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We must fight for the freedoms they won’t give back | ticker VIEWS

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Police and army in Melbourne

By all means, follow the rules. But after hundreds of years of fighting for our rights, we must fight for the freedoms they won’t give back.

Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.

Theodore Roosevelt

In 2019, Beijing went hard on the emerging COVID-19 strain in Wuhan. The world watched in horror as apartment buildings were welded shut. This was the lockdown of our nightmares.

Beijing celebrated the success in bringing the virus to heel, suggesting it could only be extinguished through lockdowns.

Inevitably, as the virus spread across the western world. governments rushed to import the Chinese strategy. Lockdown hard and fast, and the virus will disappear for good.

Omni-present threat

As I write this in Melbourne, 18 months later, and 200 days of lockdown later, I feel that no one with any commonsense could avoid asking whether China was telling the full story.

One of the key architects of the Wuhan lockdown is now warning about the strategy working against the Delta variant, which has emerged in Wuhan.

Zhang Wenhong is a leading Chinese epidemiologist and he’s now questioning the country’s zero tolerance approach.

Like the rest of the world, the Delta variant has now breached China’s defences, with record local infections in dozens of cites.

Authorities are now deciding whether to reintroduce travel restrictions, mass testing and hyperlocal lockdowns. Even though right now, millions of Chinese are in lockdown.

Zhang Wenhong is a leading Chinese epidemiologist

Living with the virus

“The world needs to learn how to coexist with this virus,” Zhang wrote on his social media Weibo platform, where he has three million followers. “What is really difficult is whether we can have the wisdom to coexist with the pandemic in the long run.”

Needless to say, that hasn’t gone down too well with his Chinese masters.

The suggestion of a softened approach to China’s zero-case approach to virus control enraged nationalists.

Zhang has found himself accused of “pandering to foreign ideas,” while an apparent witch hunt is targeting his academic credentials.

But just like in China, anyone who questions the ongoing tough lockdown restrictions is at best bullied, at worst silenced.

Wuhan is deciding whether to return to lockdown.
Wuhan is deciding whether to return to lockdown.

The will of the people

In the background, nervous governments watch closely as their multi million dollar public polling rolls in, showing whether or not they still enjoy support of the people.

So any dissent from one of the key architects of China’s original lockdown isn’t going to go down well here either, because they’ve risked the political careers on China’s lockdown strategy.

It’s true – a pandemic makes public protest dangerous. But protest we must, in whatever way we can without risking our health. Governments and bureaucracy must be held accountable, especially during a crisis.

The west often points fingers at totalitarian states for their grip on the people, because of the freedoms they take away.

Australians, and in particular Victorians right now are being warned our “freedoms” are only earned through compliance. This is very dangerous territory.

It’s far from over

Just like the lockdown debate in China right now, the other inconvenient truth for Australian politicians is the situation in the US. Despite the vaccine rollout, masks are back. Partly because not enough people have been vaccinated (though that figure is many many more times higher than Australia at this stage).

On top of that, Australia has had a dangerous public debate about the safety of its most commonly available vaccine, Astra Zeneca. No wonder people are hesitant.

It’s the perfect recipe for ongoing restrictions. Lockdowns in the most populous state of New South Wales could extend into next year. Melburnians are being told that to get out of a longer lockdown, they need to remain in lockdown indefinitely.

A week after Melbourne emerged from its fifth lockdown of the pandemic, it entered its sixth, with no end in sight, and no evidence the restrictions are bringing case number down. So they just impose more restrictions.

Police are roaming children’s playgrounds. It’s now illegal to remove your mask to drink alcohol outside. It’s illegal to leave the house after 9pm, not that there was anything to do anyway.

Worryingly, in Western Australia, the Premier Mark McGowan is holding firm on life with lockdowns even after 80 per cent vaccine rate is met. His public support is at 78% – it turns out the people of WA love the idea of being cut off from the rest of Australia.

After all, Western Australia had been reluctant to join the Federation in 1900.

It is not the function of government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error.

Robert H. Jackson

Protest movements often begin with the young, and so it’s no wonder younger people are flouting the rules and contracting the virus.

Some refer to the Delta variant as an epidemic of the young.

While restrictions and lockdowns have kept the virus low, it’s just one set of statistics.

Lessons from September 11

Twenty years after the attacks on 9/11, we are still reeling from the horrors of that day.

