating it. The S&P 500 merely tripled in that period. An index that tracks world markets has more than doubled. Gold is up 25%. Some of the best-performing stocks in the Russell 3000 — includingExact Sciences Corp. andIntelligent Systems Corp. — are each up about 3,000%. Those gains pale in comparison to the finance world’s latest — and one of its most controversial — marvels.

Partly, the monster return is a reflection of the calculus behind Bitcoin’s jumping-off point: the token wasn’t worth anything when someone namedSatoshi Nakamoto launched it on Halloween 2008. Designed as a method of exchange that can be sent electronically between users around the world, it did not have a centralized control network. Bitcoin, instead, is run by a network of computers that keep track of all transactions on the blockchain ledger. For many, that technology was reason enough to buy into the idea.

On the other side of the equation are Bitcoin’s devoted enthusiasts who saw in its technology a promising way to change the global financial system.

“This is the first time that there’s a real separation — just like church and state — you have a separation of money and state,” said Alex Mashinsky, founder of Celsius Network, a crypto lending platform. “That’s the innovation, that’s the excitement.”

But Bitcoin was slow to take off, notching its first transaction two years after its creation, when someone used it tobuy pizza. Since then, the first-born token’s price has catapulted, doubling many times over, and hundreds of imitators have cropped up — some with more successthan others.

Many of those who got in early stayed faithful, watching as it made its way through a boom and bust cycle unrivaled by almost anything else over the last decade.

At the beginning of 2017, Bitcoin jumped above $1,000. By mid-summer, it had more than doubled. Insanity was unleashed. By year-end, it hovered above $14,000. But as swiftly as it ran up, it fell even faster. By the end of 2018, Bitcoin barely budged above $3,000. Yet shortly after its crash, it embarked on another huge rally, this time reaching as high as $13,800 in the summer of 2019.

“Certainly the numbers are what appeals to investors,” said David Tawil, president of ProChain Capital. “The next 10 years need to be a totally different stage of growth based on totally different factors than the first stage.”

As much as it’s made afortune for speculators and some thieves, Bitcoin’s survival will rest on further adoption. It’s not being used as a widespread medium of exchange. A few large retailers are accepting payment in Bitcoin but it hasn’t been the large-scale embrace so many had predicted. Scams are still running rampant. Interest is waning and consolidation among large owners is at a higher level than it wasduring the height of the 2017 bubble, which means that their influence over prices could be increasing.

Projections for the next decade abound. In the 2020s, mass adoption is surely to take off, they say. Blockchain technology will revolutionize andsolve every problem in the world. On the other hand, regulatory scrutiny is likely to intensify, withcentral bankers paying closer attention than ever before.

In the more immediate term, some speculators forecast 2020 might be less fraught with volatility given its upcoming halving, whereby the number of coins awarded to so-called miners who process transactions is cut by 50%. That’s set to happen in May 2020 (the internet isrepletewithcountdown clocks). The coin’s previous cut, about four years ago, coincided with a run-up in its price, pushing many crypto evangelist to believe in a repeat.

To CoinList’s Andy Bromberg, the halving is already priced in. “Maybe it’s been overpriced in and everyone’s bought into this thesis and we see a dip post-halving,” said the firm’s co-founder and president in an interview. “That would not shock me.”

But beyond next year, “Bitcoin is finding its own narrative as digital gold,” he said. “It feels like that narrative is picking up steam and it’s breaking away on its own. I would define success for most crypto assets as doing exactly that.”

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Monday, December 30, 2019

10 travel hacks for 2020: avoid these pricey tourist traps — and don’t miss an opportunity to fly for free

The past year saw highs and lows for the travel industry. The grounding of the Boeing 737 Max aircraftBA, +0.07% following two fatal crashes caused headaches for travelers and airlines alike, prompting cancelled flights and route changes that have continued through today.

Travelers ability to book their own vacations also led to the downfall of Thomas Cook, the British tour operator, leaving some 600,000 people stranded. More recently, over a dozen people died because of a volcanic eruption on New Zealand’s White Island, a popular tourist attraction.

What’s more, record numbers of travelers hit the roads and took to the skies on summer vacations and during the holidays. And Disney DIS, +0.03% opened its long-awaited theme park lands based on the “Star Wars” film franchise, complete with $200 lightsabers and $42 cocktails.

Here are travel experts’ predictions for the tourism hacks in 2020:

Tokyo is set to host the Summer Olympics — and that will bring renewed attention to Japan. The country has prepared for an expected deluge of visitors by building new hotels and expanding airports. Airlines have added more routes to Tokyo to accommodate the extra demand.

And Japanese tourism officials have also worked to refresh tourist attractions in other parts of the country in a bid to lure people away from what will be an overly-crowded Tokyo next summer.

Smart tourists may want to plan their trips to Japan to avoid the Olympics entirely. “Remember the date: Aug. 10,” said Gabe Saglie, senior editor at travel website TravelZoo. “That’s the day after the 2020 Olympics come to an end in Tokyo.” Prices should fall along with demand, Saglie.

One trend that took hold in 2019 was “flygskam,” Swedish for “flight shame.” Environmental activists pushed people to avoid flying given the greenhouse gas emissions caused by airplanes. As a result, train travel rose in popularity this past a year, which should remain the case in 2020.

Another thing to avoid: overtourism. Research has shown that many of the world’s most popular tourist destinations are becoming overcrowded with travelers. That’s had serious repercussions ranging from a reduced supply of drinking water to damaged historical sites.

“We’re looking at Sicily as 2020’s Italian destination of choice and alternative to longtime favorites like Venice,” Saglie said. It’s cheaper than Venice too, Saglie said. Wherever there are crowds of tourists, expect prices to be hiked substantially for restaurants, hotels and flights.

Want to avoid high prices and crowds, but have a story to tell your friends when you get home? Look into your family’s past. “As nationalist attitudes seem to be on the rise, the counter trend will see individuals seeking out shared genetic links and cultural synergies,” Conde Nast Traveller wrote.

More than 15 million people have had their DNA analyzed by Ancestry.com alone, while 23andme has more than 10 million customers. With all of these people learning more about their heritage, travel experts expect that many of them will plan trips in 2020 to visit their families’ ancestral homes.

Apps have killed the traditional guide book, travel experts say. “Arriving in new places used to mean reading guide books, asking friends and taking a lot of chances,” said Sarah Clayton-Lea, head of content at travel website Big Seven Travel.

