Squiz Today / 19 December 2023

Squiz Today – 19 December 2023

Squiz Today Podcast

Today’s listen time: 9.30 minutes

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Squiz Sayings

“You didn’t just succeed – you Exceled.”

Said Microsoft of Sydney’s Andrew ‘The Annihilator’ Ngai’s third consecutive win of the tech giant’s Excel World Championship in Las Vegas. The actuary uses the spreadsheet program in his daily work, but says the competition was “pretty intense” – which is exactly how we feel when using the program…

From serial killer to cleared

Epic flooding in FNQ

The Squiz 

If last week was all about bracing for ex-Tropical Cyclone Jasper, this week is about dealing with its after-effects of record downpours and flooding… Residents in Far North Queensland have been under severe weather warnings, with major roads across the region closed and more than 300 rescues carried out by emergency crews so far – including people forced to climb onto roofs. Yesterday, Defence Minister Richard Marles confirmed the Defence Force is involved with HMAS Cairns helping rescue stranded residents and choppers assisting isolated residents. At the state level, Queensland’s newly-minted Premier Steven Miles says “every single resource is being allocated” to keep people safe – including from crocodiles

What’s happened?

One of the towns that has been inundated is Wujal Wujal – an Indigenous community 70km south of Cooktown. The town has been cut off by rising flood waters, and authorities are hoping to evacuate all of its 300 residents by air this morning after the first attempt yesterday stalled. And in Cairns, they’re expecting it to be the worst flooding in a century, with James Cook University Professor Jonathan Nott saying waters are now 30-40% higher than the 1977 flood – its biggest on record. The airport is reopening today after floodwaters and debris covered the runways and left some planes underwater yesterday. And north of there, river levels have gone above the 2019 flood records in the Daintree, with at least 684mm of rain falling in one spot in the 24 hours to yesterday morning. They have been cut off since the cyclone first hit, and the ongoing rain isn’t making things any easier. 

What’s the forecast for today?

The Bureau of Meteorology says the rain’s tipped to continue easing today… But that doesn’t mean it’s smooth sailing from here on out. Given the drenching it’s just experienced, the region is expected to be dealing with floodwaters for a while yet, and the main advice from authorities for locals is to conserve water for essential purposes. Cairns Mayor Terry James yesterday said the city’s water supply was at a “critical” stage after its water treatment facility was blocked by debris, leaving about 14 hours of clean drinking water. Residents in 9 of the hardest-hit FNQ council areas have been offered disaster relief payments to help with immediate essentials like clothing and medicine. And as for the cost of the disaster, it’s early days, but state Treasurer Cameron Dick says the state is set for a “billion-dollar impact”…


Squiz the Rest

A key witness takes the stand

A central figure in Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation trial against Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson has given evidence – that’s Fiona Brown, the former chief of staff to Linda Reynolds and boss to Lehrmann and Brittany Higgins. In a closed session late yesterday, she said it entered her mind that an assault could have taken place after she was informed that security had found Higgins naked on the sofa of the minister’s office. But during the first meeting, Brown says Higgins didn’t tell her she was assaulted. Brown is right in the middle of this story – earlier this year, she told The Australian (paywall) that she tried to take her own life after she was pursued by the Coalition’s enemies over claims of a political cover-up and was cast aside by her own side when things got too difficult. Looking ahead, Ten has flown in a UK-based lip-reader as part of its defence, and they could take the stand as early as today. The trial is expected to wrap up this week.


Putin’s iron grip

Russia’s ruling elite have unanimously backed President Vladamir Putin’s bid for re-election in March’s presidential poll. He’s already been in power for 24 years, and the election is seen as a kind of fait accompli because most people who’ve opposed him are either in jail, dead or living overseas. But United Russia’s chairman Dmitry Medvedev doesn’t see it that way – he told fellow party members a fifth term for Putin “should be absolutely logical … and absolutely indisputable”. The only whiff of a challenge is coming in the form of a former journo who’s got the required 500 signatures to launch a bid. Yekaterina Duntsova’s candidacy was backed by supporters at a meeting in Moscow – and she’s already spoken about being afraid, given what’s happened to Putin’s opponents.

