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AssessmentsOct 23, 2020 | 20:31 GMT
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri arrives at the office of President Michel Aoun, after the latter appointed him to form a government on Oct. 22, 2020, in Beirut, Lebanon.
In Lebanon, Hariri’s Return Will Ease Markets and Enrage Protesters
Saad Hariri’s return as Lebanon’s prime minister will unlock access to French aid and likely improve the country’s economic stability, but it will also trigger a fresh round of unrest by reinforcing popular perceptions that political reform is unlikely. On Oct. 22, Lebanese President Michel Aoun named Hariri, a prominent Sunni politician, prime minister-designate and tasked him with forming a government. Most political parties approved the nomination, indicating cross-sectarian approval for the three-time prime minister. The Iran-backed militant group and Shiite political party, Hezbollah, even tacitly approved Hariri’s nomination, despite disapproving of other candidates up to this point. 
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AssessmentsOct 23, 2020 | 18:21 GMT
Fans of the Saudi national football team cheer during a match against Qatar at the King Fahad International Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Nov. 26, 2014.
Budget Cuts Will Test Saudis’ Loyalty to Their Government
New survey data suggests that Saudi Arabia’s citizens remain politically aligned with and supportive of the government, though that support may quickly dissipate as Riyadh makes difficult decisions on economic restructuring. The Arab Opinion Index, a survey compiled by the Doha Institute in Qatar, gives rare insight into regional social and political trends in the Middle East. For Saudi Arabia, the latest survey findings reveal a population largely content with their economic and political situations. Saudis’ economic well-being, however, will be undercut as pandemic-related losses of oil revenue and the arrival of peak oil demand force their government to make deeper cuts to crucial social programs, creating pockets of unrest across the kingdom.
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SnapshotsOct 20, 2020 | 17:49 GMT
A satellite image shows Europe at night.
The U.S. Ramps Up Financial Support to Central and Eastern Europe
U.S. financial support for the Three Seas Initiative shows the White House remains committed to its security and economic engagements in Central and Eastern Europe, with an eye on countering China and Russia’s presence in the region. On Oct. 19, the United States announced that it will contribute $300 million to the Three Seas Initiative Investment Fund, which finances cross-border energy, transport and digital infrastructure projects in the regions between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic Seas, raising its capital base to over $1.3 billion. The United States will use cooperation with the Three Seas Initiative to compete with China and Russia for influence in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as promote its foreign policy agenda in the region (which does not always align with that of the European Union). However, internal divisions among Three Seas Initiative countries will limit the effectiveness of such U.S. influence campaigns by weakening the group’s
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PodcastsOct 20, 2020 | 05:00 GMT
Essential Geopolitics: Israel Battles a Second COVID-19 Wave
The world is almost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic. In several countries, including the U.S. and Israel, there’s been an uptick in cases. In this episode of the Essential Geopolitics podcast from Stratfor, a RANE company, Emily Donahue speaks with Middle East and North Africa Analyst Ryan Bohl about Israel's second COVID-19 lockdown and the reaction from its citizens.
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SnapshotsOct 19, 2020 | 20:14 GMT
A man holds new South African banknotes of the South African rand on July 13, 2018, in Pretoria, South Africa.
South Africa’s Economic Reality Will Dim Any Hopes of a Quick Recovery
Domestic political and financial constraints will thwart South Africa’s new economic recovery plan, prolonging the country’s five-year financial crisis while exacerbating its current levels of inequality and poverty. In an Oct. 15 speech to parliament, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa unveiled his government’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, which ambitiously targets an average of 3 percent GDP growth over the next decade -- a level South Africa has not seen since 2011. The plan seeks to meet that goal by implementing structural reforms, boosting infrastructure investment and reducing bureaucratic red tape. Critically, however, the plan does not abandon the government’s strategy of fiscal consolidation over the medium term.
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SnapshotsOct 15, 2020 | 21:23 GMT
The U.S. State Department building is seen in Washington D.C. on July 22, 2019.
The White House’s Hong Kong Report Maintains Its Measured Approach
The White House is continuing its cautious and relatively slow-paced approach to Hong Kong, as it tries to avoid disrupting business continuity in the city and ensure the volatile political dynamic doesn’t drive the overall U.S.-China dynamic, including outreach on issues such as trade. On Oct. 14, the U.S. State Department issued its required Hong Kong Autonomy Act report to Congress, listing 10 Chinese and Hong Kong officials found to have materially contributed to eroding the region's autonomy. The report warned that banks that conduct significant transactions with the individuals listed could face U.S. secondary sanctions, including restrictions on U.S. dollar transactions and measures targeting corporate leadership. This sets the stage for a potential increase of U.S. pressure on foreign, Hong Kong and Chinese financial institutions operating in the city. However, the nature of the Oct. 14 report suggests a less escalatory approach, though that could change depending on the
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AssessmentsOct 15, 2020 | 16:08 GMT
A close-up view shows the Alipay logo in Ant Group’s office in Shanghai, China, on Aug. 28, 2020.
The U.S. Sets Its Eyes on Chinese Fintech Companies
The U.S. government will likely increase restrictions on the use of Chinese payment systems in the United States, but any decisions regarding broader action on Chinese data acquisition is unlikely ahead of the U.S. election in November. On Sept. 30, senior Trump administration officials reportedly discussed imposing new restrictions on WeChat Pay and Alipay -- the two payment apps owned by the Chinese fintech giants Tencent and Ant Group, respectively. Some White House officials have advocated for wider restrictions that could affect the use of the payment apps outside the United States as part of the administration’s push to limit China’s overall access to the U.S. market due to national security concerns. But any initial U.S. restrictions will likely be limited to WeChat Pay and Alipay’s specific use in the United States and its access to U.S. technology in order to limit the risk of provoking Chinese retaliation and/or self-inflicted
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PodcastsOct 15, 2020 | 04:45 GMT
Essential Geopolitics: Who Will Win Nagorno-Karabakh?
In this episode of the Essential Geopolitics podcast from Stratfor, a RANE company, Emily Donahue speaks with Sim Tack, senior global analyst for Stratfor about the flare-up in border tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno Karabakh and what happens next.
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SnapshotsOct 14, 2020 | 17:11 GMT
A pile of briquettes, which are compressed blocks of coal dust, is seen in Melbourne, Australia, in March 2017.
With an Apparent Coal Ban, China Ups the Cost of Australia’s Political Defiance
Reports that China has halted purchases of Australian coal suggest Beijing is increasing economic pressure to curb Canberra’s more confrontational stance. Such moves, however, are unlikely to inhibit Australia’s greater strategic shift to rebalance against Chinese encroachment in the region. On Oct. 14, leaks indicated that around 850,000 tonnes of Australian coking coal on ten Panamax vessels bound for China was being diverted to other markets. This follows an Oct. 13 confirmation from Australia's trade ministry that it was determining whether Beijing has suspended purchases of Australian coking and thermal coal. Reports from the day before indicate that Chinese officials told most large power stations and steel mills in early October to halt the use of Australian coal. Many ports were also reportedly told not to offload the product, causing buyers to respond by halting purchases for fear they wouldn’t clear customs. If confirmed, China's suspension of Australian coal purchases
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PodcastsOct 13, 2020 | 04:15 GMT
Essential Geopolitics: The Americas at the Crossroads
In this episode of the Essential Geopolitics podcast from Stratfor, a RANE company, a conversation about crossroads. In the next three weeks, the Americas will experience three significant elections: The U.S. presidential election, a referendum to decide whether Chile will draft a new constitution, and a general election in Bolivia to elect a new president and congress.
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