Daily News Roundup

March 18, 2021



There are warnings that Sydney could flood this weekend as a huge rain event batters large parts of eastern Australia.

Already, some communities have seen their wettest March for two years and forecasters have warned that “many months of rain could fall” in the coming days, reports news.com.

Those planning a weekend getaway to northern New South Wales are advised to delay their trip, with holiday spots like Port Macquarie to be the heaviest hit with up to 120mm forecast to fall on Friday alone.

As much as 300mm could fall on parts of the state over the next few days, forecasters have cautioned.

A severe weather warning for heavy rain and flash flooding is in place for the NSW coast from Yamba in the north to Newcastle in the south.

Coonamble, in central NSW, and Yeppoon, near Rockhampton in Queensland, both saw their heaviest March rainfall in two years

“This is a potentially dangerous and developing weather situation,” said Sarah Scully from the Bureau of Meteorology.

“Catchments in many parts of NSW and Queensland are saturated so more rains means an increased risk of flooding.”

Rain is likely just about anywhere along the east coast from Queensland to the Victorian border today.

On Thursday, the heaviest falls are likely in the Capricornia region on Queensland and northern NSW.

As we head into Friday that moisture monster edges down towards the mid north coast of NSW and the Hunter.

At the same time heavy falls can also be expected in inland areas, including the outback, in a line form the Northern Territory down to northern South Australia.

Sky News Weather meteorologist Alison Osborne said it was “an absolute deluge”.

“There is some uncertainty about where the heaviest falls will be this weekend. There is a risk of that flooding reaching Sydney and the rain spreading into northern and eastern parts of Victoria.”

“With 150-300mm forecast in the northern half of NSW for some that will be almost a month’s worth of rain in just a few days. In the outback (where less rain falls) there could be many month’s worth of rain in the next few days.”

Ms Osborne warned that travel in affected regions, particularly the NSW coast north of Sydney, could be treacherous.

“Flash flooding and river rises are real threats so that’s something to be aware of when planning a weekend trip.

“You may not want to be out in the road in those areas.”

This rain is being caused by a strong high pressure system to the east of Tasmania.

Winds blow anticlockwise around highs and as a result very humid moisture from the Tasman and Coral seas is being pumped into a trough line over the east.

Downpours are almost a certainty every day in Sydney with particularly high falls from Thursday to Saturday. Up to 80mm could descend on Friday and 100mm on Saturday.

Brisbane will be wet too, but not quite as dramatic. Around 25mm could come down on Saturday and 15mm on Sunday. Expect showers on Thursday and Friday too.

There will be some rain in Canberra over the next few days but it could get heavy from Saturday when 20mm may fall on the capital with 10mm the next day.

Northern Australia is also looking like it will get some decent falls of between 25-50mm.

It will be mostly sunny in Adelaide with highs touching 30C. Very little rain should reach populated areas of South Australia until Monday.

Similarly, Melbourne should remain mostly dry into the weekend but cloudy with maximums of around 25C. However, some heavier falls are on the radar for early next week.

Some sun between the clouds in Hobart with highs in the mid-twenties but umbrellas will likely not be needed.


An international team of scientists, led by researchers from Monash University in Melbourne, have created human embryos from skin cells, in what is being hailed as a breakthrough in the study of infertility but has also raised serious ethical questions.

The research team was able to reprogram skin cells into three-dimensional structures akin to the early stages of human embryos.

Lead researcher Jose Polo said the breakthrough would help research that previously required an embryo derived from an egg and sperm.

“It will allow us to study the early days of human development without using human embryos, and it will allow us to study many cases of infertility and, for example, why many miscarriages happen within the first two weeks of pregnancy,” he said.

The head of the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute, John Carroll, said the breakthrough came after years of experimentation.

“They had this sort of Eureka moment where they were looking down the microscope and discovered that they’d formed these little embryo-like looking structures,” Professor Carroll said.

“Globally this will be big news all over the research world, there’s been a lot of interest in trying to get this breakthrough.”

Professor Carroll acknowledged that the science raised some major ethical questions, but said it was important to stress that the embryos could not be considered viable.

“It is a question that needs to be looked at, but this is really an in vitro model. It doesn’t really develop past day 10 or 11 of normal development in the lab,” he said.

“I think what it does is provides us with this avenue into medical advances, and, you know, there are strong, strong globally applied ethical frameworks and regulation, legislation that really stops anything going too far with human material.”


The suspension of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine rollout across much of Europe will likely be lifted soon..

Fears about blood clots haven’t yet been backed up by evidence, but doctors say they are likely to fuel further public concern about the vaccine at a time when Europe can ill afford it.

