International: Clown Sightings Terrify the World

A significant number of clown sightings have been recorded around the world in the past couple of months.

The first sighting was reported in Greenville, South Carolina in late August. The New York Times reported witness statements that “people in clown makeup had been terrorizing both children and adults”. The phenomenon then spread to other states in the US, such as North Carolina, New Jersey and Ohio, as well as other countries including Canada and Australia. In the latter, clowns have been spotted in Brisbane, Ipswich, Wollongong, East and North Sydney, and more.

While most of the clowns were just roaming around, a number of reports state that some clowns were chasing people using tools such as knives or baseball bats or vandalizing private property, leading to police arrests. Clown Sightings Australia page on Facebook announced that some clowns were spotted throwing eggs at cars in Randwick.

Some theories about this clown ‘uprising’ have been put forward. Many believe it is part of a promotional stunt for upcoming horror film “It” (2017) which heavily features clowns. However, others think it is just another social media fad. Benjamin Radford, author of non-fiction book “Bad Clowns” told CNN, “The scary clown image is perfect for social media. It is custom-made to go viral.

“You have something that is both scary and funny. It’s this combination of horror and humor, laughter and fears… People see this scary clown narrative happening on the news, and they’re like, ‘Hey I want to be a part of this!'”

International: UN Continues Delivering Aid to Syrians After Attack

The United Nations said it is ready to continue delivering aid to Syria, only days after at least 18 trucks were hit by an airstrike, killing 20 people and triggering the suspension of the humanitarian relief operations.

“The preparation for these convoys has now resumed and we are ready to deliver aid to besieged and hard-to-reach areas as soon as possible,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement on Wednesday, September 21.

“The United Nations continues to call for safe, unconditional, unimpeded and sustained access to all Syrians in need, wherever they are.”

The attack happened after Syria broke the ceasefire agreement due to US-led coalition attack on Syrian army camp. US officials blamed Russia for the airstrike, while Moscow rejected the claims that Russia or Syria carried out the attack, in keeping with the ceasefire obligations.

According to the UN, the attacked trucks were heading to rebel-held town Urem al-Kubra, west of Aleppo.

The UN OCHA’s emergency relief officer, Stephen O’Brien called the continuous conflicts between the countries “a stain on the world’s collective conscience”.

“it appears that we have moved – once again – into reverse gear,” said O’Brien in a statement. “Active conflict and insecurity, as well as numerous delays in getting the necessary approval, have been limiting factors in reaching people in need these past many weeks.

“We need all necessary action from the parties and their supporters to ensure safe, sustained, unhindered and unconditional access. And we need an immediate end to the sieges which still collectively punish hundreds of thousands of civilians mercilessly. Anything less than the full lifting of the sieges will never be enough and we cannot pretend otherwise.”

Finance: Phasing Out Coal Won’t End Aus Economy, Says Australia Institute

Phasing out of coal production would not hurt Australia’s economy, according to an Australia Institute research.

The study found that the national economic impact would be insignificant if the Government put a moratorium on coal mines opening and expansion, although it could hurt regional areas relying on the industry.

“The world outlook for coal is fairly bleak. We don’t see much likelihood of strong market conditions for coal over the longer term,” said the research’s leader at Victoria University’s Centre Of Policy Studies, Professor Philip Adams to ABC’s AM. “There is enough coal in mines that are operating or will be operating to continue the level of exports that we see now.

“But, thereafter, coal production will slow as new mines which otherwise would come on are not allowed to come on.

“Is this a bad thing for Australia? The answer is no.”

Australia Institute chief economist, Richard Dennis said the impacts of a moratorium on the economy will be “trivial… Literally, when you graph the economy with a moratorium and without a moratorium, you need a microscope to find the difference.”

The report concluded with calls for a moratorium on new coal mines and expansions, and that the Government “should expect minimal economic disruption from doing so.”

The mining industry has rejected the study’s findings. The Chief Executive of the World Coal Association, Benjamin Sporton said coal still plays an important role in providing energy to the world, with coal currently providing 41 per cent of the world’s electricity and 90 per cent of Australia’s eastern seaboards.

“To try and say we’re going to move away from a fuel that provides that much of the world’s electricity, I just don’t think is realistic,” said Sporton.

