Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Heatwaves may mean Sydney is too hot for people to live in 'within decades'

This is a heap of nonsense. I grew up in Far North Queensland where temperatures that would flatten some Southerners were normal. According to the BOM, Sydney has a December mean maximum temperature of 25.2 while in Cairns it is 31.5. So many days were over 30 degrees Celsius in Cairns while such days were rare in Sydney. We just accepted such days as normal and went about our business in Cairns. Life went on as usual. It wasn't too hot to live in.

It is true that Sydney has always had some very hot days. Back in 1790 it was so hot that bats were falling out of the trees. But life has gone on in Sydney ever since and it will continue to do so. It is no drama

Parts of Victoria and NSW are sweating through an extreme heatwave that started sweeping across Australia's southeast on Saturday.

This may seem like just a good excuse to go to the beach, but as the planet warms and summers become longer and less bearable, heatwaves are coming to represent an existential threat to Australian suburbs.

Already, heat kills more people in Australia than any other natural disaster, including floods, cyclones and bushfires.

Now, faced with the prospect of 50-degree-plus summers, experts say highly urbanised parts of Australia may become unliveable within decades.

The race is on to re-imagine, redesign and rebuild the Australian suburb. Car parks may be ripped up and planted with trees and greenery, houses retro-fitted with insulation, roads painted to reflect rather than absorb heat, and supermarkets and even whole suburbs built underground to reduce cooling costs.

One centre of these efforts is Western Sydney, home to more than 2.5 million people. In this floodplain of closely packed houses, heat pools on islands of black bitumen and collects on sun-baked concrete.

The mercury gets close to 50 degrees Celsius here in summer — and that's just the ambient air temperature. The radiant heat from bitumen carparks can push 80C. The surface temperature of playground equipment has been measured at 100C.

Since 2019, all 33 Sydney councils have been funding a climate adaptation program that has identified heat as the number-one climate threat to Sydneysiders.

"We are not yet building a city that's really equipping our people to survive and adapt extreme heat," says Beck Dawson, who heads the Resilience Sydney program.

"If the community doesn't have access to things to make themselves cool we effectively have a very large oven occurring across the Western Sydney plains.

"The scale of the emerging threat is different to anything we've faced before."

Businessman films the sick moment a black URINATES on his $80k BMW because he 'can't find a bathroom'

Leo Alhalabi caught the stranger relieving himself on his car's back left tyre outside a property in Melbourne on January 14.

The horrified digital marketing guru, 24, confronted the man, who had parked his white Toyota behind the flashy M4 in broad daylight on the quiet suburban street.

'Why did you park specifically here to piss on my car? Is it because it's a nice car?' Mr Alhalabi asked the man, as seen in a video he shared on Instagram.

As the stranger stuttered and stumbled through his replies, Mr Alhalabi probed further, asking: 'Why piss here?'

'I was just pissing there because I haven't got a bathroom,' the man replied.

Mr Alhalabi stifled a laugh and said: 'You don't have a bathroom so you piss on my car?'

The man repeatedly apologised and offered to wash the tyre.

Mr Alhalabi agreed to let him rinse the urine off the wheel and promised not to 'do anything' to him.

'Life is all about forgiveness, okay? So I'm not going to do anything to you,' he said, triggering a wave of grovelling apologies from the stranger.

When the man said 'there is no bathroom in the city, Mr Alhalabi's friend chimed in and said: 'There's a tree. A car's not to piss on'.

The businessman called police, who said there was nothing they could do about it.

At the end of the video, Mr Alhalabi congratulated himself for keeping his cool during the confrontation. He wrote: Don't let people trick you out of your position. I'll take the no assault charges or jail time.' 'Despite how much they may have deserved it.'

People in the comments praised the businessman for remaining calm.

Why internet search and social would barely miss a beat if Google and Facebook carried through with their threats to pull out of Australia

There's no doubting the power of Google and Facebook. They are two of the most popular and valuable companies on the planet and their bosses are influential multi-billionaires.