World News

Mood of the nation

Given ‘cozzie livs’ won the Macquarie Word of the Year, you probs won’t be too surprised to learn it’s the top issue Aussies want the government to focus on. The Financial Review/Freshwater Strategy poll yesterday found that 71% of us rate it as the #1 concern (paywall) – streets ahead of housing (43%) and immigration. The poll also gives us a snapshot of how the Albanese Government is travelling halfway through its 3-year term – it suggests Labor and the Coalition are now on level-pegging. As for PM Anthony Albanese’s fortunes in the preferred leader stakes, they have taken a hit (-3 to 43%) since September, but are still up on Peter Dutton (+2 to 39%). Newspoll has a slightly more optimistic set of numbers for the government – it says Team Albanese is leading the Coalition 52-48. But you know what we say – take all these polls with a good grain of salt.

AusPol Economy

Stay safe out there

If you feel like you’ve been hearing more about horror road crashes this year, the data confirms it. The Australian Automobile Association says the year to November has been the deadliest 12 months since 2018, with 1,253 people killed on the roads. The states leading the increases are NSW, Victoria, and South Australia (which recorded a 61% jump in deaths, from 70 road deaths in 2022 to 113). NSW had a 24% increase to 354 deaths – a number which includes the 10 people killed in the Hunter Valley wedding bus tragedy earlier this year. The Association is calling on governments for greater transparency with its road data, saying that they’d like to see “crucial data on the quality of Australian roads, the causes of crashes, and law enforcement patterns” out in the open.

Australian News

Itching to board

When your flight gets called for boarding, do you linger in your seat as long as possible, or do you line up immediately? If you’re the latter, then airline staff have a name for you – ‘gate lice’. As for why keen boarders do what they do, psychologists have some guesses, and one is conformity. According to Professor Shira Gabriel from the University of Buffalo, “people will do any weird thing if they think that’s the way to behave”. The other possible explanation is competition – Professor Stephen Reicher of St Andrews University speculates that line lovers might fear that being last for an overbooked plane might leave them flightless. Or else, queue-huggers might simply be keen to get their bags into the overhead locker. “To be last in the queue and have to give up your bags makes you a real mug,” Reicher said. Whatever it is, it’s such a relaxing way to start a journey…

Quirky News

Apropos of Nothing

A homeless shelter in America’s Portland has been counting its luck after rare Nike sneakers tumbled down their donations chute. The genuine gold-coloured Air Jordan Retro 3s are now up for auction, and with only 4 or 5 pairs ever made, they’re expected to fetch at least US$15,000.

You might be surprised to hear that Costco – the US bulk-buy discount store – also sells gold bars. Not at a discount, unfortunately… But they are putting a few through their checkouts, with more than US$100 million of gold sold in the last quarter.

And to make it a golden trifecta, Notre Dame’s new weathervane has been installed, and it’s a half-metre-long golden rooster. Philippe Villeneuve, the chief architect overseeing the famous Parisian cathedral’s rebuild, likes to think of the roof chook as a phoenix, to symbolise its resurrection after its 2019 fire.

Quirky News

Squiz the Day

6:00pm (AEDT) PM Anthony Albanese delivers Lowy Lecture 

Last day of Term 4 for public schools in NSW

Saint Nicholas Day in Eastern Christian countries

Jake Gyllenhaal’s birthday (1980)

Anniversary of:

  • the release of Charles Dickens’ Yuletide tale A Christmas Carol in Britain (1843)
  • the death of Emily Brontë (1848)
  • the first radio broadcast from space – US President Eisenhower sent a Christmas message (1958)
  • the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration to transfer Hong Kong back to China in 1997 (1984)
  • the impeachment of US President Bill Clinton on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice (1998)
Squiz the Day

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