Squiz Today / 17 February 2020

Squiz Today – Monday, 17 February


“Your circle of trust will have to be much smaller, sometimes down to your actual body.”

Said Ben Zhao, a computer science professor who’s helped create a piece of wearable tech to protect your private conversations from being overheard by your phone/digital assistant/any device. Behold an emerging fashion trend - the ‘bracelet of silence’...


Reports say our government is considering a plan to evacuate about 200 Australians from the Diamond Princess - the coronavirus-hit cruise ship that has been in quarantine off the coast of Japan. Paul Kelly (our deputy chief medical officer, not the singer or journalist…) yesterday confirmed an infectious disease expert has gone to Japan to assess the situation. The ship has the most coronavirus infections outside of China with another 70 passengers confirmed to have the virus on Saturday. That takes its total to 355 people (including a 16 Australians) of the 3,700 passengers on board.

We’ll need to see what the government announces, and reports say we’ll hear from them later this week. But what is known is the quarantined passengers on the Diamond Princess are due to disembark over several days beginning 21 February. It’s reported that a chartered Qantas plane would collect the Aussies from Japan, and then they need to serve another 14 days in quarantine. That could be at the Christmas Island detention centre with the first batch of evacuees from Wuhan, China leaving today. The US, Canada and Hong Kong have already confirmed they are sending planes to collect their citizens off the ship.

Chinese officials reported 2,009 new cases and 142 more deaths nationwide yesterday. That takes China’s total to more than 68,000 cases of coronavirus. The death toll stands at 1,669. In better news, yesterday’s update reported a drop in new cases for the third consecutive day after last Thursday’s surge of new cases following changes to the testing regime. Tighter restrictions on movement are being enforced in Hubei province (ground zero of the virus outbreak) with 60 million people told to stay home. Outside of China, there have been more than 500 cases across nearly 30 countries. Four people have died across France, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Japan.



The $50 million-plus donated by Aussies and people around the world via a Facebook campaign launched by comedian Celeste Barber is now the subject of legal discussions with none of the money raised earmarked for communities affected by the summer’s fires. Barber’s fundraising effort had NSW’s Rural Fire Service as the beneficiary, and its rules state donations must be spent on firefighting equipment. Barber is said to be frustrated that it can’t go to people “on the ground”. It has prompted legal experts to warn donors to check the details of how charities spend donations. Meanwhile, another $9.5 million was raised yesterday for bushfire recovery efforts at Sydney’s Fire Fight Australia concert with local and international stars performed over 10 hours.


Speculation about the future of Deputy PM Michael McCormack hasn't eased up as federal parliament takes a week off. To recap: the last fortnight was action-packed for the Nationals. Its deputy leader Bridget McKenzie resigned over her administration of $100 million of sports grants (which the Audit Office says did go to many ‘ineligible’ applicants, despite what PM Scott Morrison has said). Former leader Barnaby Joyce then challenged McCormack for the top job. Fast forward to the weekend, and McCormack was forced to rule out reports that a deal has been done that would see him stand down before the next election. And he won’t change the party’s rules to make it harder for Joyce, or anyone, to challenge for the leadership in the future. Joyce has said he supports the man Morrison calls Big Mack, and "I always believe country people when they look me in the eye and say something," McCormack said on ABC TV’s Insiders yesterday. Which seems like a fail-proof method when applied to politics…


Some Australian-based families of the women and children in a Syrian refugee camp have been raided by the Federal Police. Twenty Australian women and 47 children were sent to the al-Hawl camp for families of Islamic State fighters as the terror network was pushed out of northern Syria last year. Our government continues to hold the line that there are no plans to rescue the women and children because the conditions in Syria are too dangerous. Authorities confirmed the raids on the women’s families in Sydney and Melbourne in late January and early February were in response to concerns that some may try to make their way to Oz as conditions deteriorate in the camp. It’s winter in Syria, and overnight temperatures are well into negative territory. It’s those conditions that reports say has those fleeing airstrikes in the northwest of Syria burning toxic rubbish to stay warm with lethal consequences.


Shoppers of a certain age/with a liking for florals will be sad to learn that Laura Ashley is poised to be wiped off the global retail map. A publicly listed company, it’s 51% owned by Malaysian investors who are hustling to organise enough cash to keep the struggling company afloat. It follows the announcement a couple of weeks ago that its CEO would be replaced. The chain left Australia in 2018, and news that it's in trouble at home is not good for anyone with a Peter-Pan-collar fetish. A favourite of Princess Diana in its heyday, maybe the Duchess of Sussex could include it in her emerging commercial strategy?


...may not be a problem halved, but it would help, says Facebook boss and overlord of us all Mark Zuckerberg. It’s rare for a business leader to ask for their business to be regulated, but it’s needed to tackle the growing problem of harmful online content, he says. “In the absence of that kind of regulation, we will continue doing our best … to basically find stuff as proactively as possible,” Zuckerberg said. To that end, the company employs 35,000 people to review online content, and it suspends more than a million fake accounts each day. But government-led rules would help with “trust and better governance of the internet and will benefit everyone, including us over the long term,” he said. They call that move ‘socialising your problem’...


...is Hadaka Matsuri - otherwise known as the 500yo 'Naked Festival' held in Japan's Okayama prefecture. And look, the blokes who take part aren't entirely in the nuddy - they wear a loincloth and white socks... Thousands then cram together in freezing conditions to jostle for twigs. Which means concerns about the coronavirus outbreak would be way down the list of things that could go wrong…


President's Day (US)

Company Earnings Announcements - Bendigo and Adelaide Bank; QBE Insurance Group

Birthdays for Michael Jordan (1963), Paris Hilton (1981), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (1982), Ed Sheeran (1991)

Anniversary of the birthday of Banjo Patterson (1864)

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