But we are also still living with the freedoms we lost as citizens because of that day.

Passed just six weeks after the attacks, the USA PATRIOT Act was created to strengthen domestic security and broaden the powers of law-enforcement agencies.

The act gave the government unprecedented power to indefinitely access and detain immigrants. The FBI was given the freedom to search telephones without a court order.

Facial recognition is common at airports. And data on millions of Americans are being collected and stored.

Trillions were spent on wars against an enemy that couldn’t be defeated.

The hangover from this pandemic is yet to be seen. Restrictions will be in place for a long time – not to mention the constant threat they will return should just one case be detected.

The bigger threat

The biggest threat isn’t the pandemic we see today. It’s the erosion of our freedoms and the acceptance that governments can do as they please with no consequences.

All while our inner-fight is being worn down by the length of harsh lockdowns and the sense that “we can’t do anything about it”.

But make no mistake, this pandemic is going to last a very long time. Restrictions will be in place for a long time – not to mention the constant threat they will return should just one case be detected.

That’s a very dangerous place to be in for a liberal democracy.

Public servants are just that.

“The best lightning rod for your protection is your own spine.” 

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tech

Are foldable smartphones the next big thing?

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Samsung has wrapped its latest Galaxy Unpacked event, announcing two foldables, new smartwatches, and an update to its Galaxy Buds Pro line

Tech commentator Trevor Long, who was at the event, and tech expert Greg Nibler unpack the biggest announcements

What’s changed?

Taking a look at the Galaxy Zed Flip 4, Samsung hasn’t changed the overall design – but new features include the ability to see selfie previews on the cover screen and fast charging.

At a slightly higher cost, there’s the Galaxy Zed Fold 4.

This design remains largely the same, but Samsung has made some big changes to the cameras.

The Galaxy Z Flip 4

What’s probably most interesting about this latest product launch is Samsung’s wearables push.

At the Unpacked event, the tech giant finally unveiled its Galaxy Watch 5 and Galaxy Watch 5 Pro.

After serious battery life complaints, the new devices both boast bigger batteries, faster charging, and increased durability.

What was the actual event like?

Tech commentator Trevor Long joined TICKER NEWS live in New York to detail the experience.

“It was still a bit of a hybrid experience. Because this wasn’t a fully in person thing. So basically, all the gathered media were were in a room together. But there was still just a visual presentation or a short introduction from one of their executives to the same visual presentation is pretty much everyone saw on their live stream,” he says.

“But of course, we then got the opportunity to go and go hands on with all the devices. And it’s fascinating in both London and New York, they’ve set up large experience areas where the general public will be able to come through over the next few weeks and actually touch and feel and experience these devices,

“I think it’s a very smart move from Samsung, because the category is still so new. It’s been around for a few years.”

Are people warming to foldable smart phones?

Tech expert Greg Nibler says there were a lot of issues that came out and some kind of bad publicity with Galaxy fold phones, “but it feels like they’ve worked on that quite a bit”.

“Let’s face it, there’s not a lot of people that have been purchasing these overall so far. But I think just the fact that Samsung keeps on pushing this there, regardless of anything that happens, they are going to keep on making these foldable phones because they believe that this is something that people are going to want.”

Meanwhile, Trevor longs believes foldable phones won’t go mainstream.

However, he is in New York with Samsung Australia and was talking to their executive vice president about the demand.

“And he (Aus VP) said they’re seeing nearly 300% demand. Now that’s not purchasing, but they see interest at a peak, the amount of searches and things that are going on. So it there’s definitely demand there.”

But the VP also told Trevor that there will come a time (he didn’t put a date on it) but there will come a time “when the folding format is the primary format”.

Long also commented on the more refined general design.

“I think people will have trust in the fact that they are durable too.”

When is Apple going to come out with their own foldable device?

“I don’t even think it’s going to be this year, probably next year, maybe sometime Apple will do it,” Long says.

Apple

“Apple doesn’t really have something to compare directly. But we’re coming to the watch side. I do think you know, the Galaxy watches certainly made some improvements with this five and the five pro you mentioned the battery life. That’s pretty impressive specs, they said I believe was 40 hours for the watch five and up to 80 hours for the five pro if you’re not using everything on it. That’s, that’s really great..

But is that going to be enough to convince somebody who’s an Apple Watch user to switch out of that ecosystem? Long says “I doubt it.”