Advances in data and AI have enabled travel experiences will become more personalized in 2020. Apps like Tripit and sites like Google GOOG, -0.63% and Facebook FB, +0.15% use analytics to provide personalized recommendations and, crucially, compare prices too.

Read more: How I turned my dream of being a travel writer into reality

After Disney released the first “Frozen” film in 2013, Norway saw a massive influx of visitors who wanted to visit the country that inspired the fictional kingdom of Arendelle. Hotel bookings increased 37% in the year after the film’s release, Travel + Leisure reported.

“With Frozen 2 out now, expect to see a renewed interest in this beautiful country,” said Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic. TRIP, -0.20% If you are planning a trip to Norway, you may want to wait for the crowds (and high prices) to subside.

Want to save the cost of a long-distance flight and travel for free? Fly on the company dime. Research from travel companies Skift and TripActions found that 58% of business travelers combined a work trip with a leisure trip in the past year, and that’s expected to accelerate in 2020.

Of course, this blending of trip purposes is causing headaches for corporate travel departments. Companies are now having to re-evaluate their travel policies to ascertain what they will reimburse employees for and what workers need to pay for themselves.

Forget big ships with large pools and cocktails with little umbrellas where you are herded into a ship with the lure of low prices only to be sold lots of hidden extras. The new, increasingly-popular breed of cruise vacation takes passengers on smaller boats to more far-flung parts of the world.

“We’ll see more than a half-dozen new adventure ships launching next year,” McDaniel said. “What’s great about this expedition boom is that it adds diversity to the segment. Guests can enjoy luxury expedition, traditional hard-charging adventure and even yacht-style expedition.”

Read more: Royal Caribbean’s $1 billion deal shows demand for cruises off the beaten path

Good news for those who have always wanted to visit a little piece of paradise. Last February, the Federal Aviation Administration granted Southwest Airlines approval to fly to Hawaii, which prompted travel experts to project that flights to the Pacific island state could drop in price by 30%.

The competition between Southwest Airlines LUV, -1.06% and other airlines is only expected to continue in 2020, experts say, putting a Hawaii vacation in reach for many more Americans, as more airlines are expected to compete for customers.

“The transformative element for 2020 will not just be about helping others, but also helping oneself,” Clayton-Lea said. People aren’t just looking to relax on a beach these days — they want their travel to be more meaningful. But transformational travel doesn’t just mean meditation and yoga retreats.

“People are keen to make a difference when they travel, mostly through volunteering,” Clayton-Lea said. Whether you’re helping to take care of animals threatened with extinction, build schools or houses, or participate in archeological digs, food and housing is often paid in return for you service.

Some 15 of the 20 vacation destinations that experienced the most pronounced growth in demand were located in Canada, according to travel-booking company Expedia EXPE, -0.69%. Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Regina saw five times’ more demand year-over-year from travelers.

“Whether it was the favorable exchange rate … or the great outdoors, Americans are clearly quite fond of Canada,” Expedia said in its 2020 trends report. Sometimes, the answer to life’s questions — as a farm girl from Kansas with ruby slippers once discovered — are in your own backyard.

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Chinese Scientist Who Edited Babies’ Genes Sentenced to Prison

In this article

The Chinese scientist who created the world’s first genetically altered babies has been sentenced to three years in prison and a lifelong ban from working in reproductive technology, state media reported on Monday.

He Jiankui, a Shenzhen researcher who drew widespread condemnation when he revealed his experiment last year, will also have to pay a 3 million yuan ($430,000) fine, said areport from Xinhua News Agency, citing the verdict of a court in the southern Chinese city.

Rogue Chinese Scientist Regrets Not Being Transparent, Peer Says

Two others who assisted him were also sentenced. Zhang Renli, a researcher at the Guangdong Provincial People’s Hospital, received a prison term of two years and Qin Jinzhou, a researcher at the Shenzhen Luohu Hospital Group, received a term of 18 months, suspended for two years.

The verdict is China’s first public statement on the fate of He, who disappeared from public view after his 2018 experiment sparked a global backlash. His work to edit the genes of embryos to make babies who are resistant to the virus that causes AIDS was sharply critiqued by the international scientific community as an abuse of new gene-engineering methods that are still not fully understood.

He’s experiment — which took place in near secrecy and was revealed only after twin baby girls were born — also ignited concern that China is not properly regulating its ambitious researchers in its push to become a global leader in science and medicine.

China Opens a ‘Pandora’s Box’ of Genetic Engineering

The Xinhua report said that in He’s experiment, for which he recruited couples with HIV who did not want to pass the disease to their offspring, two women became pregnant and three gene-edited babies were born. The trial proceedings were not made public to protect the identities of the children and their parents, said Xinhua.

The court found that He and the two others had forged ethical review documents and used “impersonating and concealing tactics” on unsuspecting doctors to complete their experiment, said the report.

In the wake of the controversy, Chinasaid earlier this year that it would more strictly control clinical trials involving gene-editing and other experimental life science technologies. Researchers will now require approval from the highest level of government before they can do such work.

— With assistance by Jinshan Hong

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Saturday, December 28, 2019

Lizzo adds 'Entertainer of the Year' award to 8 Grammy nominations

Taylor Swift fans upset over Grammy snub

‘POPlitics’ podcast host Alex Clark and Fox News’ Brett Larson cover the latest pop culture headlines.

NEW YORK — Breakthrough singer-rapper Lizzo has been named Entertainer of the Year by The Associated Press.

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Voted by entertainment staffers of the news cooperative, Lizzo dominated the pop, R&B and rap charts in 2019 with songs like “Truth Hurts" and “Good As Hell." Though she released her first album in 2013, Lizzo dropped her major-label debut, “Cuz I Love You,” this year and the success has made her the leading nominee at the 2020 Grammy Awards, where she is up for eight honors.

LIZZO CLAPS BACK AT FAT-SHAMING DOCTOR

Outside of music, Lizzo has won over fans for promoting body positivity and denouncing fat shaming. Her live performances have been revered, and the 31-year-old classically trained flutist grinded as an independent and touring artist for years. She performed with Prince on his 2014 “Plectrumelectrum” album, released two years before his death.

Image 1 of 5

Lizzo performs “Jerome” at the American Music Awards in Los Angeles on Nov. 24, 2019. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, FIle)

Lizzo also had a role in the film “Hustlers," opposite Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu and Cardi B, and she voiced a character in the animated picture “UglyDolls."

