Squiz Today / 22 March 2021

Squiz Today – Monday, 22 March


“I can spend the rest of my life just shooting images from this treasury.”

Said Finnish photographer JP Metsavainio of his panorama of the Milky Way that was released on the weekend. It took him 12 years to capture the galaxy and its 20 million stars - but it’s just a strip of the sky, so a lifetime might not be enough…


Your mate in NSW/southeast Queensland might need it… It’s still bucketing down in Sydney and along parts of NSW's coast as some areas experience the worst flooding in decades. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian described deluge on the state’s Mid North Coast as a once-in-100-years event and Western Sydney’s drenching as once-in-50-years with natural disaster declarations made across the affected areas. Across the state, more than 7,680 calls for assistance have been made since Thursday to emergency services, and 700 flood rescue from dangerous waters have been made. And today, Queensland's Gold Coast is set to cop it...

• Worst affected are towns along the Mid North Coast, including Port Macquarie and Taree. The region has received between 370mm-450mm of rain since late last week causing rivers to break their banks. PM Scott Morrison said it was “absolutely heart-breaking” - including for one couple (who were due to be married on Saturday...) who watched their house get washed away. Flooding eased yesterday, but evacuation warnings for residents in low-lying homes remain in place.

• In the Western Sydney area, 1,000 people were evacuated late yesterday, and up to 4,000 people were warned they may need to leave with the Nepean River at Penrith nearing levels seen during the historic 1961 flood. The Hawkesbury River is also expected to reach a 16-metre high affecting the city’s Western suburbs all the way to Wisemans Ferry.

• Warragamba Dam, Sydney's main water source, spilt over for the first time since 2016, sending more water flooding into the Hawkesbury-Nepean catchment on Saturday afternoon. Greater Sydney and the Blue Mountains received in the vicinity of 100-150mm of rain between Friday night and Sunday morning - what it would usually get for the whole of March.

Yup. Premier Berejiklian has warned the “deep-seated, extreme weather event” could last until the end of this week for some parts of the state. The state's coast north of Sydney and a chunk of northwestern NSW are in for more heavy rain in the coming days when two powerful weather systems collide tonight. And over the border, the Gold Coast is bracing for severe thunderstorms today. That means some dangerous days to come millions of people, some delays to the COVID vaccination program with supply routes cut off, and a long cleanup to follow…



Today, a handful of the more than 6 million Aussies who are eligible for their first COVID shots will roll up their sleeves, as an official tick was granted to the locally-produced AstraZeneca doses last night. Yipee... Progress is being made which is why federal Health Department boss Brendan Murphy yesterday looked to the future, saying international vaccination programs will be the ticket to overseas travel and easier quarantine regimes. Qantas boss Alan Joyce yesterday told the BBC he believes that "governments are going to insist" travellers prove they’re vaccinated if they are to enter another country. That won’t cover international spectators and volunteers hoping to attend the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games with confirmation they will be banned. It’s another blow for organisers with costs set to balloon to more than US$15.4 billion - more than double what Japan expected to pay.


What gets the blood pumping faster than a fight with one superpower? A trip on the stairs of Airforce One? No… Fights with two superpowers - or at least that’s what the Biden administration is experiencing. Last week, President Joe Biden agreed in a TV interview that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “a killer”. And on Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other senior officials held the first talks with their Chinese counterparts, with the two sides coming to verbal blows. Experts say it sets up months, if not years, of tensions between the US and Russia/China as the new administration gets settled in. With that in mind, Blinken heads to Brussels tomorrow for talks with European officials in a bid to repair strains caused by former President Donald Trump’s “largely transactional diplomacy”.


Not of their own ranks - of the policies that apply to those who work in their households… Like many workplaces worldwide, Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Kensington Palace are seeking to improve their policies around hiring and supporting staff from diverse backgrounds. Procedures and programs to do this are already in place, the Palace spokesperson says, but have not delivered the results they want to see. This, of course, is very much in focus after Harry and Meghan made allegations of racism within the Royal family in their earth-shattering interview with Oprah. Those comments will form part of the review, as will ‘collaborations’ with people from minority backgrounds, disabled people, and gay and transgender communities.


A study looking at the long-term health effects of tiny plastic particles has found they are not blocked in pregnant rats' placenta. They were found to pass rapidly from pregnant rats into the heart, brain, lungs, liver and kidney of their foetuses. The in utero rats that were exposed to the microplastics also put on significantly less weight towards the end of gestation. It’s notable because it’s the first study looking at a live mammal that shows the placenta does not block plastic particles. And with microplastic pollution reaching every part of the planet, there’s growing concern about the health impacts on people and animals, with a lot remaining in the ‘unknown’ pile.


Finland has once again defended its coveted title as the world’s happiest country - the 4th consecutive win for the Nordic nation. And there must be something in the European water with Iceland coming in 2nd, followed by Denmark, Switzerland and the Netherlands rounding out the top 5. Researchers behind the annual World Happiness Report attribute it to “trust in each other, and confidence in their governments”. This year’s report focused on the relationship between wellbeing and COVID-19, finding the top 10 rankings were relatively similar to the previous year. They said that might be because the pandemic has generated a "sense of solidarity". Oz maintained our 12th place on the list, while Afghanistan was ranked the most unhappy, along with Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Botswana.


The first time in 6,000 years - a volcano in the Fagradals Mountain, 30km southwest of Iceland’s capital Reykjavik, erupted on Friday night local time. Singing Icelandic star/exclamation mark enthusiast Björk said “we still got it !!! sense of relief when nature expresses herself !!!”

Rarely - a walrus locals have named Wally has been spotted at the bottom of a cliff in Wales. Scientifically assessed to be "about the size of a cow", Wally's ilk is hardly ever seen that far south of the Arctic. How he got there is a mystery, but a local animal welfare officer said there was “a tale going around that it fell asleep on an iceberg and ended up drifting across and woke up in Ireland." That’s some snooze...

Never before - if you’re home-hunting ATM, you might like to avert your eyes… The most expensive apartment ever sold at auction in Australia went under the hammer on Saturday. The Bondi pad sold for a cool $20.1 million - $3 million over the reserve. At least it has car parking…


House of Representatives resumes sitting and Senate Estimates hearings commence - Canberra

World Water Day

Birthdays for William Shatner (1931), Andrew Lloyd Webber (1948), Reese Witherspoon (1976) and Constance Wu (1982)

Anniversary of:
• the US confirming its troops used chemical warfare against the Vietcong (1965)
• Brussels terrorist attack, which killed 35 (2016)
• a terror attack on London's Westminster Bridge and Houses of Parliament, which killed 4 people (2017)
• Greece announced the country's first-ever self-imposed curfew, in an effort to fight the spread of COVID (2020)

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