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Wednesday, 10 July - The spies hide out in every corner

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, 10 July. In your Squiz Today…

  • Australia appoints a special envoy to combat antisemitism

  • China’s hacking exposed

  • And the oldest jokes in the world… 🤣

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“There are no beaches in Penrith.”

Said an exhausted/embarrassed NSW Blues star Jarome Luai after he had to be rescued from a wave park while on a recovery session with his teammates. Luai’s lucky he escaped without a scratch just a week out from the decider against the Maroons at Suncorp Stadium…

Some special conflict resolution

The Squiz

As the war in Gaza rages on, Sydney lawyer/business leader Jillian Segal has been appointed Australia’s first-ever Special Envoy to Combat Antisemitism to address the prejudice that Jewish people are facing at home. Segal has been appointed for 3 years, and PM Anthony Albanese says it’s an important part of “ongoing efforts to promote social cohesion”, also confirming a special envoy on Islamophobia will soon be named to combat discrimination "in all its forms". Segal says she’s “privileged” to have been appointed to the role because "antisemitism is an age-old hatred" that lies dormant during good times, but in times of crisis "it awakens."

Why is this a thing?

Since the 7 October Hamas attack in Israel and the resulting war in Gaza, there’s been a 700% rise in reports of antisemitic incidents. That includes kids afraid to wear Jewish school uniforms, Jewish businesses being boycotted, and the vandalisation of the Australian War Memorial - all of which Albanese says is “not acceptable, ever”. The Coalition welcomed Segal’s appointment and also called for stronger action - including a judicial inquiry into antisemitism on university campuses. But Jewish groups are divided… The Executive Council of Australian Jewry - of which Segal is a former president - said she will bring “deep knowledge of the issues and immense energy to the role”. But the Jewish Council of Australia labelled Segal an "Israel lobbyist" and says the creation of the position goes against a “united approach” to addressing the issue.

And while we’re talking about it, bring me up to speed with the conflict… 

There’s still no end in sight with tens of thousands of people in Gaza on the move once again as the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) continues to issue new evacuation orders, which the United Nations says have displaced about 1.9 million people. The IDF says the orders are necessary to protect civilians in areas where Hamas is attempting to re-establish itself, but reports say civilians are still dying as refugee camps and schools are being attacked by Israel. The conflict is also forcing residents to flee along the northern Israel/Lebanon border, where the IDF and Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah continue to trade thousands of rocket/missile strikes. As a result, Israel says it's considering an invasion of Lebanon to "restore security" that could lead to a full-scale war. So, there’s a lot going on… 

Squiz the Rest

International security in the spotlight

The annual North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Summit began overnight, with representatives from the 32 European and North American member countries being hosted by President Joe Biden in Washington. They won’t have much time for pleasantries - there’s lots on the agenda as they mark the organisation’s 75th year… Defence Minister Richard Marles is repping Australia - he’ll no doubt be flexing his active listening skills during the discussion on China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region. And Ukraine's fight against Russia is a big agenda item - particularly the ongoing discussion about giving Ukraine NATO membership (which would open up a whole new can of worms with Russia…). And after intense speculation about his mental fitness, Biden’s also set to be grilled. It’s all happening…

Check out this Squiz Shortcut for more on NATO and its relationship with Ukraine.

China’s hack attack

The Albanese Government has accused a Chinese-backed hacking group - known as APT40 - of cyberattacks on public sector and private computer systems, saying its “tradecraft is regularly observed against Australian networks”. The group is funded by China’s Ministry of State Security, so by extension, it’s working on behalf of the Chinese Government… The Australian Signals Directorate has been tracking the group with several other international intelligence agencies and says it’s targeted company devices that haven’t had recent security updates - which might be why our Home Affairs boss Stephanie Foster has just ordered a government-wide audit of technology to check for vulnerabilities. Time to change those passwords…

