Squiz Today / 17 January 2020

Squiz Today – Friday, 17 January


“We created a unique experience to help you craft the pawfect algorithmically generated playlist for you and your pet to enjoy together.”

Says Spotify of its push for dominance over a new audience segment - cats and dogs. With playlists and a podcast to keep them company when you’re not at home, you might want to check what selections Spot and Fluffy have been making behind your back before you press play and the algorithm kicks in…


You know you're in the grip of a terrible drought when a bit of rain in some parts of the country is leading the news… It was the raindrops across many regional centres in NSWVictoria and Queensland that caused the most excitement. It gave firefighters a breather. And farmers who received decent falls rejoiced as water flowed into their dams and tanks. Pleasingly, more is forecast today and over the weekend. But the falls are not without their problems…

You're right. This rain - and any rain - is great in so many ways for so many people doing it tough. But for a balanced serve, here are the issues. With little rain falling on Victoria's fire grounds, authorities are warning that thunderstorms could ignite more fires. There’s also concern that ash from the fires will contaminate drinking water supplies and rivers, which can have a devastating effect on fish. And for farmers who have been unable to keep any vegetation in their dry paddocks, there’s the risk that heavy rain will wash away valuable topsoil. But even with all the problems, rain = hope. "From a mental point of view that load starts to lift. You can see the light again," Hunter farmer Doug Robertson told the ABC.

The United Nations’ World Meteorological Organisation yesterday said that 2019 was the second hottest on record, with 2016 retaining the title of hottest ever. Looking at data from official weather agencies around the world, the average global temperature last year was 1.1C above pre-industrial levels. The Paris Climate Agreement aims to cap temperature increases to 1.5-2C by the end of this century. So, the response echoes last year's call for drastic global greenhouse gas emissions cuts if we are to hit the target.



After 13 rounds of official talks, the trade war between the US and China has been put on hold with the superpowers signing a partial deal at the White House yesterday. “Today we take a momentous step, one that has never been taken before with China,” said US President Donald Trump. He was the one who blew things up by instigating tit-for-tariff hikes in the search for “fair and reciprocal” terms of trade. But critics are sceptical about the vague terms of the deal, which includes a commitment to protect American intellectual property, as well as an ambitious target for China to buy an extra US$200 billion in American goods over the next two years. In exchange, the US will halve tariffs on more than US$120 billion worth of Chinese goods. For Australia, there are worries about China’s pledge to buy more American products, which could see it turn away from Aussie-produced goods and commodities. The second phase of negotiations is set to begin in a few weeks.


Labor has called for Agriculture Minister and Deputy Nationals leader Bridget McKenzie to resign over her administration of $100 million worth of sports grants. In a report released by the Australian National Audit Office on Wednesday, McKenzie (who was the Sports Minister before the election) is accused of ignoring the “merit-based assessment” of government agency Sports Australia for almost half the successful projects. Instead, many grants went to seats the Coalition wanted to win in last year's election. Commentators are surprised by the scale of ministerial intervention McKenzie exercised given modern probity rules. But McKenzie, who has critics in her own party, said calls for her scalp were “absolutely ridiculous”. Senior Labor frontbencher Tony Burke said it’s a big deal. "You won't find a more explosive report," he said.


For the first time since his return from North Korea last year, Alek Sigley has written about his experience being detained by the regime. The 29yo from Perth, who had studied and lived in Pyongyang since 2016, was detained for nine days in June last year on spying charges. He was expelled after Swedish officials secured his release. North Korean media said Sigley had admitted to "spying acts", including sharing information with "anti-state" media outlets. But that isn't true, Sigley says. He also says he was kidnapped by secret police from his dorm and forced to make a false confession. During his detention, Sigley said he had "no idea" when he would be released because he was "completely cut off" from the outside world. "They succeeded in teaching me one lesson: the falsehood of the North Korean legal system," he said. Indeed…


Remember the Duke of Edinburgh Award? The decades-old program which recognises young people aged 14-24yo from 144 countries for undertaking self-improvement exercises? It has just drawn up a list of 25 ‘character building’ tasks - including trying veganism. Character building indeed... The list was created after a DofE survey of 1,000 UK teens found 51% had never had a part-time job, and 44% believed they hadn't had enough experiences to build confidence and resilience.


You know what the definition of optimism is? Looking forward to an Australian Open fourth-round match between Aussie Nick Kyrgios and world number one Rafael Nadal… It would be terrific to see, don't get us wrong - and we'd be cheering for Kyrgios to win. But he'll have to rein in the outbursts, show his flashes of brilliance, and find some consistency to get there. He is our best hope after Alex de Minaur pulled out yesterday with a 4cm stomach muscle tear. Ouch… In the women’s draw, pundits say Ash Barty has a pretty good run towards the finals. She's having a great warm-up going through to the Adelaide International semi-final tonight. The Aussie Open kicks off on Monday.


Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to stay off your phone? Here are some tips to realise that ambitious goal.

We’ll be looking for a podcast this weekend on the royal family. Because what’s going down ATM is so interesting dammit… Here are some recommendations from Tatler (which includes Squizer Kerri Elstub’s The Windsors, which we can recommend) and from Town and Country to choose from.

We’re two weeks into tidying up the diet (save your applause…), so this salad will get a run with some grilled fish this weekend. We’ll probably go a bit light on the dressing, but you do you.


11.30am (AEDT) - Westpac Consumer Confidence Index January results released

Tamworth’s Country Music Festival begins (on until 26 January)

Birthdays for Aussie netball legend Liz Ellis (1973), actor Jim Carrey (1962) and former First Lady Michelle Obama (1964)

100th anniversary of the start of the 13-year-long prohibition on alcohol

The Great Australian Beer Festival - Geelong, VIC

A birthday for former PM Paul Keating (1944)

Anniversary of Captain James Cook's discovery of the Hawaiian Islands, which didn’t end well… (1778)

Anniversary of the first group of ships from the First Fleet arriving in Botany Bay (1788)

World Religion Day

Women's March 2020 - Washington DC

Anniversary of the death of former Aussie cricketer David Hookes (2004). His untimely death led to national discussions on violence and organ donation

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