Game of Thrones hotel with dragons and whitewalkers opens in Finland

Winter has come to Lapland in Finland, where a Game of Thrones-themed hotel has opened.
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The ice and (Jon) snow hotel features giant dragons, white walkers, direwolves and maps of the seven kingdoms carved into the walls.

HBO Nordic has partnered with Lapland Hotels, commissioning international ice artists to build the hotel and give fans of the show a quick fix until the next season airs.

The hotel, located around 90 minutes from Helsinki, also includes a carving of Braavos’ Hall of Faces, in case you needed a spare face. And for those wondering, yes there is a life-size throne.

There are 24 rooms, 10 of which are available to overnight guests.

Even the beds are made of ice, and guests are given thermal sleeping bags, though the suite with a white walker suspended above the bed doesn’t exactly seem restful.

The ice hotel is kept at temperatures of -5 degrees Celsius, but guests who would prefer it warmer are able to book separate log cabins on site.

The snow village that the hotel is built within is open to the public and charges an entry fee.

There’s also a cinema, chapel, restaurant and an icebar which serves hot chocolate as well as chilled cocktails.

Around 20 million kilograms of snow and 350,000 kilograms of ice were used to construct the 20,000-square-metre village, according to the hotel’s website.

A basic single room at the ice hotel costs ???165 ($AU254) a night while the more elaborate snow suites with sculptures are up to ???539 a night.

The snow village will remain open until April 30, after which the outside temperatures are too high to maintain it. Related: Game of Thrones inspires Geelong housing development’s street namesRelated: How architecture has inspired the Game of Thrones setRelated: Luxury ski resort built from 20 repurposed shipping containers

Photos: Lapland Hotels.

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The Melbourne suburb that developers forgot

The suburban streets of Watsonia are quiet. Quiet as a mouse.
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There are no diggers. No demolishers. No burly white utes parking on the nature strip. No yellow “Notice of Application” signs on boards outside the predominantly flat brick veneer ’60s and ’70s houses.

There are no tall wire fences keeping the riff-raff out of building sites. Unbelievably, there are no building sites. Most blocks have one house. Some have been renovated, but most not.

Data from a 2015 Banyule City Council precinct profile says the same thing: this precinct has the “highest proportion of separate housing and the lowest proportion of medium density housing across the municipality”. While the rest of Melbourne’s suburbs seem hell-bent on subdividing blocks and building townhouses, Watsonia isn’t.

Watsonia Shopping Centre tells the story of traditional Australian suburban life. It looks like there hasn’t been any development here since the ’70s. If that. Yet this ‘burb is just 16 kilometres from Melbourne’s CBD. Head out to Plenty Road and you can see Melbourne’s skyscrapers in the distance. The 86 tram runs along Plenty Road all the way there.

It’s a smallish suburb, split in the middle by the very busy Greensborough Road and a train line. Greensborough Road is going to morph into something much bigger soon: North East Link. It’ll bring cars from the Eastern Freeway to the M80 Ring Road.

Watsonia Station sits right in the centre of the suburb. High voltage power lines rule a strip of air above, and result in a green strip below. Where people don’t live, greenery does.

Related: The once unliveable suburb that people now won’t leave Related: Why Melbourne’s smallest suburb has a real identity crisis Related: Trash to treasure for what was once our stinkiest suburb

There’s plenty of green. It’s bordered on one side by Macleod’s Gresswell Forest Nature Conservation Reserve. Here, running groups gather in the morning while kangaroos nibble away at undergrowth. It’s a place of river red gums, golden wattle and sugar gliders.

Watsonia’s own park is Elder Street Reserve, on the down side of Greensborough Road. This reserve is made for baseball, tennis, cricket and soccer.

Watsonia is the kind of ‘burb where families have been raising kids for decades, yet its “family friendliness” is being debated on online forum Whirlpool. A Sydneysider asking for a family-friendly spot close to Melbourne for around $800,000-$1 million inadvertently starts a fight. Yes, over family friendliness.

“If you wanted something better for your buck could head to the older part of Greensborough, Watsonia or Watsonia North but they aren’t anywhere near as family friendly IMO,” says one contributor. “Mind to collaborate? [sic]” says another. “Where is family friendly if not in Watsonia, Watsonia North? Have you ever lived there?”

