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Earth

Great Barrier Reef Has Worst Coral Die-Off Ever, Report Finds (usatoday.com) 235

Australia's Great Barrier Reef has suffered from its worst coral die-off ever recorded, according to a new study from the Australian Research Council Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies based at James Cook University. "Stress from the unusually warm ocean water heated by man-made climate change and the natural El Nino climate pattern caused the die-off," reports USA Today. At more than 1,400 miles long, Australia's Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef and the planet's biggest structure made by living organisms. In the northernmost section of the reef, which had been considered the most "pristine," some 67% of the coral died. The good news, scientists said, was that central and southern sections of the reef fared far better, with "only" 6% and 1% of the coral dead, respectively. Coral reefs result from the work of little polyps, creatures only a few millimeters long, budded on top of one another. Over centuries, the shells of these creatures combine to form the exotic shapes of coral reefs. Tiny differences in the anatomy of each polyp species affect the shape of their shells and produce the exotic shapes of each reef. The vibrant colors that draw thousands of tourists to the Great Barrier Reef each year come from algae that live in the corals tissue. When water temperatures become too high, coral becomes stressed and expels the algae, which leave the coral a bleached white color. Mass coral bleaching is a new phenomenon and was never observed before the 1980s as global warming ramped up. Besides their beauty, reefs shelter land from storms, and are also a habitat for myriads of species.
IBM

IBM To Pay More Than $30 Million in Compensation For Census Fail (abc.net.au) 60

IBM will pay more than $30 million in compensation for its role in the bungled census, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has indicated. From a report: The Prime Minister described the four Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks that caused a 40-hour outage inconveniencing millions of Australians as "utterly predictable, utterly foreseeable." "I have to say -- and I'm not trying to protect anyone here at all -- but overwhelmingly the failure was IBM's and they have acknowledged that, they have paid up and they should have," he said. "They were being paid big money to deliver a particular service and they failed."
Piracy

Aussie Internet Pirates Are The Best Customers (torrentfreak.com) 48

A report commissioned by the Australian government has found a drop in piracy rates for 2016. The fall is being attributed to improved availability of legal streaming alternatives, but as TorrentFreak points out, the report also reveals that the much reviled Aussie pirate is often the industry's best customer. From the report: Streaming, on the other hand, increased from 54% to 57% year on year, with TV shows and movies making the biggest gains. "The proportion of internet users who streamed TV programs increased from 34% to 38% (making TV the most commonly accessed content type via online streaming) and the proportion of internet users who streamed movies increased from 25% to 29%," the report reads. This year the most-consumed content were TV shows (41%, up from 38% in 2015), music (39%, down from 42% in 2015) and movies (33%) and video games (15%). When all four content types were considered, the survey found that consumers streaming content on a weekly basis increased significantly, with 71% doing so for music and videos games, 55% for TV programs and 51% for movies. [...] However, in yet another blow to those who believe that genuine consumers and pirates are completely different and separate animals, the survey also reveals that millions of pirates are also consumers of legitimate content. In 2016, just 6% of Internet users exclusively obtained content from pirate sources. And there was an improvement in other areas too. When the survey presents figures from internet users who consumed content in the period (instead of just 'all Internet users 12+'), 37% consumed at least one unlawful file, down from 43% in the same period in 2015. Using the same parameters, 9% consumed all of their files unlawfully, down from 12% in 2015. But while there have been improvements in a number of areas, the volume of content being consumed illegally is not coming down across the board. According to the report, an estimated 279m music tracks, 56m TV shows, 34m movies, and 5m video games were consumed in the three month period.
Earth

Feeding Seaweed To Cows Eliminates Methane Emissions (www.cbc.ca) 283

Dave Knott writes: A Canadian farmer has "helped lead to a researcher's discovery of an unlikely weapon in the battle against global warming: a seaweed that nearly eliminates the destructive methane content of cow burps and farts," reports the CBC. "Joe Dorgan began feeding his cattle seaweed from nearby beaches more than a decade ago as a way to cut costs... Then researcher Rob Kinley of Dalhousie University caught wind of it." He tested Dorgan's seaweed mix, discovering that it reduced the methane in the cows' burps and farts by about 20 per cent. "Kinley knew he was on to something, so he did further testing with 30 to 40 other seaweeds. That led him to a red seaweed Asparagopsis taxiformis he says reduces methane in cows burps and farts to almost nothing."