Lizzo was also named Entertainer of the Year by Time magazine.

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Thursday, December 26, 2019

Waldorf Astoria renovations near completion. Take a look inside

New York secret real estate deals may be exposed under new law

A new law in New York State makes every condo buyers’ name publicly available. Dolly and Jenny Lenz of Dolly Lenz Real Estate weigh in.

New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, with its art deco design, gilded prestige and unique public spaces, has been an icon of luxury since it opened on Park Avenue in 1931.

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Soon, you’ll be able to own a piece of it.

The hotel closed in 2017 as its owner, since absorbed by Chinese insurance company Dajia, prepared to renovate the aging building and transform half of it into condos. The first of those units are set to hit the market in early 2020, with prices starting at about $1.7 million.

And while the building has a new owner, the team working on the project has focused on its past and the features that made it a landmark. Frank Mahan of architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill told FOX Business that the goal with the renovations was to restore the building to its original design intent while updating it for contemporary needs and expectations.

“The big idea is to create a bridge between the past and the future of the architectural, to create kind of a cultural bridge, if you will,” Mahan said.

The Waldorf Astoria’s Park Avenue entrance (Noë & Associates/The Boundary)

HILTON CLOSES ON $1.95B SALE OF WALDORF ASTORIA NEW YORK TO CHINESE INSURER

When the Waldorf Astoria opened, it was the tallest hotel in the world at 13 stories. Its air conditioning was a novelty at the time — called “manufactured air,” according to Mahan — and it featured amenities like room service, a telephone switchboard and radios in every room.

“All kinds of superlatives were written about this building,” Mahan said.

But over time, the building aged and customers’ tastes changed, posing what Mahan called “an existential threat” to the hotel’s business. Renovations were made, but not always “sensitively.” Over time, the building’s spaces changed and lost sight of some of the thoughtful ways they were designed.

The redesign team uncovered original architect’s drawings and sketches, a partial set of construction drawings and an entire “specification book” from a museum’s archives, plus they examined pop culture materials like postcards and movies that were filmed in the hotel.

The Waldorf Astoria’s Park Avenue facade (Noë & Associates/The Boundary)

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The renovated towers of the Waldorf Astoria will include 375 condominium units atop the 375 redesigned hotel suites, according to Douglas Elliman Real Estate, the firm handling marketing for the development. The homes range from studios to penthouses. Mahan said the condo portion of the building was designed “to accommodate a really spectacular residential experience.” The team was able to take advantage of the original art deco design’s small setbacks to provide many private terraces.

“In terms of design, they certainly take their inspiration from the art deco architecture of the building,” Mahan said. “It will be a contemporary interpretation of that art deco architecture.”

A living room in one of the Waldorf Astoria’s renovated condominiums. (Noë & Associates/The Boundary)

CHINA TAKES OVER ANBANG INSURANCE, OWNER OF THE WALDORF ASTORIA

The homes feature the work of designer Jean-Louis Deniot and the hotel interiors and public spaces were designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon, according to the brokerage. Art collector and auctioneer Simon de Pury curated the art collection for residents.

Residents will have access to 50,000 square feet of private amenities including a lap pool and spa, plus 100,000 square feet of hotel amenities.

The Waldorf originally featured a porte-cochere that ran all the way from 49th to 50th street. Mahan said he split it in two, giving the residents a private ground floor lobby where there originally hadn’t been one, while still allowing both the hotel and condos to each have a porte-cochere.

The Waldorf Astoria’s porte-cochere (Noë & Associates/The Boundary)

T-MOBILE CEO SELLS $17.5M NEW YORK PENTHOUSE TO GIORGIO ARMANI

“It tries to take advantage of the inherent qualities and characteristics of the buildings, which really differentiates it from a lot of newer comparable product in the city,” Mahan said of the design.

The highlight for most people who visit the building will likely be its public spaces, which run straight through between Park and Lexington avenues. Mahan said the historic designs showed that renovations had dulled the “sense of drama” the spaces had originally created for visitors.

“The scale, the generosity, the sheer number of public spaces is really unrivaled in most buildings in New York,” he said. “So there’s such an opportunity here to almost create a sort of ‘living room’ for New Yorkers. And it did once serve that function, but not in particularly recent memory.”

The residential lobby (Noë & Associates/The Boundary)

Once the scaffolding comes down, the Waldorf Astoria will “sparkle” again in a way few people will remember, according to Mahan.

“I think when people enter the building again, it’s going to look better than ever, better than they remember it, better than it has for decades,” he said.

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Wednesday, December 25, 2019

UPDATE 1-Egypt's central bank postpones policy meeting to Jan. 16

(Adds quote, background)

CAIRO, Dec 25 (Reuters) – Egypt’s central bank said on Wednesday that its monetary policy meeting on interest rates had been postponed to Jan. 16 from this week.

Thursday’s scheduled meeting had been delayed to await “the approval of the formation of the Board of Directors and the Monetary Policy Committee for the new term,” said the statement.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi reappointed Tarek Amer as the governor of the central bank last month for a second four-year term.

The central bank cut rates by a combined 350 basis points (bps) at its last three consecutive meetings and 100 bps in February. Overnight rates are at 12.25% for deposit and 13.25% for lending.

A Reuters poll indicated the bank was expected to keep its key interest rates steady at Thursday’s meeting.

Egypt’s annual urban consumer price inflation rose to 3.6% in November from 3.1% in October, which was its lowest since December 2005. The November reading of 3.6% was still Egypt’s lowest since January 2006, according to Refinitv data.

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Tuesday, December 24, 2019

'Nut rage' heiress accuses brother of disobeying late father's will

SEOUL • A South Korean heiress known for delaying a Korean Air flight in 2014 because she was angry at the way she was served nuts has accused her younger brother of disobeying their late father’s will to manage the airline’s parent company together.

Ms Heather Cho, a former Korean Air executive whose “nut rage” incident made international headlines, said her younger brother was ignoring the wishes of their father, late chairman Cho Yang-ho, for “harmony” in the family’s management of Korean Air parent Hanjin Group.

Brother Cho Won-tae, who was named chairman of Hanjin Group in April and is also chief executive of Korean Air, had been making management decisions without prior consultations, according to a statement issued by Ms Cho’s lawyers yesterday.

