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.

National: Optus Pulls Job Ad Calling for ‘Anglo Saxon’ Candidates

Telecommunications giant Optus has called an investigation into an online job ad that called for “Anglo-Saxon” candidates at one of its Sydney stores.

The advert, which asked for casual retail consultant at Neutral Bay, said “candidates who are Anglo Saxon” are “preferred”. It has been removed since.

Vaughan Paul, Vice-President of Human Resources at Optus said the ad was “unacceptable” and not reflective of the company’s values.

“This error [is] a clear breach of our advertising standards and commitment to equal opportunity employment,” said Paul. “Optus proudly supports diversity and employs staff representing more than 70 nationalities.

“We… will be investigating how this occurred with a view to taking disciplinary action against those involved.”

However, the company still receives criticism from customers for the impropriety of the ad.

Ocean Heat Waves and Weaker Winds will Keep Australia Warm for A While Yet

Jonathan Pollock, Australian Bureau of Meteorology; Andrew B. Watkins, Australian Bureau of Meteorology, and Catherine Ganter, Australian Bureau of Meteorology

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s latest climate outlook, issued today, suggests the above-average warmth of April is likely to extend into May, and for parts of the south, potentially into winter.

The outlooks for May temperatures show that both days and nights are likely to be warmer than average for much of Australia. Only northeast Queensland is likely to miss out on warmer temperatures, with no strong push there towards warmer or cooler conditions.

The unseasonable warmth, which has broken records in Adelaide and Sydney, appears to be driven by high ocean temperatures, and weaker westerly winds and much lower than average soil moisture across southern Australia.

Bureau of Meteorology

The rainfall outlook for May is mixed, but generally shows no strong shift towards a wetter or drier month for most of Australia.


Read more:
Winter heatwaves are nice … as extreme weather events go


By June the tendency for warmer than normal days may start to wane. This easing of the outlook for above average temperatures as we head into winter is reflected in the full May-July outlook, with only some parts of southern Australia likely to be warmer than average. Southern parts of Western Australia and South Australia have a moderate chance of warmer than average daytime temperatures, with stronger odds over southern Victoria.

The full May to July outlook shows a more balanced picture, with southern Australia more likely to experience higher than average temperatures.
Bureau of Meteorology

Odds don’t favour a strong push towards a particularly wet or dry three months for much of Australia, apart from some areas in the far southeast.

What’s behind the warmth?

The El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) are two of Australia’s major climate drivers. ENSO is currently in a neutral phase, meaning its neither El Niño nor La Niña. Our outlooks suggest it is likely to stay neutral leading into winter.


Read more:
Explainer: El Niño and La Niña


The IOD is also neutral, and most models suggest it will remain so over the coming months.

But given it is harder to forecast ENSO and the IOD in autumn compared to other times of the year, climatologists will be monitoring Indian and Pacific Ocean temperature patterns closely as we edge towards winter.

With near-average temperature patterns in the tropical oceans to our east and west, there is no strong shift in the outlook towards widespread wetter or drier conditions for Australia.

Rainfall during May is expected to remain essentially average.
Bureau of Meteorology

However, for temperatures it’s a little different. Sure ENSO and the IOD are playing a minor role right now, but other factors are coming into play.


Read more:

 

The BOM outlook for the weather over the next three months is ‘neutral’ – here’s what that really means


Ocean heat waves

Ocean temperatures in the Tasman Sea and around New Zealand are much warmer than average – in fact at record levels in the past few months – and are expected to remain warm over the coming months. These warm sea temperatures are associated with a large area of lower than usual air pressure to Australia’s east, which is likely to weaken the westerly winds that normally bring cooler air to southern Australia in autumn and winter.

Another factor in the current and forecast warmth is the very much below average soil moisture across southern Australia. With little moisture available to evaporate and cool the air, and the soils themselves not able to store as much heat, the air above the ground heats more rapidly in the daytime.

