General World News

Thanks, pm me the details and I’ll be there.

Same - would have gone into the worst blitz ever calls thread.


I found this story interesting…jeepers, scaffolding thats been up for 21 years!

New York City is covered in illegal scaffolding

Machine learning algorithms could help bring it down

Child playing on scaffolding in Brooklyn, USA.

Hopping on the tubephotograph: magnum photos/alex webb

Mar 13th 2024

The city that never sleeps is also, it seems, unable to take down scaffolding. New Yorkers have grown so sick of the ugly structures, and the accompanying ground-level cages in place to protect and divert pedestrians, that Eric Adams, the mayor, last year launched a campaign to clear them from the streets.

Now computer scientists in the city have made a hit list of possible targets. Using ai to sift through thousands of hours of dashcam footage, the researchers identified some 5,000 scaffolding sites across all five boroughs, of which 500 were found to have no permit. “This city is the best but also kind of a disaster,” says Wendy Ju, a computer scientist at Cornell Tech in Manhattan, who worked on the project.

New York’s steady submergence beneath scaffolding is a classic example of a well-meaning policy producing bad side-effects. (Or in this case, sidewalk effects.) Shocked by deaths from falling masonry, officials in 1980 introduced compulsory façade inspections every five years.

As a result, city records show more than 8,000 current permits for scaffolds, which often include what New Yorkers call “sheds”—dark and claustrophobic street-level tunnels. Many remain in place long after the permit expires because building owners find it more convenient to leave the scaffolding in place between inspections. As part of his ongoing war on sheds, Mr Adams celebrated the removal of 21-year-old scaffolding from a Harlem street that had become a local landmark in its own right.

To get a street-level view of the problem, the Cornell scientists trained an algorithm to find scaffolding in images and then set it loose on a huge data set collected between August 2023 and January 2024 by cameras fitted to ride-sharing vehicles. They then asked the computer to find all the sheds in a colossal 29,156,833 geotagged images.

The researchers went on to cross-reference scaffolding identified by the ai with records of approved projects. The 500 or so unpermitted sheds discovered don’t necessarily contravene the rules, as city regulations do allow some without permission (for emergency work, for instance). But they would seem a good place to start investigating.

The scientists are waiting until the results are accepted for an upcoming conference before sharing them with city officials. They also want to convert the data into an interactive map that will show residents the location of scaffolding, tell them how long it’s been there and reveal whether or not it has a permit. Soon, New Yorkers will be able to sleep easy once again. ■





update: they’re “blowing” vortex rings

Vortex rings made of water vapour rise from Italy’s Mount Etna volcano

Posted 5h ago, updated 5h ago

Vortex rings rise from Mt Etna on the Italian island of Sicily.

Italy’s Mount Etna volcano has released volcanic vortex rings, a rare phenomenon caused by a constant release of vapours and gases.

Australian National University volcanologist Ana Casas Ramos said the rings, which have been rising since Wednesday, were often wrongly described as smoke.

“It is condensed water vapour,” she said.

"On its own it is colourless but once it reaches the condensation level then it becomes whitish — and that’s what we are seeing.

"The reason why you have this water vapour coming up and condensing so quickly and then forming these rings is because of the temperature difference.

“The water vapour is coming out very hot and then once it reaches shallow levels, like atmospheric levels, it then encounters cold air and that’s when you get this condensation.”

Two white rings can be seen in the sky.

Italy’s majestic Mount Etna has captivated visitors with its volcanic vortex rings.(Reuters)

There were no reports of disruptions in the villages surrounding the volcano or at Catania airport, which often closes in the case of major eruptions.

Dr Casas Ramos said the phenomenon was more common at Mount Etna than at other volcanoes, and the shape was on account of the geometry of the conduit.

“It’s a very active volcano. It has a very defined geometry internally and it’s a phenomenon that can be explained by physics,” she said.

"It’s a very open-system volcano.

“It tends to form very large bubbles.”

“The shallower they get, the bigger they get, and so it forms this circular bubble towards the surface then you have only the edges of the vents that are allowing these rings to form.”

Mount Etna is one of Europe’s most active volcanoes. However, Dr Casas Ramos said the likelihood of pressure building and causing “explosive eruptions” was reduced because it was constantly degassing.

“If it does culminate in an eruption, let’s say in the coming months or weeks, it’ll be just a couple of puffs, a bit of ash, maybe a bit of magma but nothing violent,” she said.

The phenomenon has led locals to refer to the volcano as “Lady of the Rings”.

Dr Casas Ramos said while she understood the appeal of visiting Mount Etna at this time she would urge those visiting to be cautious.

“It’s such an unusual shape and it tells you that the volcano is doing something very distinctive,” she said.