“Without real consent and enough discussions among inheritors, Cho Won-tae was appointed to represent Hanjin Group,” it said.

“The late chairman had asked the family to lead Hanjin Group with harmony… Yet, chairman Cho Won-tae has been making management decisions not aligned with (the late chairman’s) will, and is still being insincere when it comes to family discussions regarding the management of the group.”

The statement added that Ms Cho “intends to listen to the views of various shareholders and hold consultations with them to actively pursue Hanjin Group’s development in accordance with the late chairman’s will”.

Analysts said that the statement raised the possibility that Ms Cho could try to join hands with other investors to raise their stakes in group holding company Hanjin Kal.

DISHARMONY

The late chairman had asked the family to lead Hanjin Group with harmony… Yet, chairman Cho Won-tae has been making management decisions not aligned with (the late chairman’s) will, and is still being insincere when it comes to family discussions regarding the management of the group.

” A STATEMENT ISSUED BY MS HEATHER CHO’S LAWYERS, on her brother Cho Won-tae.

Hanjin Kal shares soared 20 per cent yesterday, while the broader South Korean market closed flat.

Korean Air and budget affiliate Jin Air also rose over 4 per cent.

Mr Cho Won-tae, Ms Cho and younger sister Emily Cho hold 6.46 per cent, 6.43 per cent and 6.42 per cent of Hanjin Kal shares, respectively.

“We hope that this incident will not hurt the stability of the company’s management or have a negative impact on the company’s value,” Hanjin Group said in a statement.

Ms Heather Cho and Ms Emily Cho stepped down from their positions at Korean Air in April last year, amid public outrage at their behaviour.

Days earlier, the police had launched an investigation into Ms Emily Cho after she threw a drink at two business meeting attendees.

She apologised for her “foolish behaviour” and was later cleared of any charges.

Ms Heather Cho made global headlines in 2014 when she lost her temper over the way she was served nuts in first class and ordered the Korean Air flight to return to its gate at a New York airport.

A year before he died, late chairman Cho Yang-ho apologised for his daughters’ missteps and promised that the company would “turn over a new leaf” with stronger management led by the board.

REUTERS

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Monday, December 23, 2019

US stocks end at records again, new CEO lifts Boeing

NEW YORK (AFP) – Wall Street stocks finished at records again on Monday (Dec 23), with an executive shakeup at Boeing lifting the Dow, as a holiday-shortened week opened with a flourish.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 0.3 per cent to finish the last full session before Christmas at 28,551.53.

The broad-based S&P 500 gained 0.1 per cent to end at 3,224.01, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 0.2 per cent to 8,945.65.

The session marked the third straight record finishes for the Dow and S&P 500, and eighth straight high close for the Nasdaq.

The records have come amid positive developments in the grinding US-China trade war, with the US calling off new tariffs scheduled for this month following a tentative trade agreement.

On Monday, Beijing said it would lower import tariffs on more than 850 American products, though the move does not appear to be linked to the bruising trade war with Washington.

However, President Donald Trump retweeted two press reports on the tariff reduction Monday, without any additional comment, and the list includes many items that Chinese companies purchase from the US such as pork and tech goods.

Other factors in the surge include a series of accommodative monetary policy moves by the Federal Reserve and other central banks and mostly solid economic data.

Among individual companies, Boeing jumped 2.9 per cent after the embattled aerospace company ousted Dennis Muilenburg as chief executive and tapped board chairman David Calhoun for the job, saying the move was needed to restore confidence in the company as it works to repair relationships with regulators, customers, and all other stakeholders.

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Saturday, December 21, 2019

'A sense of belonging': Corporate choir sings out for mental health

As the Coles choir breaks into a rousing rendition of well known Christmas carol Feliz Navidad, fellow workers at the company's South Melbourne headquarters stop and smile.

Conversations fade away, phone cameras come out, and small groups of busy employees surround the levels of the cavernous foyer to snatch a few minutes of Christmas cheer.

Coles’ choir, officially known as the Coles Community Singers, has been running for nearly five years.Credit:Chris Hopkins

From an outsiders perspective, a group of antlered employees belting out a Spanish carol at the centre of Australia's second-biggest supermarket is moderately bizarre. But for the company, it's just another Wednesday.

Coles' choir, officially known as the Coles Community Singers, has been running for nearly five years, beginning as a three-month trial and growing into a mainstay of company festivities.

The supermarket isn't the only major corporate to dabble in singing clubs. Both official and unofficial choirs exist at Telstra, Macquarie, National Australia Bank, Coca Cola and Westpac, the latter of which includes flute and piano accompaniment.

Coles' 60-person strong crew includes computer programmers, payroll staff, financial services, liquor support staff and supply chain managers.

Andrea Currie (right) sings with the Coles Community Singers. “I always leave with that sense of satisfaction.”Credit:Chris Hopkins

"We get people who've never sung before saying 'I can't believe how good I feel, what's the secret?' We don't know, it just happens."

Islip has run choirs for many members of corporate Australia, including ANZ Bank and international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, though he wouldn't comment on their singing prowess.

According to Deborah Yates, managing partner for people, performance and culture at KPMG, the number of choirs and similar mental health initiatives across corporate Australia is on the up, as businesses tune in to their clear benefits for employee wellbeing.

"Mental health is a staggering challenge for Australians, with 20 per cent of us between the age of 16 and 85 experiencing a mental illness each year," she says.

"So while you could jokingly look at a choir, it makes a fundamental difference to mental wellbeing at work. It's a natural way to create a sense of belonging for workers."

KMPG's own initiatives include a chess club and a running club, along with a choir group ran by the Barangaroo Precinct. It's these sort of offerings that help draw top employees to workplaces, Yates says.

"Employees are really looking for somewhere where they can find a sense of belonging, and these initiatives are an important part of that."

A choir for all

Following their foyer performance, the Community Singers will set off on an hour-long carolling tour throughout the office, which is surprisingly well-received by employees, Currie says.

"People sometimes feel like they need permission to listen or join in, but we find once we get started people quickly gravitate towards us," she says.

"The choir isn't just for the people who sing, it's for the people who listen."

With just over a week to go until Christmas, carols are the main focus for Currie and her crew, though at other times of the year any song is fair game.

"We've got dozens and dozens in the repertoire now, but my personal favourite is Viva la Vida, by Coldplay because its such a challenging song but it sounds amazing and it just draws people in to listen," she says.