"Ruminant animals are responsible for roughly 20% of greenhouse gas emissions globally, so it's not a small number," said Kinley, an agricultural research scientist now working at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Queensland, Australia. "We're talking numbers equivalent to hundreds of millions of cars."

The researcher predicts a seaweed-based cow feed could be on the market within three to five years, according to the article. "He says the biggest challenge will be growing enough seaweed."
Australia

Commercial-Mining Drones Keep Getting Attacked By Eagles (abc.net.au) 136

An anonymous reader summarizes an article from ABC News: The world's seventh-biggest gold producer has lost more than nine drones because of eagle attacks. "People couldn't believe I was able to get such a good photo of an eagle airborne," complained surveyor Rick Steven at a conference sponsored by the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. "But I didn't... Another eagle took that photo... I was getting attacked by two eagles simultaneously." The specially-constructed drones carry a $10,000 camera for high-resolution photos and equipment that produces high-detail contour maps of potential mining areas, and so far the company estimates they've lost more than $100,000 worth of technology to eagle attacks. They've tried camouflage -- including disguising the drones as another eagle -- but unfortunately, according to Stevens, the eagle is the "natural enemy" of the drone.
One drone's video is interrupted by the sudden appearance of an eagle, followed almost immediately by footage from the ground by a sideways drone camera. That video -- included in the article -- ends with a reminder that "Eagle attacks on drones have been documented across the world, to the point where some European police forces are now training them to take down unauthorized aircraft."
Cellphones

Browser Use On Mobile Devices Exceeds PC Browsing Worldwide: StatCounter (cnet.com) 34

Google is only expected to push the mobile web further now that there are 2 billion active Chrome installs. At the Chrome Dev Summit, Google's vice president of Chrome engineering and the conference's opening speaker said, "We have over 2 billion Chrome instances that are active," which makes Chrome a platform with immense power. The company is expected to reveal how the platform's unbeatable reach earns Chrome and browsers in general a place on the big stage. CNET reports: That power is essential to making Google's vision a reality. If it succeeds, that browser icon might be the one you reach for on your home screen a lot more often. Success on that front also could help restore the fortunes of the web, the closest the computing industry has come to freeing us from software that works only on one device or another, like a Windows laptop but not an iPhone. In an era when tech giants wield tremendous power, the web levels the playing field and makes it easier for new competitors to join the game. It's no wonder Google is pushing the mobile web. This month, browser usage on tablets and phones for the first time surpassed usage on PCs, analytics firm StatCounter said. In October, global mobile and tablet browsing accounted for 51.3% compared to the desktop's 48.7%. However, in other parts of the world the desktop is still king. For example, in the UK the desktop accounts for 55.6% of browsing, 58% in the U.S. and 55.1% in Australia. StatCounter CEO Aodhan Cullen said: "This should be a wake up call especially for small businesses, sole traders and professionals to make sure that their websites are mobile friendly. Many older websites are not. Mobile compatibility is increasingly important not just because of growing traffic but because Google favors mobile-friendly websites for its mobile search results."
Australia

Australia To Play Strategic Role in Biggest Ever Search For Extra-Terrestrial Life (abc.net.au) 25

Australia's role in the biggest ever search for alien life has officially begun, with the Parkes Telescope in central west NSW set to play a strategic part in the 10-year journey. From a report on ABC:The $100 million Breakthrough Listen initiative has been underway in the United States for about nine months. Overnight, the telescope -- affectionately known as the Dish -- achieved first light with an observation of an Earth-sized planet orbiting the nearest star to our Sun, Proxima Centauri. According to CSIRO program director John Reynolds, that so-called "exo-Earth" would be a good place to start looking for other life forms. "Alpha Centauri, or its little companion, Proxima Centauri, is actually the closest star to Earth -- it's only 4.3 light years away," Dr Reynolds said. "Just this year a planet was discovered around Proxima Centauri -- it's called an exo-Earth because it has some of the properties of Earth."
Education

Ask Slashdot: What Training Helps Older Programmers Most? 435

brown.dragon is an older programmer moving to Australia. He writes: I want to start an online solution that other programmers find helpful, and right now I'm wondering if I should go with "learning new technologies" or "getting really good at the basics". Both are targeted towards giving a career boost to older programmers...

