Technology: Twitter ‘Purges’ Millions of Accounts

Twitter is set to remove tens of millions of suspicious accounts, amounting to up to six per cent of all accounts.

The company said removing locked accounts, which have been restricted from posting after a large number of unsolicited replies or mentions, is part of the effort to discourage “the purchase of followers and fake accounts to artificially inflate follower counts” and “improve the health of conversations” on the platform.

“Over the years, we’ve locked accounts when we detected sudden changes in account behaviour,” said Twitter spokeswoman Vijaya Gadde.

“In these situations, we reach out to the owners of the accounts and unless they validate the account and reset their passwords, we keep them locked with no ability to log in. This week, we’ll be removing these locked accounts from follower counts across profiles globally. As a result, the number of followers displayed on many profiles may go down.”

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey posted that he lost 200,000 followers in the ‘purge’.

However, according to Gadde, most users will only see a drop of four followers or fewer.

International: Samoa Recalls MMR Vaccine after Death of Two Infants

The Samoan government has issued a recall for a vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) following the deaths of two infants.

Two children, both aged 12 months, reportedly passed away only hours after receiving the vaccine shot.

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi described the deaths as “devastating” and called for an inquiry. “There are already processes that will determine if negligence is a factor,” Malielegaoi said in a statement.

“And if so, rest assured those processes will be implemented to the letter to ensure that such a tragedy will not be repeated and those responsible will be made to answer.”

Samoan health authorities have also stopped all children’s vaccination in the island nation.

Rasul Baghirov, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Samoa representative said there have been no other reported cases of deaths related to the vaccination batch supplied to Samoa. The batch, which was sent from India by the UNICEF, had been safety checked by the WHO.

“The severe reaction following the administration of MMR vaccine is very, very rare — that’s why we want to really investigate and find out what caused the deaths here in Samoa,” said Baghirov.

NSW: Sydney Property Market Slows Down with Discounts and Falling Prices

Sydney property market is cooling down as lending slows and vendor discounting rises.

The difference in asking price and final sale price in the city has increased to 4.4 per cent. Investment bank Morgan Stanley said the market is “unlikely” to “turn around anytime soon” due to limited credit and record household debt.

Over the past year, Sydney’s median house prices have fallen by 4.5 per cent. Auction clearance rates also had a significant dip in June.

June 2018. Source: CoreLogic

According to the bank’s research, the falling prices reflected the national annual growth rate, which reaches its lowest in more than five years.

However, Deutsche Bank’s economist Phil Odonaghoe said the worst of the market downturn has passed for Sydney.

“Recent auction clearance rates, running at a little under 50 per cent once adjusted for withdrawals, actually point to a very modest improvement in dwelling price growth over the coming six months, or more specifically, ‘less negative’ year-ended growth,” Odonaghoe told the Sydney Morning Herald.

National: Defence Department Reveals New IT Services Deal

The Department of Defence has named 32 firms that will provide managed IT services for the government for the next ten years.

The 32 providers will constitute a replacement panel for the previous arrangement known as the applications managed services partnership agreement (AMSPA). The department had been looking to break up the arrangement to make way for “niche” and “flexible” suppliers.

Among the names revealed are Leidos, Unisys, Fujitsu, Atos, Northrop Grumman, Optus and ABB Enterprise Software, along with the big four consulting firms Deloitte, Ernst & Young and KPMG. A number of suppliers who do not have experience working with the department are also included, such as Adactin, Azara, Exeter, Icemedia, RPSPM, Sofitel Systems and the Gruden Group.

The AMSPA is expected to be retired in September 2018.

National: NBN Rollout in Regional Australia On the Home Stretch

The rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) in Port Macquarie is reaching its final stage, with 98 per cent of households and businesses now able to use the service.

The NBN, whose rollout in the area began in February 2017, is now available to more than 38,900 homes and businesses in Port Macquarie. The expansion process had received backlash from the community due to the destruction of footpaths and public property in Port Macquarie CBD during the installation.

“With our aim to help bridge the digital divide and see all homes and businesses have access to fast broadband, we are proud today to announce the rollout of the NBN access network in Port Macquarie is on the home stretch,” said Amber Dornbusch, head of NBN for NSW and ACT.

NBN national spokesperson Philippa Perry said the NBN network will soon be available for all homes and businesses in regional Australia. “We have seen a massive improvement in regional internet access, more competition, faster speeds and in some cases giving internet access to some Australians for the first time ever,” Perry said.

NSW: Social Media Contributes to Youth Crime Decline, New Research Finds

The decline in youth crime in New South Wales may be related to the widespread use of social media and video streaming services, a research by the Australian National University (ANU) has found.