But, over a five-year tenure and numerous performances, has the choir ever performed the company's iconic rendition of Status Quo's Down Down?

"You know what, I don't think we have," she says.

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Go left at Titty Hill for Beaver Close…Rob Gill takes us on a tour of Britain’s rudest road names – The Sun

BRITAIN is littered with rude road names at odds with our woke times.

Places like BELL END, MINGE LANE and CUMMING STREET are a bit of a giggle to most of us.

But can you imagine the upset they must cause snowflakes? It’s enough to make them vomit keema all over their vegan shoes.

So before these poor little lambs try to censor our smutty streets — as surely they will — we thought we’d celebrate them while we can and do a dummy run for Santa.

Even the big fella must have a good laugh when he’s delivering a train set to little Jimmy in BUTTHOLE LANE.

So what’s the closest thing to Santa’s sleigh?

That’d be a red Caterham Seven with no mod cons or airbags, just flimsy doors and headroom of about 62 miles.

First stop, BEAVER CLOSE in Horsham where a yummy mummy pulled up in her black Range Rover Evoque to ask if we were collecting charity gifts.

No, luv, but I’d happily take your phone number.

We struggled to find a sign for TITTY HILL — apparently it keeps getting stolen and the council is fed-up of replacing it.

Key Facts

CATERHAM SEVEN 360R

Price:£29,990

Engine: 2-litre petrol

Power: 180bhp

0-62mph:4.8secs

Top speed:130mph

Weight:580kg

Our 170-mile road trip also took in LICKFOLD, COCKING, BALLS GREEN and JUGGS CLOSE before ending up at UPPER DICKER, avoiding all ring roads.

Now I must confess this is not the car I’d choose for dicing with HGVs on the A27. And it doesn’t much like town centre speed humps, either.

But put this dollop of British eccentricity in its natural habitat — on a B-road — and it is bloody wonderful. Intoxicating. But cold.

There’s something to be said about watching the front wheels turn in rhythm with the road. Then there’s the engine. It sounds the nuts.

This 360R is powered by a 2-litre naturally-aspirated Ford Duratec engine that sends 180bhp to the rears via a five-speed manual.

Trust me, for a car weighing little more than a chocolate selection box, that’s plenty. It’ll bang out the 0-60mph sprint in 4.8 seconds.

The other beautiful thing about a Caterham is that you can save a few quid by getting the spanners out and building your own.

The complete kit is £29,990, £3,395 cheaper than having Caterham make one for you.

But be warned: The extras soon add up. This test car was fitted with £11,000 of options including windscreen and vinyl hood. Yes, the windscreen is an option.

You’ll definitely want the R pack which adds limited slip differential, sports suspension and Momo steering wheel. As my old girl would say, if you’re gonna be a bear, be a grizzly.

I’ll finish with a random fact. Chris Rea owns a Caterham and maybe, just maybe, he’s in it somewhere right now . . . Driving Home For Christmas. Merry Christmas, everyone.

…AND HERE'S 10 FESTIVE STREET NAMES

Holly Street

Rudolph Road

Tinsel Lane

Bethlehem Street

Noel Road

Angel Lane

Christmas Pie Avenue

Christmas Street

Myrrh Street

Star Road

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Your Money: Don't let your ski trip go off-piste

My idea of a holiday at this time of year is somewhere with the sun blazing and a beach. I’m not going to get lucky, unfortunately, but for many, the trip of the year is their annual excursion to the slopes. If skiing is your thing, now is the time when you are probably booking your getaway. But before you dust down your salopettes, it’s important to get another thing ski-proof: your travel insurance. If you don’t know your policy from your piste, then here’s what you need to do:

Travel insurance needs

The first thing to realise is that insurers consider skiing a hazardous sport. Your regular holiday cover will not be enough. At the very least, you’ll need a ski add-on, or specialist cover, for your trip.

Types of cover

“Basic things to look for include cover for emergency repatriation and medical expenses for injury or illness, as well as cover for lost/damaged ski equipment,” says Multitrip.com’s Ciaran Mulligan, whose site offers €20m in medical expenses cover on standard policies.

It may seem a massive amount of cover, but repatriating someone home in an air ambulance, or paying for care for a head injury, especially in the popular destinations in the US and Canada, can be very expensive.

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Exclusions

There may be some activities which are not covered on a ski policy, including heli-skiing, or skiing off-piste without a resort guide, adds Mr Mulligan. “Winter sports travel insurance covers a wide range of activities, including skiing, mono skiing, snowboarding, snow mobiling, snow sledging and off-piste skiing accompanied by a local resort guide, except in unsafe areas.”

In addition, if for any reason the Department of Foreign Affairs has issued a ‘do not travel’ notice, then you may not be covered if you insist on going, although the policy will probably cover your costs for the loss of the holiday.

Other cover

Injury aside, lots of things can happen on a skiing holiday which can leave you out of pocket, and it’s important to insure for them.

Ski equipment is expensive, and your package or resort may not automatically have cover built in. Mr Mulligan adds: “Loss or damage of ski equipment, which can happen in ski resorts as people come back out from their lunch/coffee break on the slopes, is important, while cover can also be provided if a piste is closed due to lack of snow or, the opposite, an avalanche.”

Some policies cover the loss of snow – which can ruin your trip for obvious reasons – as a daily rate; around €50 if you are unable to ski, which at least provides downtime cash.

Assistance cover

This type of cover is normally charged for a small extra premium, and it typically gives you an extension of cover which isn’t just financial in nature. It provides on-the-ground services that aren’t medical – for instance, a translator, legal assistance, someone to liaise with your family or employer and locate services locally. This may well be included in a top-of-the-range policy, so it’s worth checking if it’s part of the package.

Cost

You should be able to add on ski cover to your travel insurance if you have an annual policy. Otherwise, you can buy it from around €26.99 for a couple, or €46.99 for family insurance, says Mr Mulligan.

Remember, if you have private health insurance with any of the three providers (Laya, VHI, Irish Life), you’ll qualify for a discount on your travel policy. Finally, it may seem like an extra cost, but going without is far more expensive.

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Friday, December 20, 2019

Here's how Sheryl Sandberg plunged from global icon to just another powerful tech executive

  • Sheryl Sandberg started the decade as chief operating officer of Facebook and a rising female business icon.
  • As the 2010s close, Sandberg is one of the faces of the company that for many has come to represent the exploitation of people's privacy and the hubris of the technology industry.