Would you like to keep in touch with the latest technologies because that's what makes it easy to get jobs? Or would you like to be really good at answering (Google/Facebook/Amazon) algorithmic interview questions?

He asks programmers looking for an online educational tool, "which of these (if any), would interest you?" So leave your answers in the comments. What training do you think would help older programmers most?
Twitter

'Armies' of Twitter Bots Bolster Both The Trump And Clinton Campaigns (technewsworld.com) 214

An anonymous reader writes: During the first U.S. presidential debate, "automated accounts were tweeting messages with hashtags associated with the candidates. For example, #makeamericagreatagain or #draintheswamp for Trump; #imwithher for Clinton," according to TechNewsWorld. They cite researchers at PoliticalBots.org, who "found that one-third of all tweets using pro-Trump hashtags were created by bots and one-fifth of all Clinton hashtags were generated by automated accounts."

In addition, "Political actors and governments worldwide have begun using bots to manipulate public opinion, choke off debate, and muddy political issues... We know for a fact that Russia, as a state, has sponsored the use of bots for attacking transnational targets... We've had cases in Mexico, Turkey, South Korea and Australia. The problem is that a lot of people don't know bots exist, and that trends on social media or even online polls can be gamed by bots very easily."

After the second presidential debate, "Pro-Clinton bots 'fought back'," reported the BBC, adding that they were still outnumbered by the Trump bots.
Privacy

Red Cross Blood Service Admits To Personal Data Breach Affecting Half a Million Donors (abc.net.au) 32

The personal data of 550,000 blood donors that includes information about "at-risk sexual behaviour" has been leaked from the Red Cross Blood Service in what has been described as Australia's largest security breach. From an ABC report:The organisation said it was told on Wednesday that a file containing donor information was placed on an "insecure computer environment" and "accessed by an unauthorised person." The file contained the information of blood donors from between 2010 and 2016. The data came from an online application form and included "personal details" and identifying information including names, gender, addresses and dates of birth, a Red Cross statement said. Red Cross Blood Service chief executive Shelly Park said "due to human error" the unsecured data had been posted on a website by a contractor who maintains and develops the Red Cross website.
Businesses

Apple CEO Tim Cook: 'We're Going To Kill Cash' (cnet.com) 394

At a media event on Thursday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the Touch ID on the new MacBook Pros will make it incredibly easy for people to do online money transactions. After the event, speaking to reporters Cook made a bold statement about how he sees Apple Pay. CNET reports: "We're going to kill cash," he said. "Nobody likes to carry around cash." He makes most of his purchases with Apple Pay (which is not surprising).Cook's comment comes days after Australia's top banks refused to support Apple Pay, saying that the company has been 'intransigent, closed and controlling'.
United States

New Study Shows HIV Epidemic Started Spreading In New York In 1970, Clears the Name of 'Patient Zero' (nbcnews.com) 380

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: A new genetic study confirms theories that the global epidemic of HIV and AIDS started in New York around 1970, and it also clears the name of a gay flight attendant long vilified as being "Patient Zero." Researchers got hold of frozen samples of blood taken from patients years before the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS was ever recognized, and teased out genetic material from the virus from that blood. They use it to show that HIV was circulating widely during the 1970s, and certainly before people began noticing a "gay plague" in New York in the early 1980s. "We can date the jump into the U.S. in about 1970 and 1971," Michael Worobey, an expert on the evolution of viruses at the University of Arizona, told reporters in a telephone briefing. Their findings also suggest HIV moved from New York to San Francisco in about 1976, they report in the journal Nature. Their findings confirm widespread theories that HIV first leapt from apes to humans in Africa around the beginning of the 20th century and circulated in central Africa before hitting the Caribbean in the 1960s. The genetic evidence supports the theory that the virus came from the Caribbean, perhaps Haiti, to New York in 1970. From there it spread explosively before being exported to Europe, Australia and Asia. The Worobey team also sequenced samples of virus taken from Gaetan Dugas, a Canadian flight attendant named as "Patient Zero." Dugas died in 1984 and stunned researchers when he told them he'd had about 250 sexual partners a year between 1979 and 1981, although it later became clear that was not uncommon. The sequences make it clear he was a victim of an epidemic that had already been raging, and not its originator, Worobey said. "It's shocking how this man's name has been sullied and destroyed by this incorrect history," said Peter Staley, a former Wall Street bond trader who became an AIDS activist in New York in the 1980s. "He was not Patient Zero and this study confirms it through genetic analysis," Staley told NBC News. "No one should be blamed for the spread of viruses," Worobey said.
Australia

