Good morning and a very happy New Year to you! May 2020 prove better than the last one.
1. It may be a different year, but the same terrifying bushfires still burn. Photographs have captured blood red skies over the holiday town of Mallacoota, as over a dozen emergency-level bushfires burn in Victoria and NSW. The fires are so big in fact they're creating weather unique to Australia entirely -- 'pyrocumulonimbus' thunderstorms that are capable of starting more fires. Truly apocalyptic scenes, folks.
2. Well, 2019 ended with a bang, quite literally, after protesters besieged the US embassy in Baghdad. The violence is believed to be in response to a US airstrike against an Iran-backed Iraqi militia. While a crack team of Marines was quickly deployed to Iraq to secure the American personnel inside, the situation is all quite messy, and has the potential to get a lot worse as Trump promises it will be Iran that will pay a "big price" for the aggression.
3. Meanwhile here's a late entry for one of the best stories of 2019: Former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has broken his $US23 million bail conditions and somehow fled Japan where he faced financial-misconduct charges. Once one of the most powerful people in the automotive industry, Ghosn reportedly evaded authorities by hiding in a musical instrument box and catching a private jet to Lebanon where he holds citizenship. The details are bizarre and have left authorities (and Elon Musk) speculating as to how the fugitive got away.
4. In what could be one of the largest rollouts of the technology for Australian business yet, some 400 TAB stores are introducing facial recognition. The betting stores will use cameras to identify and kick out underage gamblers. Shopping giant Amazon is meanwhile trying to identify shoppers by their hands in the US. Creeps.
5. Speaking of speculative gamblers, the Australian man claiming to have invented bitcoin says his crypto riches could be locked away forever. Craig Wright claims he lost the key to his purported fortune as a judge ruled he owes $US3 billion to a fellow miner, now deceased.
6. Proving there's no safe place left, a less than welcome visitor is headed our way in the form of a giant 'blob'. A mammoth amount of warm water larger than the size of New South Wales is making its way to New Zealand, threatening to wipeout fish and coral in its path. It sounds like something out of a bad film but we've seen this one before, doing much the same to Hawaii and California in 2014.
7. Meanwhile, as Trump gears up for his re-election campaign, his daughter Ivanka appears unsure over whether or not she'll even have a job inside his possible 2020 administration.
8. China's space aspirations look on track after it successfully launched its biggest rocket, Long March 5, into space. While a 2017 launch failed due to a faulty gas pump, the most recent one will reinvigorate the nation's space dreams.
9. Maybe think twice before you rush to Amazon for a home security system. Its supplier Ring is being sued in the US for failing to meet its “most basic obligation by not ensuring its Wi-Fi enabled cameras were protected against cyber-attack", amid a string of reported security bugs. Amazon for its part is also being sued for not taking responsibility and blaming users instead. We'll see how that one plays out.
10. Hottest holiday destination of 2020? It could be Antarctica. Tourism to the loneliest place on Earth has spiked 50% and luxury travel companies are trying to cash in on the trend. I daresay the demand might be due to growing fears the icy south is quickly shrinking, but maybe I'm just being cynical.
While mammoth celebrations kicked off the transition from 31 December to 1 January, not all of us subscribe so heavily to the old Gregorian calendar. For those raring to do New Year's again, keep an eye out for these other cultural celebrations coming up in 2020, including a giant water fight, sometimes with elephants.