10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

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Good morning.

1. Twitter has announced it will no longer run political ads, in what is quite obviously a strategic jab at Facebook. “We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” CEO Jack Dorsey posted on his own Twitter. It comes as Facebook faces increasing heat both from critics and its own employees about the company’s policy of allowing political ads, which distort the truth. Or, in layman’s terms: promoted lies.

2. But a little thing like possibly destroying democracy isn’t damaging Facebook’s bottom line, which remains very healthy. The company reported AU$25 billion in revenue in the third quarter, up 29% on the same time period a year ago. The social network’s userbase also grew 9% annually. Consider that possibly no company on earth has been as beset by scandals as Facebook has over the past year, and you start to wonder what could actually dent the company’s crown. The company is running “almost flawlessly,” analysts at Wedbush wrote recently.

3. In the latest example of an obvious global trend, the US Federal Reserve cut interest rates on Wednesday to a target range of between 1.5% and 1.75%. It’s the third cut in 2019, mirroring our own Reserve Bank’s aggressive – and, perhaps, futileattempts to get the economy roaring. As in Australia, it remains to be seen whether lowering the cost of money will actually do much to forestall slowing growth.

4. The latest “Call of Duty” game, which one assumes is selling like absolute hotcakes, is facing backlash because of its depiction of Russia. “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” features many sequences set in Russia, and the game is receiving thousands of negative reviews from gamers who accuse it of misrepresenting and “slandering” the country. Thanks to an avalanche of negative ratings, the game’s user score on review aggregator Metacritic currently stands at 3.4 out of 10.

5. The latest on the UK election is… well, nobody really knows. It’s shaping up to be an incredibly unpredictable election, despite Boris Johnson’s Conservatives maintaining a comfortable lead in the polls. New research commissioned by an anti-Brexit group has found that if just a third of Remainers vote tactically in the country’s ‘first past the post’ system, then the Conservatives could fail to win the election. That’s likely a statistic keeping Boris up at night right now.

6. Amazon is opening a third fulfilment centre in Australia, this one in Perth. It follows similar centres – which serve as a base for processing online orders – in Sydney and Melbourne. Clearly the company’s local presence is only getting bigger.

7. Here’s a fun one: researchers have discovered an ancient ‘mirror image’ of the Great Barrier Reef off the northern coast of Western Australia. The system grew to be about 2,000km long, similar to the reef off Queensland, but drowned about ten million years ago as the sea floor subsided. The more you know.

8. You may have seen the hashtag #TeamTrees floating around in recent days. Spearheaded by social media influencers and video game streamers, the campaign has raised over $8 million towards planting 20 million trees. It was all kicked off by a Reddit meme, and now has luminaries like Elon Musk attached. Read about it here. Turns out aimlessly posting on Reddit can very occasionally provide some sort of social good.

9. 2019 has been a spectacularly good year for tech billionaires – with all except one seeing massive additions to their net worth this year. Who is the lone holdout? That would be Jeff Bezos, and the majority of his decline came about because of his divorce from wife Mackenzie. He’s still at the top of the pile, though, despite the loss. Imagine losing $14 billion and still being the richest man on the planet.

10. On the conspiracy beat: a forensic pathologist hired by Jeffrey Epstein’s brother is in the news today alleging the hedge fund millionaire and convicted sex offender was murdered. If you’ve spent any time on social media since Epstein’s death, you will know this is not an uncommon theory. For what it’s worth, the New York City chief medical examiner stands by her verdict that it was a suicide. “I stand firmly behind our determination of the cause and manner of death in this case,” she told The New York Times.

What’s inside a lava lamp? Can’t say the thought has ever really crossed my mind, but now I know.

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