Daily News Roundup

December 14, 2020

MONDAY DEC 14

Northern NSW is being battered by a “dangerous rainfall event” with the State Emergency Service (SES) prepared to evacuate residents if the downpour gets worse.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s (BOM) Jane Golding said the “event is unfolding” but conditions should ease tomorrow afternoon.

Ms Golding said the low-pressure trough produced “very intense rainfall” and gale-force winds — the highest recorded in Cape Byron at 104 kilometres per hour.

“Some sites on the Northern Rivers district have seen around about 400 millimetres in just the last couple of days and there is more rain to come,” Ms Golding said.

“We are urging residents just to keep in touch with what the forecasts and warnings are doing.”

She said some parts of NSW could experience more than 200mm of rainfall today.

Carlene York from the NSW SES said residents should “get ready, be prepared to go” if evacuation orders were issued.

“So if we do issue an evacuation warning, that does mean get ready, be prepared and get ready to go. It’s not at that stage an evacuation order, but there may be evacuation orders if the danger escalates,” Ms York said.

She said NSW SES had received 900 calls for help and had taken part in four flood rescues.

“One was a woman who had been caught in floodwaters and got out of her car and was swept away,” Ms York said.

“Please don’t drive through floodwaters —  it’s quite dangerous out there.”

More than a 150 volunteers are currently helping locals build sand bagging walls in areas near Lismore, Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie, that are being threatened by floodwaters.

Newell Falls at Waterfall Way on route to Dorrigo near Coffs Harbour was a roaring torrent of water.

The fourth consecutive day of severe weather led to the expected closure of the Lavenders Bridge on the Mid-North Coast, one of the only ways in and out of Bellingen.

The local council said the bridge would likely close by around 11:00am but it remained open by early afternoon, with waters appearing to recede slightly.

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Incoming first lady Jill Biden has responded to a Wall Street Journal op-ed mocking her academic career by tweeting that she wants to build a world where female accomplishments are celebrated rather than diminished.

The WSJ published the piece by Joseph Epstein about Dr Biden on the weekend.

He urged her to drop the title of Doctor, belittled her research on student retention rates in community college, likened her degree to an honorary doctorate, and called her “kiddo”.

He said doctorates had decreased in value, and that Dr Biden should focus on supporting her husband, president-elect Joe Biden.

The piece has been widely condemned as “misogynistic” by the academic community, politicians, in other media publications, and on social media.

In his regular monthly column, published on Saturday, Epstein told Dr Biden she had not earned the right to call herself doctor because she was not a medical professional.

This is despite her having earned her PhD with a dissertation under what he labelled as the “unpromising title” of Student Retention at the Community College Level: Meeting Students’ Needs.

He said doctorates had once been prestigious, but the relaxation of university education standards over the years had rendered them far less so.

Honorary doctorates were practically worthless, Epstein claimed.

“Between the honorary degrees given to billionaires, the falsely intelligent, entertainers and the politically correct, just about all honour has been drained from honorary doctorates,” he wrote.

Several critics have since been quick to point out that Epstein is neither a medical doctor, nor does he have a PhD.

Dr Biden, who has a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees and a doctorate of education from the University of Delaware, kept her job as professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College while second lady.

She may become the first lady to keep working outside of the White House.

However, Epstein rounded out his piece by advising Dr Biden to simply settle into her new role.

“Forget the small thrill of being Dr Jill, and settle for the larger thrill of living for the next four years in the best public housing in the world as First Lady Jill Biden,” he wrote.

Dr Biden responded on Twitter on Monday morning: “Together we will build a world where the accomplishments of our daughters will be celebrated, rather than diminished.”

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Residents in Adelaide’s north-east have “inundated” their local council with requests to check overhanging trees, after a falling branch killed a local man over the weekend.

The 57-year-old was killed when a tree branch crashed into his pergola on Saturday evening at his home at Amanda Drive in Surrey Downs.

Another man was taken to the Royal Adelaide Hospital with minor injuries.

Devastated neighbours said they had previously complained to the City of Tea Tree Gully Council about the tree, expressing concerns that it was infested with white ants and that it had dropped several limbs in recent years.

The council has since launched an investigation as police prepare a report for the coroner.

Acting mayor Lucas Jones told ABC Radio Adelaide that worried residents had approached the council with requests to assess trees on their properties.

“Over the last 24 hours, I’ve been inundated with residents from across the city pleading for their trees to be looked at now, because they’re so concerned about what’s happened,” he said.

He said the council was now looking back at what information it had received about the tree before it killed the man.

“We are already looking into it to assess what has happened, what complaints have been made … about the tree,” he said.

It is the second death caused by a falling tree branch in South Australia in just over a month.

In November, a woman driving a car in the Adelaide Hills was killed when a tree branch fell on her vehicle.

The 59-year-old woman from Crafers died at the scene, while another person was injured and taken to hospital.

Mr Jones said the old gum that killed the Surrey Downs man came under the category of “regulated and significant trees”, meaning it was subject to restrictions.

“We understand that in the past there’s been a request to trim the tree. You can trim up to 30 per cent without seeking approval but anything more needs approval,” he said.