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Uber introduces minimum rating requirements for riders, so don’t be a jerk

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It’s long-known that Uber drivers who fall under a certain star rating face getting kicked off the platform, and now that threat will extend to riders.

The ride-hailing company announced a new minimum average rating requirement for passengers in Australia and New Zealand, as per its update on its community guidelines.

Those changes will go into effect Sept. 19, and riders who veer too close to the minimum will be alerted before they sink below the requirement.

Once a rider drops below the minimum rating of 4.0, their account could be deactivated if they fail to improve after multiple notifications. Riders can reactivate their account after taking a “short educational exercise.”  Read more…

More about Tech, Australia, Uber, Ridesharing, and Big Tech Companies

Australia bans Huawei and ZTE from supplying technology for its 5G network

Australia has blocked Huawei and ZTE from providing equipment for its 5G network, which is set to launch commercially next year. In a tweet, Huawei stated that the Australian government told the company that both it and ZTE are banned from supplying 5G technology to the country, despite Huawei’s assurances that it does not pose a threat to national security.

We have been informed by the Govt that Huawei & ZTE have been banned from providing 5G technology to Australia. This is a extremely disappointing result for consumers. Huawei is a world leader in 5G. Has safely & securely delivered wireless technology in Aust for close to 15 yrs

— Huawei Australia (@HuaweiOZ) August 22, 2018

Earlier today, the Australian government issued new security guidelines for 5G carriers. Although it did not mention Huawei, ZTE or China specifically, it did strongly hint at them by stating “the Government considers that the involvement of vendors who are likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from foreign government that conflict with Australian law, may risk failure by the carrier to adequately protect a 5G network from unauthorized access or interference.”

Concerns that Huawei, ZTE and other Chinese tech companies will be forced to comply with a new law, passed last year, that obligates all Chinese organizations and citizens to provide information to national intelligence agencies when asked have made several countries wary of using their technology. Earlier this month, the United States banned the use of most Huawei and ZTE technology by government agencies and contractors, six years after a Congressional report first cited the two companies as security threats.

In its new security guidelines, the Australian government stated that differences in the way 5G operates compared to previous network generations introduces new risks to national security. In particular, it noted the diminishing distinctions between the core network, where more sensitive functions like access control and data routing occur, and the edge, or radios that connect customer equipment, like laptops and mobile phones, to the core.

“This new architecture provides a way to circumvent traditional security controls by exploiting equipment in the edge of the network – exploitation which may affect overall network integrity and availability, as well as the confidentiality of customer data. A long history of cyber incidents shows cyber actors target Australia and Australians,” the guidelines stated. “Government has found no combination of technical security controls that sufficiently mitigate the risks.”

Last year, Australia introduced the Telecommunications Sector Security Reforms (TSSR), which takes effect next month and directs carriers and telecommunication service providers to protect their networks and infrastructure from national security threats and also notify the government of any proposed changes that may compromise the security of their network. It also gives the government the power to “intervene and issue directions in cases where there are significant national security concerns that cannot be addressed through other means.”

Huawei’s Australian chairman John Lord said in June that the company had received legal advice that its Australian operations are not bound to Chinese laws and he would refuse to hand over any data to the Chinese government in breach of Australian law. Lord also argued that banning Huawei could hurt local businesses and customers by raising prices and limiting access to technology.

TechCrunch has contacted ZTE and Huawei for comment.

This country’s prime minister intervened because people couldn’t watch the World Cup

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Never get between fans and the World Cup.

Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has stepped in after people complained of streaming issues with Optus, which holds the right to locally broadcast all the games at the tournament.

On Twitter, Turnbull said he had spoken with the telecommunications company’s CEO, Allen Lew, who reassured the problems would be fixed by Monday night.

I have spoken with the Optus CEO, Allen Lew. He assures me he is giving the World Cup streaming problems his personal attention and he believes it will be fixed this evening.

— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) June 18, 2018 Read more…

More about Sports, Australia, Soccer, Optus, and World Cup

China’s Didi Chuxing continues its international expansion with Australia launch

Didi Chuxing, China’s dominant ride-hailing company, is continuing its international expansion after it announced plans to launch in Australia this month.

The company — which bought Uber’s China business in 2016 — said it will begin serving customers in Melbourne from June 25 following a month-long trial period in Geelong, a neighboring city that’s 75km away. The business will be run by a Didi subsidiary in Australia and it plans to offer “a series of welcome packages to both drivers and riders” — aka discounts and promotions, no doubt. It began signing up drivers on June 1, the company added.

