“I used to think that commissioning a hologram of your wife’s dead father who you never met and having him call you a genius from beyond the grave was proof of a perfect marriage but I guess I’ll have to rethink.”
CHINA BLOCKS COVID INVESTIGATORS
A team of 10 international experts working on the World Health Organisation’s investigation into the origins of the coronavirus has been denied entry into China. Two investigators were en route, but visas to enter the country didn’t come through in time. In a rare rebuke of China, WHO boss Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was “very disappointed” the officials were not allowed entry.
IS THIS THE INQUIRY AUSTRALIA STUCK ITS NECK OUT FOR?
Yep. That was in April last year if you can believe it. And since the world signed up to an inquiry in May, the WHO has been negotiating with China, coming to an agreement last month. This week, the team – including Professor Dominic Dwyer, an infectious diseases specialist from the University of Sydney – was ready to start work. Critics, including the US, say China’s role in the inquiry means it won’t get to the truth of what has happened. But Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she hoped China would get on with it. Australia’s advocacy for the inquiry has come at a cost… It’s referenced as one of the reasons why China has pulled billions of dollars worth of trade from our exporters.
WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING?
Last night, PM Scott Morrison said the National Cabinet will meet on Friday to discuss new super-spreading strains of the virus and international arrivals. Arrangements for a vaccination program is also on the agenda. And today, the third Test match between Australia and India kicks off at the Sydney Cricket Ground in front of a thinned out and masked crowd. The Australian Medical Association is disappointed the game is going ahead in Sydney saying NSW “needs to pump the brakes on mass gatherings until we can get on top of these outbreaks”.
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US POLITICAL PALOOZA
• A joint session of the US Congress is settling in for hours of debate as Republicans loyal to President Donald Trump move to contest the November election result. The session is being held to count and confirm electoral college votes, which is the usual process. But these are unusual times as Trump continues to dispute the result.
• Trump is pressuring Vice President Mike Pence, who is presiding over the session, to intervene in the process. “Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!” Trump tweeted this morning. Analysts say the bid is almost certain to fail.
• President Donald Trump’s supporters are holding a ‘Save America Rally’ in Washington DC to coincide with the count. The National Guard has been mobilised in anticipation of violent scenes.
• Meanwhile, in the Georgia runoff elections for 2 seats in the US Senate… The Democrats have won the race between incumbent Republican Kelly Loeffler and Pastor Raphael Warnock, who scored 50.6% support. And the Democrats have a nose in front in the second… Jon Ossoff is leading Republican incumbent David Perdue with 50.2%.
• Winning just one of those races represents a historic upset. Trump’s critics say it also represents a rejection of him and his antics post-election.
ASSANGE DENIED BAIL
Judge Vanessa Baraitser, who earlier this week knocked back an extradition request to have WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange face espionage charges and other charges in America, has also knocked back his bail application overnight. He has form on bolting while on bail, prosecutors successfully argued… That’s a reference to the 7 years he was holed up in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy until he was booted in April 2019. The US says it will appeal the extradition decision, and while the case is live, Baraitser says he will remain in custody. Assange’s team say they will appeal and have again called on America to drop the case against him.
HONG KONG CRACKDOWN
Fifty-three pro-democracy activists were arrested by Hong Kong authorities under the contentious security law yesterday. They have been accused of attempting to “overthrow the city’s government” for undertaking an independent primary vote in July last year to identify the most popular candidates ahead of a since-postponed election for the territory’s legislative assembly. It’s the largest crackdown since the controversial law was enacted mid-2020, and those arrested face potential life sentences. Those arrested include politicians, activists, academics, and US lawyer/chairman of the Asian Human Rights Commission John Clancey. Human Rights Watch said yesterday’s crackdown under the law mandated by Beijing removed the “remaining veneer of democracy in the city”.
EFFORTS TO RESTORE ORDER ON CHRISTMAS ISLAND
The Australian Border Force and police are working to bring unrest at the Christmas Island detention centre under control. Two of the 3 compounds were set on fire on Tuesday night by a “small number” of detainees after being denied permission to stage a peaceful protest against conditions at the centre. Refugee advocates say tensions have been building on Christmas Island in recent weeks. While yet to confirm the extent of the damage, authorities said a few detainees “continue to be non-compliant” but “the centre remains secure”. Reports say the centre is holding several adult male asylum-seekers who were found by authorities not to be refugees. A Sri Lankan family who lived in Biloela, Queensland and awaiting deportation are also being held at the centre.
PUDDY TATS NOT SO CUTE
Aussie wildlife are 20 times more likely to encounter a feral cat than a native predator, a new study has found. Researchers came to that conclusion after attaching tracking devices to 25 feral cats and 10 spotted-tailed quolls – native cat-sized cuties who are also meat-eating machines. They found that compared to Team Quoll, feral cats – which kill billions of native animals every year – eat more, are less selective hunters and are more widespread. One solution suggested by the study is to restore native habitats to create more places for wildlife to hide from cats. Which, in truth, is better than our idea to arm our native species with shields and swords… The Federal Government is due to release a new threatened species strategy later this year.
APROPOS OF NOTHING
Everyone’s a design critic, and the CIA – America’s foreign intelligence service – has copped it this week over a website refresh. Even the company that created some of the fonts they’ve licensed has moved to distance itself…
Also considering their approach was ‘Bean Dad’, who has taken up a prominent corner of the internet this week. Bragging about a parenting manoeuvre where his 9yo had to work out how to use a tin opener on her own to get the baked beans she wanted, social media had views… The tweets are read out with flair here.
And to a kinder, gentler time – the Stone Age. New research shows our Neanderthal cousins buried their dead, and that could show they had cognitive abilities that included respect for social customs. Just like the mobs on social media…
SQUIZ THE DAY
From 5.00am (AEDT) – A joint sitting of the US Congress begins to count and confirm the votes cast by the Electoral College in last year’s presidential election – Washington DC
10.30am (AEDT) – Men’s Test Cricket – Australia v India – Sydney
ABS Data Release – International Trade in Goods and Services, November; Building Approvals, November
Birthdays for designer Christian Louboutin (1963), actor Nicolas Cage (1964), rugby coach Ricky Stuart (1967), and champion racing car driver Lewis Hamilton (1985)
• Guy Menzies completing the first solo trans-Tasman flight from Sydney to West Coast of New Zealand (1931)
• the Charlie Hebdo terror attack in Paris with 12 people killed by Islamic extremists (2015)
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