Straya Briefly for 13/12/2019

Morning all,

Here’s today’s headlines:


  • Scott Morrison acknowledges smoke haze concerns as he stands by climate policies (ABC)
  • ‘Buy From The Bush’ Market Boosting Drought-Stricken Rural Communities (Ten)
  • Port River dolphin death blamed on ‘red tape’ as rescuer claims he was denied access to save it (ABC)
  • Firefighters Told They Can’t Crowdfund For Resources To Get The Job Done (Ten)
  • ICAC report into SA Health privately met with anger by Premier, commissioner says (ABC)
  • Scott Morrison is still streets ahead of Anthony Albanese (SMH)
  • Opinion

  • Grattan on Friday: Climate winds blowing on Morrison from Liberal party’s left (The Conversation)
  • Big in Morocco (The Monthly)
  • Working class likely to deliver for Boris Johnson (Pursuit)
  • Five videos that explain Boris Johnson’s campaign — and one where it all went wrong (ABC)
  • Did you know that Blade Runner was set in November 2019? (Overland)
  • Damascene subversion: Christos Tsiolkas’s ‘Damascus’ (The Monthly)
  • Business

  • ‘The next Opal Tower?’: severe cracks appear in car park of popular Sydney club (ABC)
  • Contrite Westpac board deserves no credit for surviving torrid meeting (SMH)
  • Australia’s new energy roadmap calls for dozens of new renewable energy projects (ABC)
  • Patient expectations: Startups race to book you in at the doctor (SMH)
  • Jetstar to cancel 120 domestic flights on Friday and weekend due to strike (The Guardian)
  • ‘The pod without the guilt’: Aussie coffee startup goes international (SMH)
  • World

  • UK general election: Voters head to the polls — live updates (Deutsche Welle)
  • Canada Conservative leader in surprise resignation (BBC News)
  • Live blog: UK votes in general election that could determine future of Brexit (France 24)
  • New CCTV of Jersey City shooters (BBC News)
  • ‘No Christmas break’ in transport strike, French union warns (France 24)
  • Anti-French sentiment on the rise in West Africa as security situation deteriorates (Deutsche Welle)
  • Climate

  • Combining home solar, batteries and EVs will be better deal than solar alone by 2024 (Renew Economy)
  • The Drum Thursday December 12 (ABC)
  • Coal-fired electric generation in India expected to fall for the first time in 14 years (IEEFA)
  • Credit Suisse to stop funding new coal-fired power plant development (IEEFA)
  • Soluna batteries land in Australia, with plans for local manufacturing (Renew Economy)
  • World’s youngest PM brushes aside media furore at EU debut (The Guardian)
  • Sport

  • Scott Wisemantel appointed Australia attack coach after leaving England (The Guardian)
  • MLB: Marijuana removed from banned list after policy revision (BBC Sport)
  • Europa League: Cluj v Celtic – Lennon names much-changed XI (BBC Sport)
  • The Breakdown | Lions will become endangered unless they can collaborate with Premiership (The Guardian)
  • Marnus Labuschagne, run-scoring and bubble gum (Cricinfo)
  • Glenn Maxwell returns to Melbourne Stars training after mental health break (Cricinfo)
  • Further reading

  • Are Koalas Really Going Extinct? (Jstor)
  • Is the Law of Conservation of Energy Cancelled? – Issue 79: Catalysts (Nautilus)
  • India has once again shut down the internet to control protesters (MIT Tech Review)
  • Rules or citizens? (Aeon)
  • The Oneida Community Moves to the OC (Jstor)
  • What Quantum Gravity Needs Is More Experiments – Issue 79: Catalysts (Nautilus)

  • You can sign up for this briefing via email here.

    Lanka Briefly for 12/12/2019

    Morning all,

    Here’s today’s headlines:


  • Lanka ponders future course of action (The Island)
  • SL poised for growth (Daily FT)
  • SLFP will ensure Gota gets a two-thirds majority – Sirisena (Republic Next)
  • Kudos for Daily FT reporting (Daily FT)
  • UNP asks for explanation from Wimal and Udaya for their sudden change of stand over MCC (The Island)
  • Devananda wants them to operate on a joint timetable (The Island)
  • Opinion

