Australia’s secret shame. At People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals they call mulesing “Australia’s secret shame” but my guess it will be less of a secret quite soon. The decision of woolgrowers to dump the board of Australian Wool Innovations because they were committed to ending the practice of mutilating sheep by 2010 and install directors who want to continue the practice for longer, will infuriate the animal rights activists. Kevin Rudd for one can expect to receive a rash of emails saying something similar to this:

I was shocked to learn that Australian farmers continue to partially skin lambs alive, despite growing international pressure from retailers and consumers to implement long-term, humane alternatives. Instead of taking real action, the Australian wool industry has turned to cheap and cruel plastic mulesing “clips,” which are as cruel as hacking lambs’ skin and flesh away with shears and are equally ineffective against flystrike. There is overwhelming scientific evidence that mulesing is so cruel that it adversely affects lambs for months, and the “clips” also cause great pain to the lambs. Viable, humane alternatives are already in use by many Australian farmers. There’s simply no reason for the Australian government to continue to allow cruel mulesing mutilations and live export.

That’s the suggested form of words on the PETA website savethesheep.com this morning.

A depressing analysis. If my colleague Glenn Dyer did not depress those still with jobs in the media enough yesterday with his piece in Crikey headlined “UK Media slashing jobs, looking to the future“, then perhaps this will do the trick. Last week at the American Press Institute’s closed-door summit of 50 of the top newspaper executives from around the country, says a report I read this morning, James Shein, a turnaround specialist and professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, asked executives to calculate their company’s Altman Z-scores, which can help identify how close a company is to bankruptcy. A score above three is the accepted safe range. Shein said only one company was above that measure. EW Scripps Co. has a Z-score of 3.78, according to Bloomberg.

Writes John Templon of the Medill newsagency:

Lee Enterprises Inc., which publishes The Times of Northwest Indiana and the St. Louis Post Dispatch, has a Z-score of .56 and the Sun-Times Media Group Inc., which publishes the Chicago Sun-Times and a large number of community newspapers in the Chicago area, has a Z-score of minus 1.02.

McClatchy Co., which publishes The Miami Herald and 29 other daily papers, has a Z-score of .32. The company’s stock “could be worthless,” according to a report by Chicago-based Morningstar Inc.

“McClatchy has struggled under the multiple weights of declining revenues, high debt, outsized exposure to troubled housing markets, and the continuing shift of readers and advertisers from print to online,” said equity analyst Tom Corbett in a report issued on Friday. “Given the persistence and severity of these conditions, we think equity shareholders are at risk of losing the entire value of their investment.”

Comebacks can happen. Those who believe that the NSW election due in 2011 is all over bar the Liberal National Coalition Government being sworn in, should perhaps reflect a little on this graph of the roller coaster ride that Labour has had in the United Kingdom.

Just six months ago the pundits were writing the political obituary for Gordon Brown when his Labour Government fell more than 20 points behind the Conservative Opposition. Today the average of the UK pollsters has that lead down to around five points and the most recently published Ipsos/MORI puts it at three.

Will Barack Obama prove more popular than George Bush? It might he hard to remember, but George W. Bush was once a popular president. After his first month as President of the United States on 1 March 2001, he had an approval rating as measured by the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll of 57.0%. Barack Obama will soon have his presidential popularity out to the test and the Crikey Political Indicator, based on prediction markets from around the world, gives him a 79% chance of having a higher initial rating as judged by the Real Clear Politics average job approval figure on 1 March 2009 than the man he will replace did eight years earlier. As an indication of how the mighty can fall, have a look at the Gallup poll’s quarterly ratings from 2001 until now.

Peter Fray

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