Squiz Today / 20 May 2020

Squiz Today – Wednesday, 20 May


"I'm all gravy, baby."

Which is Texan for “I’m good with that” as revealed in this news report about the challenges of maintaining social distancing during something called the 'Go Topless Jeep Weekend'. So much to absorb…


As nations continued their discussions on dealing with the spread of the COVID-19 virus at the World Health Assembly yesterday, there were positive signs from the world's first human vaccine trial. Run by the US Government's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, vaccine maker Moderna said initial results show the human guinea pigs are producing 'neutralising antibodies' similar to those found in people infected with the actual virus. Which is a good thing. Not surprisingly, Moderna’s share price soared yesterday.

Larger trials of the vaccine they call mRNA-1273 will test if it will protect people against infection. That phase starts in July. But there's a long way to go with more work to be done on the dosage and its safety/side effects, amongst a million other things. And it's not the world's only option... There are more than 80 groups around the world working on a vaccine. In fact, human trials are starting in Australia next week, a report in The Australian (paywall) says this morning. But these trials are not a guaranteed road to success. Results from a human trial in the UK are eagerly awaited after it was reported this week that Oxford University’s vaccine failed to protect test monkeys from contracting coronavirus.

The World Health Assembly has ‘approved without objection’ the push for “an impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation into COVID-19 ... to review the lessons learned from the international health response coordinated by the World Health Organisation (WHO)". China had pushed back about the timing of the review, but it waved through the motion that stipulates a start date of "the earliest appropriate moment". As one of the architects of the inquiry, "Australia will continue to be a consistent and constructive voice in the international community," Foreign Minister Marise Payne said overnight, but China’s embassy in Canberra said we shouldn’t get too full of ourselves. Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has threatened to permanently withdraw funding from the WHO criticising its handling of the coronavirus outbreak and calling it a “puppet of China”.



• Australia has recorded its 100th coronavirus death as the number of cases tipped over the 7,000 mark. The tragic total was reached with the death of 93-year-old Alice Bacon at Newmarch House, the troubled aged care facility in Sydney where 19 residents have died after contracting the coronavirus.

• The tap on free child care will likely be turned off at the end of June. A review released yesterday said extra government funding to keep the sector alive had done its job. And with the arrangement costing taxpayers $131 million a week, Education Minister Dan Tehan is considering the government’s next move.

• Qantas is keen to get passengers back in the air and has announced measures to prevent the spread of the virus. But blocking seats to enforce social distancing isn’t one measure it’s considering. "Given the low transmission risk on board, we don't believe it's necessary in order to be safe," Qantas medico Dr Ian Hosegood said. Others say the decision is driven by the profit motive.

• Using spit v sweat on a cricket ball - it’s a debate for our times...

• You might have heard something about US President Donald Trump taking anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine to help keep him safe from coronavirus despite public health officials warning it may be unsafe? The best explainer is his own words


Zlate Cvetanovski was freed from prison yesterday as he appeals three criminal convictions that he says were tainted by the role played by his lawyer-turned-police-informer Nicola Gobbo. Cvetanovski has served 11 years in prison after he was accused of trafficking drugs for notorious Victorian drug lord Tony Mokbel. Victoria's Royal Commission into the ‘Lawyer X’ scandal has heard evidence that Gobbo helped police put Cvetanovski in jail by convincing a key witness - a drug cook - to testify against him. "The case quite clearly stood or fell on the word of (that person) and that underscores the significance of the lack of disclosure," Cvetanovski’s lawyer said. It follows the quashing of the murder conviction of fellow underworld figure Faruk Orman amid similar circumstances involving Gobbo.


The pictures give a sense of how big it is… Authorities in Myanmar have seized the region’s largest-ever haul of synthetic drugs. More than 200 million methamphetamine tablets, 500kg of crystal methamphetamine, 300kg of heroin and 3,700lt of methylfentanyl - a product used to make the opioid fentanyl - have been found in raids in the country’s Shan state. Thirty-three people have been arrested with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime saying the scale of the seizure indicated "unprecedented" production of synthetic opioids in the infamous 'Golden Triangle'. That's the area covering the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar where much of the world's opium is produced.


Millions of people in India and Bangladesh have been evacuated with Category 4 ‘super’ Cyclone Amphan due to make landfall today. Amphan is the strongest storm ever recorded in the Bay of Bengal, sustaining wind speeds of up to 270km/hr on Monday night. While the storm system has weakened a bit, it’s expected to lash West Bengal and Bangladesh coastlines today with strong winds, heavy rain and storm surges. It’s a tricky situation, with many thousands of workers returning to the area from the cities amid the coronavirus crisis. And there is a shortage of shelters for evacuees with most being used as quarantine facilities.


In an attempt to save the written word before the internet completely trashes it, the Australian Government is updating its Style Manual. Once considered the bible for anyone wanting to write English good, the guide was last updated in 2002. And a lot has happened since then lol… Working on it is the Australian National Uni’s National Dictionary Centre and Oxford University Press Australia. “As the authority on Australian English, we are looking forward to contributing to the Australian Government’s Style Manual, ensuring the highest standards for writing and publishing are maintained,” said one of the authors. Godspeed…


Does the complicated time in which we live have you yearning for an existence where the pinging of your phone has been replaced by no screens, homemade bread, doilies and prairie dresses/denim overalls? Ironically, there’s an internet subculture for that…


12.30pm Industry Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews to address the National Press Club - Canberra

ABS Data Release - Retail Trade, preliminary numbers for April

World Bee Day

Birthdays for Cher (1946) and Louis Theroux (1970)

Anniversary of:
• the first publication of Shakespeare's Sonnets (1609)
• Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis patenting the first blue jeans (1873)
• Saudi Arabia becoming independent of Great Britain (1927)
• Sukarno becoming the first president of Indonesia (1963)
• East Timor’s independence (2002)
• Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro winning a second term in an election marred by boycotts and accusations of vote-rigging (2018)

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