The Australia launch will again put Didi in direct competition with Uber, but that is becoming increasingly common, and also Ola and Didi which both count Didi as an investor — more on that below. This move follows forays into Taiwan, Mexico and Brazil this year as Didi has finally expanded beyond its China-based empire.

Didi raised $4 billion in December to develop AI, general technology and to fund international expansion and it has taken a variety of routes to doing the latter. This Australia launch is organic, with Didi developing its own team, while in Taiwan it has used a franchise model and it went into Brazil via acquisition, snapping up local Uber-rival 99 at a valuation of $1 billion.

It is also set to enter Japan where it has teamed up with investor SoftBank on a joint-venture.

“In 2018, Didi will continue to cultivate markets in Latin America, Australia and Japan. We are confident a combination of world-class transportation AI technology and deep local expertise will bring a better experience to overseas markets,” the company added in a statement.

This international expansion has also brought a new level of confusion since Didi has cultivated relationships with other ride-hailing companies across the world while also expanding its own presence internationally.

The Uber deal brought with it a stock swap — turning Didi and Uber from competitors into stakeholders — and the Chinese company has also backed Grab in Southeast Asia, Lyft in the U.S., Ola in India, Careem in the Middle East and — more recentlyTaxify, which is primarily focused on Europe and Africa.

In the case of Australia, Didi will come up against Uber, Ola — present in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney via an expansion made earlier this year — and Taxify, too. Uber vs Didi is to be expected — that’s a complicated relationship — but in taking on Ola (so soon after it came to Australia), Didi is competing directly with a company that it funded via an investment deal for the first time.

That might be a small insight into Didi’s relationship with Ola. Unlike Grab, which has seen Didi follow-on its investments, the Chinese firm sat out Ola’s most recent fundraising last year despite making an investment in the company back in 2015.

“The ride-hailing industry is still a young business, and the potential for growth is substantial. Competition exists in ride-hailing, like in any flourishing industry. But it leads to better products and services, which ultimately benefits users,” Didi told TechCrunch in a statement when asked about its new rivalry with Ola and Taxify.

Ola declined to comment. Taxify did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The move into Australia comes at a time when Didi is under intense pressure following the death of a passenger uses its ‘Hitch’ service last month.

The company suspended the Hitch service — which allows groups people who are headed in the same direction together — and removed a number of features while limiting its operations to day-time only. This week, it said it would resume night-time rides but only for drivers picking up passengers of the same sex.

People wondered what was up with this dirty-sounding church sign

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We guess it’s one way to get people to pay attention to a religious message.

An Australian church has raised eyebrows for its dirty-sounding sign, which reads “FORGIVENESS IS SWALLOWING WHEN YOU’D RATHER SPIT.” Nope, not making it up. 

Here is the sign, as it was displayed in front of the Anglican Church of the Holy Spirit in Surfers Paradise, photographed by local politician John-Paul Langbroek.

More about Australia, Culture, Church, Culture, and Web Culture

Yikes, that’s a lot of flies

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The occasional fly buzzing about is an inevitable part of living in Australia. But in some parts of the country, the flies can get pretty hectic. 

As Andrew Harper from the Outback Camel Company in the Simpson Desert found out, detailed in a video posted on Facebook Tuesday. 

“I’ve not seen them this thick for years,” the post reads. Thick may be an understatement.

Harper told the ABC the combination of recent rainfall and warm temperatures have resulted in the spike of flies. 

“We all had fly nets on and we stopped for a break. I was looking back at my lead camel and her saddle and the front of the saddle. Right across both sides was just black,” he told the news outlet. Read more…

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Sharks apparently don’t mind jazz music

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Turns out you can train a shark to like jazz.

Researchers at Australia’s Macquarie University have shown that the animal has a more discerning taste in music than you’d anticipate.

The study, published in Animal Cognition, shows that baby Port Jackson sharks can learn to associate music with food. If played jazz, the sharks would swim over to a feeding station to receive their delicious reward.

“Sound is really important for aquatic animals, it travels well under water and fish use it to find food, hiding places and even to communicate,” Catarina Vila-Pouca, the study’s lead author, said in a statement online. Read more…

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Why Australia is spending millions to make GPS signals more accurate

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Maybe Australians haven’t noticed, but the little blue marker showing where you are in Google Maps, or even Apple Maps, isn’t as accurate as it could be.

It’s why Australia is spending over A$260 million (US$193 million) to invest in satellite infrastructure and technology to improve GPS accuracy, as part of the Federal Government’s budget announcement.

As it stands, Australians get uncorrected GPS signals that are accurate to five metres (5.4 yards).