In April 2019, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg emailed one of Facebook's cybersecurity teams with a special project. They were to help a Facebook user who had emailed Sandberg to complain about the bullying he was receiving on the social network. People were hacking his account and making fake accounts pretending to be him, then posting in ways that made fun of his disability.

In previous years, this type of special assignment would've been out of the ordinary for Sandberg, the Facebook executive charged with growing the company's ad business and handling its communications. But after a couple of hard years where Facebook was slammed for prioritizing growth over protecting user data, and for its aggressive stance toward the press, Sandberg has placed a higher priority on user security, privacy and mental health, according to a former employee who knew about her special request.

For Sandberg, the 2010s saw the highest of highs and lowest of lows. She started the decade as a rising female business icon. But as the decade closes, Sandberg is one of the two faces of the company that has come to represent the exploitation of people's privacy and the hubris of the technology industry.

Leaning in and rising up

When she was hired away from Google to be Facebook's COO in 2008, Sandberg was 38 — young for the role, but 15 years older than founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg brought Sandberg in to be his No. 2, but she also served as the de facto adult in the room for the young company.

Perhaps most importantly, Sandberg was charged with growing Facebook's revenue and advertising businesses in preparation for an inevitable IPO.

She succeeded handsomely. Before her arrival, Facebook had generated a little more than $150 million in revenue in 2007. Sandberg helped grow that figure nearly 2,400% to $3.7 billion by 2011.

Sandberg's handling of the Facebook ad business set up the company nearly perfectly for its 2012 IPO. Upon hitting the public market that May, Facebook raised $16 billion and reached a valuation of $104 billion.

The next month, Sandberg was rewarded for her work with a position on the Facebook board of directors. She was the first woman to join the board.

As Facebook grew — the company reached its 1 billionth user in October 2012 — so too did Sandberg's national profile. Sandberg seized the moment, and in March 2013, she published "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead." She also established a foundation named after the book to focus on women's issues in the workplace. (It was later renamed the Sheryl Sandberg & Dave Goldberg Family Foundation.)

The book was a manifesto on women in the workplace, and it was a tremendous success, selling millions of copies and landing Sandberg on magazine covers and TV shows. Although criticism of the book has grown in recent years, especially in regard to its ignorance about minority women in the workplace, "Lean In" catapulted Sandberg into a household name and a role model and icon for women across the globe.

But Sandberg's life took a tragic turn in May 2015. Sandberg's husband, Dave Goldberg, suffered a coronary arrhythmia and died while the two were vacationing in Punta Mita, Mexico.

In interviews since then, Sandberg has said Goldberg's death was devastating and caused her to feel huge grief and loneliness. She wrote about how she handled the experience and recovered in a second book published in April 2017 titled "Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy." Goldberg's death also helped spark Facebook's February 2017 move to extend its employees' bereavement leave to 20 days, a move for which Sandberg was widely praised.

Speculation about Sandberg's political future gained momentum in 2016. Sandberg is a staunch supporter of the Democratic Party and served in the Treasury Department during Bill Clinton's administration. She was also a supporter of Hillary Clinton, and in the lead-up to the 2016 U.S. election, there were reports that Sandberg was in consideration for a Cabinet position if Clinton were elected. Sandberg denied those reports, saying "I really am staying at Facebook."

Trump and everything after

Whether or not she had plans to leave Facebook, any political aspirations became moot when Donald Trump was elected in November 2016.

Sandberg was among a delegation of tech executives who attended a summit held by Trump in New York in December 2016, where she was photographed grimacing to the right of Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

In April 2017, Facebook published a case study saying it had detected "information operations" from outsiders intended to sway voters in the 2016 election. For instance, Facebook said, some groups had stolen information from sources such as email accounts to harm particular political actors. The study was followed by subsequent reports from Facebook and the U.S. government over the next few months detailing how Russian groups had used Facebook extensively to try and influence voters, including by planning fake rallies around controversial subjects.

But the 2016 presidential election would end up causing a much bigger disruption for Sandberg and the company.

In March 2018, The Guardian and The New York Times reported that Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm, had improperly accessed the data of 50 million Facebook users, and had used that data to target voters on Facebook to get them to support Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential campaign. The number was later revised to 87 million Facebook profiles.

The company's clumsy response to the reports didn't help. Facebook first tried to get ahead of the reports by publishing a Friday night blog post on March 16, saying it was suspending Cambridge Analytica for improperly accessing user data. After the reports went live on Saturday, Sandberg and the rest of the company did not address the public for five days.

The scandal set the stage for a tumultuous 2018 that enveloped the entirety of Facebook and changed people's perceptions of the company's executives.

In September 2018, Sandberg was called to Washington to testify in regard to the role Facebook had played in Russian interference into the 2016 U.S. election.

"We know we can't stop interference by ourselves," Sandberg said in her remarks. "We don't have all the investigative tools that the government has, and we can't always attribute attacks or identify motives."

That November, Sandberg was the target of a New York Times report that detailed Facebook's handling of election interference and the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The story painted an unflattering portrait, alleging that Sandberg had "overseen an aggressive lobbying campaign to combat Facebook's critics." This included contracting Definers Public Affairs, a Washington-based opposition research firm. That firm pushed the idea that liberal financier George Soros was behind a growing anti-Facebook movement and wrote dozens of articles critical of rivals Google and Apple, according to the report.

Following the report, Sandberg denied knowing about or hiring Definers Public Affairs. The following week, Sandberg said she had in fact previously known about the firm and took full responsibility for the work by Facebook's communications team.

Days later, The Wall Street Journal published a report that claimed Zuckerberg told Sandberg he blamed her and her teams for the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The report went on to say that Sandberg had confided in her friends that she wondered if she should be worried about her job.

She need not have worried.

Less that two years after the scandal broke, the damage has largely been contained. While Facebook did have to pay a $5 billion fine to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, usage of Facebook and its subsidiary services, Instagram and WhatsApp, continues to rise, showing that normal users still rely on the company. Facebook has moved on to new projects, like its proposed cryptocurrency, libra, and a plan to merge its messaging services more closely together.

Within Facebook, Sandberg is still well regarded, and employees frequently come to her for business advice, according to several former employees. For example, the sales team at Workplace, the company's communications tool for companies, is known to request her help when trying to close or manage major clients like Delta Air Lines or Starbucks. People still see her as a valuable asset to the company who has brought a lot to Facebook, another former employee said.

