Squiz Today / 18 January 2021

Squiz Today – Monday, 18 January


"Now there’s going to be hell to pay.”

Said New York’s Church of Satan member Isis Vermouth after an arsonist burned down their spiritual home. Isis doesn’t strike us as someone using that turn of phrase casually…


More top-notch tennis players went into lockdown overnight with 5 people who flew into Melbourne on special charter flights to begin their preparation for Australia’s summer of tennis testing positive for COVID-19. Spread across 3 flights, all are ‘non-playing participants’ of the Australian Open - including Sylvain Bruneau, coach of world #7 Bianca Andreescu. All had tested negative before flying to Australia. There are now about 170 people confined to their hotel rooms for 2 weeks, including 72 players. And many of them aren’t happy about what it means for their prep for the first major tournament of the year…

Creatively... But it's a worry for those players because the first major tournament of the year kicks off on Monday, 8 February - 3 weeks away. And the lockdown was a surprise to some players. Meanwhile, others in the broader 'bubble' can leave their rooms to train for 5-hours a day. Aussie Open organiser Craig Tiley says it’s not great, but the pandemic means it’s "not an ideal situation for anyone - we've got to play our part to ensure the community stays safe." As for Victorian health officials, they aren’t changing the strict approach. That hasn’t stopped criticism being directed towards the Victorian Government for treating foreign tennis players better than ‘stranded Victorians’ who have been unable to get home after the hard border with NSW was put in place in the new year.

Yeah, that point’s been made too, particularly as the number of international arrivals into New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia were temporarily halved last week. And on Saturday, Emirates said it would suspend flights to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane from Wednesday citing “operational reasons”. That led senior Morrison Government minister/travel agent Simon Birmingham to announce another 20 repatriation flights would be scheduled. Passengers will be taken to the Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory and Canberra and Tasmania for their quarantine. They won't count towards the new cap brought in last week.



The deaths of 30 Norwegians and 10 Germans after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccination has Australian officials asking for more information. The vaccine is currently being probed by our Therapeutic Goods Administration for safety. Norway’s regulator says known reactions like fever and nausea may have contributed to the frail and elderly patients' deaths. Australia has secured 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and it is due to start being rolled out to 'vulnerable' people (including the elderly) and frontline workers from mid-February. "We're proceeding with an abundance of caution," Health Minister Greg Hunt said yesterday. Vaccination against the virus is seen as the world’s way out of this crisis as we passed 2 million COVID deaths on Saturday - "a heart-wrenching milestone" United Nations boss António Guterres said.


You’d think he’d be busy dusting off his massive bible to get it ready for this week’s inauguration ceremony. Or celebrating his avian namesake’s freedom from death row. But soon-to-be US president Joe Biden has outlined his action plan for his first 10 days in office focusing on 4 priority areas: the coronavirus crisis, the economic downturn, climate change, and racial inequality. “President-elect Biden will take decisive action to address these 4 crises, prevent other urgent and irreversible harms, and restore America’s place in the world,” Biden’s chief-of-staff Ron Klain wrote in a memo to incoming administration movers and shakers. That includes a blitz of executive actions to be taken on inauguration day - Thursday Oz time - that will reverse some of President Donald Trump’s most controversial policies. Also getting ready for the events of this week are security and law enforcement agencies across the country. Washington DC is already locked down, and National Guards stand ready in the major cities in anticipation of more pro-Trump unrest.


Lukman Thalib and his son Ismail have been released from detention in Qatar after being held since July without charge. Reports say the 58yo and 24yo may have been tortured while in custody including being held in ‘stress positions’, sleep deprivation, and threats made against other family members. Both Australian citizens, Lukman was the head of the Department of Public Health at Qatar University. After they were taken into custody, the US said another son had links to al-Qaeda. The pair have travelled to Turkey to stay with daughter/sister Maryam, who says the Australian Government didn’t do enough for the men. “There are many unanswered questions we have as a family," she says. The Department of Foreign Affairs said they had been providing the Thalibs with consular assistance but wouldn't say any more.


Already suffering a plane crash and landslides, Indonesia has had an earthquake and volcano eruption to deal with over the weekend. Java’s Mount Semeru yesterday sent ash and smoke more than 5km into the sky putting officials on alert. No evacuations have been ordered for the nation’s most densely populated island, but villages close by have been told to prepare to leave. It comes after at least 49 people were killed and hundreds injured in a deadly earthquake on Sulawesi on Friday. The magnitude-6.2 shaker toppled buildings and damaged critical infrastructure. Meanwhile, category one Cyclone Kimi is asking residents between Cairns and Port Douglas to ‘look at moi’ as it prepares to make landfall later today. And 2020 wasn’t just a year of pandemic hotspots, it was one of the 3 hottest years on record, the World Meteorological Organisation confirmed on Friday.


It was a job he didn’t covet, but Chris ‘CM’ Murphy took Aussie music juggernaut INXS from a pub band from Sydney's Northern Beaches in 1980 to chart-toppers and international superstars. He was in his mid-20s when Gary Morris handed INXS to Murphy so he could concentrate on managing Midnight Oil. Talking about his decision to take them on, he said he’d do it “on the basis that we do it internationally” - which he did via American recording contracts that took INXS to the world. Murphy was also involved with successful 1980-90s Aussie acts The Models, You Am I, Ratcat, The Screaming Jets and Wendy Matthews. He died on Saturday aged 66yo after recently being diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma in December.

And producer Phil Spector has died in prison at 81yo. Considered to be one of the most influential figures in popular music, his ‘wall of sound’ recordings with “lavish instrumental” elements was a signature. Think the Righteous Brothers’ Unchained Melody, Tina Turner’s River Deep, Mountain High and the Beatles’ Let It Be album (not that Paul McCartney liked his version of Long and Winding Road) and so many hits from the era. His personal life was another matter... He was serving a 19-year sentence for the murder of hostess/actress Lana Clarkson and was said to have a "rich history of violence" towards women.


Sprinter Rohan Browning became the second-fastest Aussie over 100m of all time clocking 9.96 seconds in Wollongong on Saturday. It won’t be formally recognised because it was wind-assisted, but the sub-10-second run was celebrated nonetheless.

In China, about a third of the population share 5 surnames - Wang, Li, Zhang, Liu or Chen. Looking a bit broader, 86% of Chinese citizens share 100 surnames - and in total, there are just 6,000 surnames in use. Compare that to the US, there are 6.3 million surnames… And in Australia? Well, we have a different naming convention altogether…

And as legendary actress Betty White turned 99yo yesterday, opportunities are opening up for her. Celebrating with a hot dog and fries, she said “I can stay up as late as I want without asking permission!”


7.00am (AEDT) - Major Biden's "indogeration" ceremony - Delaware

Victoria's coronavirus restrictions for masks and office numbers relaxed

Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny returns to Russia from Germany where he was receiving medical treatment after being poisoned last August - and he's just been arrested on arrival...

Martin Luther King Jr Day - US

A birthday for former PM Paul Keating (1944)

Anniversary of:
• Captain James Cook coming across the Hawaiian Islands, which didn’t end well… (1778)
• the first group of ships from the First Fleet arriving in Botany Bay (1788)

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