To improve that, the majority of the funds will be invested in a Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS), which aims to correct GPS accuracy to around a metre (1.09 yards), across Australia and its maritime zone. Read more…

More about Australia, Gps, Satellites, Global Positioning System, and Science

Congratulations, John Oliver, on the koala chlamydia ward named after you

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So a few weeks ago, Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver hit the headlines for buying a whole bunch of Russell Crowe memorabilia.

The auction of stuff included, of all things, the backs of seats sat on by famous people like Denzel Washington and Crowe, a vest from Les Misérables, and a jockstrap worn by Crowe in Cinderella Man.

Crowe amassed more than $3 million in sales at the auction, which you’d assume would go straight to his coffers. 

But not so fast: The actor ended up donating that money to a koala chlamydia ward at Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo, after promising on Twitter that Oliver’s “random act of kindness is going to be honoured in a cool way.” Read more…

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Facebook’s facial recognition feature could help find missing persons

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Facebook’s new facial recognition features makes some people uneasy, but the tool could help find missing people.

Australian organisation Missing Persons Action Network (MPAN) has launched a campaign called Invisible Friends, asking people to add the profiles of missing people as friends on the social media platform.

Facebook’s new facial recognition tools will automatically tag people in photos, even if they’re in the background. Users will be notified, and asked if they want to be tagged in the photos. 

These profiles of missing people, like Zac Barnes who disappeared in 2016, are actually run by MPAN. That means the organisation will receive a notification if the person is tagged by Facebook’s facial recognition feature.  Read more…

More about Facebook, Australia, Social Media, Missing, and Facial Recognition

Baby tree kangaroo takes first steps, decides pouch is better than world

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If you can get through this video of a baby tree kangaroo taking its first steps without losing your shit, you’re stone cold.

Sydney’s Taronga Zoo has released an outlandishly adorable video of its new marsupial resident, a little Goodfellows tree kangaroo joey who took his first steps on Wednesday.

Yet to be named, the wee creature was born in September last year to mama Kwikila, but this is the first time the keepers have seen him roam.

More about Australia, Cute Animals, Baby Animals, Tree Kangaroo, and Marsupials

WeWork confirms deal to buy Naked Hub, one of its main competitors in China

WeWork is buying up one of its largest competitors in China after it announced a deal to acquire Naked Hub.

The deal was widely reported by Chinese media yesterday, but WeWork has now confirmed it through a blog post from its CEO Adam Neumann. Terms of the transaction are not disclosed but Bloomberg reported that it is worth around $400 million.

Naked Hub is an offshoot of China-based luxury resort company Naked Group that was started in 2015 by Grant Horsfield and Delphine Yip-Horsfield. The company is primarily anchored in China, with most of its locations in Beijing and Shanghai, but it has expanded into Australia, Hong Kong and Vietnam. All told, it claims to have 10,000 members across its 24 office locations.

Even though a deal to merge with Singapore-based JustCo was called off, Naked Hub had emerged as one of WeWork’s fiercest competitors in China with the ambition to continue that battle in Southeast Asia and other markets, as I wrote last year.

WeWork isn’t commenting at this point about how it plans to integrate the two brands, but its CEO Neumann paid tribute to the Naked Hub business.

“We have found an equal who shares our thinking about the importance of space, community, design, culture, and technology. Together, I believe we will have a profound impact in helping businesses across China grow, scale, and succeed,” he wrote.

“China-born naked Hub and WeWork may come from vastly different backgrounds, but there is more that binds us than separates us. The values we share toward creating a vibrant community for our members by using design, technology, and hospitality are core to how both companies are successful,” said Horsfield, Naked Group’s founder and chairman.

Naked Hub may be a growing threat to WeWork China, but it is far from the only major competitor. Unicorn Ucommune — which changed its name from URwork following a lawsuit from WeWork — is perhaps the largest profile Chinese challenger.

WeWork launched in China in 2016 via Shanghai. Today it said it has 13 locations in Greater China with plans to increase that to more than 40 by the end of this year. That’s a move that it said will quadruple its membership numbers in China from 10,000 to 40,000.

The deal is WeWork’s second acquisition of a competitor in Asia, its first being a deal to buy SpaceMob, a then 1.5-year-old company in Singapore, last year.

The company has been lining its pockets to fuel a big push into Asia.

Last year, the firm span out a WeWork China entity backed by $500 million from investors, while capital also went to WeWork Japan — a unit that investor SoftBank owns half of — and WeWork Pacific, its business focused on Southeast Asia and other parts of the region which also got a $500 million to spend. All of that capital was part of a $4.4 billion investment round in WeWork from SoftBank.

