What is causing Australia’s flood crisis?
Twenty Australians have lost their lives in floods this year, as authorities continue their search and rescue efforts
For the third time this year, floods have battered Australia’s largest city.
Some areas have received eight months of rain in just four days.
The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) says some parts of New South Wales have seen 800mm alone. For perspective, Greater London receives this type of rainfall over the course of a year.
There are more than 100 evacuation orders across Greater Sydney for the current emergency.
It’s the typical narrative for disasters like these, where a cesspit of data floods headlines.
It comes as the BOM confirms this season’s La Niña has ended, so what is causing these floods?
Divulging the data
The Indian Ocean Dipole is a technical term for the differences in sea surface temperatures between the eastern and western parts of the Indian Ocean.
This phenomenon is likely to shift ‘negative’ over the coming months.
This means “warmer waters concentrate near Australia, leading to above average winter–spring rainfall as more moisture is available to weather systems crossing the continent,” according to the BOM.
Meanwhile, the SAM refers to the Southern Annular Mode. This is a term used for the non-seasonal, north-south movement of the strong westerly winds.
When the SAM is in the ‘positive’ phase, it directs more moisture-filled air into eastern Australia.
The BOM says this is “driving above average rainfall and more east coast lows”.
This has forced a cargo ship to remain at anchor by the ferocious conditions off the coast of Sydney.
In fact, this happened 15 years ago when storms grounded the Pasha Bulker—a 40,000 tonne bulk carrier ship.
Is this climate change in action?
It is difficult to link any single flood to climate change. But many climate models suggest Australia will repeatedly fall victim to climate change.
Critically, these areas have been battered by heavy rains in recent months. The La Niña has also saturated the ground and filled dams. These are some of the crucial factors that lead to flash flooding.
“Similarly, we’re now working hard together to make sure that impacted communities get the financial and other assistance they need as soon as possible,” Senator Murray Watt says.
Sydney’s bustling population has pushed development into low-lying areas, which also places residents at an increased risk.
Greg Mullins is the leader of the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action group, who recently met with Australia’s new government.
“There is absolutely no doubt extreme weather events are being intensified because of climate change.”
“The science is very clear that we’re seeing wild fluctuations between periods of flood and fire, because of warming. On the East Coast of Australia in the last 18 months we’ve now had four major floods,” he says.
Senator Watt says he is committed to learning from past natural hazards, which turn into disasters when they intersect with vulnerable communities, devastate infrastructure, and lead to economic consequences.
This occurred when over 400 people were killed when deluge swept through South Africa in April.
“It’s time for the world to wake up and take real action on climate change. Communities having to deal with flood event after flood event is absolutely affecting our response and recovery,” Mullins says.
TikTok and the lollipop Washington wants to take away
What to do with Tik Tok hit home even with the prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, as he stood next to the American president, Joe Biden, last Friday afternoon for their joint media conference in Ottawa Biden’s visit, including an address to the Canadian parliament
Question to the PM: “Knowing what you know, are you comfortable with the idea of your children or family members using TikTok?”
“I am obviously concerned with their privacy and their security, which is why I’m glad that on their phones — that happen to be issued by the government — they no longer access TikTok. (Laughter.) That was a big frustration for them. “Really? This applies to us too, Dad?” “Yes, I just did that.” (Laughter.)Trudeau says
It’s no laughing matter in Washington.
Tik Tok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew was monstered by the House of Representative Energy and Commerce Committee last week. He was bludgeoned for five hours, solo at the witness table while a bipartisan howl raged against Tik Tok, its ownership, its practices, its ties to the Chinese Communist Party, and its vast influence in the United States.
“We do not trust TikTok will ever embrace American values,” said committee chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican of Washington .
“TikTok has repeatedly chosen the path for more control, more surveillance and more manipulation. Your platform should be banned.”
“I still believe that the Beijing Communist government will still control and influence what you do,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, the ranking Democrat.
Politico’s reporter was asked if there was any support for Chew or Tik Tok. “No. There was no real support. That’s why they brought him in, to yell at him and show they’re strong on China.”
Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, cosponsor of legislation with the best chance of being enacted by Congress this year, said this about the hearing, and the core issue posed by the Tik Tok: “I kind of feel for the guy. Because [Chew] can’t rebut the fact that TikTok is owned by ByteDance, ByteDance is a Chinese company, Chinese law as of 2017 says the first obligation of any Chinese company is not shareholders or customers, it’s the Communist Party… At any point in time, that data can be asked for. And there are plenty of examples where it appears that it may have been already vulnerable. On top of that, you’ve got the ability for this incredibly powerful tool to have content manipulation.”
