Squiz Today / 28 May 2021

Squiz Today – Friday, 28 May


“The accuracy is very poor. In fact, guessing is better.”

Said Bureau of Meteorology official Melissa Rebbeck of their winter outlook. If it’s a guessing game, we’ll take past winters as a guide and say things are looking cloudy with a chance of meatballs (and spaghetti)… 


Almost 7 million Victorians started a statewide 7-day "circuit breaker" lockdown last night after an outbreak of COVID in Melbourne’s north grew to 26 cases yesterday. Acting Premier James Merlino said the main concern was how fast the highly contagious Indian strain was moving. Eleven new cases were reported yesterday - all linked and accounted for - which is "very reassuring", Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said. But with more than 150 exposure sites and the virus spreading "faster than we have ever recorded", Merlino said the concern is that the strain could become "uncontrollable".

Across Victoria, residents are required to stay at home except for essential work, shopping, exercise, caregiving, or a new one to the list - to get a COVID vaccine. More people will be able to do that with the state’s vaccination program expanding to include anyone 40yo and older. Travel is restricted to within 5km from home. Masks are mandatory, and schools will be closed except for kids of essential workers. As for cafes and restaurants, they can offer takeaway only, and public and private gatherings aren’t allowed, including at the footy, which will go ahead. States/territories were swift to shut their borders. It's the 4th time Melburnians have been locked down, so there are many views on whether this could have been prevented…

That was the gist of Merlino’s swipe at the Morrison Government's vaccine program rollout and approach to hotel quarantine. Labor leader Anthony Albanese yesterday jumped on that bandwagon, calling for dedicated quarantine facilities to stop the virus from escaping from hotels that aren’t fit for purpose. Morrison has consistently defended the quarantine system as “99.99% effective”, but yesterday he suggested the Feds could back Victoria’s proposed new quarantine facility for returning travellers. It would see Canberra pay for a 500-bed facility to be set up in Mickleham (outside Melbourne), with construction to start in September. "I discussed this yesterday with James Merlino, we are highly favourable towards this," Morrison said. This and more is on the agenda for today's National Cabinet meeting.



Australia’s Ambassador to China Graham Fletcher said he was barred from entering the Beijing court where Aussie citizen/academic Dr Yang Hengjun appeared yesterday on espionage charges. The reason: COVID-19 restrictions and because it was a national security issue. "This is deeply regrettable, concerning and unsatisfactory," Fletcher said yesterday. Hengjun has been detained for 2 years, and if convicted, he could face the death penalty. The 56yo pro-democracy writer denies the charges and says he's a victim of political persecution. China hasn't provided any details about what Hengjun is alleged to have done and, earlier in the week, labelled a request for access by Foreign Minister Marise Payne as “deplorable”. China has a long history of suppressing dissenting views. Overnight a controversial law was passed in Hong Kong aimed at keeping people China deems “unpatriotic” from positions of political power.


In his first comments since a Ryanair flight was ordered to land in Belarus on Sunday, the nation’s dictatorial President Alexander Lukashenko has accused the international community of "strangling" his country and waging a "hybrid warfare". The plane was flying from Greece to Lithuania when it was ordered to land in Minsk - Belarus said because of a bomb threat. World leaders were shocked when passenger/Lukashenko critic/journalist Roman Protasevich was taken off the plane and arrested. His Russian girlfriend Sofia Sapega was also detained, and they are both facing criminal charges. Lukashenko yesterday insisted the threat was real and that he "was thinking about the country's security". He also said reports that a fighter jet was sent to force the plane to land was an "absolute lie". The European Union this week tightened sanctions on Belarus - Lukashenko said he would respond harshly.


Energy giant Royal Dutch Shell has been ordered by a Dutch court to cut its emissions by 45% compared to 2019 levels by 2030. That’s notable because it’s the first time a company has been legally obliged to line its business operations up with the Paris climate agreement, legal eagles say. The company - which has massive oil and gas projects worldwide, including in Australia - is said to be responsible for about 1% of global emissions each year and had pledged to reduce emissions by 20% within a decade and hit net zero emissions before 2050. The court decision means it would have to do more, sooner. "Even if states do nothing or only a little, companies have the responsibility to respect human rights," Judge Larisa Alwin said. Shell said it expects to appeal the ruling.