Australia also investigates Facebook following data scandal

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Facebook might be getting a “booting” Down Under.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) announced on Thursday it would open a formal investigation into the social media giant to see if it has breached Australia’s privacy laws. 

It follows news the personal information of 300,000 Australian Facebook users “may have been acquired and used without authorisation” as part of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that affected 87 million.

OAIC said it would work with foreign authorities on the investigation, “given the global nature of the matter.”  Read more…

More about Facebook, Australia, Privacy, Cambridge Analytica, and Tech

Python somehow swallows a slipper, requiring surgery to remove it

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Sure, you’ve heard of snakes swallowing possums, hyenas, and uh, other snakes

They’re at least kinda digestible, unlike a slipper. A man from the Queensland town of Haigslea in Australia had placed by his bed last Tuesday as he went to sleep, only to find one of them missing in the morning.

The snake, with slipper inside, was found on Friday and was subsequently removed by N&S Snake Catcher, who posted the video on Facebook.

Sally Hill, who helped catch the snake with her partner Norman, told ABC News about her theory as to why the reptile devoured the strange item. Read more…

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Platypus milk is not a new trendy milk, but it could save lives

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Platypus milk: It’s not the new almond milk, but it could save lives.

Milk from Australia’s duck-billed, egg-laying monotreme could be crucial to the fight against antibiotic resistance, thanks to new research by Australian scientists.

Back in 2010, scientists found that platypus milk held properties that could be used to develop defences against superbugs — nasty bacteria that have built up a resistance to antimicrobial treatments like antibiotics. 

Now, in what WHO has dubbed the “post antibiotic era,” researchers at CSIRO have teamed up with Deakin University to understand how an unusual protein found in platypus milk, with rather protective antibacterial characteristics, could help to fight these superbugs. Read more…

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Absolute heroes brave rising floodwaters to save a giant spider

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Giant spiders are the kind of creature many people are deathly afraid of, but bless the rest who are willing to lend them a hand.

Like this one found clinging to a branch outside a supermarket in the Queensland, Australia town of Halifax on Sunday, as floodwaters raged on below.

Video of the stranded arachnid was uploaded to Facebook by Andrea Gofton, where of course someone had to put their hand next to it to prove how big it is.

Later, another video shows a man taking the entire branch and placing it onto dry land, where it could scurry away. Read more…

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Chris Hemsworth is just being a good dad, teaching his kids how to surf

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While the rest of Hollywood might still be recovering from the Oscars, Chris Hemsworth is busy being a good daddy.

The Thor: Ragnarok star is back in Australia, spending some quality time with the family and keeping the world up to date on his Instagram.

It’s a slice of the simple life, like a spot of camping and barbecues by the fire.

Or casually skipping rope by the beach.

More about Australia, Celebrities, Surfing, Surf, and Chris Hemsworth

Turn your smartphone camera into a microscope with this 3D-printed accessory

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OK, so you can’t bring a microscope everywhere with you.

But you can certainly take this 3D-printed version, designed to clip onto your smartphone and work with its camera.

The device was developed by researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) at Australia’s RMIT University, and is the subject of a paper in Scientific Reports.

Requiring no external power or lighting source, the smartphone microscope is slated to be a handy tool for conducting fieldwork in remote areas, especially when bringing a larger microscope is impractical or unavailable. Read more…

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People are mesmerised by this snake’s elegant movement along a fence

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Snakes move in mysterious ways, but perhaps not always as mesmerisingly as this.

A video posted on the Facebook page of Bangor Vineyard Shed in Australia shows a Tasmanian tiger snake trying to navigate a thin fence line, which looks to be pretty challenging.

“I guess when you are a snake for a living then it’s quite cool to get a perspective from a new angle now and then. But that really does look like an awkward way to get around!” the post reads.

This Tasmanian tiger snake certainly has an interesting way of getting around @bangorfarm! #WildOz pic.twitter.com/Y0OPQtuboM

— Wildlife Land Trust (@wlt_au) February 14, 2018 Read more…

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Dudes brawl on train, then unexpectedly end up hugging it out

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Well, this is unexpectedly heartwarming.

Two unnamed commuters who were traveling on a train in Sydney, Australia got into a fight for unknown reasons, in a video shot by Judita Aku-wei Winter but uploaded by Ten News on Friday.

The situation predictably got ugly, but the end result was uh, well, a hug. “If you don’t mean it, I don’t mean it,” one of the men tells his former opponent.

