Friday, January 31, 2020

World Health Organisation declares global emergency

The World Health Organisation has declared the coronavirus outbreak a global public health emergency. After deciding not to do so last week, the United Nations health body opted to go ahead with the declaration after a health regulations committee meeting on Thursday in Geneva, citing the spread of the virus outside of China. At least 8100 people have been infected in mainland China, with more than 100 cases reported overseas in at least 15 countries. China reported its biggest single-day jump in novel coronavirus deaths on Thursday, with the toll rising by 38 to 170. New cases in Queensland and Victoria have lifted Australia’s number of coronavirus infections to nine. Australia is among the countries planning evacuations of its citizens from China, but is still in negotiation with local authorities. A cruise ship carrying up to 7000 passengers has been put into lockdown at an Italian port after two Chinese passengers were thought to be carrying the virus, although preliminary tests were negative. Panic about the virus has triggered global discrimination against Chinese people.

NSW energy deal: The federal and New South Wales governments have agreed to energy and climate deals worth nearly $3 billion, in a bid to increase gas supply and support emission reduction initiatives. NSW has committed to inject an additional 70 petajoules into the east coast market - which could mean increasing gas use in the state by about 60 per cent, reports The Sydney Morning Herald. In exchange it will secure funding to upgrade the energy grid and invest in initiatives such as methane capture from landfill and carbon farming. It has not been specified how much emissions would be reduced under the plan. As an energy source, gas emits less carbon than coal, but is still a significant contributor to global warming. 

Bushfire legal action: Three bushfire victims together with Friends of the Earth Australia will launch a claim against ANZ to hold the bank accountable for financing fossil fuel projects. The complaint alleges that the bank has failed to adhere to the Paris Agreement reduction targets across its lending portfolio. “It is illegal for someone to light a bushfire, and we believe it is illegal for companies to finance the burning of our common home,” said Friends of the Earth legal officer Emila Nazari. Meanwhile, the Australian Conservation Foundation is calling for a cap on fuel tax credits for big business, arguing that taxpayer support for diesel fuel essentially puts public money into heating the climate. The organisation suggests putting the $4.5 billion annual saving towards rural and regional renewal in the wake of the summer bushfire crisis, reports Guardian Australia. The news comes as a 15,000-hectare blaze approaches Canberra.

Australian Open tennis: American Sofia Kenin upset Australian top seed Ashleigh Barty 7-6 (8-6), 7-5 at Rod Laver Arena on Thursday. The world No. 15 will play Spaniard Garbine Muguruza in Saturday night’s women’s final. In the men’s draw, Novak Djokovic defeated an injury-hampered Roger Federer in straight sets 7-6 (7-1), 6-4, 6-3 to progress to the Sunday final.

Scott Morrison’s eternal present
As Scott Morrison pivots to the coronavirus evacuation and deploys the military to the fire zone, questions are being asked about the management of both responses. In this episode, Paul Bongiorno assesses the prime minister’s attempt to reset his agenda.


“His heart rate would have lifted first, then his senses sharpened. He would have heard the fear as the attacker moved from the bathrooms towards the conference room at Fishmongers’ Hall. Blood would have rushed to his face or drained away, both standard survival responses. What he saw walking towards him was a student he knew, a ‘rehabilitated’ former terrorist, only now he had knives taped to his wrists.”


“While much of Morrison remains a mystery (and perhaps there really is not much more to know), his complacent response to a burning continent has seen an increasing recognition that there may be a strong link between his personal beliefs and political actions, and that his Pentecostalism may be having some impact on climate policy. Should we not ‘go there’?”


“His life became tabloid fodder just as quickly – due to his increasing fame, his high-profile relationship with singer Ariana Grande and his ongoing struggles with depression and substance abuse – but his music stayed honest, open-hearted and introspective, speaking a truth the gossip blogs could never see. Miller’s first and final posthumous record, Circles, does not fit the traditional mould of what a record released after death is ‘supposed’ to sound like.” Lifeline 13 11 14


“Greece wants to install a floating barrier in the Aegean Sea to deter migrants arriving at its islands’ shores through Turkey, government officials said on Thursday ... It will rise 50 centimeters above sea level and carry light marks that will make it visible at night, a government document inviting vendors to submit offers said, adding that it was ‘aimed at containing the increasing inflows of migrants’.”


“A segment of President Donald Trump’s signature border wall fell in California and onto some trees on the Mexican side on Wednesday amid high winds … A day earlier, Trump had boasted about the strength of his wall. ‘And we are now building that beautiful wall,’ he said at a campaign event in Wildwood, New Jersey, on Tuesday. ‘This powerful border wall is going up at record speed.’”


“Evangelical pastor Rodney Howard-Browne lashed out at former White House national security adviser John Bolton this week in a series of tweets after reports emerged that the former Trump administration official’s upcoming book contains details about the president's relationship with Ukraine ... Trump has repeatedly denied Bolton’s claims and on Wednesday called the book ‘nasty and untrue,’ alleging on Twitter that Bolton was fired from the administration ‘because frankly, if I listened to him, we would be in World War Six by now.’”

Max Opray
is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.