Bureau of Meteorology

 

In addition to our natural climate drivers, Australian climate patterns are being influenced by the long-term trend in global air and ocean temperatures. Winter maximum temperatures have increased by 1℃ over the past century, with three of the top five warmest winters in the past 108 years occurring since 2009. Oceans around Australia have warmed by slightly more, with four of our top five warmest years since 2010.

The ConversationSo while the normal big two drivers of our climate remain benign, it would actually be wrong to assume there will be a quick return to more average temperatures. The outlook released today suggests we may have to wait at least another month until service returns to normal for much of the country.

Jonathan Pollock, Climatologist, Australian Bureau of Meteorology; Andrew B. Watkins, Manager of Long-range Forecast Services, Australian Bureau of Meteorology, and Catherine Ganter, Senior Climatologist, Australian Bureau of Meteorology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Technology: Australia’s Tech Spending to Reach $84.5B in 2018

Technology spending in Australia is forecast to reach $84.5 billion this year with 2.3 per cent growth.

Latest report from Gartner has revised forecasts for global tech spending from 4.4 per cent to 6.2 per cent, or US$3.7 trillion for 2018. The research company said this was the highest annual growth rate since 2007.

IT services is expected to remain the largest segment in Australia with $30.45 billion, up from last year’s $29.8 billion. Communications services comes second with a forecast of $26.6 billion, followed by software with $12.57 billion and devices with $12.19 billion. The only category in decline is data centres with $2.7 billion, down from 2017’s $2.75 billion. However, Gartner expected the number to bounce back up in 2019.

According to Gartner, worldwide IT spending will rise by the expected level of 3 per cent in 2018, in line with global economic growth of 3.3 per cent. Software spending is forecast to experience the highest growth this year with an 11.1 per cent increase.

Technology: New 4D Printer Unveiled

A team of researchers have developed a 4D printer, a progress that promises to bring changes in aerospace, medicine and other industries.

The 4D printer is able to print 3D objects which can change shape after exposure to heat, humidity and/or light, and then revert back to its original form. Furthermore, whereas most commercial printers can only print 4D structures in one material only, the new printer is able to bring together different varieties.

The team presented its creation at the National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) late March.

“We are on the cusp of creating a new generation of devices that could vastly expand the practical applications for 3-D and 4-D printing,” said team leader H Jerry Qi, who is also a professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

“Our prototype printer integrates many features that appear to simplify and expedite the processes used in traditional 3-D printing.

“As a result, we can use a variety of materials to create hard and soft components at the same time, incorporate conductive wiring directly into shape-changing structures, and ultimately set the stage for the development of a host of 4-D products that could reshape our world.”

The team is currently working with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to find out the technology’s suitability for printing prosthetic hands in children with malformed arms.

“Only a small group of children have this condition, so there isn’t a lot of commercial interest in it and most insurance does not cover the expense,” Qi said. “But these children have a lot of challenges in their daily lives, and we hope our new 4D printer will help them overcome some of these difficulties.”

The printer, which was funded by HP, the National Science Foundation, the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and Northrop Grumman, cost approximately US$350,000 to build, Qi revealed.

The creation received positive response at the meeting. “We just had a conversation where we were dreaming of that kind of machine,” said Geoff Spinks, materials engineering professor at the University of Wollongong. “I’d imagine in the near future we might have 16 different types of printheads, or even more.”

National: Microsoft to Train 5,000 Australian Public Servants in Cloud Computing

Microsoft has pledged to train 5,000 Australian public workers in cloud services by 2020.

The company announced the project to support the Australian government’s Secure Cloud Strategy initiative, which emphasises the modernisation and digital transformation of the public sector through cloud computing.

Microsoft expected 800 workers to participate in the program in the next three months, with a goal of reaching 2,000 by the year 2020.

The program, which is to be conducted by Microsoft as well as DDLS, New Horizons and Advanced Training, covers workers across the public sector in six cities, namely Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Canberra, Adelaide and Brisbane. The courses are based on Microsoft’s Azure cloud services.

