Squiz Today / 25 February 2020

Squiz Today – Tuesday, 25 February


"Namaste Trump"

Is the name of the public reception for US President Donald Trump on his arrival in India’s Ahmedabad yesterday. Which contrasts nicely with the "Howdy, Modi!" party Texans threw India's PM Narendra Modi last year. Another contrast: Trump's attempt at pronouncing some cricket greats’ names…


Cindy Low, Kate Goodchild, her brother Luke Dorsett and his partner Roozi Araghi died when their raft on the Thunder River Rapids ride at the Gold Coast’s Dreamworld theme park flipped on October 25, 2016. And after a long inquiry, Queensland’s Coroner James McDougall yesterday released his report from the investigation into their deaths that found the "systemic failure by Dreamworld in relation to all aspects of safety". McDougall also confirmed he would refer Ardent Leisure, the park’s owner, for possible prosecution under workplace safety laws.

The inquiry heard a malfunctioning pump led to the water level to drop near the unloading point. That meant the rafts were sitting on rails. A raft carrying six people became vertical when it bumped into an empty raft that was stuck on the rails. Four of the occupants died when they were thrown from the raft onto the conveyor belt mechanism. It’s believed they died instantly. Two children (Low’s 10yo son and Goodchild’s 12yo daughter) were thrown free and survived.

Well, the coroner did not spare Ardent from criticism. And now Ardent will wait to hear if the Queensland Office of Industrial Relations will prosecute them. The company can be fined up to $3 million and individuals fined up to $600,000 or jailed for up to five years. Ardent’s CEO John Osborne said changes had been made since the tragedy and it would implement all the coroner's recommendations. The families of the victims spoke of their heartbreak yesterday. Amongst the grief, Cindy Low’s mother Donna Cooke said she had written to the young woman who was operating the ride at the time. "I know my daughter wouldn't want her to carry the burden," she said in a statement.



Former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has been found guilty of two counts in his sexual assault trial - those are the lesser charges of third-degree rape and a criminal sexual act in the first degree. The 67yo was acquitted of predatory sexual assault and first-degree rape - the most serious charges he faced. Weinstein had pleaded not guilty to assaulting former production assistant Miriam Haley and raping Jessica Mann, a former aspiring actress. Yet to be sentenced, he faces up to 25 years in prison, and his attorney is already filing an appeal following the verdict. And it’s not over on the court front for Weinstein - he faces charges of rape and sexual assault of two women in Los Angeles in 2013.


Facing 18 charges in the US for encouraging, receiving and publishing classified documents linked to its national security, Aussie WikiLeaker Julian Assange faces up to 175 years in jail if he is sent to America to face trial. So the stakes are high as his extradition trial kicked off in London overnight. The US argues Assange put the lives of its sources and informants in danger by naming them in the thousands of documents that were made public, although it could not prove that anyone had been killed. Assange's lawyers will outline their case tonight. This won’t be wrapped up anytime soon - the case will be suspended until mid-May to allow both sides more time to gather evidence.


Our top intelligence chief, ASIO’s Mike Burgess, has delivered the agency’s annual threat assessment from inside its Canberra headquarters saying there’s a lot of spying going on... Foreign espionage and interference activities against Australia were higher now than at any time during the Cold War, he said in a rare public address yesterday. And worryingly, he says "the number of terrorism leads we are investigating right now has doubled since this time last year." That means a terrorist attack on Australian soil remains "probable". Burgess said ASIO is also concerned by the rise in right-wing extremism that’s been in sharp focus since last year’s Christchurch mosque attacks. "In suburbs around Australia, small cells regularly meet to salute Nazi flags, inspect weapons, train in combat and share their hateful ideology," Burgess said. While an attack from such groups would be "low capability", ASIO believes a "sophisticated" attack could be possible.


The COVID-19 outbreak is China’s worst public health crisis since the advent of the Communist Party rule in 1949, President Xi Jinping said to a big meeting of party officials on Sunday. And the episode will likely have a “great impact” on the country’s economy. That sentiment reverberated around world markets yesterday, including ours where $51 billion in value was wiped off the broader All Ordinaries index. Also on investors' minds - the rising number of confirmed cases in other parts of the world like South Korea (where K-Pop phenomenon BTS will tape their upcoming performances to keep the crowds at bay), Japan, Iran and Italy. The World Health Organisation said overnight that nations should be preparing for a pandemic. A numbers update: global infections have passed 78,000 in more than 30 countries and there have been more than 2,600 deaths. The vast majority of both counts are in China.


A growing renewable energy sector and a fall in agricultural emissions due to drought has seen Australia’s carbon emissions falling by 0.3% in the year to September 2019, according to official data. Going up are emissions from the boom in Australian gas exports and industrial pollution. The result led Labor’s Climate spokesman Mark Butler to label the Coalition's climate policies “hopelessly inadequate”. But Energy Minister Angus Taylor praised the “very strong result”, and argued the use of Australian gas overseas is keeping global emissions down. And there’s also plenty happening off-Broadway… Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce and Labor's Joel Fitzgibbon went toe-to-toe in the middle of Parliament House’s Press Gallery yesterday. The only thing missing was the popcorn…


A 62yo former US Marine broke the Guinness World Record for the longest plank after he held the position for an ab-watering eight hours, 15 minutes and 15 seconds. It’s the second time George Hood has broken the record after claiming the title in 2011 when he held a plank for one hour and 20 minutes. But in 2016, he lost the record to China’s Mao Weidong, who planked for eight hours, eight minutes. The secret to Hood’s success? Training seven hours a day for 18 months. Yeah, nah.


Clean Up Australia Day for Businesses

Shrove Tuesday aka Pancake Day aka Mardi Gras aka Fat Tuesday….

Birthdays for Chelsea Handler (1975), Rashida Jones (1976) and Jameela Jamil (1986)

Anniversary of the deaths of Tennessee Williams (1983), Don Bradman (2001)

Anniversary of Muhammad Ali winning his first heavyweight championship title (1964)

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