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Australia

Chinese Ride-Sharing Giant Didi Chuxing Picks Its First English-Speaking Nation: To Enter Australia on June 25 (cnet.com) 70

From a report: Ever since outperforming Uber in its home base of China, speculation has mounted that ride-hailer Didi Chuxing would eventually branch out to the rest of the world. Didi's first launch in an English-speaking country comes on June 25, it was announced Thursday, when it'll start operations in Melbourne, Australia. The company has already begun recruiting local drivers. While you might not have heard of it, Didi is China's most popular ride-hailing service, and in 2016 absorbed Uber China in a deal worth around $35 billion.
Earth

Some Recycling Is Now Being Re-Routed To Landfills (wral.com) 165

"Thousands of tons of material left curbside for recycling in dozens of U.S. cities and towns -- including several in Oregon -- have gone to landfills," reports the New York Times. Slashdot reader schwit1 summarizes their report: One big reason: China has essentially shut the door to U.S. recyclables. The Times notes that about a third of recyclables gets shipped abroad, with China the biggest importer. But starting this year, China imposed strict rules on what it will accept, effectively banning most of it. That, the Times reports, has forced many recycling companies who can't find other takers to dump recyclables into landfills.
"Recyclers in Canada, Australia, Britain, Germany and other parts of Europe have also scrambled to find alternatives," reports the Times, though most major U.S. cities aren't affected, and countries like India, Vietnam and Indonesia are now importing more materials.

But at least some recycling companies are simply stockpiling material, "while looking for new processors, or hoping that China reconsiders its policy."
Security

Tech Support Scammers Used Victims' Webcams To Secretly Record 'Testimonials' For YouTube (gizmodo.com) 50

A team of scammers sneakily filmed dozens of Australians by remotely accessing their webcams, then uploaded those videos onto YouTube, according to Australian news outlet ABC. From a report: The victims were reportedly lured in through a false tech support operation. One victim, Geoff Sussman, told ABC he looked online for a service that could help him download Adobe software. He says he was duped by a fake Adobe support page claiming to provide "Support for Adobe Australia," and called a 1-800 number on the site. The number led him to an operation called Macpatchers, which told him he had a virus and asked him to download software to give them remote access to his computer. This is a common scam technique, but Macpatchers seems to have taken it a step farther and asked him to read a script that appeared on the screen, claiming he was pleased with the service. Unbeknownst to him, Macpatchers were accessing his camera, and recorded the statement. The group then reportedly uploaded the video to YouTube along with the videos of 68 other victims -- a chorus of fake testimonials recommending the service. A man who describes himself as a "scam-baiter" uncovered the operation and shared his finding with ABC. He told ABC that Macpatchers recommended he check out their reviews.
Earth

Great Barrier Reef Has Died Five Times In Last 30,000 Years, Study Says (newsweek.com) 97

schwit1 quotes a report from Newsweek: You may well have heard that Australia's iconic Great Barrier Reef is dying as warmer and more acidic waters bleach the system's vibrant coral reefs. In fact, a heat wave killed nearly a third of the system's corals in 2016. Now, scientists writing in the journal Nature Geoscience have discovered the reef has bounced back from near-extinction five times in the last 30,000 years. The current stresses, however, are probably far more intense than those felt in the past.

Low sea levels 30,000 and 22,000 years ago killed coral by air exposure. The remaining reef shifted seaward and eventually bounced back. Rising sea levels -- like those we see today -- killed off the coral twice between 13,000 and 17,000 years ago. This time, coral inched close to land to survive. The reef system, the scientists think, migrated up to 60 inches a year in the face of a changing environment. The last of the five great die-offs occurred about 10,000 years ago, and was likely caused by a huge influx of sediment, a reduction in water quality and a general sea level rise. The reef system may be due for another die-off sometime in the next few thousand years "if it follows its past geological pattern," study author Jody Webster told AFP. "But whether human-induced climate change will hasten that death remains to be seen."