  • Opposition Leader post can spell Luck or doom for Sajith (Daily Mirror)
  • One big family (Daily Mirror)
  • Revival of State-owned enterprises the need of the hour (Daily FT)
  • Material Roots Of Racist Ideology (Colombo Telegraph)
  • Brexit-Centric UK Elections: Racism Runs Deeper! (Colombo Telegraph)
  • Presidency and Sangha: virtuous or villainous duo? (Daily FT)
  • Business

  • Port City stamped into Sri Lanka’s urban fabric (Daily FT)
  • OPPO to launch 5G smartphones powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 and 765G mobile platforms (The Island)
  • Life Fitness adds Sri Lanka to its Asia Pacific expansion (The Island)
  • Sri Lanka pavilion at World Trade Expo in Mumbai showcases popular Sri Lankan brands (Daily FT)
  • Addressing illicit markets – why it’s a priority (The Island)
  • Mark Mobius bullish on tourism, real estate and tech in Sri Lanka (The Island)
  • World

  • ‘Stolen’ Klimt masterpiece worth $97m found inside secret hidey-hole (ABC)
  • Aung San Suu Kyi says the world has it wrong on the Rohingya (ABC)
  • Israel barrels towards third election in 12 months (Deutsche Welle)
  • YouTube moves against ‘implied threats’ with new anti-harassment policy (Deutsche Welle)
  • ‘A social contract’: In New Zealand, you can be compensated for disasters even if you’re not a citizen (ABC)
  • Harvey Weinstein bail increased over ankle bracelet issues (Deutsche Welle)
  • Climate

  • Coal-fired electric generation in India expected to fall for the first time in 14 years (IEEFA)
  • New York Loses Climate Change Fraud Case Against Exxon Mobil (The New York Times)
  • Credit Suisse to stop funding new coal-fired power plant development (IEEFA)
  • Conservative road to climate catastrophe | Letters (The Guardian)
  • Australia’s use of accounting loophole to meet Paris deal found to have no legal basis (The Guardian)
  • Chevron to take massive write-down due to Appalachian shale woes (IEEFA)
  • Sport

  • ‘We need 300 to give our bowlers a chance’ – Karunaratne (Cricinfo)
  • Pakistan seamers shine on day of fluctuating fortunes (Cricinfo)
  • Bayern Munich 3-1 Tottenham Hotspur: Ryan Sessegnon scores on full debut as Spurs lose (BBC Sport)
  • Club Bruges 1-3 Real Madrid: Brazilian teenagers give Real win (BBC Sport)
  • Al-Sadd 3-1 Hienghene: Xavi’s side reach Club World Cup second round (BBC Sport)
  • Live Report – Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 1st Test (Cricinfo)
  • Further reading

  • Visit the German Castle Where DNA Was First Discovered (Smithsonian)
  • Is It Ethical to Grow a Brain in a Petri Dish? (Jstor)
  • The jokes always saved us: humour in the time of Stalin (Aeon)
  • Fox News Is Now a Threat to National Security (Wired)
  • Human Ancestors May Have Evolved the Physical Ability to Speak More Than 25 Million Years Ago (Smithsonian)
  • Tsarist Russia’s Feminist Intelligentsia (Jstor)

  • You can sign up for this briefing via email here.

    Straya Briefly for 12/12/2019

    Morning all,

    Here’s today’s headlines:


  • Aerial firefighting centre given $11m funding boost after calls for more water-bombers (ABC)
  • How 710 companies got away with not paying a single cent in tax (ABC)
  • Tourism Australia splashes cash on social media stars, led by one linked to Hong Kong protests (ABC)
  • Australia Could Be At Risk Of ‘Imported’ Measles Outbreak After Overseas Epidemics (Ten)
  • Mask Warning Issued As Sydney Residents Battle ‘Airpocalypse’ (Ten)
  • A third of large firms don’t pay tax but corporate returns surge (SMH)
  • Opinion

  • Is elder abuse avoidable? (The Monthly)
  • Why is Jeremy Corbyn so unpopular? (ABC)
  • New coalmines in Queensland don’t help existing communities, they hurt them | Richard Denniss (The Guardian)
  • Do unto others? Power of religions to discriminate must have limits (SMH)
  • The end of the future, again (and again [and again]) (Overland)
  • Big man energy (The Monthly)
  • Business