Sandberg may no longer be the female icon she once was to the outside world, but she remains the second-most powerful executive at one of the most powerful tech companies on the planet. Her legacy took some hits, but it is within her control to rebuild it.

Facebook declined to comment for this story.

WATCH: Here's how to see which apps have access to your Facebook data — and cut them off

Follow @CNBCtech on Twitter for the latest tech industry news.

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Property: Risk of burglary doubles in December - how to protect your home this Christmas

With the days getting darker and nights longer, some people might worry about the security of their property. Burglaries in the UK double from November to December, according to research commissioned by Verisure, Europe’s leading provider of monitored security solutions. Experts have shared how it is still possible to keep your home safe over the festive period.

READ MORE

  • Property: Five things you must check before making purchase

The findings revealed half of burglaries take less than 10 minutes to carry out and 75 percent take place during the week.

With dark nights and many people travelling over the holidays, 53 percent of homeowners explained they feel unsafe during the winter months.

If worried about their property, Britons can make some changes to make the home more secure.

Experts at Verisure shared the top ways people can protect their homes and possessions this Christmas.

Speak to your neighbours

They said: “Keep your eyes open for unfamiliar cars and people in the vicinity of your home and stay alert to any suspicious or unusual activity.

“Create a WhatsApp group with your trusted neighbours, or speak to them regularly in person, as a way to stay vigilant collectively during the holiday season.”

Shut all doors and windows

“Ensure that your doors are properly locked, even if you are home, and always keep windows closed if you go out,” the experts added.

“Speak to your children about safety and remind them of the importance of shutting windows and locking doors behind them when they leave.”

Lock doors when going out

The experts explained: “It is highly advisable that each door has two locks. 

“Never leave a spare key anywhere near your home, like the classic ‘under the doormat’ or ‘behind the plant pot’ place.

“This is where thieves will instinctively look, and you’re making their job much easier.”

Keep the property is well-lit

“A simple way of deterring thieves is to have adequate lighting both inside and outside your home through security and timed lights.

READ MORE

  • Property: Expert reveals key tip to avoid being targeted by burglars

“Ensure that no doors and parking areas are in darkness at night.”

Don’t leave parcels on your doorstep

They said: “An increase in deliveries at this time of year is normal but don’t leave them on your doorstep as this is a clear signal that no-one’s at home.

“Arrange for a neighbour to sign for parcels if you’re out or arrange a secure hiding place for the delivery company.”

Install a monitored alarm system

“Install a professional home security system, which is monitored 24/7 by trained operators and will help not only deter potential burglars but also thwart intrusions if they do happen,” they said.

The research showed 73 percent of Britons will not try to increase their home security when leaving the property empty, but doing this could reduce the risk of being targeted.

Horacio Perez, operations director at Verisure UK, said: “We know that 80 percent of burglaries occur during short absences, many less than 10 minutes.

“But what’s really alarming is that many homeowners are making break-ins particularly easy for burglars with 16 percent leaving ground floor windows or doors open.”

Locking up, installing a security system and timed lights could all help keep the property secure.

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Thursday, December 19, 2019

Bank of England: City watchdog boss tipped to take over from Mark Carney

The current head of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has emerged as the front runner to become the next governor of the Bank of England.

Andrew Bailey is tipped to take over from Mark Carney when he leaves at the end of January. The governor is appointed by the Treasury.

Mr Bailey, 60, previously worked for three decades at the Bank.

He became deputy governor and head of its regulatory arm, the Prudential Regulation Authority, before leaving to become chief executive of the FCA, the City regulator, in 2016.

Mr Bailey has long been seen as one of the favourites to succeed Mr Carney, but his chances were thought to have been damaged by financial scandals that have hurt consumers, some of them on his watch at the FCA.

The collapse earlier this year of funds managed by top stock picker Neil Woodford raised questions about the role of the regulator.

It is also facing an independent investigation over its actions and policies when regulating investment firm London Capital & Finance, which went into administration in January.

Mark Carney has been governor of the Bank of England since 2013 – and his tenure has twice been extended to ensure stability in the run-up to Brexit.

The issue has seen Mr Carney become a controversial figure for Brexit-supporting critics, who have accused him of bias.

Candidates’ views on Britain’s departure from the EU were reportedly taken into account when choosing his successor.

According to the Financial Times, which first reported that Mr Bailey was the favourite for the post, another former BoE deputy governor, Dame Minouche Shafik – was rejected partly because of her critical views on Brexit.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Honda’s BTCC race car gives a huge rush while the Civic EX Sport Line is a sublime bit of kit – The Sun

EMOJIS have become a new language.

Which is a worry for me as a man whose living depends on writing the Queen’s.

When I get a text from my daughter it takes about 18 hours to work out what she’s going on about. It’s like trying to decipher hieroglyphics on the Egyptian pyramids. Now emojis have infiltrated the world of motorsport.

I was lucky enough to test Honda’s BTCC (British Touring Car Championship) race car at Silverstone the other day and I noticed it had four face emojis on the steering wheel. But in all fairness, they did the job.

Smiley face (setting 2) is the cool down mode which “pulses the engine” in the pits.

Winky face with tongue (setting 3) and red grimacing face (setting 4) as one might expect are the balls-to-the-wall race modes, with the last one being slightly more Asbo. I liked them both.

Then there’s neutral face (setting 1) which dulls the throttle response in the wet. I didn’t bother with that one.

As for the rest of the switches on the dash? Sorry, I haven’t got the foggiest.

Someone did try to explain them all to me but this thing has more buttons than a Nasa flightdeck and I just sat there thinking: “You’re wasting your time, pal. Just show me how to make it stop and go.” And then it was play time.

With a clunk, I selected first gear and rolled down the pit lane on to a track still greasy from overnight frost. In a £230,000 race car? On slick tyres? Yikes.

Needless to say, the next ten minutes were a huge rush. A mixture of wonder and fear. This thing is quick. Really quick. Three hundred and fifty horsepower and a bit more quick. But with less grip than Bambi.

I didn’t want to be the mug that binned it. Thankfully, I didn’t.

Speed in a straight line is one thing but it’s how you make a BTCC car dance that slashes lap times. How you make the front end work.

And by that I mean using left foot braking to pitch the weight over the front wheels to maximise grip in a corner. Actually, scrub that, to get any grip in a tight corner in these conditions.