The Almighty Buck

Game Livestreaming Explodes, But Women Are Less Likely To Be Paid Than Men (venturebeat.com) 268

A new study by game research firm SuperData Research and payment company PayPal found that eSports and game videos are driving explosive growth in livestreams. But PayPal also found a gender imbalance in pay. Women are less likely to be paid for their streams than men. VentureBeat reports: PayPal said that 34 percent of livestream viewers in the U.S. have spent more than $50 on livestream content in the past few months. But despite the growth in spending, almost half of women content creators (43 percent globally, 47 percent in the U.S.) don't get paid for what they create. The U.S. had the largest gender pay gap of the countries surveyed: Almost half as many men (24 percent) do not get paid for content they create. Globally, active paying gamers polled shop across 14 different gaming platforms and nearly 30 different storefronts over the last three months, an incredible variety.

In the U.S., respondents surveyed purchased from 26 different gaming storefronts -- the third most in the world, behind Russia (27), and Australia and Canada (28 each). While Steam is highly popular among millennials globally (31 percent buy from Steam), GameStop was resoundingly popular, with 45 percent of U.S. millennial respondents reporting shopping there for gaming content. In most countries, in-game spending is within a few dollars of average spend on full games. Surprisingly, in-game spending is skewing higher among older U.S. players: those aged 35-and-over have spent $50 on average, compared to $40 for those aged 18 to 34. Meanwhile, younger gamers are spending more in full-game downloads: $63, versus $48 for gamers 35-and-over.

Australia

Electronic Voting To Enter Australian House of Representatives 42

The federal government has announced electronic voting will be introduced into the Parliament of Australia, with Leader of the House of Representatives Christopher Pyne confirming it will be implemented in the lower house next year. From a report: "The implementation of electronic voting will reduce significantly the time required for each vote in the chamber," Pyne said. "Voting outcomes will be transparent, accurate, and known immediately, freeing up more time for important parliamentary business to be conducted each day the house sits. Electronic voting will also provide an electronic solution for recording division voting and improve online accessibility to division process and results," he added. While the details are scarce at this stage, Pyne said the Department of Parliamentary Services will shortly call for tenders for the project, also giving "innovative" businesses and individuals an opportunity to contribute.
The Almighty Buck

Australian Bank's System Outage Leaves 9 Million Customers Without Cash (reuters.com) 132

An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: National Australia Bank on Saturday suffered what it described as a "nationwide outage" to some of its technology systems, leaving customers unable to access banking services or withdraw money. Customers took to social media to vent their frustrations, with some saying they were left unable to pay for groceries or refuel their cars...

National Australia Bank is one of Australia's four largest retail banks with a customer base of 9 million, according to its website... The Bank of New Zealand, a NAB subsidiary, also experienced outages on Saturday across New Zealand, but the spokesman was unable to confirm a connection between the two incidents.

Facebook

Facebook Asks British Users To Submit Their Nudes as Protection Against Revenge Porn (betanews.com) 303

Mark Wilson writes: Following on from a trial in Australia, Facebook is rolling out anti-revenge porn measures to the UK. In order that it can protect British users from failing victim to revenge porn, the social network is asking them to send in naked photos of themselves. The basic premise of the idea is: send us nudes, and we'll stop others from seeing them .
Worms

Giant Predatory Worms Are Invading France (qz.com) 250

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: In a Peer J study published on May 22, "Giant worms chez moi!" zoologist Jean-Lou Justine of the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris, entomologist colleagues, and Pierre Gros, outline a discovery that "highlights an unexpected blind spot of scientists and authorities facing an invasion by conspicuous large invasive animals." About 100 citizen scientists ultimately contributed to the assessment of this alien invasion, identifying five giant predatory worm species in France that grow up to 10 inches long. The study relied on contributors' worm sightings, reported "mainly by email, sometimes by telephone." Researchers requested photographs and details about locality. In 2013, the Washington Post reports, "a group of terrorized kindergartners claimed they saw a mass of writhing snakes in their play field." These were giant flatworms! The study concludes that the alien creatures appear to reproduce asexually. They prey on other, smaller earthworms, stunning them with toxins. "The planarian also produces secretions from its headplate and body that adhere it to the prey, despite often sudden violent movements of the latter during this stage of capture," researcher note. In other words, the hammerheads produce a substance that allows them to stick to victims while killing them. The study points out that invasive alien flatworms have been spotted in New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Brazil, and Australia. But the five species of hammerhead flatworms invading France are giants, growing up to 27 centimeters.
Space