Row row row your boat 

Move over Matildas, Boomers and Hockeyroos - Australia’s got a new iconic sporting nickname with the “Rowsellas''... Our rowing team announced yesterday they were formally rebranding ahead of the Paris Games - saying the bird's characteristics "of agility, beauty and resilience mirror the qualities inherent in the sport". Another sport getting a glow-up is Rugby Union. After a disastrous 2023 World Cup campaign, Rugby Australia (RA) has just taken control of the ACT Brumbies. It’s the second club after the NSW Waratahs to cede control to RA as the code struggles to attract crowds/sponsors. No Aussie side has won the Super Rugby since 2014 (it’s been dominated by our Kiwi cuzzie bros…) and the sport’s bosses are desperate to get the game back to its glory days before we host the next World Cup in 2027. Repeats of last Saturday’s solid wins by the Wallabies and Wallaroos this weekend would no doubt help…

A SAD state of affairs

Winter has well and truly arrived across most of the country, and if you’re someone who feels a bit down at this time of year, experts reckon it’s best not to brush it aside. That’s because cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka SAD) could be “under-recognised” in the land down under… To get you up to speed, SAD is a type of clinical depression that shows up in particular seasons - often autumn and winter - over 2 or more years. Those depressive feelings often then disappear when the sun comes back out to play. Psychology professor Nickolai Titov says the change in light “seems to trigger some sort of change in our biology, our hormones and our neurotransmitters” - including the feel-good chemical serotonin. The more you know… And on that note, here are some of the symptoms to keep an eye out for. 

Cracking a funny in Ancient Rome

If you’ve ever wondered what made our stern-faced ancestors crack a smile back in the day, UK classicist Professor Mary Beard says scholars have been trying to decode what constituted a joke thousands of years ago. The problem is the funnies sometimes get lost in translation… “There's plenty of [ancient] plays at which we assume people laughed, but we don't quite know where [in the performance] they laughed,” Beard said. Some ancient writers made it easier in their scripts - a play called The Eunuch by Publius Terentius Afer included one of the earliest recorded “hahahas” in history. Not bad, considering it was first performed in 161 BCE… Emperor Augustus (who lived from 27 BCE to 4 CE) was another one who considered himself witty, and, like any good comic, kept a record of his jokes - although Beard reckons “they don't make you split your sides”. Tough crowd…

Apropos of Nothing - Special eats edition

South Aussies can give themselves a pat on the back for knowing a great snack, as the fantastically named Banana Boogie Bakery in Belair has been crowned Australia’s best sausage roll for the second year in a row. They are really on a roll…

We keep hearing that eating bugs is the way of the future, and Singapore’s Food Agency is ahead of the curve, approving 16 species of insects for consumption. Food companies are keen to jump on board, offering sushi with silkworms and cricket protein powder for gym buffs. Sounds un-bee-lievable…

What we are rushing towards is foreign butter… Despite our dairy industry, Aussies are hooked on the soft stuff from overseas. But with Europe’s heatwave pushing up dairy prices for ice cream, it could be time to consider an Aussie option

Squiz the Day

2024 Australia Wind Energy Conference - Melbourne

Tennis: Wimbledon quarterfinal, Alex de Minaur v Novak Djokovic - London, and watch on 9Now

Independence Day in the Bahamas

Birthday of Modern Family star Sofia Vergara (1972) 

Anniversary of:

  • Lady Godiva riding naked on horseback through Coventry to force her husband, the Earl of Mercia, to lower taxes. According to the legend, anyway... (1040)

  • the beginning of the Battle of Britain during WWII (1940)

  • the Rolling Stones scoring their 1st US #1 single with (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (1965)

  • the swearing-in of Boris Yeltsin as the first elected President of the Russian Federation (1991)

  • the release of Coldplay’s debut album Parachutes (2000)

  • British tabloid News of the World publishing its last edition after 168 years in the wake of a phone-hacking scandal (2011)

  • German automaker Volkswagen ending production of the Beetle, the first model of which had been introduced in 1938 (2019)

5.00am (AEST) - Soccer: Euro 24 Semi final, England v Netherlands - Dortmund, Germany