Technology: Google Reveals Top Searches for 2018

Google’s top searches for 2018 have been announced, with the World Cup as the year’s most searched term.

The football league emerged as the list-topper for global search on the search engine, while Swedish DJ Avicii and American rapper Mac Miller took the second and third spots. Meghan Markle came in at number six after marrying Britain’s Prince Harry in May.

Marvel’s superhero flick Black Panther was the year’s most searched movie, followed by Deadpool 2 and Venom.

Barnaby Joyce became Australia’s most searched person following his office affair and his subsequent resignation as the leader of the National Party. Joyce’s partner, Vikki Campion also made the top 10 list at number six. Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton completed the top three most searched persons’ list at number two and three respectively.

In the news category, the Royal wedding topped the search trends, ahead of the Thai cave rescue and the Wentworth by-election.

Most Searched Persons, Australia

  1. Barnaby Joyce
  2. Scott Morrison
  3. Peter Dutton
  4. Billy Slater
  5. Craig McLachlan
  6. Vikki Campion
  7. David Warner
  8. Chopper Read
  9. Nick Cummins
  10. Andrew Gaff

 

Most Searched News Items, Australia

  1. Royal Wedding
  2. Thai cave rescue
  3. Wentworth by-election
  4. My Health Record
  5. Beaumont children
  6. Hawaii volcano
  7. California fires
  8. Listeria
  9. US midterm elections
  10. Blood moon

 

Most Searched Movies, Global

  1. Black Panther
  2. Deadpool 2
  3. Venom
  4. Avengers: Infinity War
  5. Bohemian Rhapsody
  6. A Star Is Born
  7. Incredibles 2
  8. The Nun
  9. A Quiet Place
  10. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

 

Top Search Terms, Global

  1. World Cup
  2. Avicii
  3. Mac Miller
  4. Stan Lee
  5. Black Panther
  6. Meghan Markle
  7. Anthony Bourdain
  8. XXXTentacion
  9. Stephen Hawking
  10. Kate Spade

NSW: HSC Top Schools and Students Revealed

Arriving in Australia only two years ago from war-torn north-eastern Syria, Domara Eskandar has come on top in two courses for this year’s high school certificate (HSC).

“Mum was very excited that my hard work paid off,” Eskandar, who came first in two advanced Arabic courses, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Eskandar, a student from St Narsai Assyrian Christian College Sydney, is one of the 127 students who topped their subjects in the HSC in New South Wales this year. Today, they joined 77,000 other HSC students to receive their results.

James Ruse Agricultural High became the state’s top school for the 23rd year in a row with three first-in-course awards. It is followed by North Sydney Boys High and Sydney Grammar in the second and third spots. Sydney Grammar received the most first-in-course awards this year, snagging the top spot in 11 subjects.

Willoughby Girls’ High was the only public non-selective school on the top 50 list at the 50th position, while the rest were comprised of selective or non-government schools. Eight of the top 10 schools are government-run selective schools.

NSW’s Top Schools 2018, Based on Success Rate

  1. James Ruse Agricultural High School
  2. North Sydney Boys High School
  3. Sydney Grammar High School
  4. Sydney Girls High School
  5. Baulkham Hills High School
  6. North Sydney Girls High School
  7. Sydney Boys High School
  8. Hornsby Girls High School
  9. Reddam House
  10. Northern Beaches Secondary College Manly Campus

Sydney’s Housing Market Continues Downturn in November-December

Sydney’s property market is not looking good for sellers at the end of this year with more listings, dwindling prices and worsening auction slumps.

SQM Research revealed that total residential listings increased by 7.5 percent over November, pushing the total number of homes for sale Sydney to 40,000, the highest number recorded since 2009. Current listing levels are 20.9 percent higher than from last year.

Dwelling values in Sydney also fell 1.4 percent in the same month from October, bringing the prices down 8.1 percent over the past year to a median of $821,438, according to CoreLogic’s Home Value Index.

“Since peaking in July last year, Sydney’s housing market is down 9.5 per cent which is on track to eclipse the previous record peak-to-trough decline set during the last recession when values fell 9.6 per cent between 1989 and 1991,” CoreLogic head of research Tim Lawless told the Sydney Morning Herald.

In the first weekend of December, Sydney recorded an auction clearance rate of 41.4 percent with chances of sinking into the 30s over the month. SQM’s Louis Christopher said the last time Sydney fell into the 30s was in October-November 2008 during the Great Financial Crisis. The weekend turnover totalled $129 million in sales, well below the near $600 million in the same period a year prior, Domain reported.

Lawless said this downturn was driven by multiple factors, including tighter conditions for investment, housing affordability constraints and a general oversupply.