To be fair, it’s Australia: A place where you can get into a tiff with someone and still be friends afterwards. Read more…

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Here’s a snake eating a possum, because Australia

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Australian animals are terrifying enough, but it doesn’t get more unsettling than watching one of them eat another.

A carpet python named Monty was filmed devouring a possum in the backyard of Gold Coast resident Greg Hosking’s home on Monday afternoon.

“It was pretty exciting to watch. It’s mesmerising in an alarming kind of way,” Hosking told ABC News

It took about 45 minutes for Monty to devour the possum, but we think this 1-minute video is enough for most people. Read more…

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Uber’s biggest rival in India expands internationally

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Uber is set to meet a familiar foe Down Under.

For the first time, ride-hailing giant Ola is setting up outside of India. The company said it plans to launch in Australia in early 2018, and is currently signing up drivers in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. 

The latest Uber challenger follows in the footsteps of Estonian ride-hailing company Taxify, which launched in Sydney last December, and recently began operations in Melbourne. 

On its website, Ola said it will initially charge a 7.5 percent commission from drivers. For the time being, it’s considerably lower than Taxify’s 15 percent, and Uber, which is around 25 percent. Ola is yet to reveal its entire fare structure in Australia. Read more…

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Serena Williams has no time for divisive Tennys

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Everyone loves an underdog, but the fast-rising Tennys Sandgren is proving to be quite polarising.

The once-unknown Tennessean is the first American male tennis player since 2010 to make the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.

But in the past 24 hours, questions have been raised about Sandgren’s alleged alt-right sympathies and belief in the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. It culminated in the player completely purging his Twitter account of tweets.

While support for your countrymen often comes automatic in sports, Serena Williams fired away with a two-word tweet seemingly aimed at Sandgren on Wednesday, who was set to play South Korean starlet Chung Hyeon. Read more…

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Tennis pro Tennys Sandgren’s sudden rise prompts questions over alt-right links

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This year has been rather fruitful for the underdog at the Australian Open tennis tournament. 

One of the unexpected successes is a Tennessean with a funny name, Tennys Sandgren, whose giant-killing efforts have earned him a place at the tournament’s quarterfinal and plenty of admiration.

But as people began to jump on the Sandgren bandwagon, questions have been raised about the player’s alleged support of the so-called alt-right, a white nationalist movement, and the Pizzagate conspiracy theory.

Tweets from the player have been circulated which indicate his support for Mike Cernovich on “fake news,” a denial that America has a problem with systemic racism because it elected a black president twice, and his belief that the “collective evidence is too much to ignore” in regard to the Pizzagate emails. Read more…

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Pesky crocodile steals fisherman’s catch like it’s NBD

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We get fighting for what you’ve worked for, but maybe not up against a crocodile.

A fisherman came a bit too close to the reptile while trying to reel in a barramundi at Cahills Crossing in the Northern Territory, Australia.

In a video posted on the Facebook page Bonker’s Adventure on Sunday, the crocodile can be seen chasing after the fish — still attached to the line — then wrestling it away as the fisherman retreats. 

Uh, yeah, no thanks.

“I knew it was a bit risky but the plan was to stay well away from the water, even once I got my fish,” fisherman Luke Robertson told NT News. Read more…

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This chatbot wants to cut through the noise on climate science

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Noise and misinformation, especially on climate, has long been a problem on social media.

To counter this, Australian not-for-profit the Climate Council has created a Facebook Messenger chatbot to inform people about climate science.

Launched on its Facebook page last week, it’s an effort to connect with younger people who are interested in issues like climate change, but aren’t the most engaged with the organisation — largely due to broader information overload.

“Young people are saturated on social media because they’re the most active on it, we know that they care and that they’ve got the thirst for information,” Nelli Huié, digital manager at the Climate Council, explained. Read more…

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Even Australia’s prime minister isn’t immune from being fined

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Politics might’ve been mad as ever in 2017, so perhaps there’s something oddly normal about a country’s leader getting what is a rather boring fine.

Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was issued a A$250 ticket (US$193) on Friday for not wearing a lifejacket when he was moving his dinghy near his Sydney home earlier this week.

The fine was confirmed by the New South Wales maritime authority, who are on the lookout for boaters who are breaking the law — seemingly no matter how distinguished they may be. 

The executive director for NSW Maritime, Angus Mitchell, said it was “a timely reminder during the holiday season to always wear a lifejacket.” Photos of the prime minister sans lifejacket were published in The Australian, which noted the law that had been broken. Read more…

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Lost submarine from World War I found after 103-year search

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One of World War I’s biggest mysteries has finally been solved after a 103-year search.