And on it goes. We’ll stick to the attributes mentioned: it’s safe; peaceful, Watsonia North Primary is great, Watsonia Shopping Centre has been upgraded … But maybe best of all, for the Sydneysider who asked the question in the first place, it’s just under their budget. According to Domain Group data, Watsonia’s median house price is $775,000. Five things you didn’t know about Watsonia:

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The top five conspiracy theories about Kylie Jenner

With Kim announcing she has welcomed a baby girl via surrogate on Wednesday and Khloe’s reveal, via Instagram, that she is expecting, it’s been left to Kylie Jenner to keep up the pregnancy conspiracies on social media. And, as Kylie has effectively been in hiding since August, when news, fake or otherwise, first broke that she was four months pregnant, she’s left her fans believing – dare we say – expecting – that 2018 will bring a Kardashian trinity.
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After rumours surfaced over the weekend that the youngest reality TV sister was already in labour when partner Travis Scott posted a Snapchat on a private plane, which he captioned “Make it home to ya one way or another” fans were almost certain her pregnancy would be announced on a two-part episode of E! Keeping Up with the Kardashians this week.

But they were left disappointed. Jenner’s hiatus continued unabated. Viewers were instead gifted with Kris Jenner’s meltdown over her earlobe shape and Khloe’s pregnancy reveal.

We have received only a few clues (thinner than Jenner’s lips circa, 2010) about whether another grandchild is really on the way, and fans of the franchise, sorry, family, are naturally frustrated. It’s been six months, after all. Who can blame the internet then, for trying out a few conspiracy theories about why Jenner has not shown her face since the rumour – still unconfirmed – that she was pregnant arose in August. 1.She may be Kim’s surrogate

The mother-of-two and Kanye West have remained tight lipped about the identity of the surrogate holding their third child. Is this because it is Kylie?

Insiders have reported that the surrogate is “close” to the family with Kardashian gushing to The Real, “I love her. I have the best relationship with my surrogate. She is the perfect person to do this for my family.” Jenner was not spotted at her sisters’ baby shower, reportedly holding a pink-themed secret celebration for herself the next day. Or was she? Cue: suspicious music. So Kylie Jenner is supposedly is at the hospital in labor ? And Kim just said like two days ago her surrogate is supposed to be having her baby any day ? So is Kylie the surrogate ?????? I think yes??? livv (@LivvvThomas) January 13, 2018So Kim k surrogate is a secret. Kylie isn’t on the scene. On one of Kims interviews stated she didn’t want the carrier at the b-shower only person not seen was Kylie. Pretty sure Kylie is Kims surrogate. Kylie wasn’t on the Xmas card(s)Head is a mess with this??? Saff Brooks (@saff_brooks) January 11, 2018My theory is that @KylieJenner really is pregnant and she hasn’t been seen in public because she isn’t allowed lip filler so her lips are thin af and she just isn’t ok with this hun x??? SCOUSEBARB (@scousebarbiex) January 8, 2018If they don’t call the episode of #KUWTK where they announce @KylieJenner ???s pregnancy “A New Jenneration” it’s honestly all a waste anyway.??? kardii (@kendrahrah) January 16, 2018This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

NBN admits three in four FTTN customers won’t get top speeds

The National Broadband Network has admitted only one in four customers connecting through the most controversial technology in the mix will access its much-touted top speeds.
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The disclosure, to a parliamentary committee, comes as pressure is mounting for the government to write down the value of the multi-billion dollar project as it struggles to deliver the service that would underpin its financial worth and the taxpayer investment in it.

What the NBN response shows is that when the rollout concludes in 2020, three out of four fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) customers are not expected to be able to access its fastest download speeds, of 100 Mbps.

The controversial FTTN connection uses fibre to the nearest neighbourhood node and then uses copper wire for the rest of the journey to consumer premises.

Consumers who have fibre to their premises (FTTP), fibre to their building (FTTB) or fibre running down their street to the curb (FTTC) customers are estimated to be able to utilise the top speed plans. !function(e,t,s,i){var n=”InfogramEmbeds”,o=e.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0],d=/^http:/.test(e.location)?”http:”:”https:”;if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=d+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var r=e.createElement(“script”);r.async=1,r.id=s,r.src=i,o.parentNode.insertBefore(r,o)}}(document,0,”infogram-async”,”https://e.infogram南京夜网/js/dist/embed-loader-min.js”);

Those most dependent on FTTN connections will be those in suburban and semi-rural areas as inner-city customers will usually access the NBN through existing pay TV or other cables (known as HFC). Geelong in Victoria is heavily dependent on FTTN connections as are some parts of outer Sydney.

