The latest from Squiz Today

“If you continue to drink after you’ve had a cardiac event, it’s not that bad for you.” Said alcohol researcher Emmanuela Gakidou of her findings that drinking a little alcohol each week protects your heart if you have a cardiovascular condition. It’s doctor’s orders…

The US will call time by the end of the year, it was confirmed yesterday. President Joe Biden has promised Iraqi PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi that the US would continue to train and advise Iraqi forces who continue to fight Islamic State jihadists. And Kadhimi, who is walking a fine political line in the region, thanked the US for the “blood and treasure that America has given for a free and democratic Iraq.”

Troops from America, the UK and Australia invaded Iraq in 2003 to remove President Saddam Hussein and his regime. Coalition forces were also tasked with finding and eliminating the weapons of mass destruction believed to be held by Hussein’s regime, which they feared could be unleashed on the West. Plot twist: they didn’t exist, and once the old guard was removed, the flowers of peace did not bloom. What happened was Iraq was engulfed by a bloody sectarian insurgency. US troops eventually withdrew in 2011 but were back in 2014 thanks to the rise of Islamic State. It was defeated by the end of 2017, but about 2,500 US troops have stayed on to block any resurgence. Last year, PM Scott Morrison said the 300 Aussie troops and diplomats in Iraq would stay put to help counter IS. More than 4,000 US, 179 British and 4 Aussie troops died in Iraq during this period.

Hmm, Iraq faces no shortage of problems. In recent months, Iranian-backed militias operating inside Iraq have ramped up attacks on US forces, and soaring COVID infections have added to the pressure. Plus, there and ongoing concerns about an IS revival… That said, reports say many Iraqis would like to see the back of foreign forces, and it would be a feather in Kadhimi’s cap ahead of an election in October. As for the US, it’s getting out of the Middle East as its attention turns its attention elsewhere. Ahem, China

And it’s not just Sydney in lockdown, it’s also those in the surrounding regions of the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Shellharbour and Wollongong who will spend the better part of August in lockdown. The deets are expected when Premier Gladys Berejiklian delivers her update this morning, but further restrictions on movement, time outdoors, or putting up a Melbourne-style ‘ring of steel’ aren’t expected. It comes after the state’s highest daily figures of the outbreak were recorded yesterday with 172 new local cases – 79 were out and about during their infectious period. That’s not “where we want them to be,” Berejiklian said. Feeling a different vibe are those in Victoria, South Oz and parts of the NSW Central West as they taste freedom this morning, but it won’t be BAU. All have restrictions in place for now.

Tong Ying-kit, a 24yo waiter who was the first person to be charged under Hong Kong’s National Security Law, has been found guilty of inciting secession and terrorism. He was one of the millions of pro-democracy protestors in 2019, but he came to the attention of authorities after riding his motorbike into a group of police while carrying a flag with the words ‘Liberate Hong Kong’. For that, he faces life in prison. Since China forced through the law that prevents protest in Hong Kong at the start of last year, more than 100 people have been charged. And since the start of 2020, Hongkonger’s freedom of speech, the freedom of their media, and their right to choose their own pollies have been taken away as China makes the territory “safe”. Reports say there was “utter silence” when the verdict was read out to Tong yesterday.

The final death toll for the Florida apartment collapse is 98 people after the remains of the last person missing were recovered and identified, officials said yesterday. While it’s believed no more victims will be found, search teams will continue to sift through the debris for personal belongings to return to families. “We’ve reached the 98, but that doesn’t mean we are done,” Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo Ramirez said. “We are still working the evidence piles. And we will continue until we deem that we have done everything we can.” Authorities are still looking into what triggered last month’s collapse. Reports say the evidence points to structural deficiencies, and that has officials checking other buildings across South Florida.

Electric vehicle maker Tesla has posted US$1.12 billion profit for the April to June quarter, a 10-fold increase from the same time last year. Analysts say it shows Tesla is on the right financial track after years of losses. The latest result was driven (see what we did there…) by the doubling of car sales – 200,000 were bought in the quarter. Tesla’s also making money from regulatory credits – in fact, it made US$354 million selling them to other carmakers so that they can meet emissions standards. “I think everyone agrees at this point that EVs are the way forward,” Elon Musk said. Tesla is valued US$633 billion by the share market. By way of comparison, car giant General Motors, which sold almost 700,000 cars in the same quarter, is valued at US$80 billion…

…there’s plenty of good picks on the Booker Prize longlist. Nobel laureate and Remains of the Day author Kazuo Ishiguro hopes to claim his second Booker with Klara and the Sun. It’s about an ‘artificial friend’ purchased for a 14yo girl. Other big names making the list included Rachel Cusk’s Second Place and Richard Powers’ Bewilderment. Some were surprised by the omission of Normal People author Sally Rooney – her novel Beautiful World, Where Are You is set to be released in September. Judge Maya Jasanoff said the books are united by “their power to absorb the reader in an unusual story, and to do so in an artful, distinctive voice”. The shortlist will be announced on 14 September, and the winner on 3 November.

More than 2,000 dogs have been reunited with their owners thanks to the ‘canine-nine-nine’ rescue service. They use drones to spot runaway pooches, cows, horses, goats and the odd cat. Good thinking, 99…

A Manhattan restaurant has an 8-10 week waitlist… for the world’s most expensive hot chips. Sprinkled with edible gold, cooked in champagne and sprinkled with truffles, the creme de la creme of pomme de terres will put you back $271.

“I will show people anything you want to do, do it,” said Florida man Reza Baluchi as he launched his ‘walk’ from Florida to New York in a floatable bubble device earlier this week. And if you need any evidence that the universe is a snarky piece of work, he ended up being blown 50km in the wrong direction. That’s 2021 in a nutshell…

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