Squiz Today / 15 February 2023

Squiz Today – Wednesday, 15 February

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Squiz Today Podcast

Let’s go. 

Today’s listen time: 9.40 minutes

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Squiz Sayings

“Imagine a toddler with pliers in their head.”

Said biologist Antonio Osuna-Mascaró of the unique abilities of cockatoos. She’s finished a study that found they can select different tools to complete different tasks, making them the 3rd animal to be able to do that after humans and chimpanzees. Anyone with a bin and a chattering of cockies nearby could have told you they’re pretty clever…

A big review on defence comes in for landing

A highly anticipated report dealing with the “challenging strategic circumstances that we face” has been handed to PM Anthony Albanese and Defence Minister Richard Marles. Commissioned by the new government not long after last year’s election, former military chief Sir Angus Houston and Professor Stephen Smith, a former Labor Defence minister, were tasked with the Defence Strategic Review covering the structure, preparedness, posture and investment priorities of the Australian Defence Force. Before you get too excited, Marles says it will take “some weeks” to digest the findings, but there will be a ’declassified’ version of the report made public, along with the government’s response. For the Coalition’s part, Defence spokesman Andrew Hastie said they’re “reserving our judgment” for now.

Yeah, they’re not talking about whether our troops are standing up straight… That refers to whether our defence efforts are focused on the right things at the right level. And all the questions being asked are important for a few reasons… In total, our Defence budget is $48.6 billion this financial year – that covers the Australian Defence Force, the Department of Defence, and the Australian Signals Directorate (an intelligence agency involved in all things cyber warfare). There are also major defence projects with approved budgets totalling more than $70 billion, with some running over time and over budget. So managing the cost is a big deal. And the world has – and is – changing. Yesterday, Marles said we’re experiencing “the most complex strategic landscape that we have faced since the end of the 2nd World War”. That’s a nod to a few things, but most notably to Russia’s war on Ukraine, and in our region, to China.

Our political and military leaders aren’t into pointing fingers – in public, anyway. But for Australia, China’s growing influence in our region means our government has to hustle and adjust. That’s because China’s undertaking the largest peacetime military build-up in recorded history, and there’s the possibility of a permanent military presence near Oz via its partners in the Pacific (we’re looking at you, Solomon Islands…). And it’s not just Australia having to adjust to an assertive China – it’s an issue for many developed/democratic nations (including when balloons are involved…). That’s why AUKUS – our big new military alliance with the US and UK – is a piece of the puzzle. Note: Albanese is heading to Washington next month for meetings with US President Joe Biden and UK PM Rishi Sunak – so as they say in the classics, watch this space…

Australian News

Squiz the Rest

Gabrielle takes a toll

New Zealand has declared a national state of emergency as ex-tropical Cyclone Gabrielle continues to batter the North Island with severe flooding and landslides. It’s just the 3rd time the country has made the declaration – the ​​2011 Christchurch earthquake and the pandemic were the other 2 crises – and it allows Kiwi officials to deploy additional resources to the hardest-hit areas, including Auckland. Emergency Minister Kieran McAnulty said the worst of the storm has passed, but heavy rain and damaging winds are expected to continue for days. PM Chris Hipkins says it’s “too early” to say how many are affected, but at least 225,000 people are currently without power, and there are reports of people being trapped on their roofs/in cars in the Hawkes Bay-Tairāwhiti regions. These pictures show the extent of the damage – yikes…

Weather World News

Opening borders to earthquake-struck Syria

The Syrian Government will “very shortly” open up 2 more border crossings to allow international aid into the country following last week’s devastating earthquakes, the United Nations confirmed yesterday. This morning, the death toll sits at more than 40,000 people in Turkey (35,418) and Syria (5,500). It follows growing public anger about the lack of aid received by the war-torn country. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has blamed the aid delay on the impact of Western sanctions – international aid groups disagree, blaming the Assad Government’s mismanagement and refusal to engage with rebel-controlled northern parts of the country. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said opening the border crossings in Bab al-Salam and Al Ra’ee on the border with Turkey will ​​”make a big difference”. Currently, there is just one access point into the country.