An NBN Co spokeswoman said 90 per cent of customers accessing the NBN through the various wire methods, as opposed to satellite, would still be able to access speeds of up to 50 Mbps in 2020, with all able to access at least 25 Mbps.

Future network upgrades would also be funded with its forecast $5 billion annual revenues after roll-out, she said.

Currently, more than 80 per cent of NBN users are on speeds of 25 Mbps or less. Recent discounts offered to wholesalers by the NBN are expected to see more people shift towards a 50 Mbps speed plan.

This pricing shift has become part of a larger debate, with experts increasingly questioning the value of the network and tipping a possible write down from the government.

The government has ploughed $30 billion of public money into the NBN with a plan to eventually privatise the network to recoup the investment along with a return.

Any writedown would potentially jeopardise that plan.

A Macquarie Wealth Management note on Tuesday said it expected the “NBN pricing structure to continue to evolve, and the merits of writing down the NBN to continue to be debated”.

Price cuts announced in December could see the NBN considering “the long-term impacts of such a model if widely adopted”.

The note said a “catalyst” for a write-down could be a change in the NBN business model, or deteriorating economics from higher building costs, delays and lower than anticipated take-up, or a combination of these factors.

In a document outlining its investment strategy, wealth management firm Morgans said a write down was required to “make the NBN work” and to bring down costs.

It considered the NBN a “great social investment” but a “poor financial investment” due to lower customer take-up and lower revenue per customer than the NBN had forecast thanks to competing technologies that sometimes offered better speeds more cheaply.

Its calculations suggest the last mile access price needs to be cut back to pre-NBN levels of $15 a month – from $43 now, and a $52 medium-term target. The last mile is the final stretch of wires that connects homes to the wider network.

“Essentially, this would require a large portion of the NBN’s capital base to be written off,” the report says, speculating it is “equally conceivable that our current Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, could write down the NBN to improve the consumer outcome and attract votes”.

In December, JPMorgan analyst Eric Pan also called for a restructure saying it would be in the best interest for the public if the government required a lower return on investment and could focus on service over profitability.

To do so would “likely” involve a write-down.

Ord Minnett research from December outlined a possible write-down in a “long-term scenario”.

Most analysts predicted upwards movement for the share price of telcos if this happened.

Despite the growing chorus pushing for a write-down, minister for finance Mathias Cormann said there was “no basis” for it.

He said the investment could only be written down in line with accounting standards, which required the NBN Co to assess that it was required.

“The NBN has determined independently that a writedown is not appropriate at this time,” he said.

“There seems to be some confusion by some about the relationship between the valuation of NBN and the internal rate of return.”

He said the estimated peak funding “remains unchanged at $49 billion, with forecasts expecting revenue to double to $1.9 billion in fiscal 2017.

“Ultimately the NBN should be privatised, which is already envisaged in the NBN’s governing legislation.”

Opposition communications minister Michelle Rowland said a writedown was not about accounting rules but “whether it would help to strike a better balance for consumers, taxpayers, industry and the broader economy”.

Another expert calling for a write-down, telecommunications consultant and former advisor to the UN Broadband Commission Paul Budde, said it was “firmly” on the agenda.

He pointed to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s late-2017 comments that an “asset revaluation” may be needed to enable the NBN Co to charge lower prices.

Using figures from a 2016 report from auditing firm PwC, which indicated the NBN might only be worth $27 billion when complete, and his own calculations, he predicted a 50 per cent write-down.

About $30 billion of the cost to build has come from taxpayers.

Mr Budde encouraged telcos to “mediate the politics” in 2020 when the NBN is rolled out to create an “official industry-led commission”.

The major telcos have also queried the financial viability of the NBN.

When asked about whether industry-led action could be on the cards, John Stanton, chief executive of industry body Communications Alliance, said it was “vitally interested … in the nature of access technologies and how they combine with commercial arrangements”.

The alliance was working with the NBN on “a raft of” future options. He would not make comment about a write-down.

The NBN Co would not provide figures on how many premises would be connected by FTTN in 2020, with the figure included with FTTB in its corporate plans.

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How technology is keeping a lid on inflation

ONLINE 17th Jan?? Digital gadgets such as the iPhone have well and truly transformed how many of us go shopping, entertain ourselves and stay in touch with friends.
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But here’s another result of the online revolution you may not know about: it’s keeping inflation lower for longer, and dampening growth in pay packets, too.

