Feeling a bit daunted about getting on top of the news of the last couple of weeks? As the 90s dance anthem goes, you’re not alone… Start here and you’ll be able to bluff your way through any conversation as we get a new year started. Bring it, 2020… 

DEADLY FIRES DOMINATE – Bushfires in NSW, Victoria and South Australia dominated the Christmas and New Year period. Heatwave conditions on the weekend before Christmas had devastating effects in NSW’s Blue Mountains and Lithgow regions, and in South Australia’s Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island. And as the year came to an end, fires along NSW’s South Coast and in Victoria’s East Gippsland and Corryong regions claimed lives and homes. More than 30 people have died, 2,000 homes have been lost, and millions of hectares have been burnt out across NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania since September last year. 

PRESSURE ON THE PM – To say Prime Minister Scott Morrison came under pressure during this period is the understatement of 2020 (granted, it’s only early January…). Morrison returned home early from a pre-Chrissy family holiday in Hawaii to face criticism for the ill-timed trip. He also copped it over the federal government’s handling of the crisis and approach to addressing climate change as big, new fires took off. “I’m not surprised people are feeling very raw at the moment,” he said after a visit to fire-affected towns in Victoria and NSW in early January.

AUSTRALIAN ACADEMIC LOSES APPEAL – Serving a 10-year jail sentence in Iran over spying charges, academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert is on a hunger strike, her supporters say. The dual Aussie-Brit citizen has been imprisoned in Tehran since October 2018 and reports say she recently lost an appeal against her detention. Our government said it continues to have concerns about her wellbeing. 

SYRIAN GOVERNMENT LOOKS TO TAKE LAST REBEL STRONGHOLD – The Idlib province was the focus for pro-government forces as the last major region still held by rebel fighters and jihadists opposed to President Bashar al-Assad. Breaking a ceasefire from August, fighting broke out again in late December. The United Nations said the three million people living there (76% of whom are women and children) were in grave danger.  

HNY PRESIDENT TRUMP… – On New Year’s Day, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he was no longer bound by his pledge to halt major nuclear missile and bomb tests and warned he would soon shock the US with a “new strategic weapon.” Experts said to expect a new round of long-range missile tests

DEATH SENTENCES FOR KHASHOGGI KILLING – Saudi Arabia sentenced five men to death for the brutal killing of former insider/Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the nation’s embassy in Turkey in October 2018. Officials and advisers close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were cleared. The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Agnes Callamard said “anything but justice” had been delivered with the ruling. 

REGIONAL DISASTERS – Fiji was hit by Cyclone Sarai in late December causing two deaths and 2,000 people to flee to evacuation centres. Flights to and from the holiday haven were cancelled. Meanwhile, up to 100 people were killed by landslides and floods in the eastern Philippines. The conditions were triggered by heavy rains from a tropical depression after Christmas. And at least 60 people have died in and around Indonesia’ capital Jakarta from landslides and flooding. 

STRICTLY BUSINESS – The quick and dirty is that Caltex petrol stations across the country will become Ampol. Boeing’s besieged CEO Dennis Muilenburg was fired in the wake of the 737 MAX crashes/scandal. Talking of besieged, Former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said “yeah, nah” to facing trial in Japan on charges of financial wrongdoing by fleeing to Lebanon. Meanwhile, retailers celebrated shoppers’ joie de vivre towards the Boxing Day sales

VALE JOHN CAIN – A giant of Victorian politics and the man who transformed the state into somewhere Labor could win government, the former premier from 1982-90 died before Christmas. 

COME ON DOWN – Come on Brexit-weary Brits, have an Oz holiday, sang pop megastar Kylie Minogue and a sparkling list of Aussie stars. And then one of the best-received tourism ads we’ve produced in aeons was put on hold as news of Oz’s bushfires dominated headlines in Old Blighty… Still, the UK showed its love for us by making our ONJ an OBE. Decipher: it’s now Dame Olivia Newton-John, thank you very much…

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