From poisonous mushrooms to Melbourne’s meteor – here’s what happened around the world this week

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With cold and flu season at its peak, we don’t blame you if keeping up with the news chaos has been a total afterthought. 

But rain, hail or shine, you can count on us to bring the big stories to you. Melbourne’s had a crazy week after a suspected mushroom poisoning left three relatives dead, and a mysterious meteor blazed the night sky. Western Australia has done a heckuva backflip on its new Aboriginal cultural heritage laws, caving into backlash from farmers and landowners. On the big screen, Barbie has strutted her pink pumps across the billion dollar mark, and the name’s made a cheeky comeback in baby name lists. Women’s sport is totally trumphing this year with Australia’s Diamonds winning the Netball World Cup (and the Matilda’s are still crushing it.) Disneyland might be coming “down under,” and Russia is rewriting history with new pro-Ukraine invasion schoolbooks. 

As for our WTF story this week, the big boys of tech (Musk and Zuck) are off to the fighting cage to wrestle out their problems. Because, as Musk said, “men like war.” I think someone needs to go see Barbie.

Suspected mushroom poisoning leaves three dead

A family lunch in Victoria has ended in tragedy after three of the guests died and one remains in critical condition. The cause? Poisoned “death cap” mushrooms. 

The relatives include married couple Gail and Don Patterson, Ms Patterson’s sister Heather Wilkinson and her husband (who’s still fighting for his life).

Erin Patterson (Gail and Don’s daughter-in-law) hosted and served the meal but hasn’t become sick. Nor have her two children, who were also present. For this reason, homicide squad detectives are deeming her a suspect in the investigation. Though they stress “she could be very innocent.” 

Speaking to reporters on Monday, she claimed, “I didn’t do anything. I loved them. I’m devastated that they’re gone.” Whilst she’s separated from her husband, police have been told their relationship is amicable. 

Erin Patterson initially told police she bought the mushrooms from a local shop near her home. A source close to the family told the Herald Sun that the woman’s ex-husband has suspected she’d tried to poison him before, when he became critcally ill last year from a mysterey stomach illness. 

Police are forensically testing a dehydrator seized from a local tip as part of the investigation. 

Victoria did have a bizarre spike in death cap mushroom poisonings in 2020 where five people ended up in intensive care and one died.

The Mysterious Melbourne Meteor

Melburnians were captivated by a flaming object that streaked the sky on Monday night, burning for almost a minute before scattering into pieces. Some speculated it was a meteor shower or a comet, others took their spaceship theories to the internet. 

But experts quickly reported it as space junk, likely the remnants of a Russian Soyuz rocket re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. Russian authorities had given a heads up about the rocket, which was used to launch a satellite, and that the remnants were planned to re-enter the atmosphere near Tasmania. 

The fireball was preceded by reports of a sonic boom and houses shaking, suggesting that the space junk was fast enough to cut through the sound barrier. Any leftover debris would most likely have crashed into the ocean. 

Professor Richard de Grijds, a Macquarie University astrophysicist, has said about the event, “We can expect to see more of such bright, man-made ‘meteors’ if we don’t find a way to deal with our unbridled ambitions in space, which will soon make the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ pale in comparison.”

The Australian Space Agency says it’s continuing to monitor the event.

WA government scraps new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Laws

Only weeks after coming into effect, the Western Australian government has backed out of its controversial Indigenous cultural heritage protection laws. The changes emerged from Rio Tinto’s destruction of ancient caves in Juukan Gorge in 2020.

The 1972 law permitted the mining group to blow up a 46,000 year-old site, despite archaeologist digs discovering artefacts and sacred objects. It was a global embarrassment for WA and exposed their outdated laws. Hence, the reform. 

The new laws required that if cultural heritage could be impacted or disturbed, land users had to submit a management plan to the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Council for approval, at their own expense. This would need to detail the consultation, consent and agreed measures to protect the sites or artefacts. Failure to do so would lead to penalties up to $1m for individuals and up to $10m for corporations. 

These requirements were heavily criticised by farmers as having too many confusing hoops to jump through and high financial costs. Opponents argued it held “businesses to ransom.” 

Bucking under the backlash, the government scrapped it. Premier Roger Cook has said, “I understand that the legislation has unintentionally caused stress, confusion and division in the community and for that I am sorry.” 

The Traditional Owners of Juukan Gorge say their “people feel betrayed” by the repeal. 

Key  amendments will still be made to the original 1972 law, and Mr Cook hopes this will allow them to “strike the right balance.”

Billion dollar Barbie

When pitching global blockbuster “Barbie” to Mattel, Margot Robbie told executives that the flick would score a billion dollars. “Maybe I was overselling, but we had a movie to make,” she joked to reporters. 

This week, just after Greta Gerwig was announced as the highest grossing female director of all time (go girl), the movie grooved past the billion dollar mark in only 17 days. No movie in Warner Brothers’ 100-year history has sold so many tickets so fast. 

It’s on track to be the biggest film of the year, earning the nickname “Barbillion.” 

In a joint statement from studio executives Jeff Goldstein and Andrew Cripps, the two said, “as distribution chiefs, we’re not often rendered speechless by a film’s performance, but Barbillion has blown even our most optimistic predictions out of the water.” 