Key facts

HONDA CIVIC RACE CAR

Price: £230,000

Engine: 2-litre turbo

Power: 350hp+

0-62mph: 4.9 secs

Top speed: 156mph (Thruxton)

Honda BTCC race wins: 115

Drivers titles: 5

Manufacturer titles: 5

So how did I do? I’ll let triple BTCC champ and Team Dynamics boss Matt Neal answer that as we look at the data.

He said: “Not bad, not bad at all. You listened. You’re very smooth and progressive and self-controlled, which you need to be in these conditions.

“Your speed is not too dissimilar to Dan (Cammish) through the right, left complex and down Hangar Straight but he holds on to it for a bit longer.

“A little bit of that will be confidence in the brakes and confidence in the grip levels. It does look shiny through Stowe but there is a lot of grip there. Through the apex, he’s doing 124 and you’re doing 109.”

I’ll take that. This is Dan’s office. He’s a pro. I’m a keyboard warrior.

Thank you, Honda. (Insert clapping hands emoji here).

Thank you, Team Dynamics. (Insert flexed biceps emojis here).

Honda keeps things simple

I LIKE Honda because it keeps things simple.

Whereas the Germans have enough models to fill an Argos catalogue twice over, the Japanese have just four family cars.

I repeat, four – and four good ones at that.

The Jazz is unashamedly aimed at knitting nanas, bingo-hall runs and the population of Eastbourne. It’s rock solid.

The HR-V is Honda’s small crossover with “magic seats” in the back. They fold up easily to let tall items stand in the rear footwells.

The CR-V, Honda’s larger SUV, has a boot big enough to swallow Jeremy Corbyn’s hate mail. And it’s a hybrid. You see? Simple.

And then we come to the Civic, understandably Honda’s big seller because it covers all the bases so beautifully well.

It’s an excellent front-wheel-drive hatchback in regular form, which gives rise to the greatest hot hatch of the modern era in the shape of the whale-tail Type R.

Yes, it looks like a boy racer’s wet dream but it is a sublime bit of kit.

And that brings me to the white EX Sport Line you see here. It has the same look as a Type R, just minus the massive insurance bill and juicy running costs.

Key facts

HONDA CIVIC EX SPORT LINE

Price: From £24,510

Engine: 1-litre 3cyl turbo petrol

Power: 126hp, 200Nm

0-62mph: 11.2 secs

Top speed: 126mph

Economy: 42mpg

CO2: 128g/km

Out: Now

Indeed, the £24,510 Sport Line is powered by a little 1-litre three-cylinder engine with 126 horses.

This does not make it anything like quick, but it’s a willing, smooth and sweet-sounding engine that’s good on fuel, so I’ll give it a thumbs-up here.

A £1,000 premium over the plain-Jane top-spec Civic EX brings in the sporty body kit, different 17in alloys and an interior with its own jazzy trim.

That does make it a bit pricey overall, though, because dropping nearly 25 large on this seems a bit tasty.

Luckily, you’ll be able to add Sport Line spec to the lower-grade SR soon, so that’ll lower the price.

Anyway, two-stage dampers give the Civic Sport Line a comfy ride and also sharp handling, while the six-speed manual gearbox is a dream – avoid the CVT.

In fact, apart from a touch too much road noise, this Civic Sport Line is good, simple fun in an appealing package. Good work, Honda.

Q&A with triple BTCC champion Matt Neal

FIVE questions to triple BTCC champ Matt Neal.

Q. What is your daily drive?

A. Honda Civic Type R. The grey one outside. It’s phenomenal. Ninety nine out of 100 people will never experience what this car is capable of. You can’t on a road. It’s only when you take it on a track you can get anywhere near the limit.

Q. So the road car gives you a head start with the race car?

A. Absolutely. The shell and engine are stock but we work on torsional rigidity, aero and induction.

Q. How many horses?

A. 350.

Q. Why are you laughing?

A. That’s what it’s meant to be.

Q. What would happen without “success ballast” in BTCC?

A. You’d get the same teams winning week in, week out.

Q. And would that affect Honda?

A. Yeah.

Q. Is it harming your team?

A. It improves the show. Without it we’d win a lot more races because the base product is pretty mega.

Q. Frustrating, then?

A. I’m not against it. I think they should add weight in small increments in F1. It would stop it being the Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull show. The cream will still rise to the top, they’ve just got to work harder for it.

Q. I watched the last race at Brands. Dan was three miles from winning the title . . .

A. Heartbreaking.

Q. Have you got a winning car for 2020?

A. We hope so. Everyone will luck into results because that’s the nature of the formula. We want to be as consistent as we can at every race and that comes down to attention to detail and maximising everything we can.

Sorry, can’t count. That was ten questions. Thank you, Matt.

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NASCAR is changing gears in 2021 with 6-speed transmission in new car, report says

Two-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Kyle Busch talks winning his second title

2019 NASCAR Cup Series Champion Kyle Busch talks to Fox News Autos editor Gary Gastelu about winning his second title and what it was like to share the moment with his 4-year-old son.

NASCAR may be picking up speed in 2021. Two speeds, that is.

Hagerty reports that the next-generation NASCAR Cup Series car that is currently in development features a six-speed gearbox, up from four in today’s model.

The current NASCAR Cup Series car features an H-pattern shifter as most manual transmission production cars use.
(NASCAR)

Recent images of the car being tested by Joey Logano at Phoenix International Raceway revealed that it was equipped with the type of gear selector used with a sequential gearbox, rather than a traditional H-pattern unit. With a manual sequential setup, the driver taps the lever forward and backward to change gears in order, similar to the way a motorcycle operates.

Hagerty then spoke with engineers involved with the project at the recent Performance Racing Industry convention in Indianapolis who confirmed that the car is being developed with a six-speed Xtrac brand transaxle. It’s the same one used by the Australian Supercars series, which features cars that have some similarities to what NASCAR is working on for 2021, but competes exclusively on road and street courses.

(NASCAR)

Along with the extra gears, NASCAR previously confirmed that the new Cup cars will have independent rear suspensions, larger brakes and 18-inch wheels equipped with what Hagerty discovered are 14.3-inch wide tires, up from 10 inches on the current cars. Along with making the cars more relevant to the production models they represent, the changes would make them better suited to racing on road and street courses, the latter reportedly under consideration to be added to the series as soon as 2021, when the new cars make a debut.

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