“No one owes you or your family anything, nor is it the local government’s responsibility to support you during trying times like this! Sink or swim, it’s your choice! “
Said Colorado City mayor Tom Boyd to residents struggling to deal with the devastating once-in-a-generation winter cold snap that has struck the US. So, yeah, he resigned given the backlash…
FACEBOOK UNFRIENDS AUSTRALIA
Seventeen million Aussie Facebook users were yesterday blocked from sharing or posting news content to the mega social media platform. The Facebook pages of the country’s big and small news outlets were blanked yesterday morning, as were those of key government agencies, including health departments and the Bureau of Meteorology, charities, businesses, and mothers groups. Many pages that were ‘inadvertently’ scrubbed have been restored. Spared the broom was… The Squiz. Just don’t tell Facebook…
ENOUGH ABOUT YOU… WHAT’S GOING ON?
The epic dummy spit/power move (depending on your viewpoint…) comes as the Federal Parliament considers a plan to make Facebook and Google pay for Australian news content on their platforms. Announcing the proposed mandatory bargaining code in December, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said a balance needs to be restored for Aussie media businesses to survive. “For every $100 of online advertising spend, $53 goes to Google, $28 goes to Facebook, and $19 goes to other participants,” Frydenberg said at the time. In response, Google said its search engine would be pulled from Australia (but PM Scott Morrison said the company was feeling “more positive” and has gone on to ink content deals). And Facebook, which says the move “fundamentally misunderstands” the relationship between it and publishers, said it would stop Aussies from posting news links rather than pay up. And yesterday, it made good on its threat.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Both the Coalition and Labor Party support the code. PM Scott Morrison said Facebook’s moves were “as arrogant as they were disappointing” and the government won’t pull back on the legislation as he talks to world leaders to recruit support. Labor’s Treasury spokesperson Jim Chalmers said it was the Coalition’s mess to clean up, but Facebook’s move would have consequences for people who want “credible news from credible sources.” So Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will keep talking to the man who giveth and taketh away – Mark Zuckerberg. As for Facebook, it’s an open question – will it be ok with being labelled a bad actor as it stands on the principle of refusing to pay for news? Or maybe the social media platform thinks it will get Aussies on side? Or perhaps it doesn’t mind either way, given Oz is not a big market, and the company says news isn’t big revenue? Watch this space…
SQUIZ THE REST
MINISTER ‘DEEPLY SORRY’ FOR HIGGINS HURT
Under pressure to outline what she knew and did about staff member Brittany Higgins’ alleged sexual assault by another member of her team in her Parliament House office in 2019, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds provided some details to the Senate yesterday. In the immediate aftermath of the alleged attack, “it was a complex and it was a highly sensitive matter,” and “Brittany’s welfare and her right to privacy were paramount,” Reynolds said. And she was “deeply sorry that some of my actions and my handling of this matter added to Brittany’s distress,” she said, later becoming tearful. Calls for Reynolds’ resignation are ramping up. Meanwhile, The Australian this morning (paywall) has put a question mark over PM Morrison’s denial that his office found out about the alleged rape no earlier than last Friday. It’s published a text message from Higgins’s friend to her saying he “spoke to the PMO” about her need for support within a fortnight of the alleged attack.
ROLLIN’ ROLLIN’ ROLLIN’
With the first jabs of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine set to be administered in Australia on Monday, Health Minister Greg Hunt yesterday revealed more details on the rollout. Quarantine and border control workers will receive the first doses with around 240 aged care facilities in almost 200 towns next in line. Picking those sites has been done “on a risk basis for the country as well as making sure there’s diversity across urban and rural,” Hunt said. Sixteen “Pfizer vaccination hubs” will also be set up in hospitals in major cities. Speaking of COVID recovery, Australia’s employment market grew for the 4th consecutive month with the unemployment rate dipping from 6.6% in December to 6.4% in January. Led by job growth in Victoria following its 4-month lockdown, an extra 29,100 jobs were created last month. That means 93% of jobs lost in March last year have now been recovered.
