“You need a pause to refresh the mind… When you return, you see things differently.”
L’horreur… The French Government will allow employees to eat lunch at their desks as part of the fight against the spread of the coronavirus. Previously forbidden under their labour code, dining ‘al desko’ is a fine Australian tradition. There was even a show about it…
CHENG LEI ARRESTED ON SPY CHARGES
After being held for almost 6 months by Chinese authorities, Australian journalist Cheng Lei has been charged with “illegally supplying state secrets overseas”. An official investigation will now commence as Australian officials seek information on what the charges relate to. Foreign Minister Marise Payne yesterday said that China formally advised Australia of the development late last week and that our officials “continue to seek assurances of her being treated appropriately”.
BACK IT UP A BIT…
Cheng is a 46yo single mum and high profile journalist. Born in China, she moved with her parents to Oz when she was 10yo and became an Aussie citizen. Her 2 children are with her family in Melbourne. She was an 8-year veteran of the state-owned English-language news channel CGTN and had previously worked for America’s CNBC. In mid-August last year, Australia was advised that she’d been placed under ‘residential surveillance at a designated location’ in Beijing – a form of detention where it can take 6 months to be arrested, charged, and given access to a lawyer. Reports say she had been critical of the Chinese Government’s coronavirus response. But her detention came as cracks in Australia’s relationship with China were wide, which had experts wondering aloud if that had anything to do with it.
It’s hard to say because China’s wheels of justice don’t turn quickly or transparently… Payne says Australia expects the “basic standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment to be met, in accordance with international norms.” That hasn’t played out for Sydney academic and democracy activist Yang Hengjun – he’s been held by Chinese authorities for 2 years over spying claims. Meanwhile, the official travel advice for Australians needing to go to China remains at the level it was raised to after Cheng’s detention – that they might be “at risk of arbitrary detention.”
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SOUTH AFRICA'S PLEASE EXPLAIN...
South Africa has hit pause on its planned rollout of a million jabs of the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID vaccine scheduled for later this week. It follows the findings of a small study that says it wouldn’t provide much protection against mild and moderate cases of the country’s highly contagious strain. The nation’s next steps will be decided after receiving more advice. Health Minister Greg Hunt is unconcerned by the findings. Our regulator is yet to approve the Oxford vaccine for use, but 53.8 million doses have been pre-booked in anticipation. Growing in volume is commentary that vaccine strategies will need to adjust to the mutating virus. Some experts say the goal should be protecting vulnerable people against severe cases of COVID – which is what AstraZeneca/Oxford says its vaccine will do.
CASUALTIES MOUNT AFTER GLACIER BREAK
At least 18 people have been confirmed dead, and as many as 200 are missing after a Himalayan glacier collapsed and triggered a massive flood in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand. It’s thought that most of the missing are workers from 2 hydropower plants in the valley. Troops are digging through the debris, but the focus is on saving 37 workers stuck inside a tunnel at one of the plants. The extreme water volume that was unleashed has destroyed at least one plant and has damaged a chain of others located along the river. While the disaster’s exact cause is still unconfirmed, experts said it could be linked to climate change. Video footage of the water coming down the valley is terrifying…
MYANMAR’S MILITARY COMMANDER PLEDGES AN ELECTION
In a nationally televised address, General Min Aung Hlaing says there will be a new election. After that, the military will hand power to the winner to form a “true and disciplined democracy”. He repeated claims that last November’s poll – which saw Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League of Democracy party win 70% of the vote – was fraudulent. A timeframe for the election wasn’t set, and Suu Kyi’s party’s participation is thought unlikely. “I want to make a request to every citizen that everyone should go with the true facts and not to follow feelings of your own,” Min Aung Hlaing said. Big crowds of protestors continued to demonstrate against the coup yesterday. And Australian economist Professor Sean Turnell’s family made a plea for his release from detention.
TRUMP IMPEACHMENT TRIAL: TAKE 2
Accused of “creating a powder keg, striking a match, and then seeking personal advantage from the ensuing havoc,” former US president Donald Trump’s impeachment trial will be underway this time tomorrow. Democrats will use Trump’s own words against him in their quest to see him convicted of inciting insurrection. They say that happened when he urged a 6 January rally of supporters to “show strength” and march on Washington’s Capitol. Five people were killed in the process, including a police officer. Trump’s side says he did not call for any violence. One certainty: not enough Republicans will vote with Democrats to see him found guilty. So what’s the point? The gravity of events meant they couldn’t go unanswered – on that senior Democrats and Republicans agree. How long the trial will go for and whether Trump will be forced to appear are details that are yet to be settled.
ON THE FIELD AND COURT
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady clinched his 7th Super Bowl and his 5th Super Bowl MVP award as his team trounced the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 yesterday. It was Brady’s first championship win with the new franchise after moving from the New England Patriots last year, but he’s not making comparisons. “I think they’re all special,” he said. Another notable note: played in Tampa, Florida, this Super Bowl was the first time a team has won the title at home in its 55 years. And in tennis – no major upsets on day one of the first round. Plenty of Aussies are through to the next stage, including Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios. World #1 Ash Barty ends her year away from the grand slam circuit when she plays Montenegrin Danka Kovinić tonight.
APROPOS OF NOTHING - SPORT EDITION
Every year the Super Bowl provides an embarrassment of riches, and this year is no different… To the show first, and The Weeknd received mixed reviews – you can judge for yourself here. Critics aside, there was one mum who appreciated the social distancing elements…
And the mega line up of the year’s best TV ads. At US$5.5 million/30 seconds, it would want to be special… Our picks: Will Ferrell‘s Nordic navigation was a bit off; Sesame Street has come a long way on its commercial journey; the son of Edward Scissorhands and Winona Ryder are living their best lives. And our favourite – a 5-second effort from Reddit.
And to the Oz Open – with line umpires relegated to the pre-COVID era, an amped-up version of Hawk-Eye is adjudicating the close calls. And it will be the voice of 8 everyday Aussie heroes – volunteers and first-line responders – who will announce the “fault” or “out” calls. Nice touch.
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Start of the US Senate Impeachment Trial against former president Donald Trump
If ever there was an argument to adopt a US-themed day, it’s National Pizza Day…
Birthdays for author Alice Walker (1944), Derryn Hinch (1944), Mia Farrow (1945), Gina Rinehart (1954), Glenn McGrath (1970), Tom Hiddleston (1981), Michael B Jordan (1987) and Rose Leslie (1987)
• the first flight of a Boeing 727 jet (1963)
• the Beatle’s first appearance on The Ed Sullivan show (1964)
• the death of Princess Margaret, the sister of Queen Elizabeth II (2002)
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