Barack Obama has unleashed a coordinated assault on Mitt Romney, calling for an end to Bush-era tax-cuts for the rich, while Democrat spokespeople and allies flood the airwaves criticising Mr Romney for his offshore bank account and low tax rate.
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“We don’t need more top-down economics. We’ve tried that theory. That’s why I believe it’s time to let tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, folks like myself, to expire,” the US President said, while surrounded by middle-class taxpayers at a White House event earlier today.

“I’m not proposing anything radical here,” he said. “I just believe that anybody making over $250,000 a year should go back to the income tax rates we were paying under Bill Clinton – back when our economy created nearly 23 million new jobs, the biggest budget surplus in history, and plenty of millionaires to boot.”

Mr Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, hit back in a radio interview, saying: “What the president is proposing is therefore a massive tax increase on job creators and on small business.

“We just saw a terrible jobs report just last week and now to add a higher tax on job creators and on small business is about the worst thing I could imagine to do if you want to create jobs.”

But good political timing and even luck seemed to favour the Democrat message that Mr Romney, whose wealth is estimated at about $US250 million, is out of touch with Middle America.

After a week-long vacation at his lakeside estate in New England – during which time he was photographed jet skiing with his wife – Mr Romney attended three fundraisers in the Hamptons on Sunday, one at the home of the Revlon chairman, Ronald Perelman.

There one of the guests queuing for entry in her Range Rover told an LA Times reporter: “I don’t think the common person is getting it. Nobody understands why Obama is hurting them.

“We’ve got the message, but my college kid, the baby sitters, the nails ladies – everybody who’s got the right to vote – they don’t understand what’s going on.

“I just think if you’re lower income – one, you’re not as educated, two, they don’t understand how it works, they don’t understand how the systems work, they don’t understand the impact.”

Another was heard by the New York Times to yell to staff: “Is there a VIP entrance? We are VIP.”

It is understood Mr Romney secured $US3 million in donations on that day alone, after raising $US106 million in June, $US35 million more than the Obama campaign.

This comes after Vanity Fair’s revelation that Mr Romney – who pays only 15 per cent tax on the bulk of his income, drawn as it is from capital gains and dividends – has a Swiss bank account and holdings in Caribbean tax havens.

Earlier today the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, joined the Massachusetts Democratic Party Chair John Walsh to again call on Mr Romney to release his tax returns.

Though Ms Wasserman-Schultz’s attack was partially blunted by the revelations she has not released her own tax returns, with the issue still being discussed endlessly on American media, the Democrats appear to have successfully linked Mr Romney’s income to the broader tax issue.

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THE public rift between Labor and the Greens has escalated, with senior cabinet ministers accusing the Gillard government’s alliance partner of being economically irresponsible.
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After a senior ALP official’s description of the Greens as ”extremists”, Resources Minister Martin Ferguson yesterday joined in the attack, saying they ”don’t stand for a strong business sector, with a focus on jobs”.

”Every project they succeed in knocking over, they regard as a victory – irrespective of the consequences, especially in regional Australia,” Mr Ferguson told The Age. ”My position’s well known – I’ve got no truck with the Greens.”

Earlier, Foreign Minister Bob Carr said the Greens ”can’t be trusted on questions of economic management or national security” and Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said the two parties ”have different values and different policies”.

The row prompted former leader Bob Brown to emerge from retirement to defend the Greens and turn the heat on Labor. ”We are the progressive party, Labor’s now mired in this break-up caused by the right wing in New South Wales, but it’s Labor’s problem,” he told the ABC.

The move to distance itself from the Greens comes as Labor’s NSW branch prepares to debate whether the party should direct preferences against them when it suits.

Labor’s NSW secretary, Sam Dastyari, has said he will move a motion at the weekend state conference calling on the ALP to ”no longer provide the Greens party automatic preferential treatment in any future preference negotiations”. He described the Greens as ”extremists not unlike One Nation”.

The Labor Left, which reluctantly had to accept Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Malaysia solution on asylum seekers, is angry at the Greens’ refusal to compromise on the issue.

A Left convener, Stephen Jones, said the Greens had hung out Labor to dry on the issue. ”They behave more like a protest movement than a political party, and that makes it very hard to work with them,” he said.

Labor has had to work closely with the Greens and independent MPs since it failed to win a majority of seats at the 2010 election and formed a minority government.

Chief government whip Joel Fitzgibbon said the row was ”a manifestation of a lot of pent-up pressure over the last couple of years”. It had come to a head ”when the Greens stifled any opportunity we had to finding a workable solution to the very serious asylum seeker issue”.

Labor’s targeting of the Greens over asylum seekers is a change from earlier this year, when it focused only on the opposition.

Mr Fitzgibbon told the ABC: ”It wasn’t only the major parties that were prepared to give a bit. People as diverse as Bob Katter, Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor and Andrew Wilkie were all prepared to give ground.”

Mr Brown said: ”The Greens are our own party. We are willing to work with the other parties to get good outcomes but not at the expense of the law, not at the expense of humanity, not at the expense of doing the right thing.”

While Labor figures mostly believe the party should take a tougher public stand on the Greens, there are differences over whether preferences should be raised so far out from an election and some criticism of Mr Dastyari. ”It’s not appropriate for a secretary to to making this call,” one senior Labor figure said.

The Greens’ Adam Bandt hit back at Labor claims that the Greens were cannibalising the progressive vote.

”I think they’re cannibalising themselves,” he said. ”They’ve been white-anting the Prime Minister for some time, these Labor factional heavyweights including people like Joel Fitzgibbon.”