SUFFERING THROUGH THE COLD SNAP
At least 30 people have died and millions of Americans are still without power as the polar vortex that’s brought record snowfall and dramatic sub-zero temperatures this week hindered recovery efforts. While states including Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas are among those struggling to deal with the icy chill, the worst hit has been Texas where almost 2 million people are still without power. The state’s deregulated power market – the only one in the country – has been blamed for the widespread blackouts. Some weather types attribute the unusual cold snap to climate change and warn that Arctic warming will push freezing weather events further south in coming years. The coldest place in the US last night was in Alaska with -62C, but that doesn’t count… Next coldest was Rogers Pass in Montana (on the Canadian border) with -56.7C…
PERSEVERANCE TO TOUCH DOWN
NASA’s Perseverance rover is due to land on the Red Planet at around 7.55am (AEST) this morning after 7 months of travel – and 7 minutes of terror… That’s not to say it’s a done deal – nearly 50% of previous missions failed to land their spacecraft on Mars. Working in NASA’s favour is the fact they’ve been the ones that have made most of the successful landings, and sometimes you’ve gotta work the percentages… If successful, Perseverance (alongside the Ingenuity helicopter drone) will attempt to find out what life, if any, has ever existed there. The rover’s first stop is the Jezero Crater, which scientists reckon may have once held water – and with it, living creatures. You can watch the landing and view an interactive map of the rover’s movements here.
GET YOUR TENNIS ON IT’S FINALS WEEKEND...
Ok. The Australian Open’s women’s final on Saturday night is set with Japan’s Naomi Osaka taking on America’s Jennifer Brady. Osaka, who yesterday crushed Serena Williams’ dreams, is favoured with grand slam finals experience under her belt. For Brady, it’s her first major final appearance – not bad for one of the 51 players confined to 14 days hotel quarantine after cases of COVID were detected on her flight to Oz. And she’s Ash Barty doubles partner, so there’s that in her favour… And on Sunday night for the men’s singles, we know it’ll be Novak Djokovic in his 9th Oz Open final. Who he plays will be decided tonight when Russian Daniil Medvedev plays Stefanos Tsitsipas.
FRIDAY LITES - THREE THINGS WE LIKED THIS WEEK
The second series of Staged with David Tennant and Michael Sheen (or Michael Sheen and David Tennant…). It went up on ABC iView this week. If you haven’t seen the first series, get on it. It’s a treat.
It’s been driving us bonkers all week, this craving for a particular chicken curry which we haven’t made for a while. So tonight, it’s on. Don’t be put off by making your own paste – it’s a ‘chuck it in the blender/food processor/Thermomix and blitz’ kinda thing. One thing we don’t do is the coconut rice, as delish as it is. We’re steamed basmati types…
SQUIZ THE DAY
7.30pm (AEDT) – Australian Open Tennis Semi-Final – Daniil Medvedev v Stefanos Tsitsipas
7.55am (AEDT) – NASA’s Mars 2020 mission (containing the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter drone) to attempt to land
9.00am (AEDT) – Former PM Kevin Rudd kicks off the first public hearing for the Senate Inquiry into media diversity in Australia – Canberra
Adelaide Fringe festival starts (on until 21 March)
ABS Data Release – Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey; Schools, 2020; Retail Trade, January
7.45pm (AEDT) – First game of the Super Rugby season kicks off – Queensland Reds v NSW Waratahs – Brisbane
Birthdays for Jeff Daniels (1955), Prince Andrew (1960), Seal (1963) and Millie Bobby Brown (2004)
• the founding of the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, now known as Kellogg’s (1906)
• the bombing of Darwin by Japanese forces (1942)
7.30pm (AEDT) – Australian Open Tennis Women’s Singles Final
Birthdays for Ivana Trump (1949), Cindy Crawford (1966) and Rihanna (1988)
• British naval officer John Moresby discovering the site of what would become Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea and claiming it for Britain (1873)
• the birthday of Kurt Cobain (1967)
• the Southern Hemisphere’s most powerful storm on record (296km/hour), Cyclone Winston, hitting Fiji (2016)
• Venezuela becoming the first country to launch a virtual currency, the petro, to counteract their financial crisis (2018)
7.30pm (AEDT) – Australian Open Tennis Men’s Singles Final
Tennis – the Adelaide International begins – Adelaide (funny that…)
Birthdays for director Jordan Peele (1979), and actors Elliot Page (1987) and Sophie Turner (1996)
• the publication of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ The Communist Manifesto (1848)
• the first issue of New Yorker magazine (1925)
• the birthdays of singer Nina Simone (1933) and actor Alan Rickman (1946)
• the assassination of civil rights activist Malcolm X (1965)
• Richard Nixon becoming the first US President to visit China, normalising relations between the countries in a meeting with Chinese leader Mao Zedong in Beijing (1972)
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Weather information reproduced with the permission of the Bureau of Meteorology