This was exact issue presented by Huawei, owned by the Chinese government, that under China’s national security law that government has the right to full access to all the data held by the company.
This is why Huawei was banned from being as telecoms supplier in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Taiwan and the US, and with 5G restrictions in the UK.
In recent weeks, the Biden Administration has been moving to a position of requiring ByteDance to sell TikTok to another US company, or face a ban.
In response, TikTok has developed “Project Texas”, where all the data generated in the US would be secured on US company Oracle servers in Texas. “The bottom line is this: American data is stored on American soil by an American company overseen by American personnel,” Chew said. But that would leave TikTok under Chinese government control over the data it obtains. And China is not budging. A Chinese Commerce Ministry spokeswoman said last week that China would “firmly oppose” the forced sale TikTok, and that this would “seriously undermine the confidence of investors from various countries, including China, to invest in the United States.”
Many members of the House and Senate want to ban TikTok – now. But previous efforts to limit TikTok initiated under President Trump to ban Tik Tok if it was not sold were never concluded.
A US government ban or forced divestiture of Tik Tok poses both First Amendment – free speech – and due process of law issues. There has not yet been an official finding of sufficient authority and weight to support such a radical action by the government.
What has been put in place are bans on Tik Tok on government-issued phones.
This is why Senator Warner’s legislation could prove crucial.
In Washington, if you can’t solve a problem – get a process to work the problem. The Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act would give the Department of Commerce the authority to evaluate and block technology deals involving companies from six “foreign adversary” countries, including China, Russia, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea.
By expanding the scope of technologies examined through a thorough process that can document and describe the urgency of addressing the threats the Tik Tok app poses, the key to locking in a ban or sale of Tik Tok can be found and used.
Last week’s Tik Tok hearing showed the Cold War with China is deepening. The bipartisan roar of anger is growing.
But there is a real political disconnect between the rage building in Washington and the unhappiness of Trudeau’s children at losing Tik Tok .
There are 150 million Americans – half the population – that use Tik Tok. It is enormously influential. Do lawmakers really think they can take Tik Tok away – without any political repercussions?
You know what happens when you take a lollipop away from a child? He or she starts screaming. Take Tik Tok away and America’s Tik Tok users may start screaming – with their votes in 2024.
This is why the most likely outcome, aside from nothing being done, is passage of the Warner legislation and a forced sale of Tik Tok to a US company.
Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis and the war of the Republicans
A fortnight ago, Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Donald Trump, was the first to jump into Trump’s pool for the presidency
This week, Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, is making waves in the pool. Several others, including former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire and former Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, and another South Carolinian of color, Sen. Tim Scott, are dipping their toes in the water.
Someone had to go first, and Haley is it.
The others know that Trump wants to tear them to pieces — he has already given DeSantis an ugly nickname, “Ron DeSanctimonius” — and they did not want to be first in the firing line.
Haley may be crazy brave. She is already taking incoming from the Make America Great Again (MAGA) crowd for shying away from highlighting her courageous stand as governor on taking the Confederate flag down from the state capitol.
But Haley has done something very important as the 2024 race for the Republican presidential nomination gets underway: She has opened the door to take Trump down.
Haley’s announcements — first on Twitter with her launch video, and then at the rally itself — were loaded with unmistakable criticisms of Trump and his viability to lead the Republican Party back into the White House.
There was this:
“We’re ready, ready to move past the stale ideas and faded names of the past. And we are more than ready for a new generation to lead us into the future.”
“We won’t win the fight for the 21st century if we keep trusting politicians from the 20th century.”
“Mandatory mental competency tests for politicians over 75 years old.”
And then the Trump-killing argument that Trump is a loser:
“Republicans have lost the popular vote in seven out of the last eight presidential elections. That has to change.”
Yes, Haley is also targeting Joe Biden on the age issue and the baggage of politicians from the 20th century.
But these are direct hits on Trump.
DeSantis is staking out his vision – of himself as the true grandmaster of culture war politics. What he has done in Florida he wants to nationalize in the 2024 presidential campaign: DeSantis pushes the anti-woke buttons on immigration, on abortion, on gay and transgender people, on parental control of schools, of radical left racial books that are in libraries. He punishes bureaucrats who stand in the way of his agenda, and uses state power to wreak economic harm on companies, like Disney, who speak out against the DeSantis program.