One of the biggest questions hanging over the economy in 2018 is whether inflation and wage growth can finally recover from historic lows. The extent to which this happens will be crucial for official interest rates, which are used to manage inflation, and are at record lows.

Yet in each of the past seven years, the Reserve Bank’s wage growth forecasts have been too optimistic. In the week before Christmas, the federal Treasury’s also cut the budget’s wage growth forecasts for this year and next.

Inflation, which has a chicken-and-egg relationship to wages, is also stuck in doldrums at just 1.8 per cent a year, below the RBA 2 to 3 per cent target range.

Exactly what is behind the stubbornly weak growth in wages and consumer prices is one of the key economic puzzles today. Lately, however, here’s been a growing realisation that the digital technology revolution is probably a key part of the story.

But the latest iPhone can cost more than $1500 – how could something so pricey possibly be pushing down inflation?

The answer is that these gadgets, alongside other advances in computing power and e-commerce, are unleashing a powerful wave of competition, which is making both businesses and workers more anxious about lifting their prices.

Perhaps the simplest way to see this price-crunching impact of technology is to stroll through a shopping strip, and check out the discounts on offer.

RBA governor Philip Lowe pointed out in November that the prices of clothing, furniture and household appliances have been falling recently, amid stiff competition. Not only have retailers been fending off “bricks and mortar” stores such as Aldi or Zara, they also face cut-throat competition online.

Think about how easy it is to walk into a shoe shop, try on a pair of runners, and then buy them more cheaply from a rival online. In response, retailers have been forced to cut prices and accept skinnier profit margins as they try to hang onto customers.

Audio, visual and computing equipment has become 41.5 per cent cheaper since December 20111, the Bureau of Statistics says. Clothing prices have fallen 9.5 per cent over the same period, and furniture has fallen 1 per cent.

It has been a similar story outside the retail sector. Hotels must now compete with people leasing out their apartments on Airbnb, and domestic cleaners compete with the going rate on Airtasker.

It’s all adding up to falling prices in many areas.

However, there’s a catch. As well as giving us cost-saving apps, advances in digital technology are curbing the bargaining power of workers in wage negotiations.

After all, it’s no longer just call centre jobs that can be sent to lower-wage countries. Thanks to artificial intelligence and more advanced communication technology, there are now fears about the automation or “offshoring” of white-collar jobs such as lawyers, bankers and, err, journalists.

This is not just a hypothetical risk. Financial news giant Bloomberg publishes articles under the byline “Bloomberg Automation.”

National Australia Bank last year said it would axe 4,000 jobs, partly because robots could complete tasks previously performed by people. It would be surprising if other corporations aren’t planning something similar.

To be sure, some of the dire predictions about robots replacing human workers are probably over the top. But the very fear of having your job automated can still have a real effect on pay, because it makes you less likely to push for a big raise. When companies’ wage bills are contained in this way, it’s a large cost saving, which means there is less pressure on the business to raise prices, which leads to lower economy-wide inflation. It’s all rather circular.

To break the cycle, Lowe urged Australians in June to demand pay rises, telling us not to fear “foreigners and robots.” Yet did this extraordinary advice from a central banker have much impact?

Wage growth edged up to 2 per cent in the September quarter, from 1.9 per cent, but was still very soft.

The chief investment officer of the $30 billion superannuation fund Hostplus, Sam Sicilia, says most workers were probably too nervous to take up Lowe’s challenge.

“Why wasn’t there a queue outside every HR manager’s door?” Sicilia says. “Wage inflation is kept low because nobody asks for a wage rise when their job is at threat of being replaced by automation.”

The combination of more anxious workers, and disrupted businesses, is “hugely deflationary,” he says, arguing this is one reason interest rates will remain lower for longer.

Not everyone is as gloomy as this.

Economists point out that capitalism has coped with job-destroying technology in the past by creating new jobs elsewhere.

Even so, it’s uncertain how much further the process of technology-induced deflation has to run, and whether wage and price growth will return to what we previously thought was “normal.”

Lowe has said the RBA’s best guess is that the competition facing retailers would continue to dampen inflation “for a while yet.”

In other words, don’t expect a sharp rise in consumer prices – or wages – anytime soon.

Ross Gittins is on leave. Clancy Yeates is a BusinessDay journalist.

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