1. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have announced they are stepping away from royal duties. This is basically the equivalent of 'resigning' from the Royal Family, inasmuch as you can actually do that. The couple said they would split their time between the UK and North America and plan to launch a “new charitable entity.” Buckingham Palace released its own statement saying that discussions are still in an "early stage" and that it understand's the couple's "desire to take a different approach." Juicy!
2. Trump claims Iran seems to be "standing down" after a missile attack on US forces in Iraq, which the president says did not result in any American or Iraqi deaths. After the attack, Iran seemed to flag it did not want a larger conflict, saying “we do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.” Rather than retaliate with force, Trump says, the US will impose further sanctions on Iran.
3. Amid the missile strikes in Iraq, a Ukrainian airplane crashed shortly after takeoff in Iran, killing all 176 people onboard. Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 had been travelling from Tehran, Iran, to Kyiv, Ukraine. Iranian authorities blamed the crash on technical difficulties with the aircraft engine. Speculation is mounting the plane may have been shot down, as the investigation runs into political roadblocks. A video taken by an Iranian journalist seems to show the plane plummeting to the ground after bursting into flames.
4. Scott Morrison confirmed there were no Australian casualties in the Iranian strike. His security committee will convene to determine whether Australia will withdraw from Iraq, though that seems pretty unlikely. "No further actions or decisions deemed necessary at this time however the situation continues to be closely monitored. Engagement is also continuing with coalition partners, especially the USA," a spokesman for the Prime Minister said after a preliminary meeting to determine a response to the attacks, according to the SMH.
5. As of yesterday, the bushfires in Australia have scorched at least 10.7 million hectares of land, according to analysis by The Guardian. For scale, that's bigger than the entire country of Portugal. The Guardian's very helpful interactive tool is tracking the burnt area – with the caveat that it does not include fires which are currently burning. This means the final scale of burnt land is likely to be much larger. On the other hand here are some viral 'maps' circulating which don't quite accurately capture the damage.
6. The latest job vacancy figures are out, and they don't look so crash hot. They show the Australian labour market is in worse shape than it was last year, as the ratio of unemployed people to vacancies shoots up to 3. The weakness not only locks nearly 2 million Australian out of work or additional hours, but also undermines any chance of a pay rise for employees.
7. The government's first home buyer loan deposit scheme – there's a mouthful for you – just kicked off. But the evidence suggests it might not be helping the people it really needs to help. The income thresholds are too high, according to CoreLogic head of residential research Eliza Owens, who says it advantages high-income earners over other Australians. CoreLogic analysis suggests high earners will be able to muscle their way into the meagre 10,000 available places.
8. At CES, Uber announced the launch of a payment option for public transport through its app. Basically, not only can you see public transport options through the app – which you can do already – but you can purchase tickets through Uber as well. An Australian spokesperson for Uber told Business Insider Australia the option isn't coming here in the near future, but that they are "committed to continuing to work hard to push for added functionality and deployment of Uber Transit in our region in the near future.”
9. A bit of a controversy is stewing with Facebook and their, how shall we say, PR methods. A very positive feature story about the company's efforts to fight misinformation ahead of the US elections appeared on US news website Teen Vogue, prompting widespread bewilderment, before the story vanished. For context, Teen Vogue has been a force in millennial political coverage in the US. Before it was deleted, a note appeared saying it was sponsored content, which Facebook quickly denied. Hmm.
10. Here's a big number for you: Apple's App Store brought in AU$2 billion in a single week at the end of last year, smashing records. This was the week between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, so you'd have to imagine gift cards played a role there. The company announced the App Store pulled down AU$562 million on New Year's Day alone. That is a lot of coin.
Science has gone too far.