“This training promises organisational agility, better delivery of services and faster insights from government data, which will help transform the Australian public sector by providing a better experience for citizens,” said Microsoft Australia managing director Steven Worrall.

“Migrating from legacy platforms to the cloud is not trivial, so the specialised program we have put together will equip public sector developers and system engineers with cloud-ready skills to design and build digital solutions and deliver their agency transformation initiatives.”

International: Cambridge Analytica Suspends Alexander Nix following Election Staging Brags

Data mining company Cambridge Analytica has suspended its chief executive Alexander Nix after he was caught bragging about manipulating elections in a tape.

In a hidden camera footage set by UK’s Channel 4 News, the firm’s executives were seen pitching tactics to entrap political opponents and boasting about running election campaigns across the world, including in Kenya in 2013 and 2017.

To a reporter who posed as a fixer for candidates in Sri Lanka, the executives talked about the way the company operated, including offering bribes, spreading false information about the opponents, and sending “some girls around to the candidate’s house”.

Mark Turnbull, managing director of Cambridge Analytica’s political division, also spoke about the firm’s role in Uhuru Kenyatta’s campaign in the last two of Kenya’s elections, including providing research, rebranding the party and writing manifesto and speeches.

“We’d stage the whole thing,” Turnbull said in the video.

Cambridge Analytica continues to receive heavy scrutiny, following the revelation by whistleblower Chris Wylie this week that the firm tapped personal information from more than 50 million Facebook accounts without permission for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

The firm, which is partly owned by conservative hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer, said Channel 4’s report “edited and scripted to grossly misrepresent the nature of those conversations and how the company conducts its business.”

However, the company’s board said Nix will still be suspended effective immediately pending a full independent investigation.

“In the view of the board, Mr Nix’s recent comments secretly recorded by Channel 4 and other allegations do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation,” the statement read.

“We have asked Julian Malins QC to lead this investigation, the findings of which the Board will share publicly in due course.”

Nix’s suspension came as a British parliamentary summoned Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to testify about how the social media giant allowed the company to access user data. More US politicians also call for Zuckerberg to testify before the congress.

International: Trump’s Pick for CIA Chief Takes Heat for Alleged Links to Torture

President Donald Trump’s pick for CIA chief, Gina Haspel, reportedly oversaw a secret prison in Thailand where terrorist suspects were tortured by waterboarding.

If approved by the US Senate, Haspel will become the first woman to lead the intelligence agency, replacing Mike Pompeo, who is reassigned as the secretary of state.

Haspel has spent more than 30 years working for CIA with extensive overseas experience, and is widely respected across the intelligence circles. However, she started receiving heavy scrutiny on her links to the secret prison after her appointment as Pompeo’s deputy in February 2017.

Associated Press reported that according to anonymous officials, Haspel briefly ran the black site prison in 2002, where two terrorism suspects, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri allegedly underwent waterboarding and slamming. Three years later, Haspel ordered the destruction of the 92 videos of the interrogation.

Haspel’s nomination has been widely criticised by politicians from both parties. Republican Senator John McCain, who was tortured in the Vietnam war, said, “Ms Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program during the confirmation process.”

Fellow Republican Susan Collins, who is a part of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she is undecided on whether to support the nomination. “[Haspel] certainly has the expertise and experience as a 30-year employee of the agency,” said Collins. “But I’m sure there are going to be some questions raised.”

Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth, who served in the Iraq War, said Haspel’s nomination was “even worse” than that of Pompeo’s. “Not only did she directly supervise the torture of detainees, but she also participated in covering it up by helping to destroy the video evidence,” Duckworth said in a statement. “Her reprehensible actions should disqualify her from having the privilege of serving the American people in government ever again, but apparently this president believes they merit a promotion. I could not disagree more.”

Haspel has not addressed these concerns. “I am grateful to President Trump for the opportunity, and humbled by his confidence in me, to be nominated to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency,” Haspel said in a statement. “If confirmed, I look forward to providing President Trump the outstanding intelligence support he has grown to expect during his first year in office.”