Astronomers Discovered the Fastest-Growing Black Hole Ever Seen (wral.com) 69

Long-time Slashdot reader Yhcrana shares "some good old fashioned astronomy news." Astronomers have discovered "a black hole 20 billion times the mass of the sun eating the equivalent of a star every two days," reports the New York Times. The black hole is growing so rapidly, said Christian Wolf, of the Australian National University, who led the team that found it in the depths of time, "that it is probably 10,000 times brighter than the galaxy it lives in." So bright, that it is dazzling our view and we can't see the galaxy itself. He and his colleagues announced the discovery in a paper to be published in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia...

The blaze from material swirling around this newly observed drainpipe into eternity -- known officially as SMSS J215728.21-360215.1 -- is as luminous as 700 trillion suns, according to Wolf and his collaborators. If it were at the center of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, it would be 10 times brighter than the moon and bathe the Earth in so many X-rays that life would be impossible. Luckily it's not anywhere nearby. It is in fact 12 billion light years away, which means it took that long for its light to reach us, so we are glimpsing this cataclysm as it appeared at the dawn of time, only 2 billion years after the Big Bang, when stars and galaxies were furiously forming.

Music

YouTube Unveils New Streaming Service 'YouTube Music,' Rebrands YouTube Red (gizmodo.com) 107

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: YouTube Music, a streaming music platform designed to compete with the likes of Spotify and Apple Music, officially has a launch date: May 22nd. Its existence will also shift around YouTube and Google's overall media strategy, which has thus far been quite the mess. YouTube Music will borrow the Spotify model and offer a free, ad-supported tier as well as a premium version. The paid tier, which will be called YouTube Music Premium, will be available for $9.99 per month. It will debut in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and South Korea before expanding to 14 other countries.

One of the selling points for YouTube Music will be the ability to harness the endless amount of information Google knows about you, which it will use to try to create customized listening experiences. Pitchfork reported that the app, with the help of Google Assistant, will make listening recommendations based on the time of day, location, and listening patterns. It will also apparently offer "an audio experience and a video experience," suggesting perhaps an emphasis on music videos and other visual content. From here, Google seems to be focused on making its streaming strategy a little less wacky. Google Play Music, the company's previous music streaming service that is still inexplicably up and running despite teetering on the brink of extinction for years, will slowly be phased out according to USA Today.
Meanwhile, the paid streaming subscription service, known as YouTube Red, is being rebranded to YouTube Premium and will cost $11.99 per month instead of $9.99. (Pitchfork notes that existing YouTube Red subscribers will be able to keep their $9.99 rate.) YouTube Premium will include access to YouTube Music Premium. Here's a handy-dandy chart that helps show what is/isn't included in the two plans.
Transportation

Tesla Model X Breaks Electric Towing Record By Pulling Boeing 787 (inverse.com) 235

A Tesla Model X has set the world record for heaviest tow by electric production passenger vehicle when it pulled a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner at the Melbourne Airport in Australia. The video can be viewed on YouTube. Inverse reports: As probably expected, the plane far exceeds the Model X's recommended tow limit of around 5,000 pounds. In fact, the weight of the unloaded 787 with a minimal amount of fuel came closer to around 300,000 pounds. The airline pulled the Dreamliner around 1,000 feet down the tarmac. The stunt was part of a wider campaign around Qantas' new work with Tesla, which involves offering high-powered chargers at its Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide facilities as well as offsetting miles for Tesla drivers that are also frequent flyer members.
Medicine

James Harrison, Who Has Helped Save Lives of More Than 2.4 Million Australian Babies, Retires (cnn.com) 97