The Executive director of Minerals Council of Australia, Greg Evans said the report is “a nonsense” and “just more anti-coal rhetoric, not analysis”.

“Only the green movement and their mouthpieces such as the Australia Institute (TAI) would be able to contend shutting down Australia’s second largest export industry would have limited economic impact,” said Evans in a statement.

“Annual coal exports at $38 billion in 2014/15 are almost twice those of beef, wheat, wool and wine combined so under their logic eliminating those great industries would also have negligible consequences.

“There are also 44,000 direct jobs in the coal sector and including related jobs, the number is around 150,000 and the majority of those are in regional areas. The TAI should travel to the Hunter Valley and Bowen basin coal towns and promote their economic thesis that the coal industry doesn’t matter.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has previously rejected calls for a moratorium, saying that it would not help “one iota” to relieve climate change if coal exports were to be stopped.

Construction appears to be holding the Aus economy in the green so far with increased foreign spend on property leading to more capital expenditure on equipment sales. The advent of price comparison sites like equipment hunt issuing excavator quotes for free make the market more competitive with buyers getting the best deals.

The Changing Nature of Trust: Australian Jobs That Need Security Checks

In Australia, the government has now increased a number of safety measures towards jobs that are considered a ‘high security’ risk. Jobs such as aged care services and disability care services now require to obtain a mandatory certificate.

Staff working in aged care homes and disability care centres who have supervised or unsupervised access to care recipients must obtain a police check. All volunteers that are likely to have unsupervised access to care recipients must also obtain a police check.

National criminal history record checks (also known as police checks) provides evidence that the employee has not committed any crimes, in an attempts to lower the risks of any thefts or assaults that may occur in the workplace.

Criminal records may include arrest, conviction, and possibly criminal proceedings.

Technology: Construction Delays In Transformative Technologies

It has been reported from Sourceable, that there has been a powerful wave of new technologies said to be sweeping across the AEC sector. Along with the traditional industrial tools and machinery available, there are new devices which have impacted upon the way firms are involved in the development of built environments and do business.

According to Marc Howe, “These technologies cover a range of different areas and functions, including unmanned drones, building information modelling (BIM), reality capture, big data, as well as augmented and virtual reality platforms.

Mobile data in particular is having a highly “disruptive” impact on the AEC sector, with workers carrying levels of computing power on their person that were all but inconceivable for even the largest mainframe devices only one or two generations ago.

It’s this extraordinary level of mobile computing power in tandem with surging levels of connectivity that underlies the ability of other disruptive technologies to make critical contributions to the AEC sector.

Mobile technology means that drones, embedded sensors and portable smart devices can channel vast amounts of data from building sites or built assets to cloud computing hubs, supplying them with all the information they need to fuel or enhance other key technological processes such as BIM, augmented and virtual reality, or predictive analytics that rely upon the accumulation of big data lakes.

A recent white paper published by Viewpoint Construction Software on mobile technology and data notes that this ongoing trend is set to accumulate momentum, leading to further profound changes in the development and operation of built environments.

The white paper foresees the development of “better telecommunications, more connected mobile devices, increased integration of enterprise and project-based software, growing reliance on data-rich BIM(M) approaches and the explosion of data-emitting, interactive systems in and around our built assets.”

The authors of the paper further observe that “the successful construction business of the future will be one that can harness the power of this data, working with its supply chain partners and its customers to extract intelligence from its processes and from the assets it helps deliver so that it can add real value.”

If the effective adoption of new paradigm-changing technologies is essential to the success of construction companies in future, Australian firms will need to overcome prevailing levels of trepidation and conservatism about these shifts in order to flourish in years to come.

According to Lynne Edwards, ANZ marketing manager, Viewpoint Construction Software, many in the construction sector remain laggards when it comes to the adoption of new technologies.

“The construction sector isn’t making the most yet of the new technologies that are now on offer,” said Edwards. “There’s the technology out there, yet many people remain nervous about using it and making it work for them, because they either don’t like change, or they don’t want to disrupt the status quo.”

Firms at the mid-market level can often feel that they’re not large enough or sufficiently prepared to embrace new technologies.

Edwards notes, however, that it’s often the size of construction projects rather than the companies themselves that should determine the types of tools or technologies that are adopted.

“The products that can really help construction companies are designed to foster collaboration in larger and often complex projects ,” she said.