“Yes, it’s beautiful, but it’s telling me that something is changing and in that sense it would be very smart to have caution.”



Saudis revise the Line from 150 miles down to 1.5.

Stupid idea, I’m happy to see them eat ■■■■ on this one

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Pretty good money to be made, one pesky little risk though.

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In 1993 l visited Vietnam for the first time, and the US still had sanctions on, and there were areas we couldn’t get into, while others needed permits. We ended up in Hoi An, and by chance met some teachers drinking beer, because it was Black Friday, as in school was due to start on next Monday. At the time bottles of beer were $1. Not a whole lot, but then the teachers were making $10/month at that stage. We returned the favour in 1998, when we returned to their school and bought a dozen bottles for lunch. I did some teaching in the afternoon and have to say it was a bit sloppy.

In between l had started work at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC) which was private. While there l met a guest lecturer from a New York university. He had just returned from Hanoi where he had been invited to assist in the setting up of an Economics department. He asked the dean what the budget was, the answer was $50,000. They weren’t all that happy when he told them that much would not hire one lecturer in the States.

I have been to Ha Long Bay 3 or 4 times. the last time l was surprised to see many boutique hotels being built. Going back to Hanoi l caught up with some friends renting a villa. They told me that apartment owners were now asking for and getting up to $10,000/month for renting villas to foreigners. This shows how much prices, and wages changed over a 20 year period.

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Captain, I’ve no idea if this lady was instrumental in driving prices up in Vietnam, but what I read about her exploits says she didn’t help matters.

You really have to wonder about people. I mean, how much money do they want? I believe capitalism is a broken and flawed system where the rich get richer on the backs of the downtrodden, but this level of greed and corruption at corporate level defies belief.

Vietnamese law prohibits any individual from holding more than 5% of the shares in any bank. But prosecutors say that through hundreds of shell companies and people acting as her proxies, Truong My Lan actually owned more than 90% of Saigon Commercial.

They accused her of using that power to appoint her own people as managers, and then ordering them to approve hundreds of loans to the network of shell companies she controlled.

The amounts taken out are staggering. Her loans made up 93% of all the bank’s lending.

According to prosecutors, over a period of three years from February 2019, she ordered her driver to withdraw 108 trillion Vietnamese dong, more than $4bn (£2.3bn) in cash from the bank, and store it in her basement.

That much cash, even if all of it was in Vietnam’s largest denomination banknotes, would weigh two tonnes.

On my first trip to Vietnam in 1993, changing money was a different sort of challenge. IIRC Vietnam had only 2 denomination notes, 2000 and 5000 Dong. At the time the exchange rate was something like 20000 to the $. At a bank we were given stacks of notes for a couple of hundred dollars, so many that they had to give us a small sack to carry them all. As we were leaving we saw one staggering under the load of a spud sack filled with notes, it was a Friday and he had just collected the payroll for a small company. Higher denomination notes quickly followed, they were needed but also a sign of increasing prosperity. Except a town called Vong in the north, where they still used coins of 30 Dong. You would have needed a pocketful of them just to get a coffee.

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The exchange rate from AUD to VND is trippy.

Haggling off 70,000 VND at a market feels like a lot but it’s less than 5 AUD.

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Few of us took a boys trip to Vietnam 5 years back.

Any time after hitting the ATM for any amount over about A$60, it quickly became tradition to announce loudly ‘I have a megadong in my pants!’

Because we are all very mature and grown up people.


Change $100 and you are an instant milldongaire!

I was sitting on a riverbank, next to my old man, fishing. He turned to me and said, “son, you don’t want the biggest dong in town, you want the busiest.”

Which I thought rather strange, as he knew nothing about investing money in Vietnam.


Flights to Iran suspended.
Qantas flights from Perth will transit through Singapore to avoid Iranian airspace.

Stopover only required on the westbound flight at this stage but may end up on both.
Qantas and other airlines have been monitoring the situation for some time and to the best of my knowledge Qantas haven’t overflown Iran for a long time but they do get very close to the border.
Unfortunately until the new aircraft arrive it may end up like this for the foreseeable future but if Iran gets twitchy fingers I think most ports in the ME will be in harms way


As I understand it, Iran airspace/airports could be listed alternatives if there is a blow up or technical problem in the airspace of the designated route.

Any suggestions on airlines to avoid for someone booking a flight to Italy in June?

Asking for a friend…

No, all are pretty good but some do overfly places like Iran.
We flew from Delhi to Paris on Vistara and they were great but pretty much flew across the whole of Iran.
The concern for me is that due to Russia the ME paths are already jam packed and pushing even more traffic into them is a recipe for disaster IMO.
Of course if you want to avoid the ME completely you need to head East to Uncle Sam and then onwards to Rome :rofl:

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I am flying through Doha tomorrow on way back to Aus