Squiz Today / 28 August 2019

Squiz Today – Wednesday, 28 August


"What the hell was that all about?"

Said Team USA basketball coach Gregg Popovich over Aussie spectators’ embrace of Milwaukee Bucks player Brook Lopez in a game against Canada in Sydney on Monday night. The crowd’s random adoption of the little-known American centre saw Popovich cave in to demands to put Lopez on the court. Oh Australia, don’t go changing…


A new test of Australia’s relationship with China was set yesterday with the formal arrest of Australian citizen Dr Yang Hengjun on suspicion of spying. The academic, writer and China critic has been in detention since January when he travelled from America to China with his wife and daughter. Since then, he has been under investigation for harming China's national security and has not had access to legal advice or been allowed to see his family. Worse, there are reports that Yang is being held in terrible conditions and has been subject to twice-daily interrogations on little sleep.

Yang, 54yo, had a profile in China as a blogger advocating for democratic reforms. Chinese-born, Yang worked for their Ministry of Foreign Affairs and eventually came to live in Sydney via stints in Hong Kong and the US. Before his detention in January, he’d been living in America and was a visiting scholar at Columbia University. With almost 130,000 Twitter followers and a popular blog, supporters said he had not been directly critical of Chinese authorities in recent years. As for the accusations against him – it's hard to say. Other than confirming he had been under investigation for harming the country's national security, China has not confirmed the details.

Pundits say the situation hasn’t been helped by things between China and Australia being strained of late. Think our pushback against China’s assertiveness in the Pacific, our new foreign interference laws, and the ban on Huawei from participating in the rollout of our 5G network. And despite China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi saying earlier this month that he wanted to see the relationship "back on track as soon as possible," Foreign Minister Marise Payne isn’t getting much joy from our biggest trading partner. She yesterday said Yang wasn’t spying for us, and there’s no evidence he was spying for anyone else. “I respectfully reiterate my previous requests that if Dr Yang is being held for his political beliefs, he should be released," she said. The penalties for espionage charges range from three years in jail to the death penalty.



Stoking further concerns about Australia’s education standards, preliminary results from this year’s NAPLAN tests (a annual series of tests for students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9) show little improvement over the last 10 years in essential literacy and numeracy skills, reports this morning say. The result comes despite combined government funding for education hitting a record $57.8 billion in 2016-17. Particularly concerning are the results for writing with about 10% of year 7 students falling short of the minimum standard. Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said some improvements have been made but “there remains room to improve, particularly in the high school years."


Because it’s cool to be current…

BRAZIL REJECTS FIRE FUNDS - "Thanks, but maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe," said Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s chief-of-staff Onyx Lorenzoni rejecting the G7 nations’ proposed donation of A$30 million to help fight the fires devastating the Amazon region. French President Emmanuel Macron said it was appropriate for the world to get involved because of the forest region’s importance to global oxygen production and carbon capture.

SETKA ON ROAD TO EXPULSION - Victoria’s construction union boss John Setka lost an important round in his fight to stop his expulsion from the Labor Party. Victoria's Supreme Court yesterday ruled it could not interfere with the party’s internal processes, however, federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese needs to refer to the party’s Victorian branch rules in his quest to expel him. Albanese moved against Setka after he denigrated the work of family violence prevention campaigner Rosie Batty in June.

INDONESIA NAMES ITS NEW CAPITAL - Indonesian President Joko Widodo has announced the country’s new capital will be located in the East Kalimantan province on the island of Borneo. What about Jakarta? It’s overcrowded, polluted, running out of water, and it’s sinking. The government will start acquiring the land from next year.


In a landmark ruling, an Oklahoma court has ordered drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson to pay the state $572 million (almost A$850 million) for intentionally misrepresenting the dangers of opioid medications. Although falling far short of the $17 billion payout the state was hoping to win, the judgment has set a precedent for 2,000ish similar opioid lawsuits pending across America. Johnson & Johnson supplies approximately 60% of opiate ingredients (which are grown by poppy farmers in Tasmania) to drug companies that make painkillers like oxycodone and fentanyl. The company’s lawyer said it will pursue an appeal.


Ugh, this drought just won’t quit. Parts of south-east Queensland are experiencing a record-breaking dry spell. It hasn’t rained in 72 days in Warwick smashing its previous record of 58 days in 2017. Similarly, Ipswich hasn’t recorded a drop of rain for nearly 50 days. Meteorologist Harry Clark said Queensland is in the driest stage of its annual weather cycle, but dry conditions have been exacerbated by last summer being particularly precipitation-free. Although the region’s dry spell is forecast to end with showers over the next few days, it’s unlikely to be even close to drought-breaking.


When it comes to royal scandals, Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn has seen a couple in his time. After marrying one of his personal security agents, Suthida Tidjai, back in May, the King has officially taken a concubine. Thailand’s palace website crashed after it released unprecedented images showing 34yo former army nurse Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi piloting a plane and aiming a rifle. Sineenat is the first woman to receive the title of Royal Consort in almost a century.


Wanna be one of the kool kids today? First, don't spell 'cool' with a 'k'. Next, tell your nearest youngster that the 36th annual VMA awards were split between two names: pop dominator Taylor Swift (who won Video of the Year for You Need To Calm Down), and Lil Nas X (who won Song of the Year for Old Town Road for his song featuring the father of a defiant Miley Cyrus). Ariana Grande took out Artist of the Year, with Billie Eilish claiming Best New Artist. As for the red carpet, from Lizzo’s Jessica Rabbit-esquered Moschino gown to Lenny Kravitz’s double-denim throwback, the red carpet was an interesting mix of fancy jackets (no pants required) and… snakes?


ABS Data Release - Construction Work Done, June

Company Earnings Results - Afterpay; Bega Cheese; Bellamy’s; Virgin Australia

National Meals on Wheels Day

Birthdays for Shania Twain (1965), Sonia Kruger (1965), Sheryl Sandberg (1969)

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