Countries like Italy, France and Germany are all experiencing dangerous spikes in COVID-19 cases, yet they have all paused their rollouts of the AstraZeneca product.

In Australia, the federal government says the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine will continue, despite the concerns in Europe.

The European Medicines Agency looks likely to endorse the safety of the vaccine on Thursday (European time).

But Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said the damage was done.

“You cannot stop and start vaccination programs without losing some public confidence,” he told the ABC.

“There will be many, many people in Europe, [who] feel now that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is second best … which is patently untrue.”

Professor Harnden, who is also an expert in primary care at the University of Oxford, which helped develop the vaccine, said the decision would compound mistrust in the vaccine, which some European countries previously withheld from their older populations, citing a lack of data.

“I have no doubt that Europeans have died because of some of these decisions,” he said.

“If you don’t get a vaccine and you’re vulnerable and you’re exposed to it [coronavirus], you may die as a result.”

Cases have risen sharply in Italy, which has entered another lockdown.

On Tuesday, Italy recorded 20,396 new cases and 502 deaths.

Stefano Nava, chief of respiratory and critical care at Bologna’s Sant’ Orsola hospital — Italy’s biggest — said the last four weeks had been “out of control”.

He said the third wave had presented new challenges, which he partly blamed on the UK variant.

“The patients are younger and sometimes sicker,” Professor Nava told the ABC.

Italy has administered more than 6.6 million vaccine doses, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Professor Nava said vaccines were showing encouraging signs of reducing hospital admissions in the elderly.

However, he said the suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine would undermine public confidence.

“It will have a huge effect,” he said.


The Senate has passed a motion brought by One Nation banning the use of “distorted” gender-neutral language such as “chestfeeding” in official government materials.

One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts put forward the motion in the Upper House on Wednesday, with the Morrison government voting to approve the ban.

The motion narrowly passed 33-31.

Tasmanian Liberal Senator Jonathon “Jonno” Duniam read a statement outlining the government’s position before the vote.

“The government supports the rights of individuals to make use of any pronouns or descriptors they prefer, while encouraging respect for the preferences of others,” he said.

“The government will use language in communications that is appropriate for the purpose of those communications and is respectful of its audiences.”

Mr Roberts’ motion stated that “our fundamental biology and relationships are represented through the following descriptors – mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister, boy, girl, grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle, female, male, man, woman, lady, gentleman, Mr, Mrs, Ms, sir, madam, dad, mum, husband, wife”.

“Broad scale genuine inclusion cannot be achieved through distortions of biological and relational descriptors,” it said.

“An individual’s right to choose their descriptors and pronouns for personal use must not dehumanise the human race and undermine gender.”


Iran’s civil aviation body says an error by an air defence operator led to the shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger plane in January 2020.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards shot down Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 on January 8, 2020 shortly after it took off from Tehran Airport.

All 176 people on board died.

“The plane was identified as a hostile target due to a mistake by the air defence operator … near Tehran and two missiles were fired at it,” the aviation body’s report said.

“The flight’s operation did not have a role in creating the error by the air defence battery.”

Ukraine’s foreign minister criticised the report, calling it a cynical attempt by Iranian authorities to cover up the true reasons for the crash.

After the incident, the Iranian government declared it a “disastrous mistake” by forces who were on high alert during a regional confrontation with the US.

Iran was on edge about possible attacks after it fired missiles at Iraqi bases housing US forces, in retaliation for the killing days before of its most powerful military commander, Qassem Soleimani, in a US missile strike at Baghdad airport.

As in a preliminary report issued last June, Iran’s Civil Aviation Organisation said the error arose from a misalignment of the missile battery’s radar, and a lack of communication between the air defence operator and his commanders.

“Following a tactical relocation, the relevant ADU (air defence unit) failed to adjust the system direction due to human error, causing the operator to observe the target flying west from IKA [airport] as a target approaching Tehran from the south-west at a relatively low altitude,” the final report said.

“Without receiving a go-ahead or response from the command centre, [the operator] came to identify the target as a hostile one and fired missile[s] at the aircraft against the procedure planned.”

Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba lambasted the report in a post on Facebook.

“What we saw in the published report today is nothing more than a cynical attempt to hide the true reasons for the downing of our plane,” he said.

“We will not allow Iran to hide the truth, we will not allow it to avoid responsibility for this crime.”

The Tehran government has allocated $US150,000 ($194,600) for damages to be paid to families of the crash victims, and said several people have been put on trial over the disaster.

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