DeSantis has shown moxie and cunning in these first steps of his long march to the White House. First, to gather 100 heavy Republican players and funders in a strategy meeting just 5 miles from Trump’s lair at Mar-a-Lago. Then, to launch his new book on the DeSantis story and vison – an instant best-seller. Then to be featured at a gathering of the Club for Growth, conservative corporates and investors who believe in limited government and economic opportunity – and they have refused to support Trump. Haley, Scott and Sununu will also address the Club.
While they meet, Trump will be just outside Washington, addressing CPAC, the largest group of conservative activists in the country. For the past seven years, Trump has been their king and has given the clarion call to his movement.
As of today, in the latest Fox News poll, Trump leads DeSantis 43%-27%.
What will be closely watched is how much DeSantis and the others attack Trump, and how much Trump directly attacks those who are circling.
What must be understood is this:
Those seeking the Republican presidential nomination have to take it from Trump.
He is not going to cede it or walk away from it. The only way to beat Trump is for another Republican to take him down — to defeat him in the upcoming Republican primaries next year. And the Republican who does take him down will be using Nikki Haley’s arguments that Trump should not, must not, be the Republican presidential candidate in 2024.
There is no way around it. Nikki Haley has opened the door for the war of the Republicans.
Trump’s campaign debut was panned – but don’t underestimate his chances
Last weekend, Donald Trump held two events in New Hampshire and South Carolina, his first official forays onto the 2024 presidential battlefield.
The experts panned it.
A lot of the political class is talking about Trump in the past tense, and not the future, briefing out to the media that his rambling, Fidel Castro-like monologues bore his audiences silly, that his obsessions and battles with his political enemies do not have the reach they did in 2016 and during his term in office, that he is immersing himself more deeply in extremist QAnon cult waters, that he faces indictments and trials that will derail his campaign and might even put him in jail.
And more: that Trump wallows in the “stolen” 2020 election, knowing that there was no way he could have lost since he got 12 million more votes than in 2016. Trump never concedes. Six years later, he does not acknowledge that Hillary Clinton got almost 3 million more votes than Trump in 2016 – and that he won only because she lost in the Electoral College.
The telling critique – the one driving Republicans in private to say that Trump is done (or should be done, or will be done) is that Trump is a loser.
That Trump lost Republican control of the House of Representatives in 2018, bringing back Nancy Pelosi who secured not one, but two impeachments of the president; that he lost the White House in 2020; that he lost control of the Senate in January 2021 when Democrats swept both Georgia Senate seats, giving them control of that chamber; and that Trump-backed candidates in Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Hampshire, and Arizona again cost Republicans control of the Senate in the 2022 midterms. As Vince Lombardi, legendary gridiron coach of Green Bay and Washington, said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Lombardi would say Trump was a loser.
Trump is having none of it, and his iron resolve was on full display for those listening more closely when he gave his orations last weekend.
“Maybe he’s lost his step,” Trump said in evoking the musings of some Republicans. But, “I’m more angry now, and I’m more committed than I ever was.”
The anger is palpable. The Trump 2023 brand joins his anger with the hottest culture war buttons he can press. Immigration, the open wound that is the southern border, the wall he will finish, the rapists and criminals who are flooding in and that he will keep out tomorrow. Immigration is his lead-off weapon.
Then promises of energy independence and oil forever. Utter hostility to electric vehicles and wind energy – especially if the windmills are offshore. No transgender women in sports. No way they are tolerated. A purge of woke content from school curricula, schoolbooks, school libraries, and school boards. Parents empowered to fire the principal of the schools their children attend; Trump says the parents can vote them out of their jobs.
Trump never goes far into the culture wars without conjuring up Hunter Biden, the president’s son.
Trump cannot get enough of Hunter’s laptop and the criminality of the Bidens, their business dealings and their money. We can barely follow all the Trump twists and turns in this tale, but there is no mistake that Trump wants Hunter nailed and his father to bear the consequences.
Reprising his role as Commander-in-Chief, Trump said, in case we have not been paying attention, that we are on the brink on World War III. That Ukraine would not have happened if he had been president. That we could have a peace deal “in 24 hours.” Trump wants to call Putin and knows Putin will be waiting for that call.
Trump’s great loyalist, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, was on the podium with Trump and put it this way after the event. “How many times have you heard we like Trump’s policies but we want somebody new? There are no Trump policies without Donald Trump.”
That’s the message Trump delivered to his base last weekend. And that’s how Trump intends to win.
Buried in Trump’s massive monologue was the core of what could be a winning message. “My mission is to secure a middle-class lifestyle for everyone. I did it before and I will do it again. And we will be respected in the world once again.”
Three powerful sentences which, coupled with the red meat of his anger and rage, mean that Trump is very much alive and kicking.
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