On Sep. 14, 1914, Australia’s first submarine, the HMAS AE1, disappeared off the coast of Rabaul, Papua New Guinea. 

It followed a successful mission to help capture what was then known as German New Guinea, and was the first loss for what was a young Royal Australian Navy. 

35 crew members went missing without a trace.

The AE1.

The AE1.

Image: Department of Defence

That’s until an expedition this week, the 13th search for the submarine, which located the AE1 on Wednesday off the coast of the Duke of York Island group, in east Papua New Guinea.  Read more…

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Behind the ambitious plan to build and race flying cars

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Since Back to the Future, you’re far from alone if you’ve wondered where the heck your flying car is already.

Sure, we’ve seen pitches by the likes of Kitty Hawk, which is backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, and Slovakian startup AeroMobil — but the reality of a flying car still seems a way off.

An Australian startup called Alauda has an ambition to fast-track that reality with its electric, low-altitude aircraft, the Airspeeder Mark I. 

Alauda is founded by Matt Pearson, who also cofounded space startup Fleet. Over the past two years, Pearson has been working on the project as part of a team of five in a Sydney warehouse. Read more…

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Spy agency launches interactive online test to see if you’re cut out for the job

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Recruiting spies is seldom a public exercise, but Australia’s intelligence agency is doing something different.

The Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), equivalent to the CIA and Britain’s MI6, has launched an online interactive test to discover people who are cut out for the job. 

Through a series of visual and aural exercises, the test seeks to identify suitable applicants that have the perception and empathy to work in the service. 

You’ll be required to pick out a missing number from a sequence, pick out faces in a crowd, and try and decipher information while three people are talking at the same time.  Read more…

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Ambassador posts adorable proposal after marriage equality legalised in Australia

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Marriage equality is finally law in Australia, which means LGBTQ couples can start planning their weddings. Or in plenty of cases, start proposing.

As in the case of the Australian ambassador to France, Brendan Berne, who spared no time proposing to his longtime partner Thomas Marti on Thursday in Paris. 

The video was posted on Berne’s Twitter account mere hours after marriage equality was made legal in Australia.

“Now, as Australia has just approved marriage equality, it is my turn now. My turn to ratify my own relationship with my partner of 11 years Thomas. He is not aware of what I would like to do now,” Berne said in French. Read more…

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‘Paperbark,’ the game that’s a love letter to unspoilt Australian nature

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While Australia’s renowned natural beauty is often plastered on postcards and featured in the occasional film, it’s something yet to be represented in the gaming world.

Paperbark, set to release early next year initially on iOS, will change all that. The game focuses on the life of a sleepy wombat exploring Australian bushland, discovering all kinds of flora and fauna along the way.

The game was originally the final year project of RMIT game design students Ryan Boulton, Nina Bennett and Terry Burdak. All three grew up in regional Victoria, and wanted to focus on creating a game that looked like an Australia they knew. Read more…

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New Zealanders worry about a ‘chipocalypse’ as potato supply drops

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We don’t want to ever live in a world where there is a “chipocalypse.”

No wonder New Zealanders are concerned at the prospect, as 20 percent of potato crops have been lost due to extended periods of wet weather, according to the New Zealand Herald.

Supermarkets have indicated to the newspaper there might be a shortage in potato crisps, as manufacturers have a smaller cut of potato crops in the country. Normal potato supply won’t return until the new year.

When the chips are down, people are going to freak out — a bit — on social media. Read more…

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Australian court rules an unsent text message on phone counts as a will

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An unsent message of a deceased man in Australia has been ruled as a valid will. 

It means he will leave his estate to his brother and nephew as opposed to his son and wife, who he apparently had a difficult relationship with. 

The decision was handed down by a judge at the Supreme Court of Queensland, following no evidence of any other will created by the deceased man.

The man, who tragically took his own life, was found with the phone by his widow in October 2016. The following day, a friend of the widow was asked to look through the deceased man’s contact list to see who should be notified of his death.  Read more…

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This new documentary will make you painfully aware of how often you check your phone

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How often do you check your phone? We’ve all heard the stats, but it never really sinks in. By the end of today, most of us will have checked our phones 150 times — on the toilet (you know), at the table, and especially in the car.

In a new documentary, It’s People Like Us, Academy Award-winning director Eva Orner (Taxi to the Dark Side, Chasing Asylum) follows five Australians who are somewhat attached to their devices. It’s an attempt to expose the increasing dependence humans have on their smartphones — and how dangerous this can be on the road.

A pretty common scene, shown in this still from the doco.

A pretty common scene, shown in this still from the doco.