  • Scientists fear bushfire ‘nightmare scenario’ where trees unable to reabsorb carbon (ABC)
  • Liberal party member denies links to Chinese Communist party after Belt and Road controversy (The Guardian)
  • Sydney’s recovering property market boosts NSW Government, half-year review reports (ABC)
  • Hong Kong fraud payments put Westpac under fresh scrutiny (SMH)
  • Netflix could lose 4 million subscribers next year in the US alone (SMH)
  • Wheatfields in WA could be the key in latest space race (ABC)
  • World

  • On brink of ‘man-made’ starvation, Zimbabweans struggling to cope (Al Jazeera English)
  • Brexit looming UK decides between Tories and Labour (Deutsche Welle)
  • Does Ethiopian Nobel laureate Abiy Ahmed have new enemies? (Deutsche Welle)
  • Roxette singer Marie Fredriksson dies aged 61 (ABC)
  • When will we know the UK election result and what does it mean for Brexit? (ABC)
  • Trump to target anti-Semitism on US colleges campuses (Al Jazeera English)
  • Climate

  • Which parts of Australia deliver the cheapest wind and solar? (Renew Economy)
  • Chile to close brand new, 334MW Mejillones coal plant in 2024 (IEEFA)
  • Look to the future and vote for Labour, says Antony Gormley | Letters (The Guardian)
  • NSW town ‘cremated’ by bushfire crying out for support, Mayor says (ABC)
  • Australia’s use of accounting loophole to meet Paris deal found to have no legal basis (The Guardian)
  • No legal or moral basis for Australia’s Kyoto accounting fudge, new analysis shows (Renew Economy)
  • Sport

  • Ashleigh Barty named WTA Player of the Year (SMH)
  • Alex Carey ‘nipping at the heels’ of Tim Paine – Adam Gilchrist (Cricinfo)
  • Four days in a row of 40 degrees triggers rare deadly heatwave warning for Perth (ABC)
  • Gennaro Gattuso: Napoli name former AC Milan boss as Carlo Ancelotti’s successor (BBC Sport)
  • City hotshot Emslie set for first Melbourne derby (SMH)
  • Ash Barty claims trio of AIS awards (ABC)
  • Further reading

  • A fully electric aircraft has just made its first commercial flight (MIT Tech Review)
  • Modesty means more, not less (Aeon)
  • Finke film review: riders daring to fly in a crazy desert race (The Conversation)
  • Fox News Is Now a Threat to National Security (Wired)
  • The Best Board Games of 2019 (Smithsonian)
  • The jokes always saved us: humour in the time of Stalin (Aeon)

  • You can sign up for this briefing via email here.

    Code is fragile

    Something I hadn’t expected to learn this year was that computer code spits the dummy over the slightest thing. Given a slight change, the barest deviation from what a script was expecting, the whole thing shuts down.

    If you’re lucky (and have prepared ahead of time) it might throw out an error message. But mostly it sits and sulks until whatever exception to the rules you’ve given it has been fixed.

    Which is partly what makes me pessimistic about things like autonomous cars. Here’s another grab from You look like a thing and I love you by Janelle Shane:

    Our world is too complicated, too unexpected, too bizarre for an AI to have seen it all during training. The emus will get loose, the kids will start wearing cockroach costumes, and people will ask about giraffes even when there aren’t any present. AI will misunderstand us because it lacks the context to know what we really want it to do.

    I now have several scripts running every day, peppered with code asking it to pretty-please keep going if something goes wrong. It’s a tangled web of counterfactual logic, mostly dreamed up after something actually has gone wrong. Most days it makes it. But often it doesn’t.

    Of course autonomous cars aren’t as bad as my hard coded logic. Part of the point of machine learning is precisely to avoid having to come up with all the steps and ass-covering required to make code tackle a complex and multifaceted problem.

    But we’ve now seen so many cases where it just doesn’t work. Because the same problems apply when it comes to training the algorithms.

    The real world is so much more wild and malleable than the relatively safe cyberspace my code calls home. The people tackling these problems are obviously far smarter and more experienced than me, but is that enough?

    All sorts of things could change and mess with an AI. As I mentioned in an earlier chapter, road closures or even hazards like wildfires might not deter an AI that sees only traffic from recommending what it thinks is an attractive route. Or a new kind of scooter could become popular, throwing off the hazard-detection algorithm of a self-driving car. A changing world adds to the challenge of designing an algorithm to understand it.

    I suspect this post will be outdated incredibly fast. But it’s also likely that our wildest technological dreams will be achieved less by computers being “smarter” and more through narrowing the problem. Making the world safer. Because code is fragile.

    As always my emphasis