Good morning, this is Imogen Dewey bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Monday 25 January – a year since Australia confirmed its first case of Covid-19 and things are far from back to normal.
Australia is signing up to two international agreements to price in climate risk, environment minister Sussan Ley will tell a virtual summit today. This could inflame tensions between Liberals and Nationals, who have criticised banks for asking businesses for carbon transition plans. As Surf Lifesaving Australia issues a heatwave safety warning over the high number of summer drowning deaths, crucial environment battles loom for the country this year. There’s rising pressure to act on the climate crisis, urgent questions over environmental protection (the ongoing aftermath of the bushfires, bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, logging debates and, of course, koalas), and strategy issues over electric vehicles. So, ask Adam Morton and Lisa Cox, will 2021 bring change? Anthony Albanese might have signalled a possible return to Labor’s 2019 workplace policies, but he’s deferring a 2035 emissions reduction target until the Coalition shows its hand.
While Australia recorded zero cases of local transmission across the country yesterday, New Zealand had its first community case in two months. China is fighting a new cluster of infections, France has warned of a third lockdown, Dutch curfew protests turned violent, and Italy is threatening legal action against Pfizer over its vaccine supply. A new Covid variant is overwhelming the Amazonas state in Brazil. The UK and South African variants may be as much as 50% more transmissible than the regular virus, meaning stricter measures may need to be taken. And health experts say tech companies should be forced to reveal their most viral (sorry) material, arguing pandemic misinformation can only be countered if it’s made public.
Joe Biden has lost no time undoing the Trump legacy in his first 100 hours as US president, pledging a “wartime undertaking” to combat the pandemic in which more than 417,000 have died. He released a 198-page Covid-19 strategy and signed 10 executive orders and other directives. Former US coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx has said people in the Trump White House considered Covid-19 a hoax, adding that some statements by political leaders “derailed” the county’s virus response.
Smoking causes half of Indigenous Australian deaths over 45, a new study has found, accounting for 10,000 premature preventable deaths in the past decade alone – figures underestimated by more than 50%. Researchers are calling for more spending and a shift in health messaging.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has warned internet giants Google and Facebook it is “inevitable” they will pay for news content and their threats to shut down core functions in Australia do them a “big disservice”.
Police say arrests may follow Queensland raids, after a tip from German authorities who busted the world’s largest illegal online marketplace. Almost half a million users were using the website DarkMarket to sell drugs, counterfeit cash, stolen credit card data, anonymous sim cards and malware.
A barefoot climate change activist dubbed Queensland’s accidental mayor appears set to fail in his bid to put the coal and beef-loving city of Rockhampton on a greener path. But he feels he’s had a moral (if not actual) victory.
WhatsApp has lost millions of users after a poorly explained update to its terms of service sent users flocking to competitors such as Signal and Telegram.
Despite 3,500 arrests and reports of violence, Moscow has downplayed protests in support of Alexei Navalny, insisting few turned out at Russia’s biggest opposition protest in years.
Chinese aircraft have entered Taiwan’s air defence zone for a second day running, an unusual and provocative escalation that has prompted the Biden administration to make its first public remarks on its relationship with Taipei.
Chinese rescuers have pulled 11 gold miners to safety two weeks after they were trapped by an underground explosion.
A Muslim comedian in India has been detained for allegedly insulting Hindu gods during a standup routine he did not perform. Police admitted they have no evidence against Manuwar Faruqui, who has been detained for three weeks.
As Joe Biden moves to double the US minimum wage, Australia can’t be complacent, writes Van Badham. “It’s easy to feel smug about our framework. But while wage-earning Australians may tut-tut an American framework that presently allows 7 million people to both hold jobs and live in poverty, local agitation persists for the Americanisation of our own established standards.” And if the proposals pass, the US minimum will leapfrog Australia’s, in real terms and purchasing power.
Australians eat a lot of lamb – per capita, only Kazakhstan consumes more. So why is goat meat still considered niche? We’re one of the world’s largest exporters, sending about 90% of our goat meat offshore. But the tide could be turning, writes Annie Hariharan, as Australians start enjoying it at home. Ade Adeniyi, owner of Sydney’s Nigerian restaurant Little Lagos, says if people can make the mental shift to the different cut, they’re usually converted. “I tell them, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to pay,” he says. “But when they try it, they enjoy it.”
Don’t be put off by the canned laughter, cautions Greta Parry. First-class acting and deep pathos mean One Day at a Time – screening on Netflix – holds its own with the best. Rita Moreno and Justine Machado star in this joyously reimagined 70s sitcom about a Cuban-American army veteran and nurse sharing an LA apartment with her mother and teenage kids. “The writers have capitalised on the acting talent by imbuing every episode with heavy issues, from Trump and immigration to sexist micro-aggressions to post-traumatic stress … The result is compelling. I dare you to get through more than a few episodes without tears.”
In 2013, James Howells threw out a computer hard drive containing the cryptocurrency bitcoin. Last week he again asked his local council for permission to dig for it at his local tip as he believes it is now worth about £200m ($355m). On today’s episode of Full Story, the Guardian’s UK technology editor, Alex Hern, discusses the rise of bitcoin – which allows people to bypass banks and traditional payment methods – and whether it should be banned.
Australia’s only Indigenous male Test player, Jason Gillespie, has backed Cricket Australia’s decision to drop the words “Australia Day” from its promotion of Big Bash League games on 26 January.
“A common theme emerges from any conversation with Australia’s Olympic athletes: in their minds, the Tokyo 2021 Games are going ahead,” writes Kieran Pender. “Whether they will actually take place this July remains uncertain; on Friday, the Japanese government was forced to deny reports they would be cancelled. But for Australia’s Olympians, doubt is not conducive to peak performance.”
Matildas captain Sam Kerr has been recognised for her achievements at Chelsea by being named the 2021 young Australian achiever of the year in the UK, following Socceroos great Harry Kewell, who received the inaugural award in 2005.
Ahead of January 26, the ABC has outlined its stance on the use of “Australia Day” in its coverage, as well as other terms including “Invasion Day” and “Survival Day”. According to the Age, almost half of Australians oppose the campaign to change the date of Australia Day – though half also believe it will move in the next decade. As thousands prepare to attend Invasion Day marches tomorrow, Claire G Colman writes in the Saturday Paper that “political fear” plays a big part in the erosion of Indigenous rights. In the Brisbane Times, meanwhile, doctor Clara Tuck Meng Soo has explained her decision to “hand back” her Order of Australia – and why she believes Margaret Court should be stripped of hers. Scott Morrison says he will meet Chinese president Xi Jinping only if there are no conditions for restarting dialogue, reports the Australian.
The Australian of the Year will be announced this evening at 7.30pm, following celebratory events with finalists throughout the day.
And if you’ve read this far …
Keep an eye out for animals prowling in the world’s abandoned “ghost villages”. As birth rates fall and human populations are set to decline in countries from Asia to Europe, an unusual form of rewilding is taking place. In Spain, rural abandonment has seen the Iberian wolf rebound from 400 individuals to more than 2,000, many of which are to be found haunting the villages of Galicia, as they hunt prey whose numbers have also skyrocketed.
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