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Australia’s “Electric Nose” Sniffs Out Graffiti Vandals On Public Trains

The high-tech “Mousetrap” can sense when graffiti vandalism is taking place, allowing train conductors to watch and make arrests in real-time.

One of Sydney's vandalized trains, via Wikipedia Commons.

Forget drug-sniffing dogs, the new tool to fight broken-windows-style crime is a cyber miracle. Recently Sydney, Australia unveiled a high-tech system called Mousetrap that literally smells out graffiti crime in real-time on public transit. With a series of sensors embedded in trains and carriages, it has quietly been used to combat defacement on public systems for over a year. It works by sensing when a graffiti assault is underway via an “electronic nose” sensor that picks up on paint fumes. An alert is transmitted to railway security, allowing them to view live-stream video of the vandalism. The rail network control room is then able to track where the crime is taking place, and undercover police officers are sent to make the arrest. The sensors are so sophisticated they can even decipher whether marker, pen, or spray paint is the medium of choice.

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Australia Turns to School Kids and Minecraft to Help Design Their National Parks

School kids in the South Australian city of Adelaide can finally put those video game skills to good use

image via (cc) flickr user teetoeuf

“Play enough video games, and you could help design a national park.”

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Descendants of HMS Bounty Mutineers Have Problems with Authority, Too

Tiny Norfolk Island’s infrastructure is crumbling, but does that mean nearby Australia should take over?

On a small rock 900 miles off the coast of Australia, a hubbub is brewing about sovereignty and the right of unique peoples to self-governance. The residents of Norfolk Island, about 2,000 people living on a three-by-five mile chunk of earth, have enjoyed self-rule since 1979, when they argued that their unique history and culture entitled them to freedom from the Australian government. But in recent weeks, Norfolk Islanders learned that members of the sitting Australian government have decided to peel back the island’s autonomy, introducing legislation that would phase out the local legislative assembly and loop residents into federal taxation and welfare schemes, effectively ending the ability of island locals to manage their own economy.

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Aussies Unite to Defend Muslim Lawyer from Islamophobic Trolls

Maryam Veiszadeh has been targeted by racist right-wingers for tweeting a photo of an anti-immigrant shirt.

It’s a story as old as the internet: unassuming woman voices concern about a racist, classist, or sexist slight, and a bunch of angry, chauvinistic assholes harass her until the spittle from their angry, frothing mouths dries up. Last October, a Muslim Australian lawyer named Mariam Veiszadeh posted a photo of an anti-immigrant tank top she found being sold at Woolworth’s, an Australian grocery store chain. The shirt read, “If you don’t love it here, leave.” She tweeted, “Pls RT@woolworths I'm outraged that #WOOLWORTHS are allegedly selling these bigoted singlets at their Cairns stores.”

Image via Twitter user Mariam Veiszadeh.

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Flag as Inappropriate?

Fiji debates whether to ditch the Union Jack, a symbol of previous colonial rule, and redesign their national flag.

Earlier this month, Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe “Frank” Bainimarama decided that it was time to scrap his nation’s flag. As flag changes are incredibly rare, and major overhauls usually coincide with a regime shift, revolution, or emerging cults of personality, Bainimarama’s decision may seem like a warning sign to some observers. But the PM, who’s been floating a change since at least January 2013, has good reasons for his campaign for a new national symbol.

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Hop On the Kangaroo Meat Bandwagon

Kangaroo is far more environmentally sustainable and healthy than beef, and it's just one of many interesting animals we could be eating more of.

Kangaroo Steak with Red Chilli Ragu - Winterhaven Restaurant in Australia. Photo by Avlxyz via Flickr

China is eating more red meat these days. By one count, their appetite for flesh will grow by 17 percent over the next seven years. That may not seem like much, but considering the Chinese already eat twice as much beef as steak-addled Americans, you can see how quickly and steeply this new craving could drive up demand at cattle auctions. And we’re seeing similar spikes in Brazil, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, and almost every other nation with a growing, aspirational middle class. As global consumption of conventional meats skyrockets, the world will face new environmental pressures from methane-producing livestock and sloppy ranches. Which is exactly why we should be thanking our lucky stars for the increasing availability and global popularity of kangaroo meat, one of many largely untapped, more sustainable, and still delicious alternative red meats available to up-and-coming carnivores.

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