Image: it’s people like us Read more…

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Australian lamb ad causes outrage for featuring vegetarian Hindu god

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A new ad promoting Australian lamb has caused a strong reaction from the Australian Indian and Hindu communities, for the representation of deity Ganesha encouraging the eating of lamb.

Released on Monday, Meat and Livestock Australia’s new spring ad brings the world’s religious figures together for a casual barbecue — serving lamb, of course.

Guest include Jesus, Moses, Zeus, Buddha and Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, along with Hindu god Ganesha. Unfortunately for MLA, Ganesha is known as vegetarian, which contradicts the campaign’s key message: “Lamb, the meat we can all eat.”

So the Hindu community in Australia is outraged by this ad. Of course. Tbf it is offensive if Ganesha is God to you https://t.co/tuyP53OwRT

— Malhar Bhadbhade (@malharcfc08) September 6, 2017 Read more…

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Take cover, Australia. It's time to prepare for ungodly magpie swooping season.

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There are few sounds more pants-wettingly nightmarish to an Australian in spring than the ungodly whoosh of a pair of incoming wings. 

It’s the first day of the blooming season for Australia, and with spring comes angry, angry winged new dads who’ll rather accurately swoop at the most tender part of the back of your head.

Magpies can be a particularly aggressive demon bird in Australia from late August to late October — a significantly lengthy time to wear a helmet at all times but so be it. While apparently only 10 percent of magpies actually attack during this time, these can be bloody brutal. Read more…

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Rare baby white koala looks for a name on Facebook

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This adorable rare white koala needs your help to find her new name.

The little joey is among several koalas born at an Australian zoo in recent months, but has only recently emerged from her mother’s pouch.

She is the first white koala ever to be born in Queensland’s Australia Zoo.

The female koala, who has light fur, does not have albinism but owes her pale colouration to a recessive gene, thought to be inherited from her mother.

Image: AUSTRALIA ZOO/SUPPLIED

Image: AUSTRALIA ZOO/SUPPLIED

However, her white fur might not last forever. Read more…

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Classy football fan brings his own cheese plate to the game

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Sometimes you’re too fancy for a limp, overpriced hot dog. 

Like this dude who brought his own cheese platter during an Australian rules football match between the Melbourne Demons and St Kilda Football Club on Sunday.

Look, we’re not going to lie, bringing your own cheese platter for instant consumption sounds like quite the idea. The occasion however, is a little questionable.

Demons fans bringing cheese platters #AFLDeesSaints pic.twitter.com/XBqG6GxPk1

— Brendan Maloney (@OnlyBaloney) August 13, 2017 Read more…

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Café charges men more to make a point about the gender wage gap

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Here’s a way to get people talking about the wage gap.

Handsome Her, a café in Melbourne, Australia, that describes itself as a “space for by women, for women,” has created quite the kerfuffle for its “house rules” blackboard it erected recently, highlighting the gender pay gap.

“Men will be charged an 18 per cent premium to reflect the gender pay gap, which is donated to a women’s service,” reads the second rule of the board. 

The other rules include women have priority seating, and that respect goes both ways. Read more…

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Little girl rides her pony through a corner store to pick up treats

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You’ll probably get turned away from your local drive-thru riding on your horse.

But it’s not a problem at this corner store (or dairy, as they like to call it), located in Opotiki, a small town on New Zealand’s North Island. Well, if you can both fit in the store, obviously.

Here a little girl, 3-year-old Paris Smith, rides on her pony through the Tirohanga Beach Store to pick up some candy, in a video posted on the shop’s Facebook page on Friday. 

“Look, only in Opotiki,” a man can be heard saying on camera.

Riding through the store is apparently a long-running tradition, owner Ray Williams told the New Zealand Herald. Read more…

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HAIM's cover of Shania Twain's 'That Don't Impress Me Much' is seriously unreal

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The ’90s song you probably won’t admit you like — but secretly really, really do — got a cover from HAIM, and it’s out of this world.

Shania Twain’s “That Don’t Impress Me Much” was covered on Australian radio station triple j, but instead of extending the rambunctiousness of the 1997 hit, the three piece went for a stripped back version that is really, seriously, quite unexpected.

HAIM also covered Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” last month, so look, it’s probably not going to be the last cover of the Canadian country singer we’ll hear from the band.

Can we get “From This Moment On” next? Read more…

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Seal pup found on farm is a long, long way from home

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Seals having a wander inland are an occasional occurrence, but this cub is perhaps a little too young to go walkabout.

Dee Knapp from Invercargill, New Zealand was looking for new lambs on his property when he saw what initially appeared to be an injured bird, reported the New Zealand Herald.