Most people, when they retire, get a gold watch. James Harrison deserves so much more than that. From a report: Harrison, known as the "Man With the Golden Arm," has donated blood nearly every week for 60 years. After all those donations, the 81-year-old Australian man "retired" Friday. The occasion marked the end of a monumental chapter. According to the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, he has helped saved the lives of more than 2.4 million Australian babies. Harrison's blood has unique, disease-fighting antibodies that have been used to develop an injection called Anti-D, which helps fight against rhesus disease. This disease is a condition where a pregnant woman's blood actually starts attacking her unborn baby's blood cells. In the worst cases, it can result in brain damage, or death, for the babies.
Science

Reporter Shares Experience of Visiting a Flat Earth Convention (vice.com) 356

Tom Usher, reporting for Vice: I arrived at the venue -- a Jurys Inn hotel -- on a wet Saturday morning, to discover that the event was essentially a small carpeted convention room boasting a few cameras, some stalls selling merchandise, and 70 or so attendees watching PowerPoint presentations beamed onto a wall. As I entered, I was offered a gift of "fluoride-free" toothpaste. This made perfect sense, given the location. A popular conspiracy theory states that governments across the world have been putting fluoride in our water supply to tranquilize the masses, despite the fact the only piece of "evidence" for this theory -- which involves both the Nazis and the Communists -- has been widely discredited. With the tone set for the day, I sat down to watch some speeches.

The speakers all seemed well aware of how "globe-earthers" view the idea of a flat Earth, i.e. ludicrous, and their talk of the current scientific establishment felt very "us versus them" -- a nice bit of truther tribalism. One speaker talked at length about the moon, and how its orbit proved the Earth couldn't be spherical, which seemed a little counterintuitive. Another talked about how the Egyptian pyramid structure points toward clues that the Earth is a flat diamond shape, supported by pillars. Between sounding off about the Vatican and the fact that the establishment has indoctrinated us to believe all sorts of things, including that the Earth is a sphere, a third speaker suggested that cancer is caused by negative emotions and argued that dinosaurs didn't exist.
The story also explores why some people still believe these long-debunked theories. Further reading: The bizarre tale of the flat-Earth convention that fell apart (CNET).
The Almighty Buck

Tesla's Giant Battery In Australia Reduced Grid Service Cost By 90 Percent (electrek.co) 251

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electrek: Tesla's giant Powerpack battery in Australia has been in operation for about 6 months now and we are just starting to discover the magnitude of its impact on the local energy market. A new report now shows that it reduced the cost of the grid service that it performs by 90% and it has already taken a majority share of the market. It is so efficient that it reportedly should have made around $1 million in just a few days in January, but Tesla complained last month that they are not being paid correctly because the system doesn't account for how fast Tesla's Powerpacks start discharging their power into the grid.

The system is basically a victim of its own efficiency, which the Australian Energy Market Operator confirmed is much more rapid, accurate and valuable than a conventional steam turbine in a report published last month. Now McKinsey and Co partner Godart van Gendt presented new data at the Australian Energy Week conference in Melbourne this week and claimed that Tesla's battery has now taken over 55% of the frequency control and ancillary services (FCAS) services and reduced cost by 90%.
"In the first four months of operations of the Hornsdale Power Reserve (the official name of the Tesla big battery, owned and operated by Neoen), the frequency ancillary services prices went down by 90 percent, so that's 9-0 per cent," said Gendt via Reneweconomy. "And the 100MW battery has achieved over 55 percent of the FCAS revenues in South Australia. So it's 2 percent of the capacity in South Australia achieving 55 percent of the revenues in South Australia."
Australia

Australia To Ban Cash Purchases Over $10,000 (theguardian.com) 273

Long-time Slashdot reader skegg writes: Last night was federal budget night in Australia, and one of the announcements means Australians will face a crackdown on cash-in-hand payments in an attempt by the government to reduce money laundering and tax evasion. The government has turned its attention to the "black economy" in an attempt to raise billions of extra dollars and intends to limit cash payments for purchase goods and services to $10,000.
The financial services minister argues that currently the status quo "gives some businesses an unfair competitive advantage."
Wikipedia

Decade Old Academic Paper on Global Climate Zones Named the Most Cited Source on Wikipedia (theguardian.com) 37

An academic paper on global climate zones written by three Australians more than a decade ago has been named the most cited source on Wikipedia, having being referenced more than 2.8m times. From a report: The authors of the paper, who are still good friends, had no idea about the wider impact of their work until recently. The paper, published in 2007 in the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, used contemporary data to update a widely used model for classifying the world's climates. Known as the Koppen Climate Classification System, the model was first published by climatologist Wladimir Koppen in 1884, but it had not been comprehensively updated for decades.

