Squiz Today / 08 January 2020
Squiz Today – Wednesday, 8 January
“It's possible they're here right now and we simply can't see them."
Aliens that is… That’s according to Britain's first astronaut Helen Sharman. Which makes sense because there’s no way we ate all that ham over Christmas on our own…
COUNTING THE COST
The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) yesterday said 1,588 homes have been lost across the state since the start of this bushfire season, including 672 homes that were destroyed since the start of last week. Its efforts have saved more than 10,600 homes, the authority said. In Victoria, more than 200 homes have been lost, Premier Dan Andrews confirmed. And in South Oz, 56 homes have been destroyed on Kangaroo Island. The Insurance Council yesterday estimated the damage bill from bushfires across the country since September to be $700 million.
AND THERE'S STILL A LOT MORE SUMMER TO COME…
There sure is. It's not over by a long shot, authorities say. While the mild weather in southeastern Oz over the last couple of days has been welcomed by communities in at-risk areas and exhausted firefighters, dangerous conditions are set to return on Friday. Meanwhile, in Western Australia, it's hoped Cyclone Blake will bring some much-needed rain to dampen fires there.
Three things to note:
• The RFS yesterday farewelled volunteer firefighter Andrew O’Dwyer. He was killed with fellow firie Geoffrey Keaton when their truck rolled before Christmas. The pictures of 19-month-old Charlotte wearing her dad’s helmet - heartbreaking.
• The Australian (paywall) yesterday reported that police have arrested 183 people for lighting bushfires across Queensland, NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania in the past few months. There are isolated reports of looting. And the consumer regulator yesterday warned kind-hearted Aussies to be cautious of fundraising scams.
• But many good deeds are also being done. Big names stepped up yesterday with the Packer family raising their donation to $5 million. Actor Chris Hemsworth and Elton John both say they’re good for $1 million. Celeste Barber’s Facebook appeal passed the $40 million mark. And bushfire survivor Turia Pitt yesterday launched the SpendWithThem Instagram account to help us spend with businesses in fire-affected towns.
SQUIZ THE REST
DEADLY STAMPEDE AT ASSASSINATED MILITARY LEADER’S FUNERAL
Reports say millions have already turned out to pay their respects to Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani. The nation’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei wept over his coffin. And his planned burial in his hometown of Kerman overnight again drew a big crowd with reports saying at least 56 people have died in a stampede. These events have been coupled with crowds chanting anti-American slogans following the US drone strike in Iraq on Friday that killed Soleimani, on the orders of President Donald Trump. Pundits remain concerned that it will spiral into conflict. All of which has spooked international markets with gold prices hitting a near-seven year high as investors looked for a safe place to park their money. The NRMA yesterday said we can expect to be hit at the bowser if things escalate.
BRITISH WOMAN SENTENCED OVER RAPE CLAIM
A 19yo British woman convicted in Cyprus of making a false gang-rape allegation received a suspended jail sentence yesterday. The case is a big story in the UK with an outpouring of support for the young woman. She went to police in Ayia Napa in July last year alleging she was attacked by 12 Israeli men. They were arrested and denied the allegations. She was questioned by police without a lawyer for more than seven hours before retracting her statement. She was then detained, charged and found guilty of making a false report. Reports say she will return home to the UK as her lawyers appeal her sentence.
And while we have you... Former Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein was yesterday charged with rape by a Los Angeles court as his criminal trial was commencing in New York. The New York Times said the development marked “one of the most remarkable days since revelations about the movie producer’s sexual harassment of women set in motion the global #MeToo movement.”
REGAINING YOUR ELASTICITY
Does the very thought of pulling on your runners have your muscles seizing up? Push through it. Researchers from Barts and University College London have kept an eye on 138 novice runners who'd set their sights on doing the London Marathon. And 42.195-kilometre-long story short, training for and completing a marathon can cut four years off the age of your arteries, helping them to regain some youthful elasticity. If all that huffy puffy’s not your thing, the British Heart Foundation said smaller amounts of aerobic exercise would deliver similar reductions to the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Phew…
FACEBOOK VOWS TO TACKLE DEEPFAKES
An interesting technological development that has come to the fore in recent times is the 'deepfake'. That is, manipulated videos produced by artificial intelligence that can make fabricated images and sounds that appear to be real. For example, with the right tools, you can make a video of Facebook Overlord Mark Zuckerberg saying anything you want. It’s a challenge for social media platforms like Facebook, which has vowed to take action against ‘misleading media’. And yesterday, the tech giant announced new guidelines for the removal of this sort of content ahead of a year of political campaigning in the US. The advisory, however, has no tips or tricks for political leaders looking to post videos about their achievements on its platform…
WELCOME TO THE FUTURE
CES 2020, the big consumer electronics show in Las Vegas, has just kicked off. And sure, you can get excited about the big themes like 5G, AI, and the internet of everything, but it's the nifty and novel creations that get hearts racing. There's a robotic cat that will really hurt when it ignores you. Or a wristband that will tell you what you should and shouldn’t eat. But the showstopper has to be a rubbish bin that ties up the bag and replaces the liner for you. Genius…
SQUIZ THE DAY
ABS Data Releases - Job Vacancies, November; Building Approvals, November
Nigella Lawson’s 60th birthday. And a birthday for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (1983)
Birthday anniversaries for Elvis Presley (1935) Stephen Hawking (1942), David Bowie (1947)
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