It turned out to be a baby seal, and boy, it was a long way away from home, as per a video uploaded by Knapp to Facebook.

“Well blow me away, it’s a baby seal in the middle of my paddock, in the middle of nowhere,” Knapp told the newspaper.  Read more…

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New Zealand lays claim to the 'British classic' that is mince toast

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The anger from Brits over mince toast was palpable. 

Mince toast! How dare the Americans — specifically food website Eaterclaim the dish was a “quintessential British comfort classic.” 

That was according to a video it posted on Monday, in which it visited London’s Quality Chop House. But many Brits said they’ve never eaten it.

British restaurant critic Jay Rayner, who once described upscale Paris restaurant Le Cinc as being decorated in shades of “fuck you,” weighed in on Twitter.

For god sake @eater what are you on? Apart from mince on toast, something I have never eatenhttps://t.co/1zfJTI18uG

— Jay Rayner (@jayrayner1) July 10, 2017 Read more…

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The 'Donutella Versace' is a monstrosity of a donut covered in gold flakes

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For many people, one donut is enough. For others, there’s the Donutella Versace. 

It’s a mammoth creation put together by Australian chain Doughnut Time, in celebration of the very important World Chocolate Day.

The Donutella Versace is a 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs) monstrosity, topped with 10 different types of chocolate. 

The donut itself is made of Hersheys chocolate & cocoa, then it’s filled with Nutella and layered with a decadent chocolate glaze, chocolate flakes, chopped up Kit-Kat bars, Oreo biscuits, chocolate fudge brownie, chocolate sprinkles, chocolate chips and a miniature jar of Nutella. Read more…

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People are not cool with Katy Perry's Australian ad

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Don’t mess with the koalas, Katy Perry.

The pop star faced criticism for telling her pet dog Nugget “let’s go chase some koalas” in an ad for Australian department store chain Myer. 

But one veterinarian wasn’t cool with the koala, saying it reverses efforts to stop dogs coming into contact with the marsupial.

“Perry is a role model to so many young people, and this just destroys all the good work we do to try to encourage people not to let their dogs come into contact with koalas,” Queensland vet Claire Madden told the Courier Mail. Read more…

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Little Tasmanian devil experiencing snowfall is hardly what you'd call evil

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There’s something misleading about the name Tasmanian devil, because the marsupial looks hardly evil at all.

Don’t take our word for it though. Just look at this very adorable creature dealing with snow, which fell over the Tasmanian Devil sanctuary in Cradle Mountain, Australia.

Battling the winter cold, this little thing has become mighty popular on the sanctuary’s Facebook page, since a video of it was posted on Thursday.

The sanctuary, Devils at Cradle, is a conservation facility to help observe the lifecycles of the marsupial and the threats which face them. Read more…

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A biohacker named Meow-Meow implanted an Opal card into his hand. That's all.

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Public transit can be a nightmare. Endless amounts of people and fumbling with your transit card are pretty much unavoidable, and that’s before you even get on that crowded train. 

Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow, an Australian molecular biologist and the founder of citizen scientist lab Biofoundry, literally took matters into his own hands to find a solution to this problem.

Meow-Meow uses the Opal card — the equivalent of London’s Oyster card — to get on public transit in Sydney. Instead of remembering to bring the physical card with him every day, Meow-Meow decided to get a little bit creative. He had the chip from his card professionally implanted beneath the skin in his left hand. Read more…

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Sydney Opera House will light up with Indigenous Australian art every sunset

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The sails of the Sydney Opera House are often a canvas for projections throughout the year, but now the icon is set to be a display for Indigenous Australian art every sunset.

It’s called Badu Gili, meaning “water light” in the language of the traditional owners of the land the building sits on, the Gadigal people. 

The projection will comprise of a seven-minute animation exploring ancient stories, and will begin its appearance on the sails from Wednesday evening at sunset.

Image: DANIEL BOUD Read more…

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Politician breastfed her baby while speaking in parliament, because work never stops

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Talk about multi-tasking.

Larissa Waters, a Greens party MP in Australia, got plenty of plaudits earlier in the year when she was the first politician to breastfeed in parliament.

Now she’s the first to deliver a speech while breastfeeding, because well, sometimes work can’t stop. Here she is breastfeeding her daughter Alia Joy Waters, while submitting a motion on black lung disease.

How far we’ve come@larissawaters gives a speech while breast feeding! Yes! First woman in Australian parliament to ever do so#auspol pic.twitter.com/bBwshTvEHa

— David Sharaz (@DavidSharaz) June 22, 2017 Read more…

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