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Ticker Views

Who would win a war between the U.S. and China?

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The U.S and China are in the grips of an arms race, which has not been seen since the depths of the Cold War era

Chinese President Xi Jinping wants his armed forces to become a modern powerhouse by 2035.

In his eyes, they should be “fighting and winning wars” by 2050.

It’s an overt and confronting military strategy, at least that’s how the West perceives it.

In May, a reporter asked U.S. President Joe Biden if he would come to Taiwan’s aid militarily if a conflict ever arises. He answered “yes” at the time because “that’s the commitment we made”.

The answer was a change in the U.S.’ history of strategic ambiguity, and likely caused a stir among Chinese officials.

So, when U.S. House Speaker visited the democratically-ruled island last week, China was hardly going to stay silent.

“We take this trip at a time when the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.”

NANCY PELOSI, U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER

Pelosi is the most senior U.S. official to visit Taiwan in 25 years. This is an issue for Chinese officials who are committed to the ‘One China’ principle.

As China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying said “there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is part of China.”

China has responded to Pelosi’s visit by test firing ballistic missiles near the island, which is home to over 23 million people. Taiwan has also simulated its defence capabilities, as Chinese Navy vessels remain in the Taiwan Straits.

The U.S. House Speaker meets with Taiwan’s President.

China’s live fire drills sent ballistic missiles into Japan’s exclusive economic zone for the first time.

“Those who play with fire will perish by it and those who offend China will be punished.”

WANG YI, CHINA’S FOREIGN MINISTER

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-Wen said the military exercises were “unnecessary responses”.

How does China’s military stack up?

While we don’t know much about China’s military, we do know it is growing at a rapid rate.

In 2014, China overtook the U.S. with the world’s largest navy.

“The crisis will end at a time and in a manner of China’s choosing,” said Dr Michael Sullivan, who is an international relations practitioner at Flinders University.

The U.S. Congressional Research Service, which advises lawmakers and strategy, predicts Chinese navy ships will increase by nearly 40 per cent between 2020 and 2040.

“Some U.S. observers are expressing concern or alarm regarding the pace of China’s naval shipbuilding effort and resulting trend lines regarding the relative sizes and capabilities of China’s navy and the U.S. Navy”

U.S. Congressional Research Service

Of course, the sheer size of a military does not necessarily correlate to its strength. For example, the U.S. has 11 aircraft carriers while China has three.

The U.S. also has more nuclear-powered submarines and larger warships.

As such, it’s hard to imagine President Biden risking a rather expensive aircraft carrier to end the current situation in the Taiwan Straits.

The Chinese Navy is growing at a faster rate than any other fleet.

Beijing does not publish its military spending data but analysts believe the nation is seeking to fast-track its military capabilities through hypersonic missiles.

As the name suggests, these weapons are known for their speed. In fact, they can travel at more than five times the speed of sound.

China denies using these weapons but the West remains concerned because of their speed, and limited detection on radar systems.

“The Chinese government is demonstrating that the era of the U.S. calling the shots militarily in the Taiwan Straits is over.”

Dr michael sullivan, flinders university

The U.S. Pentagon increased its budget requests to $3.8 billion to develop hypersonic weapons for this fiscal year.

The nation currently uses cruise missiles but these are inferior to hypersonic weaponry because of their slower speed, shorter range and tracking capabilities.

How will this end?

China has not fought in a war since 1979 after a tense battle with Vietnamese forces.

This means Beijing’s forces have not been on show in the modern era, and it seems the West would very much like it to keep it that way.

“We await further political fallout between Beijing and Washington. Though there is no direct indication of what form that may take, diplomatic retaliation is one possibility, ranging from recalling the Chinese Ambassador in Washington to expelling US Embassy staff from Beijing,” Dr Sullivan said.

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Business

Why airline executives are being forced to face customers

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As frustrated customers take their anger out on the remaining airport checkin staff, airline executives are being forced onto the front line to face customers.

The return of summer in Europe has been overshadowed by travel chaos, leaving passengers frustrated and often out of pocket.

Thousands of people have been left to battle airport queues that last hours, long delays and thousands of cancellations.

Airports and airlines face staff shortages forcing them to reduce the number of scheduled flights – often at short notice. 

It’s a global problem, with airports and airlines rushing to hire back the thousands of positions they axed at the start of covid.

But how do you do it, and how long until things return to normal?

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