It’s inspired a skyrocketing interest in Barbie as a baby name, increasing by 603% according to Nameberry. Ken’s also on the rise with a 293% jump. According to BabyNames.com, Barbie means “stranger,” while Ken means “handsome.” They last peaked in the early 1960s, so a comeback could be welcomed. 

Who knows, maybe in twenty years time we’ll all be walking around going, “Hi Barbie!”

Australia wins the netball cup

Our Aussie female athletes are crushing the game this year, between the Matilda’s making the quarter finals and the Diamonds winning the Netball World Cup for the 12th time.

After beating England’s Roses  61-45 in the Cape Town final, the green-and-gold netball girls snagged the cup in their largest World cup final victory in 28 years. It was a tight (and tense) tussle, as the Roses had beaten Australia for the first time ever last Thursday. But you live and you learn, and the Diamonds played in total top form this week, securing their domination. 

Player of the match Keria Austin has said, “I don’t have words. I’m so proud to have gone out there and won it for Australia. We wanted to write our own script and we did.”

It was a fairytale ending for the elite career of wing defence and center star Ash Brazill, who’s played 13 domestic seasons and featured in the national team since 2015. The star player said, “I just couldn’t wish for a better ending. I’ll never play netball again. How can I top this?”

Disneyland down under

A dream is a wish your heart makes, and this one may just be too good to be true. 

There’s a rumour mill making the rounds that Disneyland could be hitting Australian shores. 

Melbourne mayor Sally Capp has voiced her support of the magical Kingdom hitting Victoria, and a prime piece of land just north of Geelong has been offered by billionaire David Fox. He says, “There’s an entertainment precinct that we’ve defined. I wouldn’t say (for a) Disneyland at this moment in time, but anything is possible.”

The move would fasten the city’s status as Australia’s events capital, which could be much needed after the commonwealth games disaster. 

South Australia has also put its name in the hat, with SA businessman and winemaker Warren Randell suggesting a portion of his McLaren Vale property. And then, of course, there’s the home of Aussie theme parks – the Gold Coast. 

Disney allegedly thinks Australia’s too “isolated” for a park to pay off. 
So maybe don’t tell your kids quite yet.

Russia unveils pro-Ukraine invasion schoolbooks

A new history textbook has been released by Moscow which defends Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It’s been said to present the “state’s point of view” to young Russians. 

Aimed for the eleventh grade (17 year olds), the material’s designed to highlight the “demilitarisation and denazification” aims of what the Kremlin calls “a special military operation.” 

It covers a period from 1945 to the 21st century and repeatedly labels Ukraine as the “Nazi state.” The Presidential aide Vladimir Medinsky boasts that the book “completely” rewrites history from the 70s to the 2000s, and was created in just 5 months. It also denounces Western sanctions, claiming that the West’s objective is to destroy Russia and control its mineral wealth. 

Russia has been tightening its control of the historical narrative in schools for some time, with a new subject “Conversations about important things,” being introduced to instill patriotism in kids. 

There’s been an exodus of Russian historians and philosophers who criticise these moves, with teachers also under the microscope. In one instance, a Russian court sentenced a former history teacher to five and a half years in prison for criticising the war online. 

Train accident in Pakistan kills dozens

At least 30 people have been killed and 100 injured after a train derailed in south Pakistan. 

Ten carriages derailed and some overturned near the Pakistani town of Nawabshah on Sunday. Many passengers were trapped, and nearby villagers rushed to the accident to help. One volunteer, a schoolteacher called Saleh Somro, told the New York Times,“I can’t find words to describe how heartbreaking the scenes were. Dozens of the passengers were trapped….blood was everywhere.” 

The derailment is under investigation, as it seemed to have been travelling at a normal speed. Six railway workers including train maintenance staff have been suspended in relation to the event, with the railways minister saying “we have not forgiven negligence. We have suspended six people.” 

Investigation has pointed to jammed wheels and damaged tracks as the lead factors. Officials say the responsibility lies with the engineering and mechanical engineering department. 

It’s not uncommon for train accidents to occur in the area, as between 2013 and 2019, 150 people died in similar incidents. The railway lines are poorly maintained, with low safety standards and outdated communications and signal systems.

Musk and Zuckerberg take it to the ring

It’s the battle of the slightly off-kilter billionaires, after Elon Musk challenged Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to….a cage fight? 

In the early hours of Sunday, he wrote on Twitter/X/whatever it’s called, “Zuck v Musk fight will be live-streamed on X. All proceeds will go to charity for veterans.” 

Taking to Threads, Zuckerberg replied “shouldn’t we use a more reliable platform that can actually raise money for charity?”

Alright kids, break it up. 

Following the July launch of Meta’s “Twitter-killer” Threads, a rivalry has sparked between the two. Threads launched with more than 100 million sign-ups in a few days, but lost more than half of its users by the end of the month. While Musk has copped near-daily criticism for all the, uh, interesting changes being made to his platform X. So fair to say the stakes are pretty high for both parties. 

Zuckerberg says he proposed the 26th of August as a date for the fight, but Musk’s now claiming he might need surgery on his back before it can happen. Sure thing Elon 😉

Elon Musk has a background in sumo wrestling, while Zuckerberg is a devotee of mixed martial arts. 

And both of them clearly have too much time and money. 

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