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We’re taking a week off Trump, but it was still a week to forget. Tony Abbott returned to rock the boat, and a Michelin star was mistakenly awarded. But NASA discovered a system of Earth-like planets, so there’s still hope.
Hello all and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’re taking a week off from Trump Watch. It’s been more of the same and we all need to detox a little, I think. So it’s on to science with a huge announcement from NASA, a visit from a neighbour at home and the best use of Wikipedia in existence.
NASA have continued their recent trend of huge announcements this week when they released details of the discovery of seven Earth-sized exoplanets orbiting a nearby star.
Sciencegasm if there ever was one, particularly when the potential implications are spelled out. In the words of Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, “The discovery gives us a hint that finding a second Earth is not just a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’.”
These aren’t the first exoplanets that have been discovered, however, the excitement is borne from the fact that all seven just discovered may sit within what is referred to as the “habitable zone”, also known as the “Goldilocks zone”. In simple terms, this describes that a planet is far enough from its star that it can sustain liquid water (too close and it evaporates and becomes a steam atmosphere) yet close enough to its star that it can support temperatures and eco-systems conducive to human life.
NASA’s discovery of the “TRAPPIST-1” system is the highest number of habitable zone planets found around a single star outside of our solar system. In theory, all seven of these could support life in that all seven could potentially have liquid water. Three of them are definitely within the “habitable zone” meaning that there is a very good chance they could sustain human life – or may have already sustained some other alien life.
The system is a lazy 39 light years from Earth – equivalent to around 235 trillion miles; obviously a fair old distance relative to what we are used to but in astronomical terms they are quite close. Human beings haven’t managed to achieve light speed travel (yet), however, if we do, it would take 39 years at the speed of light to reach the system. The fastest spacecraft constructed thus far, New Horizons, is currently travelling at around 32,000 mph. So the best we have would currently take 317,000 years to reach Trappist. But the rate of technological innovation and advancement we have seen in the past couple of decades suggests that light speed travel may be in the not-too-distant future.
And now, we might actually have somewhere to go.
Also on The Big Smoke
When you have a President that has basically given the police force, and the general public, license to execute in the streets anyone connected to the drug trade, it’s usually wise not to be too public in your criticism of them.
Unfortunately, Philippines Senator Leila de Lima has discovered the consequences of being publicly critical of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte after being arrested this week.
De Lima is a former human rights commissioner and justice secretary, experiences which have led her to campaign against the extreme measures being implemented by Duterte in the war against drugs – measures that have already seen 7,000 Filipinos killed including children as young as five. Her latest comments appear to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back when she described her President as a “sociopathic serial killer” and called for the legal system to remove him.
Senator De Lima had also previously been involved in investigating allegations made by a former hit man who had accused President Duterte of being directly involved in death squads. In less than coincidental timing, a second former hit man came out days before De Lima’s arrest making similar allegations.
Former PM Tony Abbott is like a dog with a bone. Whilst he has claimed over and over again to support the leader who toppled him and his party, this week Abbott came out swinging again, outlining his five-point plan that he said was necessary for the Coalition to avoid defeat at the next election.
Whilst outlining a plan isn’t quite treason, his interview was littered with jabs and attempts at undermining. Further to that, his plan includes spending cuts in areas that the current cabinet don’t want to cut. It was effectively a war cry for the Rightwing of his party, who continue to see their power base diminished.
Turnbull was having none of it. He told Melbourne radio station 3AW that he wouldn’t be “provoked”. He went on to say “The fact is my government has a record of achievement. In the last six months since the election, we have achieved more with fewer seats in the Senate, in the House, than in the previous three years. We are acting and we’re getting things done that we couldn’t or wouldn’t or didn’t get done in the last Parliament. I had the courage not just to give speeches, but to act”.
Turnbull wasn’t alone. Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, slammed Abbott’s offering, describing himself as being “flabbergasted” by it. He went on to call it “deliberately destructive”, “completely unhelpful” and “self-indulgent”. It’s worth remembering of course that Cormann was one of the high profile members of the party that supported Abbott during the leadership spill. Christopher Pyne joined in, describing the policy proposal as a “disaster” and saying that they already failed the first time around. “He was the architect of his own government’s downfall but now he is seemingly intent on bringing down the next one,” Pyne went on to say. “This is so far beneath a former prime minister.”