“We expect headwinds for tighter credit will continue for the foreseeable future and will continue to temper housing market activity,” said Lawless. “This will be especially the case for those markets where investment demand is most concentrated, and where housing costs are high relative to incomes, such as Sydney and Melbourne.”

NSW: New 80km Walking Trail Planned for Sydney

An 80-kilometre walking trail in Sydney will soon be a reality after an agreement was reached between federal, state and local governments.

In late November, six mayors signed an MOU to build the trail by linking existing coastal and harbour-side walking tracks from Bondi Beach to Manly.

The trail will pass Macquarie Lighthouse in Woollahra, the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, Taronga Zoo in Mosman, and Clontarf in Manly. About 60 kilometres of the trail will be on public land, while the rest will take place on footpaths.

Upon completion, the multi-day walk is expected to be a major tourist attraction and one of the world’s great walking trails, on par with Italy’s Cinque Terra. The path will highlight Sydney’s beautiful beaches and rich Indigenous history and culture.

Lachlan Harris and John Faulkner, co-founders of the Bondi to Manly Walk Supporters welcomed the agreement. “It was an act of imagination to have Sydneysiders understand the scale of public land around the harbour,” Harris told the Sydney Morning Herald. “The idea that you can walk from Bondi to Manly is a reality now.”

Faulkner said, “It will be an unforgettable experience and I am certain it will become a must-do for walkers everywhere in the world.”

Bondi to Manly walk’s launch date is to be disclosed.

Technology: Amazon Web Services Reveals New Blockchain Products

Amazon Web Services is finally expanding its managed IT services portfolio with two new blockchain products.

Last week at the AWS reInvent 2018 event in Las Vegas, CEO Andy Jassy revealed the two blockchain services: Quantum Ledger Database (QLDB) and Amazon Managed Blockchain. The announcement came only a year after he expressed a lack of interest in the technology.

QLDB is a fully-managed ledger database which tracks transactions in a “transparent, immutable, and cryptographically verifiable” way.

“We had an epiphany,” said Jassy. “We had to build something like this ourselves a few years ago to have a transactional log for every data plane change to make operations and billing easier, so we … built what we call QLDB, an immutable, transparent ledger that we thought we could externalise.

Jassy said QLDB will be “really scalable”, with flexible set of APIs to allow changed and adjustments to the ledger database.

On the other hand, Amazon Managed Blockchain is a service that supports two popular blockchain frameworks, Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric. The company said the Managed Blockchain service will enable users to run millions of transactions.

“When we heard people saying ‘blockchain,’ we felt like there was their weird conveluting and conflating what they really wanted,” said Jassy. “And as we spent time working with customers and figuring out the jobs they were really trying to solve, this is what we think people are trying to do with blockchain.”

International: Khmer Rouge Leaders Found Guilty of Genocide

Two Khmer Rouge leaders have been found guilty of genocide, around 40 years after millions of people died under Pol Pot’s regime.

Pol Pot’s deputy Nuon Chea, 92, and former head of state Khieu Samphan, 87, were sentenced to life imprisonment in the UN-backed tribunal for the genocide committed between 1977 and 1979.

It was estimated that two million people from Cham Muslim and ethnic Vietnamese backgrounds died from overwork, starvation and mass executions under Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge reign.

“I think this verdict is a very timely and very necessary,” said prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian. “The fact that these crimes happened 40 years ago in no way diminishes the impact of this verdict for those who were affected by the crimes, people whose parents were tortured and killed.”

The tribunal, officially called the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, was established in 2006 with Cambodian and international judges. It has so far convicted three high-ranking Khmer Rouge members and started investigations on four other cadres, all at the cost of US$300 million.

Koumjian said “he wished things had gone faster and that more people had been prosecuted”, while Nuon Chea’s lawyer Victor Koppe questioned the necessity of the courts at all. “In 10 or 20 years from now, when the dust has settled, people will look back on this as a complete waste of time and energy and resources,” said Koppe.

But David Scheffer, the UN secretary general’s special expert to the Khmer Rouge trials said the significance of the verdict could not be minimised. “This is comparable, in Cambodia, to the Nuremberg judgment after world war two,” Scheffer told the Guardian. “That is worth the money and effort.”

Youk Chhang, head of the Documentation Center of Cambodia which has helped the tribunal with evidence said the sentence will “provide a sense of closure to a horrible chapter in Cambodian history”, “affirm the collective humanity of the victims and give recognition to the horrible suffering”.

Environment: Dead Whale Found with 115 Plastic Cups in Its Stomach in Indonesia

A dead whale has been found ashore on an Indonesian beach with a large amount of plastic waste in its stomach.

Rescuers from Wakatobi National Park found the 9.5-metre-long sperm whale on Monday near Kapota Island, Southeast Sulawesi following reports from environmentalists.