Follow the National Times on Twitter: @NationalTimesAU

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AUSTRALIAN scientists believe they have found a treatment for blood cancers that will spare patients the unpleasant side-effects of chemotherapy.
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The new drug, which has shown promising results in mice, will be tested on patients with lymphoma and leukaemia at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne this year.

An Associate Professor, Ross Hannan, from the hospital, found a weakness in cancer cells that could be targeted to kill them while sparing healthy cells. The weakness is a process called ribosome biogenesis, which produces proteins essential for the growth and survival of all cells.

”We’ve demonstrated that cancer cells are far more dependent on their ability to make ribosomes than normal cells, and therefore, much more vulnerable if these ‘protein factories’ come under attack,” he said of the research, published today in the journal Cancer Cell.

After working with an American pharmaceutical company, Associate Professor Hannan and his colleagues found a drug that could target this process, killing the cancer cells in mice with little effect on healthy cells.

A professor and co-head of the cancer therapeutics program at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Grant McArthur, said: ”This will hopefully lead to the eradication of lymphoma and leukaemia cells in patients.”

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LANG HANCOCK’S widow Rose has filed for divorce from her fourth husband, the real estate magnate Willie Porteous.
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The woman Gina Rinehart hired as a housekeeper who then went on to marry her father confirmed through her lawyer yesterday the decision to separate from Mr Porteous – a man she married less than six months after Mr Hancock’s death.

“We filed a divorce application today,” lawyer Simon Creek said. “It’s actually been filed. She wants that confirmed as the truth. It is all legit.”

This will be her third divorce. She legally separated from her first and second husbands – Julian Teodoro and Patrick Kuan – while planning her wedding to Mr Hancock.

Mrs Porteous, who spoke to the online magazine The Starfish about the divorce, now hopes to live a quiet life in Perth and spend time with her daughter, Johanna, and her three poodles, Denis, Lulu and Snoopy.

Mrs Porteous married Mr Hancock in 1985, after she worked as his housekeeper. He was 39 years her senior.

The union upset Mr Hancock’s only child, Mrs Rinehart, who waged a decade-long court battle with her, contesting his estate.

During their high-profile marriage, Mrs Porteous purchased and destroyed a Bentley in the same day and surprised Mr Hancock with a life-size mannequin of herself on his 79th birthday.

Mrs Porteous has retreated from Perth’s social scene over the years. She told Andrew Denton in 2003 she understands poodles better than men and was beginning to feel isolated. ”I get lonely. I get very, very lonely. Yes. Especially in Perth,” she said.

It is believed she is happy to have reconnected with her daughter from her marriage to Mr Kuan. They became estranged following Mr Hancock’s death in 1992 when she referred to her mother during a 60 Minutes interview as a ”gold digger” and a ”mail order bride”.

This will be the second time Mrs Porteous has filed for divorce from Mr Porteous after she missed a court date to finalise the split in 2002. The pair have been married for 20 years.

with The West Australian

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Kirsty Thatcher from Queensland is announced as the winner of the Dolly Model Search competition.Kirsty Thatcher is only 13, but standing at 178 centimetres in full professional hair and make-up, the aspiring model talks about issues like ”positive body image” with the sort of conviction most 21-year-olds would find hard to muster.
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Occasionally the Brisbane teen reverts to speaking in the language of her peers: ”It’s soooo amazing. I loved the dresses and getting the hair and make-up done. It was just soooo cool.”

Yesterday on the rooftop of the Museum of Contemporary Art overlooking the harbour, Kirsty was named the 2012 Dolly Model Search winner, unleashing a storm of controversy.

She was the youngest of six finalists selected from thousands of teenage girls around the country who hoped the competition would launch their careers as it did for supermodel Miranda Kerr, who was also just 13 when she won in 1997.

Kerr’s win also caused a media furore. Years later she reflected on the controversy: ”In the media at the time they were trying to cling on to anything remotely to do with paedophilia. Dolly is a magazine for teenage girls, not for old men.”

Yet it was the former Dolly editor Mia Freedman who axed the model search a decade ago, not just because she thought 13-year-olds were too young to enter a ”very adult industry”.

”It was a bad commercial decision for me, but I was compelled to make it because ultimately, you are putting a child into an industry that’s all about rejection,” she said.

”Even Miranda Kerr gets rejected, and I don’t think winning the competition at 14 was a great thing for Kate Fischer either.

”Let’s not dress it up, modelling is all about being told you are too fat, too short, have the wrong teeth.”

Freedman is disappointed the competition has been resurrected this year. ”It sends the wrong message,” she said.

Not so, according to current Dolly editor Tiffany Dunk, who said yesterday: ”We intentionally didn’t ask the girls what their dress size was or how much they weighed. We asked them to tell us something about themselves. We are not just looking for a fashion model, but also a role model who can be a positive ambassador for Dolly.”

Dunk enlisted the advice of body-image specialists from The Butterfly Foundation, who conducted workshops with the finalists on issues such as eating disorders.

Yet among the finalists yesterday, the competition’s clear attraction was its prize, the potentially lucrative modelling contract with the high-profile Sydney modelling agency Chadwicks.

Kirsty’s mother, Debbie, beamed with pride. She was ”nervous” about her daughter entering the modelling industry, but added ”it really has been her dream for a long time, so I’m happy to support her”.

Kirsty will soon fly to New York to meet agents.

Travelling with her will be the Chadwicks managing director, former model Martin Walsh, who likened the industry to the world of elite sport.

”If a kid shows a great talent as a sportsman, you don’t ignore it, you recognise it and you guide it properly,” he said.

”There isn’t much she can really do until she reaches about 15 or 16. If nurtured properly, these girls can go on to not just be ordinary models, but good businesswomen too.”

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