“While a company might feel a bit overwhelmed by having to deal with a huge project, the only way they’re going to grow is by enlisting the help of those technologically based resources.”

Another issue impeding the use of key emerging technologies by the construction sector is the Catch 22 dilemma of companies never having an appropriate time or situation to forge ahead with their adoption.

“Companies feel they’re either too busy at the moment to think about it, and so they say to themselves they’ll do this when we’re less busy,” said Edwards. “When they’re less busy however their conservatism creeps back in and they say they don’t want to make an investment now that they have the time because of the risks involved.”

Technology: Blackhole Discovered in Markarian 1018 Galaxy

An international team of astronomers has found a black hole in the Markarian 1018 galaxy, cracking the code behind the galaxy’s changing brightness throughout the decades.

Markarian 1018, located 555 million light-years away from Earth, was first discovered in the 1980s emitting little light. A few years after, it became categorized as a Seyfert type, a galaxy with very high brightness.

However, the astronomers found that the galaxy once again dimmed in 2015 using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope along with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

“When we re-observed [Markarian 1018] last year we found that it had returned to this dimmer state that it was in when it was first observed in the 1980s,” said study lead author Rebecca McElroy, a Ph.D. student at the University of Sydney and the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics.

McElroy said this decline in brightness was because the black hole was starved of fuel or accretion material. “It’s possible that this starvation is because the inflow of fuel is being disrupted,” Ms. McElroy said. “This could be because of interactions with a second supermassive black hole.”

McElroy said the findings provide new knowledge on active galaxies. Previously, active galaxies have been categorized into two static types: obscured and unobscured. However, Markarian 1018 challenged this classification.

“Future research on the galaxy will allow us to explore the exciting world of starving black holes and changing active galaxies in more detail,” Fellow at the European Southern Observatory, Bernd Husemann said.

National: Pleas To Block Same-Sex Marriage Plebiscite

The plebiscite on same-sex marriage in the parliament might be cancelled, as the Australian Labor party is expected to reject the enabling bill.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten is set to recommend rejecting the bill to Labor caucus and finalise the party’s position on October 10.

The Greens and Nick Xenophon team have promised to block the legislation. “We will be voting against the marriage equality plebiscite, no matter what form it takes, because of the harm that it can potentially do to same-sex attracted and gender diverse Australian,” Greens senator Janet Rice said in a Melbourne conference.

“The best way to achieve marriage equality, the quickest way, the way it should be done is to have a free vote in the parliament and we want to see that free vote to be brought upon as soon as possible.”

If the parliament passes the legislation, the plebiscite would take place on February 11, 2017, with a taxpayer funding of $15 million allocated to “yes” and “no” campaign committees.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull warned that Labor’s rejection of the plebiscite could result in delays in same-sex marriage legalisation. “If the Labor Party wants to frustrate that, well, all that will mean is that the resolution of the same-sex marriage issue will be postponed potentially for a very long time,” Turnbull told the Financial Review.

Same-sex marriage advocates have said that the legislation is not the best way to legalise same-sex marriage. “This public funding provisions would allow taxpayers funds to be used to attack other Australians with fear campaigns, and is totally unnecessary for achieve a reform that the parliament could deliver now,” Australian Marriage Equality Chair, Alex Greenwich said.

“Earlier [in August] the largest LGBTI community survey of its kind ever conducted found the LGBTI community is united against a plebiscite with opposition running at 85 per cent,” just.equal spokesperson Ivan Hinton-Teoh told Star Observer.

“A key concern of LGBTI Australians is that a plebiscite will be a platform for hate and that it will not actually lead directly to marriage equality.

“I call on Labor and crossbench senators to follow the Greens’ lead so that a plebiscite is blocked and we can have a free vote in Parliament instead.”

National: Daily Telegraph Publishes Propaganda On Gen Y’s ‘Bludging’ Culture

“An army of young Australian bludgers” who would rather watch TV than find a job has emerged, according to the Daily Telegraph’s cover story on Wednesday, September 14.

The paper focuses on two young people “not in employment, education or training’’, or NEETs, whom the writers described as “young, selfish and happily jobless”.