Mining magnate Gina Rinehart, according to the latest Financial Review’s Rich List. Coming in with $31.06 billion, Rinehart saw her wealth jump $2.2 billion in 6 months as iron ore hit record high prices. Similarly, Pilbara mining mogul Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest is riding the commodities boom, coming in at #2 with $27.25 billion. Next up is Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes ($20.18 billion), cardboard king Anthony Pratt and family ($20.09 billion) and another Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar ($20 billion). The next 5 include familiar names like Clive Palmer ($13.01 billion) and Frank Lowy ($8.51 billion) but breaking into the top 10 for the first time are the co-founders of the graphic design platform Canva, Melanie Perkins and Cliff Obrecht ($7.98 billion). Celebratory drinks are on them… Here's the top 10 list (paywall).


Sydney artist Kathrin Longhurst’s portrait of Aussie singer Kate Ceberano is the Archibald Prize’s Packing Room pick. It’s the 2nd time Longhurst has been an Archibald finalist - one of Australia’s longest-running and richest art prizes. For the first time in its 100-year history, there’s not only gender parity among the Archibald Prize finalists but more works by women across the 3 prizes, including the Sulman (subject/genre) and Wynne (landscape). Ten female painters have won the prize since 1921, and 17 winners have featured women as the portrait subject. Ceberano said the artist had given her “dignity and power without words”. It’s the 3rd time a portrait of Ceberano has entered the prize and the 2nd time a painting of her won the $3,000 Packing Room Prize - the first when her friend Peter Robertson painted her nude in 1994. Head packer Brett Cuthbertson is a Ceberano fan and said, "as soon as I saw it, I knew it was the one." The $100,000 Archibald Prize will be announced on June 4.


We needed a laugh this week, and this unlikely source provided it. A New York dad who’s not much into American football is put through his paces to guess the team by the logo. Our favourite, “the Angry Looking Chickens”.

Five people told us Girls 5Eva tickled their funny bones, so we dived in, and now we're telling everyone we know to watch it… The 10-part, 25min/episode Tina Fey-style comedy is lots of lols. And the theme song - can’t get it out of our heads… Find it on Stan.

We love using bread to clean up the sauce from a delicious meal - so why not just include it from the get-go? This baked fish dish with cherry tomatoes, olives and capers does precisely that. Genius.


National Cabinet Meeting

International Day of Action for Women's Health

A birthday for Kylie Minogue (1968)

Anniversary of:
• Anniversary of the deaths of Anne Brontë (1849), Maya Angelou (2014) and Harambe the gorilla (2016)
• Neville Chamberlain becoming PM of the United Kingdom (1937)

International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers 

Birthdays for Noel Gallagher (1967), Myf Warhurst (1974), Mel B (1975) and Laverne Cox (1984)

Anniversary of :
• women's right activist and abolitionist Sojourner Truth giving her famous 'Ain't I a woman?' speech at the first Black Women's Rights Convention in Ohio (1851)
• the birthday of John F Kennedy (1917)
• Bing Crosby recording White Christmas, which would become the world's best-selling single with over 100 million copies sold (1942)
• NZ mountaineer Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay becoming are first people confirmed to reach the summit of Mount Everest (1953)
• Space Shuttle Discovery completing the first docking with the International Space Station (1999)
• transgender no longer classified as a mental health illness by the World Health Organization (2017)

World MS Day

Birthdays for Tom Morello (1964), Idina Menzel (1971) and Cee-Lo Green (1974)

Anniversary of:
• Joan of Arc being burned at the stake in France after being condemned as a heretic (1431)
• the publication of Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967)
• Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson’s divorce (1996)

Read the email every day this week and you'll go into the draw to win a $100 gift card from Peter Alexander. Definitely not a snooze...

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