Park chief Heri Santoso said researchers from the park’s conservation academy and the wilderness preservation group WWF found about 5.9 kilograms of plastic waste in the carcass’s stomach, consisting of 115 drinking cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags, two sandals and 3.26 kilograms of plastic strings.

“Although we have not been able to deduce the cause of death, the facts that we see are truly awful,” said Dwi Suprapti, a marine species conservation co-ordinator at WWF Indonesia. Suprapti said the cause of death could not be determined due to the animal’s advanced state of decay.

According to a 2015 report, Indonesia is one of the world’s top five contributors of plastic waste that ends up in the ocean, next to China, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. A study published in January revealed that Indonesia produces 3.2 million tonnes of mismanaged plastic waste every year, 1.29 million of which ends up in the sea.

Finance: Tesla Appoints Robyn Denholm as Elon Musk’s Replacement in Chair Role

Tesla has named Robyn Denholm as its new board chair, replacing Elon Musk.

Denholm, who has been a Tesla board member since 2014, will leave her post as chief financial officer and head of strategy at Telstra.

Denholm has held leadership roles across multiple Silicon Valley technology companies, such as Juniper Networks and Sun Microsystems, as well as a number of finance roles at automotive giant Toyota.

“Robyn … has made significant contributions as a Tesla Board member over the past four years in helping us become a profitable company,” said Musk. “I look forward to working even more closely with Robyn as we continue accelerating the advent of sustainable energy.”

In September, the US Securities and Exchange Commission sued Tesla and Musk for fraud after the latter announced on Twitter that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private at $420 per share. The case was settled with a US$40 million payment and an agreement for Musk to leave his chairman role for at least three years.

Musk stays in the company after the settlement, keeping his position as the chief executive officer.

Observers have expressed their scepticism over Denholm’s ability to keep the CEO in rein. “With all the crazy stuff going on, she was there,” said Rohan Williamson, a finance professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. “She couldn’t control him before. Is anything going to change?”

International: Trump Asks for Khashoggi’s Murder Evidence

US president Donald Trump has asked Turkey for any audio or video evidence it had related to the disappearance and alleged murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi “if it exists”.

Khashoggi was last seen entering Istanbul’s Saudi consulate on October 2. Turkish officials said they believed Khashoggi was murdered in the building. Saudi Arabia has denied killing the Washington Post journalist.

Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he had requested evidence of the murder from Turkey. “We have asked for it, if it exists,” said Trump. “I’m not sure yet that it exists, probably does, possibly does.”

Trump denied giving cover for Saudi Arabia, which is one of Washington’s closest allies. Only a day before, Trump compared the murder allegations to sexual assault accusations against Brett Kavanaugh. “Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.”

Turkish government leaks and press reports have raised claims that Khashoggi was tortured and killed in the consulate building, where he expected to arrange paperwork for his marriage. Sources told CNN that the death was a result of an interrogation that went wrong, with the original plan being to abduct Khashoggi from Turkey.

Reports also said that 15 Saudi Arabians arrived at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul on diplomatic passports only a few hours before Khashoggi went to the consulate. These 15 people left the same night.

In response to the news, more figures from high-profile organisations have withdrawn from an investment conference in Riyadh, including the International Monetary Fund’s Christine Lagarde, Google’s Diane Greene, CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin, Credit Suisse’s Tidjane Thiam, JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon and Uber’s Dara Khosrowshahi.

National: Queensland’s Dwelling Values Now Worth $1T

The housing market value in Queensland has surpassed the trillion dollar threshold for the first time ever, thanks to the recovering economy and a rise in buyer interest.

The Sunday-Mail reported that according to CoreLogic figures, the value of the state’s residential sector hit $1.004 trillion in September, marking a 10 percent increase from $910 billion in 2016.

“Overall, due to the improved economy, increase in employment and population, $15 billion construction boom and the Advance Queensland Business Development Fund, Queensland is projected to deliver good long-term capital growth,” said Doron Peleg, chief executive at RiskWise Property Research.

This rise in value also coincides with real estate revivals in some parts of regional Queensland as towns recover from mining busts.

Valuer Herron Todd White said prices of real estate Cairns, Emerald, Gladstone, Townsville and Mackay have grown by 40 percent in the last 12 months due to surging capital works projects and coal value.

In particular, median house price in Mackay grew 2.5 percent to $335,000 over a year to June. “This market is benefiting from a jobs boom in the region and currently has the lowest unemployment rate in the state,” said Antonia Mercorella, chief executive at Real Estate Institute of Queensland.

CoreLogic’s head of research Tim Lawless said mining towns could expect an increase in home values following rebound from the sector’s downturn. “Coming into 2019, markets like Mackay should start to see some growth, we expect Toowoomba to move back into positive growth and Cairns to see a bounce higher,” said Lawless.

However, Peleg said buyers should “proceed with caution” in these areas.