A New Attack Allows Intercepting Or Blocking Of Every LTE Phone Call And Text (theregister.co.uk) 80

All LTE networks and devices are vulnerable to a new attack demonstrated at the Ruxon security conference in Melbourne. mask.of.sanity shared this article from The Register: It exploits LTE fall-back mechanisms designed to ensure continuity of phone services in the event of emergency situations that trigger base station overloads... The attacks work through a series of messages sent between malicious base stations spun up by attackers and targeted phones. It results in attackers gaining a man-in-the-middle position from where they can listen to calls or read SMS, or force phones back to 2G GSM networks where only voice and basic data services are available...

[Researcher Wanqiao] Zhang says the attacks are possible because LTE networks allow users to be handed over to underused base stations in the event of natural disasters to ensure connectivity. "You can create a denial of service attack against cellphones by forcing phones into fake networks with no services," Zhang told the conference. "You can make malicious calls and SMS and...eavesdrop on all voice and data traffic."

Australia

Quantum Researchers Achieve 10-Fold Boost In Superposition Stability (thestack.com) 89

An anonymous reader quotes The Stack: A team of Australian researchers has developed a qubit offering ten times the stability of existing technologies. The computer scientists claim that the new innovation could significantly increase the reliability of quantum computing calculations... The new technology, developed at the University of New South Wales, has been named a 'dressed' quantum bit as it combines a single atom with an electromagnetic field. This process allows the qubit to remain in a superposition state for ten times longer than has previously been achieved. The researchers argue that this extra time in superposition could boost the performance stability of quantum computing calculations... Previously fragile and short-lived, retaining a state of superposition has been one of the major barriers to the development of quantum computing. The ability to remain in two states simultaneously is the key to scaling and strengthening the technology further.
Do you ever wonder what the world will look like when everyone has their own personal quantum computer?
Medicine

Nurses In Australia Face Punishment For Promoting Anti-Vaccination Messages Via Social Media (medicalxpress.com) 656

HughPickens.com writes: Medical Express reports that nurses and midwives promoting anti-vaccination messages in Australia could face punishment including being slapped with a caution and having their ability to practice medicine restricted. Serious cases could be referred to an industry tribunal, where practitioners could face harsher penalties such as having their registration suspended or cancelled. The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia released the vaccination standards in response to what it described as a small number of nurses and midwives promoting anti-vaccination via social media. The statement also urges members of the public to report nurses or midwives promoting anti-vaccination. Promoting false, misleading or deceptive information is an offense under national law and is prosecutable by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. "The board will consider whether the nurse or midwife has breached their professional obligations and will treat these matters seriously," the statement said. However Dr. Hannah Dahlen, a professor of midwifery at the University of Western Sydney and the spokeswoman for the Australian College of Midwives, worries the crackdown may push people with anti-vaccination views further underground. "The worry is the confirmation bias that can occur, because people might say: 'There you go, this is proof that you can't even have an alternative opinion.' It might in fact just give people more fuel for their belief systems."
The Almighty Buck

