Pell's got your back, sex offenders - 10 Things
Things are already getting messy with the news of the forthcoming Royal Commission into child abuse, with Cardinal George Pell offering up the first thread in a rich tapestry that will one day be entitled Yes Child Abuse Is Wrong Obviously And Everything But Something Something God Something. Right now he's busily taking the somewhat ticklish position in the media that just because a priest knows that abuse is going on doesn't obligate said priest to do anything about it, because apparently God hates a tattletale (which would explain why the eleventh commandment was to be "Snitches get Stitches", but Moses ran out of tablet). And it is a moral quandary, after all. Who is more deserving of protection: vulnerable young people being abused by those in a position of trust, or rapists? There are so many arguments on both sides. Except the second one, obviously.
Hey, guess which government is most interested in what you do online! If you said "USA", give yourself a pat on the back and clear your browser cache for all the good it'll do you, since Google have given a report on who has asked for user data and requests to remove content, including access to personal Gmail. While the US leads the pack, France, Germany, the UK and Spain all gave it a red hot go - and don't discount the efforts of plucky go getters like Turkey (who felt that negative information about their government in the lead up to their elections might have dangerously informed people). For its part, Google generally denied the requests. Still, nice to know that governments are so gosh-darn interested in us.
If there one thing that we've learned from South Australian attorneys general gone by, it's this: video games are an evil corrupting influence destroying the moral fibre of our young people. And now, with the US shocked and appalled at the news that CIA Director David Petraeus had been having an extramarital affair, ending his career (because, as James Bond has proved, when you have sex with ladies you're not married to, all your spy bits fall off) comes the insult-to-injury-adding news that our children will be tacitly endorsing his moral decisions since Petreaus features in the forthcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Worse still, as the game is set in the immediate future, he's the US Secretary of State - to a president that appears to be Hillary Clinton! Oh, Activision, you and your relentlessly liberal agenda: first the anarchic rule-breaking of Tony Hawks, and now this?
Good news, lovers of rising housing prices: house prices in Australia are on the rise again. But in case you're thinking "hold on a second, didn't this happen in the 90s and cause a housing boom that then burst and bankrupted a lot of people?" then totally don't worry: that won't happen this time, honest. Well, at least that's what the Reserve Bank are saying, and on the plus side they don't have a dog in this particular fight: their argument is that our economy is stable, unemployment is steady and the increase is gentle rather than insanely rapid, so everyone can totes relax. Then again, it does seem like the sort of story that will be dredged up in 18 months time when we're all living in refrigerator boxes.
It's not often that there's happy news regarding a) the natural world or b) Uganda, so let's make an especially big deal about the following: the number of mountain gorillas in Uganda has skyrocketed by a massive ten percent in the last two years, from… um, 786 all the way to 880. Which is good news, obviously, and a testament to the conservation efforts being made in a country which, let's be honest, has not historically had a whole lot of resources to put to things like conservation. It does mean that the species has gone from "brink of extinction" to "yeah, still on the brink of extinction": but let's cling to this happy, happy news for as long as we can, OK?
While we're talking about happy news in a desperate attempt to ignore the far more prevalent other kind of news, know that our Solar System's smallest planet is sending us a cheeky grin every time it zips past us on its 88 day orbit: the Messenger probe, an awesome robot orbiting Mercury taking high-resolution pictures even as you read this sentence, has found a smiley face on the surface. It's a crater with some rocks and a gorge in it, technically, and it's not the only one we know of either since Mars has one not far from the extinct volcano Olympus Mons (yep, that scene in Watchmen was astronomically accurate) but it's nice to know that our little buddy closest to the sun is also apparently into acid house.
Poor old Tony Blair. He just wanted to come to University College London and give a little speech, but the former self-proclaimed Best Ever Prime Minister The UK Ever Had Ever was greeted not with the flowers and palm fronds he naturally expects these days, but with catcalls and chants of "war criminal" - which is unfair, since all he did when in power was illegally commit the UK to a war. Students were not chuffed that their uni was being used as a venue for the £700-per-ticket event, which was to launch the not-at-all-sinister-sounding Institute for Security and Resilience Studies. Heck, you can't have too much research on resilience, if you ask us.
We're all excited about the rise of three-d printers, since it provides an awesome way to, say, get equipment to the Moon or Mars without having to ship them in rockets, or share awesome fan-created Star Wars figure designs. Or, as it turns out, make illegal guns. US (obviously) college student Cody Wilson is currently beavering away at making blueprints so that you, the homebound firing-at-things enthusiast, can knock up a workable weapon in the comfort of your own bunker. The legality of such a project seems a little murky, and actually constructing the thing also seems like a fairly large technical challenge, but welcome to our new home vigilante future, folks. And remember: guns don't kill - resin that's printed off, hardened and then used to build a gun does.
Online retail giant Amazon are about to have the question "if we do all our European business through Luxembourg, we totally don't have to pay tax in Europe, right?" answered for them with the news that the French government are willing to take them to court over what they say is around $US250 million in unpaid tax and, in a piece of fairly opaque wording, penalties relating to "the allocation of income between foreign jurisdictions". It's the opening salvo in what's likely to be a colourful war between (mainly American) online retailers and the EU over tax avoidance which, given the colourful situation that Europe finds itself in at the moment with regards cash, does sound a little bit like running into a broke acquaintance at the pub and having them insist that they've bought you the odd drink over the past few years and now you owe them $180, please.
And yes, we know: the US election is over and we should stop going on about it, but when the former candidates keep saying such adorably kooky things we'd be remiss in ignoring it - like failed Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan giving a wink to the Republican heartland by explaining that his party didn't lose because it had no policies and kept saying crazy things: it was all to do with… well, you know, those people. "I think the surprise was some of the turnout, especially in urban areas, which gave President Obama the big margin to win this race," he said during an interview on CBS yesterday, admirably resisting the urge to wink to camera and say "You know, urban people. Like rappers. Those ones." Ah, Republicans: batshit sexist one day, batshit racist the next.