World News

Girls’ mental health in the spotlight

A survey of 17,000 US students has revealed girls and LGBTQI+ teens are at a higher – and growing – risk of suffering poor mental health post-COVID. The results paint a grim picture… Nearly 3 in 5 girls felt “persistent sadness”, 30% had considered suicide (double the boys’ rate and up almost 60% in a decade), and for LGBTQI+ students, nearly half had suicidal thoughts. It’s timely, with the results of 2 recent NSW studies showing similar results. Emergency hospitalisations for 10–24yo Aussies considering suicide/self-harm increased 8.4% annually from 2015-21, but they’ve gone up 19.2% a year driven by presentations of girls aged 13–17yo. In contrast, the hospitalisation of 10–24yo males hasn’t increased since COVID. Mental health experts in both the US and Australia say isolation, online schooling, body image concerns and increased use of social media are likely behind the stats.

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Bol’s doping suspension lifted

“The relief I am feeling is hard to describe,” Peter Bol said yesterday after Athletics Australia lifted a provisional suspension placed on him in January. The Aussie 800m record holder came to national attention when he came 4th at the Tokyo Olympics, winning hearts with his backstory as a refugee from Sudan. In January, he revealed he’d failed an ‘out of competition’ doping test last year, testing positive for synthetic EPO. Bol denies he has ever used the substance and requested that a 2nd sample be analysed. Yesterday, he said he is free to return to training and competition, but it’s not over… The 2nd sample returned an atypical finding (ATF) for the substance, and Sport Integrity Australia said “an ATF is not the same as a negative test result”, and it will continue its investigation. Bol’s lawyer has strongly criticised officials’ handling of the case, saying the usual practice is for both samples to be tested before an athlete is publicly named.


Entertainers bank billions

The world’s 10 highest-earning celebrities have been named by Forbes, raking in more than US$1.3 billion in 2022. Although some of the biggest names going around today were – unsurprisingly – on the list, ageing rockers topped it. Supergroup Genesis seems to have an invisible touch, and every little thing Sting does is magic – they sold the rights to their music, taking out spots #1 and #2 with earnings of US$230 million and US$210 million, respectively. Billionaire actor/businessman Tyler Perry was #3, pulling in US$175 million (maybe due to some high-profile tenants?). And Brad Pitt’s production company sale gave him US$100 million. Taylor Swift’s album Midnights and her re-recorded back catalogue added US$92 million to her wealth. Some other notables: The Rolling Stones and the creators of both South Park and The Simpsons cartoons were on the list, while the only true newcomer was Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny – he came in at #10 with earnings of US$88 million. Not bad at all, Bad…

Business & Finance Entertainment

Apropos of nothing

If you’re wondering what happens to Boeing 737 passenger jets when they retire, a developer has converted one into a luxury private villa. Featuring 2 spacious bedrooms and an outdoor swimming pool, it makes first-class ticket look shabby.

Speaking of unusual vehicle conversions, one of US hotdog brand Oscar Mayer’s famous ‘Weinermobiles’ is back on the road after its catalytic converter was stolen in Las Vegas. It was in a bit of a pickle…

And a German ballet director has been suspended after he allegedly smeared a critic’s face with dog poo for giving his show a bad review. Talk about a crappy response…

Quirky News

Squiz the Day

11.15am (AEDT) – RBA Governor Philip Lowe to appear before the Senate Economics Committee for Estimates – Canberra

12.30pm (AEDT) – Tech Council of Australia boss Kate Pounder to address the National Press Club – Canberra

7.30pm (AEDT) – Men’s Basketball – NBL Semi-Final – Sydney Kings v Cairns Taipans – Sydney

Vanuatu PM Alatoi Ishmael Kalsakau arrives in Australia to discuss trade – Canberra

Company Results – Seven West Holdings; Treasury Wine Estates; Cochlear; Commonwealth Bank; Fortescue Metals Group; Wesfarmers

ABS Data Release – Schools, 2022

International Childhood Cancer Day

Single’s Awareness Day

Clean Out Your Computer Day

A birthday for The Simpsons creator Matt Groening (1954), Megan Thee Stallion (1995), and YouTube (2005)

Anniversary of:
• the birthdays of the ‘father of science’ Galileo Galilei (1564), and woman’s suffrage leader Susan B Anthony (1820)
• the production of the wartime propaganda poster “We Can Do It!” featuring Rosie the Riveter (1943)
• the first draft of the complete human genome is published in Nature (2001)

Squiz the Day

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