“Those four sweet months where I only eat hot cross buns are upon us.”
Tweeted one HXB fan of the annual spiced bun fest that catches more people by surprise when they hit supermarket shelves on Boxing Day than Jesus had hot last suppers…
GEORGIA ON ELECTION-WATCHERS’ MINDS
The polls are open in Georgia for the runoff elections that are important to incoming US President Joe Biden’s next couple of years in the White House. It’s the state that’s been in the news this week after that phone call… Both Biden and outgoing President Donald Trump campaigned there yesterday as analysts predicted yet another very close result.
WHAT’S THAT ABOUT?
Good question. November saw not just the presidential election, but also US congressional elections, including for a third of the Senate. In Georgia, 2 Senate seats – both with Republican incumbents – were up for grabs but neither race saw a candidate gain 50% of the vote. That means runoff elections between the top 2 candidates for each spot. If both seats go the Democrats’ way, it would see a 50:50 split between the parties in the 100-seat Senate. Vice President Kamala Harris would hold a deciding vote, giving the Democrats the upper hand. But if the Republicans hold onto even one seat, they will maintain their majority in the Senate. Keep in mind that most bills need a 60-vote ‘supermajority’ to clear in the Senate. But holding a simple majority gives Team Biden the ability to dictate the agenda, dominate committees, and generally get more stuff done.
GIVE ME SOME FACT SNACKS…
• The candidates are interesting… There’s a former Reebok CEO, the richest politician in Washington DC, a pastor from the church where civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr once preached, and the boss of a production company that helps get movies made and journalism done in danger zones.
• More than US$450 million has been spent on advertising since mid-November – all to appeal to about 5 million voters. For context, it’s estimated the Liberals and Labor spent about $15 million each on ads during the 2019 federal election campaign.
• And it’s the first test of how Trump’s antics are going down with voters. Both Republican candidates are loyalists who have run their campaigns on a platform that he was robbed of victory. Will that fly with voters, or fly dangerously off course like a Home Depot fan? It might take some days before we know the answer, analysts say.
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DISAPPOINTMENT OVER BASHIR RELEASE
Abu Bakar Bashir, the radical Islamist cleric said to be behind the 2002 Bali bombings, is set to be released on Friday after being jailed in 2011 for his involvement in militant training in Indonesia’s Aceh province. The 82yo is the leader of the al-Qaeda linked terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah and is considered to be Indonesia’s most notorious extremist. Yesterday, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said his release will be “deeply distressing” to victims’ families and said the Australian Embassy in Jakarta has raised concerns with the Indonesian Government. Bashir maintains that he was not involved in the Bali attacks, killing 202 people, including 88 Aussies.
QANTAS SAYS ‘COME FLY WITH ME’ FROM 1 JULY
But the Federal Government says don’t get too excited about our international borders opening up just yet… There are no guarantees that Aussies will be allowed to head off overseas whenever they feel like it by the middle of the year, Deputy PM and Transport Minister Michael McCormack said yesterday. Still, that hasn’t stopped Qantas from making plans to get the show back in the air as it started selling tickets for travel from July for international routes. “We continue to review and update our international schedule in response to the developing COVID-19 situation,” she said. Kiwiland is the only international destination Qantas is currently flying to.
MAYBE GET YOURSELF SOME CANDLES…
Australia’s energy market requires some quick and heavy lifting to keep the lights on, a critical assessment has concluded. Chair of the Energy Security Board (ESB) Dr Kerry Schott said “years of insufficient action” and “band-aid solutions” have crippled the sector, and Australia has “just months” to avoid blackouts and other issues. The issues identified aren’t new: the lack of a national energy plan and the rise of renewable energy. Renewables are called out because they can’t currently offer our electricity grid a guaranteed supply of power because getting the sun to shine and wind to blow are things out of policymakers’ hands… Accepting the report’s findings, Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor urged the states and sector to get onboard “a coordinated approach to market design to keep the lights on and costs down”. Labor says that’s a vacuum Taylor and his government have created.
A DRENCHING IN THE SUNSHINE STATE
Parts of Far North Queensland are set to face “life-threatening flash flooding” with heavy rainfall continuing thanks to Cyclone Imogen. There has already been widespread damage to Karumba where it made landfall on Sunday night and across the region with 350mm of rain (about 15 inches in the old scale) falling in some parts. As the pics show, that’s a lot of water… More heavy rain and strong winds are forecast to continue over the next few days, with the weather bureau releasing severe weather warnings for the coastal stretch from Ayr to Tully, including Townsville. Local officials say there’s no threat to residential areas at this point, but locals have been urged to take care.
BIEBER NO LONGER A HILLSONG BELIEVER
Once the best-known celebrity worshiper in Australian-turned-international megachurch Hillsong’s flock, pop star Justin Bieber took to Instagram yesterday to say he’s cut ties with the organisation. Denying claims he was studying to become a pastor, Bieber said “Hillsong is not my church”. He is the latest star to get some distance after a scandal enveloped the church and high profile pastor Carl Lentz after it was confirmed he’d been an unfaithful husband. He’d baptised Bieber in 2014, and travelled to Sydney with the star for a church conference in 2017. Instead, Bieber said he’s now “part of Churchome”, a Beverly Hills-based evangelical church with other star worshipers.
APROPOS OF NOTHING
Possibly inspired by the Queen’s surprise visitor (as outlined in The Crown‘s latest series), a man was caught 2 hours after breaking into Japan’s palace. “I wanted to meet members of the imperial family,” he said.
There’s hair. There’s ice. Now, meet hair ice.
And nothing says romance quite like a coronavirus vaccination… For one couple who both work in healthcare in the US, that statement is probably true.
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11.00am (AEDT) – Polls close in Georgia runoff elections in the US
Julian Assange to appear in the Westminster Magistrates Court for a bail application – London
Sydney Festival begins (on until 26 January)
Birthdays for comedian Rowan Atkinson (1955), chef Nigella Lawson (1960), actor Eddie Redmayne (1982) and rocker Alex Turner (1986)
• Maria Montessori opening her first Montessori school in Rome (1907)
• the death of US President Theodore Roosevelt (1919)
• cricket legend Don Bradman scoring 452 not out in 415 minutes, a then-record in a first-class match (1930)
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