Friday, February 07, 2020

Heavy rains drench NSW bushfires

Heavy rainfall has brought relief to communities ravaged by fires and drought in Queensland and New South Wales. The downpour reduced the number of active fires in New South Wales by almost one-third in a day, according to the NSW Rural Fire Service. As a result 62 active fires in the state on Wednesday night, including 20 not contained, were reduced to 42 active fires by Thursday night, with 17 uncontained. “Today we were over the moon to see rain arrive across many parts of New South Wales, with decent fall in the State's north. Fingers crossed we see this rainfall remain steady and reach the firegrounds in southern NSW over the weekend,” RFS officials wrote on Facebook. Multi-day totals of 200mm fell across southeast Queensland and northern NSW, causing flash flooding in some areas but expected to increase water levels in rivers and catchments. Charles Sturt University Professor Max Finlayson warned that forecast rainfall in the wake of such extensive bushfires could wash sediment, ash and nutrients into NSW waterways.

University quarantine: Australian universities are planning to use regional campuses or student accommodation to quarantine thousands of international students from China. International Education Association of Australia chief executive Phil Honeywood told The Age universities and student accommodation providers are preparing for when the travel ban is lifted on the estimated 100,000 Chinese students due to resume their studies in Australia this year. "They've told me they'll have chartered buses to take students from their accommodation to the quarantined teaching area and bring them back, to make sure they're not interacting with the wider community," he said. The unprecedented disruption to universities could cost them $3 billion. The travel ban has also prevented a Chinese mother from seeing her critically injured son in Melbourne, where doctors are preparing to turn off his life support.

Sports grants: The Coalition spent the entirety of another $150 million sports grant fund without opening up the process to public applications, reports Guardian Australia. The female facilities and water safety stream program was expected to open for applications, but was all spent during the 2019 election campaign, including $25m for a new pool in the marginal Western Australian seat of Pearce.

Joyce rebellion: Barnaby Joyce warned Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday that he has enough support in the Nationals to block Coalition legislation in the House of Representatives. According to The Australian, Joyce told Morrison that the failure to put any of his supporters into the ministry, or to reinstate former resources minister Matt Canavan to the portfolio he resigned from ahead of Joyce’s unsuccessful party room leadership challenge this week, meant they were prepared to use their balance of power to vote down government legislation.


“Electronic databases in NSW hospitals began to flag keywords such as ‘cough’ or ‘chest infection’ and ‘China’ if patients complained of an illness, alerting authorities to follow up. Meanwhile, a team of molecular biologists and other specialists at the University of Queensland had already started the ultimate race: trying to develop a vaccine for the pathogen.”


“When director Gregor Jordan finished reading John Michael McDonagh’s screenplay for Ned Kelly, based on author Robert Drewe’s 1991 novel Our Sunshine, he claimed that the lyricism and intensity of the Irishman’s effort moved him to tears. When McDonagh watched the 2003 film that Jordan made from his work, he cried, too, though for different reasons.”


“By now it is clear the face mask is the object that most defines this new decade. From an unfashionable item confined to special conditions in specific geographies, it is fast becoming ubiquitous. It is the facial accessory du jour, filtering the effects of fires, plagues, pestilence, climate and uncertainty. The closer civilisation hurtles towards dystopia, the more citizens will put their faith in this ungainly facial furniture.”


“I’ve been in touch with local health authorities today regarding local coronavirus presentation rumours ... While I don’t want to be flippant about it, one patient presented simply because they ate Chinese food. That is why it is important to check the facts before causing public alarm, especially in the Whitsundays which is heavily reliant on tourism and could be susceptible to economic harm if a panic ensues because of fake news and false rumours.”


“Christensen’s position on man-made climate change is that, a: It isn’t really happening except in the ‘beliefs’ of the majority of climate scientists, and, b: even if it is happening, it ‘won’t be catastrophic’ as predicted by the ‘elite of the world’, and at worst will involve temperature increases of ‘only two or three degrees’ and the loss of some species - ‘but that‘s always been happening, anyway.’ Who are the elite of the world? Christensen: ‘Oh, the United Nations, the heads of governments.’”


“Such hexes from the Classical period (480-323 BC) have been discovered in tombs before but rarely inside a well. So why were these tablets found inside one? It may have to do with a change in the law in ancient Athens. Demetrios of Phaleron, who ruled over the city between 317 to 307 BCE, implemented a new law related to the management of tombs which explicitly banned residents from dumping their curses into people’s graves.”

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