Even the company names have become verbs - for searching online, and for adding new virtual friends.

There's no doubt threats by the tech giants to withdraw their most popular services for Australian users would cause problems initially if they follow through - but ultimately the decision would backfire on both, experts say.

Both Google and Facebook faced a fierce backlash for their defiant responses to a new law, the News Bargaining Code, which will force them to negotiate payment to media companies for the news content they use.

Google's response to a Senate Committee was to threaten stopping Google Search in Australia, while Facebook said it may have to block links to new articles in it's popular News Feed. Both companies have proposed alternatives including voluntary instead of mandatory codes, which have not been accepted by the Federal Government.

Alternatives to a Google search

Bing - the default search engine for the Microsoft Edge browser is the next biggest after Google, but still only has 3.74% of web traffic in Australia despite being around for 11 years

DuckDuckGo - considered the 'anti-google', this search engine doesn't collect personal data and claims to use 400 sources to return search results

Yelp - Australian search engine which specialises in locating local businesses such as restaurants, doctors, beauty salons and bars

The tech giants must have felt they were on strong ground when U.S. authorities backed them up, calling on Australia to scrap the proposed laws.

Google and Facebook's threats drew a series of stinging response from across the political spectrum, as well as from industry representatives and academics.

Most notably Prime Minister Scott Morrison slammed the bullying: 'People who want to work with that in Australia, you're very welcome. But we don't respond to threats.'

Both companies make huge profits in Australia but have drawn criticism for how little tax they pay.

The Australian Financial Review reported Facebook Australia earned nearly $674 million by Australian advertisers in 2019, but paid under $17 million.

Google did even better, making $4.3 billion in 2019, and paying less than $100 million.

Experts and industry spokespeople say if the tech giants make good on their threats millions of users would face impacts ranging from annoyance, to receiving even more dodgy information than usual, to potential health risks.

Small businesses that rely on Google ad words campaigns for people to find them would also be thrown into uncertainty.

'Dominance by one player does not end well for society. Google is not evil its just too dominant,' says Peter Strong the CEO of the Council of Small Business.

'The world is watching us to see what happens next, it really is.'

But ultimately, Australians - including business - would adjust and cope. A move to block Australian users would end up being 'self-destructive'.

'It is self-defeating and self-destructive to treat your users in these ways,' said Peter Lewis, from the Australia Institute's Centre for Responsible Technology.

'Ultimately these companies are networks of users and they're only as strong as their networks. If they make decisions that weaken those networks and don't respect their users, ultimately they weaken themselves.'

'We managed to survive before Google, and I'm sure we could again.' 'We'll find a workaround, we always do,' Mr Lewis says.

On Facebook chat threads, internet natives and heavy users appear relatively unfazed by the potential for Google Search to be blocked for Australians. Many said they would simply use the Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) they already pay for to get around geoblocking.

For those without a VPN, Google is not the only search engine that works.

Australian consumer tech website Gizmodo recommended four 'great alternatives as the legislation went before parliament: the so-called 'anti-google' DuckDuckGo, the family friendly Swisscows, Ecosia and Bing.

'DuckDuckGo is popular because it positions itself as being the 'anti-Google'. Unlike the tech giant, it doesn't store cookies or any kind of identifiable personal information,' according to Gizmodo.

'There would certainly be a learning curve for consumers to understand that there are alternative options out there,' says Teresa Corbin, CEO of The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

'Ultimately though some of the alternative search providers do not profile users and provide more privacy options for consumers.'

The Google Search users who will be looking for new ideas with the greatest urgency will be micro business owners and those in highly competitive markets, such as cafes, restaurants, hairdressers and tradespeople.

'We don't know what would happen, we're trying to work that out,' says Peter Strong, CEO of the Council of Small Business.

'Small businesses usually just get someone to do this for them and then forget about it. Well if Google pulls out, they're gone.

'How would people find a local hairdresser, or plumbing business, cafes, or delivery businesses? Of course they will start using other search engines, but this will cause a lot of uncertainty.'

'There could be health impacts too. What if you order your medicines online or need to get your wheelchair fixed?'

