Squiz Today / 14 May 2020

Squiz Today – Thursday, 14 May


"In my opinion, some songs would not be out of place in the official Eurovision Song Contest."

Said Karen van Dijk, editor of Dutch broadcaster VPRO which ran a competition where teams had to write a hit Eurovision song using artificial intelligence. And... drumroll please... Australia won with an entry that sampled koalas, kookaburras and Tassie devils. Hang on... Did Karen mean that as a compliment?


Given it’s a new virus on the scene, medicos are taking a keen interest in the health effects of COVID-19. And one that’s got our government’s attention is the emergence of a mystery inflammatory condition that's killed three children in the US, and affected kids in the UK and Italy. It resembles Kawasaki disease or toxic shock syndrome. While there's no conclusive evidence that there's a link between it and the coronavirus, there appears to be a connection, Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy said yesterday. And so Prime Minister Scott Morrison had asked Professor Murphy to commission research into the illness. There have been no cases in Oz, and experts say it’s unlikely to be a threat here.

Because of our relatively low numbers of coronavirus cases compared to the countries where this illness is showing up, we're a good place to gauge whether it is linked to the new virus. We see 200-300 cases of Kawasaki disease each year. It’s a nasty condition that can cause heart problems. So if we keep COVID-19 at bay, and that number stays about the same, it will be a good clue for researchers investigating the link. And Australia has some of the world’s top Kawasaki disease experts, so our clever people have something to contribute. Because, as all the TV ads say, we’re all in this together… This mystery illness is just one of several medical curveballs the coronavirus outbreak has served up.

Keep in mind coronavirus is a severe respiratory disease… There are some young, otherwise healthy people with COVID-19 dying from strokes. Others have suffered dangerous blood clots of varying sizes throughout their bodies. It is also causing multiple organ failure, and making immune systems dangerously overreact. And then there’s something delightful called COVID toes… At this point, it's good to keep in mind that of the world’s more than 4.3 million coronavirus cases, 1.5 million have recovered (including a 113yo woman in Spain). In Oz, 6,274 of our 6,975 cases have got through it.



• Ring, ring, why won’t China give him a call? Trade Minister Simon Birmingham is waiting by the phone for his Chinese counterpart to engage. Trade tensions are brewing over meat and barley exports. "I can't tell why it hasn't happened. I'm open, ready and willing to meet and discuss whenever we can," he said. Meanwhile, state premiers and business leaders are worried about the rift that’s developed in our trading relationship with China.

• While we’re in the national capital, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg tested negative to COVID-19. He was tested on Tuesday after a coughing fit derailed his economic update.

• The Commonwealth Bank boss Matt Comyn yesterday said the worst-case scenario is that house prices could fall by 32% by the end of 2022 if there is a sustained and deep economic slump. Like the other major banks, it’s bracing for mortgage holders who hit hard times finding it difficult to make their repayments.

• A rising coronavirus death toll and concern over his handling of the crisis has seen US President Donald Trump fall behind Democratic rival Joe Biden, according to the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll. And a new CNN poll found six in 10 Americans don’t trust COVID-19 related information provided by the President. Which you’d hope was 10 out of 10 on anything bleach related

• And a street party while social distancing? You sure can


The Sunshine State’s Treasurer Cameron Dick has only been in the job a couple of days and he yesterday said he’s looking to buy into Virgin Australia as it looks for investors to get it flying high again. The Queensland Government has a keen interest in Virgin because its head office and maintenance teams are there, and a lot of its crew are based out of Brissie. And it (in non-corona times) flies thousands of tourists to its holiday havens every day. Dick said the state's financial interest could take the form of a direct equity stake, a loan, a guarantee or other financial incentives. "This is a competitive space, but Queensland is a serious contender, and our discussions with the administrators have been making progress," he said. Virgin's administrator is expecting indicative offers from some of the 19 interested parties tomorrow.


...which means a resumption of pro-democracy protests. While coronavirus restrictions remain in place in Hong Kong as the number of new cases slows down, protestors are being arrested for unlawful assembly and breaking social distancing rules. They are on the streets again as the government pushes on with proposed legislation that will make it illegal to insult the Chinese national anthem. This offence would be punishable by up to three years in prison. The territory is approaching its ‘protest season’ with the Tiananmen Square massacre and Hong Kong handover anniversaries coming up in June and July.


In a landmark settlement, Facebook will pay thousands of its moderators US$52 million (AU$80 million) in compensation for psychological damages developed on the job. The tech giant uses a combination of human moderators and artificial intelligence to identify posts with violent and explicit content. The class-action lawsuit was launched in 2018 by a group of US moderators who alleged that they had developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In response to the settlement, Facebook said it was developing new tools to reduce the impact of viewing graphic content on its staff.


Hackers targeting top celebrity lawyer Allen Grubman are demanding a US$21 million (AU$32 million) ransom claiming they have their hands on the personal details of clients including Madonna, Elton John and Lady Gaga. The hackers, who are reportedly from Russian-based hacking group REvil, claim to have 756GB of data including the contracts, non-disclosure agreements, phone numbers, email addresses of many A-listers. To prove they're not messing around, the hackers have already released an excerpt of a Madonna touring contract on the dark web, as well as a screenshot showing a celebrity-studded list of computer files. Grubman’s firm says it’s working with cybersecurity experts. "Companies in this position have no good options available to them,” said one expert. Which must be reassuring to the affected celebs…


Moody, testing boundaries, not interested in what the people who really love them want to do. Turns out your ‘adolescent’ pup is just as horrendous as your teen. Minus the zits…


New Israeli coalition to be sworn into government after three elections and a year of political uncertainty

ABS Data Release - Labour Force, April (it's going to be a doozy...)

Birthdays for George Lucas (1944), Cate Blanchett (1969), Sofia Coppola (1971), Mark Zuckerberg (1984)

Anniversary of:
• British doctor Edward Jenner administering the first inoculation against smallpox, using cowpox pus (1796) #SquizShortcut
• the publication of Virginia Woolf's novel Mrs Dalloway (1925)
• the deaths of Rita Hayworth (1987), Frank Sinatra (1998), B.B. King (2015) and Grumpy Cat (2019)

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