The lead author of the paper is Dr Murray Peel, a senior lecturer in the department of infrastructure engineering at the University of Melbourne, and he co-authored the updated climate map with geography professor Brian Finlayson and engineering professor Thomas McMahon, both now retired. "We are amazed, absolutely amazed at the number of citations," Finlayson told Guardian Australia from his home in Melbourne. "We are not so much amazed at the fact it's been cited as we are about the number of people who have cited it."

Australia

Australia's Largest Bank Lost The Personal Financial Histories Of 12 Million Customers, And Did Not Tell Them About It (buzzfeed.com) 52

The Commonwealth Bank, the largest bank in Australia, has lost the personal financial histories of 12 million customers, and chose not to reveal the breach to consumers, in one of the largest financial services privacy breaches ever to occur in Australia, BuzzFeed News reports. From the report: BuzzFeed News can reveal that the nation's largest bank lost the banking statements for customers from 2004 to 2014 after a subcontractor lost several tape drives containing the financial information in 2016. While the bank initially notified the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) of the breach shortly after it became aware of it in 2016, a spokesperson for the OAIC told BuzzFeed News it was now making further inquiries into the privacy breach, following a damning report into the bank's culture released on Tuesday. Angus Sullivan, Commonwealth Bank's acting group executive of retail banking services told BuzzFeed News in a statement: "We take the protection of customer data very seriously and incidents like this are not acceptable. We want to assure our customers that no action is required and we apologise for any concern the incident may cause." "We undertook a thorough forensic investigation, providing further updates to our regulators after its completion. We also put in place heightened monitoring of customer accounts to ensure no data compromise had occurred."
Earth

Great Barrier Reef Gets $379 Million Boost After Coral Dies Off (bloomberg.com) 104

The Great Barrier Reef is being given a $379 million boost by Australia in the battle to save the world's largest living structure as it faces mounting challenges such as climate change, agricultural runoff and a coral-eating starfish. From a report: "Like reefs all over the world, the Great Barrier Reef is under pressure," Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in a statement on Sunday, calling the funding the largest granted to the famous tourist icon. "A big challenge demands a big investment -- and this investment gives our reef the best chance." [...] The new funding comes after Deloitte Access Economics valued the reef last year at A$56 billion, based on an asset supporting tens of thousands of jobs and which contributes A$6.4 billion a year to the economy. Still, that was before a study released this month in Nature showed about 30 percent of the reef, which is bigger than Japan, died off in 2016 during an extended marine heatwave.
Australia

Movements of Pedestrians and Vehicles in Inner-city Liverpool To Be Captured by Cameras and Smartphones To Help Local Council Map Potential Tweaks To Streets (smh.com.au) 26

Jacob Saulwick, reporting for The Sydney Morning Herald: The movement of pedestrians and vehicles in inner-city Liverpool will be captured by upgraded CCTV cameras and smartphones. The project, part-funded by the federal government's $50 million "Smart Cities" program, aims to help the local council map potential tweaks to streets and planning rules, in an area undergoing rapid development. "It gives us the opportunity to be more experimental in our CBD to get better outcomes for the people using it," the chief executive of Liverpool City Council, Kiersten Fishburn, said. The street grid of downtown Liverpool was laid out in 1827 by Robert Hoddle, who would go on to survey and plot Melbourne's distinctive grid. And Liverpool is changing fast, with a proposed local environment plan to allow denser and residential development around the inner city, as well as the opening of University of Wollongong and Western Sydney University campuses.

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