Squiz Today / 03 December 2020

Squiz Today – Thursday, 3 December


“If there’s one thing you can do to add something positive to the world, why not do it?”

Is Floridian Carol Benge's approach to life - and it's her reason for taking her teeny-tiny seahorse Louis to a vet hospital for treatment in a hyperbaric chamber to address a condition resembling the bends. No life too small…


The UK’s medicines regulator has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for widespread use with an immunisation program for people in high priority groups (like those in aged care and healthcare workers) starting within days. The nation has ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine - enough to cover 20 million people with the 2 dose regime. It makes the UK the first country in the world to approve the vaccine after researchers confirmed trials had shown it could prevent 95% of people from getting COVID-19. 

Researchers have broken speed records to develop, test, and now get approval for a new vaccine to counter a new disease. Using technology that takes a fragment of genetic code from the virus to teach the body how to fight COVID-19 and build immunity, Pfizer and BioNTech have done in 10 months what would usually take a decade to achieve. But this vaccine also poses some tricky logistical questions… Health Minister Greg Hunt said last month that a “sophisticated esky” would need to be developed to keep it at -70C as it’s transported and stored. It’s fiddly because it’s an mRNA vaccine, and its building blocks are more unstable than a viral vector vaccine like Oxford-AstraZeneca’s or Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, which President Vladimir Putin has ordered be released to the public next week.

Our government had pre-bought 10 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and our regulator - the Therapeutic Goods Administration - has already begun assessing its safety under a process reserved for urgently required drugs. That means it could be available in Australia from March 2021, they say. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is one of 5 vaccines the government has moved to secure at the cost of $3.3 billion. And while Australia has fared better than many nations in terms of the health and economic impacts, it will take a widespread vaccination program to get things back on track, experts say. In the meantime, NSW is the latest state to announce it will further ease restrictions that will see life there take another step towards ‘normal’. Whatever that is...



Adding to a year of wildly fluctuating data, figures released yesterday show our economy grew by 3.3% in the July-September quarter. It's the largest quarterly increase since 1976 and comes after a 7% contraction in the April to June quarter - the largest quarterly fall on record. The growth spurt was powered by a rise in household consumption (aka the stuff us ordinary folk buy) of 7.9%, the largest rise in the 60-year history of the national accounts. Still, when you look at economic growth over the previous 12 months, it’s down by 3.8%. So while the recession is officially over, analysts say it more like the end of the beginning... Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe said that the positive numbers “cannot hide the reality that the recovery will be uneven and it will be bumpy and it will be drawn out.”


Chinese social media platform WeChat has deleted PM Scott Morrison’s post from Tuesday night because it “involves use of content that incites, misleads, has non-objective facts” or “fabricates societal/historical issues’. The ABC’s Bill Birtles said the removal of the post (which addressed a tweet from a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman depicting an Australian soldier murdering an Afghan child) could be because the government ordered it down. Or it "could be more automated censorship based on reader complaints ... Either way, 'engaging' on WeChat is a mugs game," he tweeted. It happened late last night, so there's no comment yet from the Morrison Government or WeChat. In contrast, Twitter has not removed China's post with the inflammatory fake image despite the government asking. Our deteriorating relationship with China came up yesterday in the context of Australia’s economic recovery with concerns the escalating feud with our biggest trading partner will hobble progress.


Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam yesterday received prison terms of 13.5, 10 and 7 months respectively for their involvement in mass protests in June last year. Their offences took place before the Beijing-mandated security law came into place this year, which means they avoided a potential life sentence. The trio were well-known student organisers of the 2014 'Umbrella Movement' protests - a forerunner to the unrest of last year. Wong disbanded his political organisation Demosisto earlier this year in the face of the crackdown by China. And Chow, who has been celebrated internationally as a leading female dissident, faces other charges under the security law. Amnesty International said it was a show trial for China to "send a warning to anyone who dares to openly criticise the government that they could be next".


That’s the conclusion reached by Attorney General William Barr and the US Justice Department after an investigation found no evidence to back the claims made by outgoing President Donald Trump and his team. After last month’s presidential election began turning in Democrat Joe Biden’s favour, Trump took to Twitter and his lawyers took to the courts to claim widespread voter fraud and a ‘rigged’ election process. Yesterday, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was quick to slam the finding saying there wasn’t “any semblance” of an investigation. It’s totes awks for Barr - one of Trump’s biggest allies who’d backed his boss over the baseless claims. And time is running out on Team Trump's legal challenges to the result...


Chooks and animal lovers alike would be delighted with the news that lab-grown meat cells have been approved for sale for the first time. In a landmark move, US company Eat Just’s ‘chicken bites’ - which are produced from the cell of a live chicken - were given the green light by the Singapore Food Agency. It clears the path for dozens more cultivated chicken, beef and pork products to hit the market accompanied by mammoth marketing campaigns to tempt meat-eaters to go lab-grown. Steak lovers need not panic just yet - a recent report suggests that lab-grown meat won’t be widely available until 2040.


Spotify has launched a new site that goes through your listening history to confront you over your music choices in 2020. We say confront because someone had to take us to task about our recent Richard Marx obsession and frankly we thank them for it… As far as the world’s concerned, the most-streamed artist was Puerto Rican singer Bad Bunny with The Weeknd's Blinding Lights the song of choice.


International Day of People with Disability

ABS Data Release - International Trade in Goods and Services, October; Lending Indicators, October

A birthday for rocker Ozzy Osborne (1948), and actors Brendan Fraser (1968) and Amanda Seyfried (1985)

LOL c u l8r, it’s the 28th anniversary of the very first text message

Anniversary of:
• the Eureka Stockade (1854)
• the deaths of author Robert Louis Stevenson (1894), painter Pierre Auguste Renoir (1919)
• Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and US President George HW Bush declaring the Cold War over (1989)

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