Most importantly, that’s the second time in as many weeks that I’ve agreed with something that Pyne had to say. Being hit with a wave of optimism that makes you want to vomit is a really strange sensation…
Also on The Big Smoke
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has made his first official state visit to Australia since being elected in 2014.
His ambitious plan to develop “10 new Balis” across the expansive Indonesian archipelago is one of the main issues he is said to be discussing with PM Turnbull during the stay. Australians are still number one in tourist numbers to Bali however they rarely travel beyond there to the rest of Indonesia, something Widodo wants to change.
Discussions are also expected on the topic of mining, specifically replicating the partnership between Newcrest and Indonesian mining company Aneka Tambang for copper and gold exploration in Indonesia. Reports suggest that economics is the main talking point, specifically in relation to tourism, mining, cyber-security, terrorism and the finalisation of the free trade deal. The interest appears to be a two way street, with PM Turnbull describing Indonesia’s potential as a “golden opportunity for Australia”.
They aren’t wrong. Apart from the obvious geographical and security benefits to having a strong relationship with our closest neighbour, Indonesia is on the way up. A Lowy Institute poll last year suggested that over nine out of ten Australians believe our relationship with Indonesia to be important. It’s expected to become one of the world’s largest seven economies by 2030 with its “consumer class” expected to grow to as many as 135 million people.
Also on The Big Smoke
The Fair Work Commission sent the country into shock this week by announcing a cut to the divisive Sunday penalty rates for retail, fast food, hospitality and pharmacy industries workers.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions described it as a “bad day for working Australians”. Luke Hilakari from the Victorian Trades Hall Council described it as “the greatest cut to working people’s wages since the Great Depression”
Those on the pro side argue that the move will spark job growth. James Pearson, CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that cutting of the rates will make it easier for employers to hire new staff at a time when 725,000 people are out of work, including 259,000 young people.
It’s a very hypothetical argument to make. Some employers from the hospitality industry who gave evidence during the inquiry indicated that the move would be unlikely to cause them to put on more staff. Citigroup also conducted a financial analysis last year which indicated that job creation was unlikely. The cuts themselves simply mean there is more money in the employer’s pocket after all for the same labour. It’s hard to point to job creation as an inevitable flow on.
Wacky and wonderful
A workmen’s cafe in central France received a lot of extra attention and patronage this week without explanation. Gourmet diners from all around flooded the small venue’s phones with requests for reservations that has the owners perplexed.
As it turns out, they’d been awarded the highly coveted Michelin star…by mistake.
News crews and food snobs alike arrived at the Bouche à Oreille in the small town of Bourges to find a small, cheap eatery with red and white polka dot plastic tablecloths, filled with local workers ordering beers and wholesome meals like homemade lasagna or beef bourguignon.
As it turns out, the star was supposed to go to Le Bouche à Oreilles near Paris… a slightly more refined cafe. The very similar name was blamed as well as the fact that one is on a street named “Route de la Chapelle” and the other on “Impasse de la Chapelle”.
Also on The Big Smoke
- Current Affairs Wrap: Trump axe swings, Gold Pass clips wings, celeb Twitter fling may be real thing
- Current Affairs Wrap: The week where the temperature rose significantly
Not every hero wears a cape. Adam Boyd, a young lad from Crewe in the UK went out on Friday the 10th of February to see British band, The Sherlocks, in Manchester. Unfortunately for Adam, he arrived late and his view was terrible.
Not one to be so easily defeated, Boyd turned to technology to improve his position.
Boyd logged on to the band’s Wikipedia page and made a slight alteration, changing it to report himself as the cousin of vocalist Kiaran Crook and the inspiration for the first single, Live for the Moment.
He then walked up to security, showed them the Wikipedia page and they escorted him straight to the VIP area, with a vastly improved view.
Have a cracking week, TBSers!