10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

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Good morning, folks. It’s Wednesday!

1. The Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology says the federal government should immediately pause the planned rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine, according to an exclusive in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age this morning. “The AstraZeneca vaccine is not one I would be deploying widely, because of that lower efficacy,” said society president Professor Stephen Turner. “You cannot rely on it to establish herd immunity.”

2. Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has called for patience on the above. “I will say this: people should be wary about making statements especially in relation to incomplete data,” Professor Kelly said, saying that the current data is based on interim results from a phase three trial. “Most importantly, we are waiting for the TGA, the independent regulator, to make their full assessment of the data, not just one paper on December 8.”

3. Victoria has had seven consecutive days without a new locally acquired case. NSW recorded five new cases of community transmission yesterday, and Queensland reported one.

4. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has ruled out another extension to JobKeeper while trumpeting its success to date. Despite urging from some businesses, Frydenberg remains firm that the measure will expire in March as intended. Frydenberg suggested an earlier vaccine rollout would improve Australia’s economic outlook, with four million doses to be distributed by the end of March.

5. Pete Evans’ podcast has been removed from Spotify, the company confirmed. The company says that content that “promotes dangerous false, deceptive, or misleading content about COVID-19” will be removed from its platform. Evans’ podcast is still available on other podcast directories, and he remains on Instagram despite his ban from Facebook.

6. Australians are again diving into the cryptocurrency market as the price of Bitcoin soars to over $40,000. Caroline Bowler, CEO of Bitcoin Markets, told Business Insider Australia the exchange had onboarded one-sixth of its yearly customers in just six days in January as demand swells. Bowler said the market is very different to the similar rally in 2017, which ended in a sell-off and plunging prices.

77. Downloads of rival messaging app Signal skyrocketed 4,200% after WhatsApp announced it would force users to share personal data with Facebook. Signal received significant publicity following WhatsApp’s announcement, with public figures including Elon Musk and Edward Snowden endorsing the app as a WhatsApp alternative.

8. The FBI and DOJ are investigating ‘significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy’ after the Capitol riot in the US. The “scope and scale” of the riot probe is unprecedented in FBI and DOJ history, Michael Sherwin, the acting US attorney in Washington DC, said at a press conference. He added that his office has opened more than 170 subject files so far and charged 70 cases, but prosectors expect that number to “grow into the hundreds.”

9. Instagram chief Adam Mosseri is defending his platform following the riots. He hit back against the idea that Instagram and its parent company, Facebook, have tried to be neutral over the years. “We’re not neutral. No platform is neutral,” Mosseri tweeted, adding that the company strives instead to be “apolitical.”

10. Pour one out for Elon Musk, who is no longer the world’s richest person. He dropped to second on Forbes’ list of the richest people, behind Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, after tumbling Tesla shares slashed $US13.5 billion off his fortune. Musk takes a small salary from his companies but has substantial stakes in Tesla and SpaceX. It’s one of those things that makes you empathise with the argument that money is fake.

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Stefan Thomas, a German-born programmer living in San Francisco, told The New York Times this week that he had two chances left to guess his password to a hard drive that holds the keys to his wallet with $US220 million worth of bitcoins. I’d try ‘Password1’. Maybe ‘Password1!”

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