Ms Corbin agrees: "Australians would be able to adjust to using alternative services.'

'However, there are still many questions to be answered about what the future of the internet in Australia would look like if Google and Facebook follow through on these threats, such as how small businesses who depend on Google Ads in search will be affected.'

Mr Lewis agrees business will struggle, but will find other ways to reach their audiences - 'maybe even back through to news organisations.'

While it seems unlikely that news organisations could end up recommencing large scale online classifieds as a solution - the loss of which sunk the business models that newspapers operated for decades - things change quickly online.

News organisations are already building search and aggregation tools for bona fide news sites - such as Daily Mail's Newzit - have also sprung up in recent times that could meet a demand for fact-based news services.

Tama Leaver, Professor of Internet Studies, at Curtin University, says contrary to some reports, Facebook is not threatening to shut down the News Feed for Australians.

What is proposed is worse than that, Mr Leaver says.

'If you drop a link to an interesting news article into your post it wouldn't work. Information from unverified sources would start to clutter up the feed - that's a significant shift away from verified information.

'To me that is a huge issue. Facebook is already fighting a war against disinformation and it is not winning, the likes of 5G and Covid conspiracies.'

'Without credible sources to counter that Facebook could become even more of a cesspool for misinformation,' Mr Leaver says.

So where can people go for news - apart from the obvious choices of news websites and news aggregation sites?

It is likely that news will migrate in greater volumes to other social media platforms, such as Twitter and Instagram - which carried virtually no news until the last couple of years.

Ultimately, Mr Lewis doesn't think the threats by Google and Facebook will work: 'By threatening to leave by attempting to block users, they've backed themselves into a corner.' 'Unless they have a master plan I'm not seeing, I cant see how this ends with them getting what they want.'

'Google and Facebook need to come to the table in good faith,' Ms Corbin says.

'We saw Google recently agree to a copyright framework agreement with French publishers that required them to pay news publishers for their online content, so the idea of a deal is not incomprehensible to these tech giants.'

Mr Lewis says it's important to note that the News Media Bargaining Code is the first of several major changes to the way information is shared online.

Major changes will follow soon relating to data privacy, the transparency of advertising and the spread of misinformation.

These changes are seen as more urgent since it became obvious that conspiracy theories - such as those surrounding COVID-19, QAnon, Brexit and the US election - were spreading quickly online.

Google has defended itself in statements posted to YouTube and available on the Google search page. It has also laid out its case in an open letter.

NSW walks away from Norfolk Island services, Queensland poised to take control

NSW's association with Norfolk Island appears likely to end, after Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirmed her Government was in talks about taking over a service contract on the tiny external territory.

"We've heard that New South Wales wants to abandon their responsibilities there so we are very keen to have those further discussions with the Federal Government," she said.

The NSW Government has been running Norfolk Island's school and health system since the Federal Government revoked the island's self-ruling status in 2015. But that service contract expires in June.

"It's an issue we've been discussing with the Commonwealth for the past two or three years and something we feel strongly about, in terms of what needs to happen," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

The NSW Government has committed to servicing the island, which is home to less than 2,000 people, until the end of this year.

The Federal Government is liaising with other states to secure an arrangement for next year and beyond.

The Norfolk Island Regional Council governs the territory — which was handed to Australia by the United Kingdom in 1914 — and is bankrolled by the Commonwealth.

However, NSW provides health and education funding at a cost of more than $32 million per year.

Norfolk Island's administrator, Eric Hutchinson said: "Both education and health services on the island are critical services, just as they are I think in any other community large or small around a big country."

While he would not speculate on who he thinks should take over the services contract, he admitted Queensland was a logical partner with three island flights operating out of Brisbane each week.

"We've seen many Australians visiting Norfolk Island for the first time, a very remote part of a big country and that's benefiting businesses here on the island and we hope that that will continue."

In a statement a spokesman for the Commonwealth Department of Infrastructure said "the Australian Government is committed to the continuity of essential state services on Norfolk Island".




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