Apple is 'Intransigent, Closed and Controlling' Say Banks (afr.com) 289

Apple is increasingly trying to get banks to implement its Apple Pay mobile payments solutions, but some banks are avoiding Cupertino giant's offer, saying that the company is "closed and controlling". From a report on Financial Review: Three of Australia's big four banks have described technology giant Apple as being "intransigent, closed and controlling" and accused it of attempting to freeload on their contactless payments infrastructure while slowing innovation in digital wallets. In an increasingly acrimonious dispute, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank, Westpac Banking Corp and Bendigo and Adelaide Bank are arguing that the engineering of Apple iPhones prevent them from delivering mobile wallets to millions of customers. This is because Apple Pay is the only application that works with the iPhone's "near field communication" (NFC) antenna, which communicates with payment terminals. In their latest, 137-page submission filed with the competition regulator, the banks argue that by locking them out, "Apple is seeking for itself the exclusive use of Australia's existing NFC terminal infrastructure for the making of integrated mobile payments using iOS devices. Yet, this infrastructure was built and paid for by Australian banks and merchants for the benefit of all Australians."
United States

Samsung is Setting Up Note 7 Exchange Booths at Airports Around the World (theverge.com) 46

An anonymous reader writes: Samsung is setting up Galaxy Note 7 exchange booths in airports around the world, hoping to stop customers taking the dangerous device onto flights at the last minute. The first of these new "customer service points" appear to have been introduced in South Korean airports, but Samsung has confirmed the booths are opening in airports across Australia, with reports of the desks appearing in the US as well. The booths are located in "high-traffic terminals" before security screening, says Samsung, and allow Note 7 owners to swap their phone for an unspecified exchange device. According to a report from ABC7News in San Francisco -- where a Samsung exchange desk has appeared at the city's international airport -- employees for the tech company are on hand to help customers transfer their data onto a new phone.
Iphone

Apple To Obsolete iPhone 4 and Late 2010 MacBook Air On October 31 (macrumors.com) 114

Apple will make all iPhone 4 models, the late 2010 13-inch MacBook Air, third-generation AirPort Extreme, and mid-2009 AirPort Time Capsule obsolete come October 31, MacRumor claims, citing a different report. From the report: Apple products on the vintage and obsolete list are no longer eligible for hardware service, beyond a few exceptions. Apple defines vintage products as those that have not been manufactured for more than five years but less than seven years ago, while obsolete products are those that were discontinued more than seven years ago. Each of the products added were released between 2009 and 2010. The report specifically pertains to Apple's vintage and obsolete products list in Japan, but the new additions will more than likely extend to the United States, Australia, Canada, and the rest of the Asia-Pacific and Europe regions.
Crime

Second Hacker Group Targets SWIFT Users, Symantec Warns (reuters.com) 15

A second hacking group has sought to rob banks using fraudulent SWIFT messages, cyber security firm Symantec said on Tuesday. The group is said to be using the same approach that resulted in $81 million in the high-profile February attack on Bangladesh's central bank. From a Reuters report: Symantec said that a group dubbed Odinaff has infected 10 to 20 Symantec customers with malware that can be used to hide fraudulent transfer requests made over SWIFT, the messaging system that is a lynchpin of the global financial system. Symantec's research provided new insight into ongoing hacking that has previously been disclosed by SWIFT. SWIFT Chief Executive Gottfried Leibbrandt last month told customers about three hacks and warned that cyber attacks on banks are poised to rise. SWIFT and Symantec have not identified specific victims beyond Bangladesh Bank. Symantec said that most Odinaff attacks occurred in the United States, Hong Kong, Australia, the United Kingdom and Ukraine.
Facebook

Facebook Launches Marketplace On App, Takes On eBay and Craigslist (betanews.com) 38

Facebook today also announced the launch of "Marketplace," allowing users to buy and sell items on the social media platform. The company says more than 450 million people already visit buying and selling groups on Facebook each month. The new service will be available to people over 18 years of age in the United States, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand on Facebook's iPhone and Android over the coming days. BetaNews adds: The primary aim of Facebook Marketplace is to keep things as simple as possible. Both listing and searching for items is incredibly easy, and the focus is on putting would-be buyers in contact with sellers as close by as possible. The new feature sits alongside the many existing pages that have been set up to facilitate the buying and selling of goods, and Facebook has made it possible to post items to the Marketplace and individual pages simultaneously to help maximize your audience.

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