The ANU compared the NSW Police data of crime rates for people aged 10 to 21 born in 1984 and those born in 1994. It discovered that the proportion of the population who had come into contact with the criminal justice system had halved. Car theft was down 59 percent, while property theft and drunk-driving dropped by 59 and 49 percent respectively. Drug offending also fell 22 percent.

Criminologist Jason Payne said the decline may be attributed to changes in the way young people spend their time.

“We now have kids who are engaging much more often online, using mobile and other portable devices in the home and spending less time out on the street,” said Payne.

“An increased use of home entertainment and social media is also reducing opportunities for traditional forms of crime.”

However, Payne warned that the changing habits might lead to new forms of crime. “Those native to social media may explore antisocial and criminal behaviours online which at present attract far less scrutiny from parents and authorities.”

International: Bill Clinton Said He Didn’t Owe An Apology to Monica Lewinsky

Former US President Bill Clinton said he didn’t owe an apology to Monica Lewinsky after the 1998 scandal.

In an interview with NBC’s Today show, Clinton told Craig Melvin that he had never privately apologised to Lewinsky and did not feel any need to. Clinton was interviewed alongside his co-author James Patterson to promote their new novel, The President is Missing.

“I have never talked to her,” Clinton said. “But I did say publicly on more than one occasion that I was sorry. That’s very different. The apology was public.”

Public attention to Clinton’s scandal, along with the allegations of sexual harassment and assault from several women, has been renewed after the rise of the #MeToo movement.

Clinton praised the movement but admitted to having some reservations about some of its outcomes. “I like the #MeToo movement,” Clinton said. “It’s way overdue. It doesn’t mean I agree with everything. I still have some questions about some of the decisions that have been made.”

Considering the movement, Clinton said he would still approach the accusations made against him in the same way. “If the facts were the same today, I wouldn’t [handle it any differently],” said Clinton. “I don’t think it would be an issue because people would be using the facts instead of the imagined facts.”

In a Vanity Fair essay earlier this year, Lewinsky wrote that she had started to view the affair with Clinton, which she previously characterised as consensual, in a different light. “Now, at 44, I’m beginning (just beginning) to consider the implications of the power differentials that were so vast between a president and a White House intern,” she wrote.

America: Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano Erupts

Kilauea volcano in Hawaii has erupted on Thursday, shooting ash and smoke about 9,100 metre into the air.

While a rain kept the ash from going far, US Geological Survey geologist Michelle Coombs said “additional larger, powerful events” are to be expected.

The eruption occurred after two weeks of volcanic activity on the island, where lava flow has destroyed dozens of homes and forced hundreds of residents to evacuate.

Officials handed out 18,000 masks to protect residents from particulates, with more to be distributed soon. Locals in the area have been advised to stay home, with no further evacuations necessary at this point.

Hawaii Governor David Ige still encouraged visits from tourists, as the international airports in Hilo and Kona remain open.

“I would like to also remind the rest of the world as well as the rest of the state, Hawaii Island continues to be open for business,” Ige said. “The eruption site and the lava flows are in a very small portion of the island.”

National: House Prices Continue to Fall in Sydney, Melbourne and Other Capital Cities

House prices slid in many of Australian state capitals in the end of April.

According to property data agency CoreLogic, Melbourne had the steepest weekly decline with 0.2 per cent, followed by Sydney and Brisbane with 0.1 per cent. So far in 2018, the home prices in all five mainland state capital cities have fallen, ranging from Brisbane’s 0.1 per cent to Sydney’s 2.1 per cent.

Many factors could be attributed to these drops, including the higher-than-usual supply of properties. Currently there are 26,879 homes for sale Sydney and 31,195 in Melbourne, indicating a 28.2 per cent and a 11.4 per cent increase from this time last year respectively. Weak household income growth and a decline in the number of foreign buyers also contributed to this weakness.

The amount of properties listed for sale in Sydney. Source: CoreLogic

NSW: Rose Bay Church Seeks to Redevelop into “Community Space” with Retail and Residential Space

A proposal has been unveiled to turn a 1905 church in Rose Bay into a “community gathering space” with retail spots and 10 apartments.

The plan, presented by the Uniting Head Church to Woollahra Council, sought to redevelop the church building on Old South Head Road and Dover Road into a mixed-use development with retail, residential, church and community space.

Indicative image of the development project. Source: Rose Bay Uniting Church

Andrew Gibbons from Endeavour Property Advisory, the development manager on the project, said, “The church came to me and said, ‘Look, the congregation doesn’t use the church anymore, we would like to maximise the use of it so that we can put the money into other missional use’.

“That’s why we’ve gone down this development path as opposed to selling it to a developer who would take all the profit out it and use it for its own use.”

The proposal included underground parking, ground-floor retail, and three-bedroom units to be sold at $3.5 million each. Should it be accepted, the project will commence construction in July next year.

The DA is on exhibition until mid-May.