10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Happy Wednesday.

1. Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are stepping down from parent company Alphabet, from their roles of CEO and President respectively. This news has literally just broken, and all we know is Google CEO Sundar Pichai will take over as CEO of Alphabet. Pretty wild!

2. The Reserve Bank has kept interest rates steady at the record low of 0.75% at its November meeting, basically as expected. RBA governor Philip Lowe was cautiously optimistic, saying: “After a soft patch in the second half of last year, the Australian economy appears to have reached a gentle turning point.” That being said, economists by and large still expect a likely further cut to 0.5% at some point early next year.

3. Trump said in an interview he doesn’t know Prince Andrew, the royal caught up in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. “I don’t know Prince Andrew, but it’s a tough story. It’s a very tough story,” he told reporters. It’s fair enough the president would want to distance himself from the disgraced prince, but photos tell a different story. It certainly looks like Trump and Andrew met on numerous occasions.

4. Also on Donald: The House Intelligence Committee has released its draft impeachment report. The main finding is that the president “conditioned a White House meeting and military aid to Ukraine on a public announcement of investigations beneficial to his reelection campaign.” In other words, Trump should be impeached – which is the conclusion you would likely expect from a Democratic-led committee. We’ll see where it goes from here.

5. Australian students have dropped precipitously in international rankings for maths and science. We’ve fallen to “average” in the OECD for the first time, compared with “above average” for the previous two decades, as per results from the the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). This will no doubt trigger weeks of coverage about whether our education policy is where it needs to be.

TikTok admitted it hid videos by disabled users on the app’s main feed as part of a misguided attempt to stop bullying and harassment. The company says the “blunt and temporary policy” was “never designed to be a long-term solution” and is no longer in place. “While the intention was good, the approach was wrong and we have since changed the earlier policy in favour of more nuanced anti-bullying policies and in-app protections,” a TikTok spokesperson said. TikTok seems to be stumbling from controversy to controversy of late, which is how you know you’ve really made it as a social media platform.

Aussie plant-based meat startup v2food, which we’ve been keeping an eye on for some time, has purchased a large factory space in Victoria, which it says will begin production in 2020. The company, backed by the CSIRO and Hungry Jack’s cofounder Jack Cowin, secured $35 million in Series A funding this year – a strong indicator the ‘fake meat’ sector is continuing to heat up. We asked the company what will be unique about their production facility, but they’re keeping mum for now.

If you love the experience of eating out but cannot stand the indignity of basic human interaction, there’s an app for you. Restaurant ordering app me&u, which lets you order food to your table from your smartphone using near-field communication, has received $8 million in Series B funding – backed by Merivale boss Justin Hemmes and payments platform Tyro. Hemmes plans to roll me&u out across some of his restaurants.

News from the Democratic primary over in the US: California senator Kamala Harris, an early favourite, has pulled out of the race. “In good faith, I can’t tell you, my supporters and volunteers, that I have a path forward if I don’t believe I do,” Harris told supporters in an email which pointed to serious fundraising problems with the campaign. It comes days after a scorching New York Times account of her campaign, which pointed to disunity on her team and a lack of a coherent message as reasons for her failure in the polls.

If you ever find yourself speculating as to what the inside of Mark Zuckerberg’s house looks like – for whatever reason – you’re in luck. The usually somewhat private billionaire invited CBS into the home he shares with wife Priscilla Chan. Looks like a nice place, which I guess you’d expect.

BONUS ITEM
Everyone is talking about Baby Yoda in the Disney Plus show “The Mandalorian”, and hopefully this tweet – in which someone emails legendary linguist, philosopher and political activist Noam Chomsky about the creature – puts a full stop on the meme.
Please.

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