The story was as follows:

Two young NEETs, Ashleigh, 21, and Amy, 17, from Mt Druitt, would rather spend their days “chilling at maccas” and taking their old Holden Barina on “off-road tracks” than look for a job. Ashleigh told The Daily Telegraph she would “never get a job”.

“I don’t want to work my whole life and just die … I want more than that,” she said from the car park of the Mt ­Druitt Centrelink office. “I would tell you it’s hard to get a job but to be honest I don’t even try. Centrelink pays my rent and that’s all I need.”

The following paragraphs of the story discuss about the reasons behind young people’s unwillingness to work, which are based more on structural issues than personal decisions according to an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report.

The number of NEETs has soared by 100,000 since the ­global financial crisis eight years ago… The report also reveals that 41 per cent of NEETs want a job and are seeking work… Young women often drop out of work or study to have children, while young men drop out due to “low educational attainment, a lack of suitable employment options and ill health (or) disability’’.

Junkee’s Osman Faruqi criticises the article for its bias. “At no point did the OECD suggest that the rise in young people out of the workforce as their own fault or a deliberate decision to just bludge around,” writes Faruqi. “But I guess a story that says ‘Government should invest more in public services’ won’t sell as many papers as ‘New breed of bludger’.”

National: Pauline Hanson’s ‘Racist’ Maiden Speech Condemned

Pauline Hanson’s maiden speech has caused furore over its ‘racist’ message.

During her first speech in parliament on September 14, Hanson called for a ban on building mosques, wearing the burqa, and Muslim immigration.

Below are some of the speech’s excerpts:

Muslims want to see sharia law introduced in Australia. This law is a totalitarian civil code which prescribes harsh feudal rules imposed on everything, firstly for Muslims, later for everyone. As long as Islam is considered a religion, sharia conflicts with our secular state.

Islam cannot have a significant presence in Australia if we are to live in an open, secular and cohesive society. Never before in Australia’s history have we seen civil unrest and terror associated with a so-called religion, or from followers of that faith. We have seen the destruction that it is causing around the world.

If we do not make changes now, there will be no hope in the future. Have no doubt that we will be living under sharia law and treated as second-class citizens with second-class rights if we keep heading down the path with the attitude, ‘She’ll be right, mate.’

Therefore, I call for stopping further Muslim immigration and banning the burqa, as they have done in many countries around the world.

The Greens parliament members walked out on the speech. “We walked out of the chamber during Pauline Hanson’s first speech to this Parliament because we stand with the millions of Australians who choose to walk away from negativity and racism,” said Greens leader, Richard di Natale in a statement.

“We are sending a very strong message that we stand with the majority of Australians who value cultural diversity, respect, and tolerance.”

“I think it’s just ugly hate speech,” said musician Jimmy Barnes on ABC’s Q&A last night, describing Hanson’s maiden speech as “fanning the flames of extremism”.

A number of media outlets, such as ABC and SBS, have also pointed out the factual errors in Hanson’s speech, with the Courier-Mail saying the speech was “more fiction than fact”.

National: Labor Senator Stephen Conroy Retires

Labor’s Victoria senator Stephen Conroy has announced his resignation from politics, only months after being re-elected at the July 2 election.

“You should always go out on top…it must be time to say farewell,” Conroy states in his tabled speech. “It has been a great privilege to serve as a senator for Victoria, as leader and deputy leader of the Labor Party in the Senate and as a cabinet minister in two Labor governments.”

Conroy mentions his daughter, Isabella in the speech. “When you resent being in Canberra because you are missing your daughter’s soccer training it is time to retire from the Federal Parliament,” the statement reads. “It’s time for me to hang up my boots as Captain of the Parliamentary Soccer team and spend more time teaching Isabella soccer tricks.”

Conroy’s decision caught his party colleagues by surprise. “I’ve only just heard of these reports so I’ll be having more discussions during the day,” Labor’s federal deputy leader, Tanya Plibersek said on Friday. Labor MP for Corio, Richard Marles told ABC he was also surprised by the decision, but said, “Steve was always going to do this in his own way and on his own terms.”

Opposition leader Bill Shorten thanked Conroy for his “tireless contribution” to the party and the country. “In his twenty years as a senator, Stephen has relished every challenge put to him…” states Shorten. “He goes with my goodwill, my best wishes and my thanks for his service.”

Conroy has previously served as Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity.