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Morning mail: Australian Open chaos, Trump's final days, kids in custody

Imogen Dewey
·8-min read
<span>Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

Good morning, this is Imogen Dewey bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Monday 18 January. As Donald Trump enters his last week in the White House, the Australian government is looking into potentially adverse effects from the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine in Norway, while positive Covid cases have sent preparations for the Australian Open into chaos.

Three Australian Open charter flights have now been sent into hard quarantine due to five positive Covid-19 test results among passengers on board (and counting), with around 72 players now unable to train for 14 days. The restrictions have divided players. Those who arrived without any positive tests on their flights are allowed five hours of training and fitness each day. Some players say they were not aware that sharing a plane with an infected person would be classed as close contact. One has been warned for breaching strict isolation rules by “opening his door” to talk to his friends. Still, the tournament is at this stage going ahead. Meanwhile, NSW recorded six new local Covid cases yesterday, including a healthcare worker at a Sydney hospital.

Australian authorities will examine reports of potentially adverse reactions to the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in Norway, but health minister Greg Hunt said yesterday it was not yet clear whether several reported deaths were related to old age rather than the jabs. He said there was no change to the government’s vaccine rollout plans and “safety is Australia’s number one priority”. Three in four Australians meanwhile agree that Scott Morrison should publicly rebuke Craig Kelly for spreading misinformation during the pandemic, according to new polling commissioned by the Australia Institute. The progressive thinktank also found more than half of those surveyed agreed the PM should condemn outgoing US president Donald Trump for his role in inciting the Capitol riots.

As Trump enters his final days in power, Downtown Washington DC is in a militarised lockdown, bracing for potential unrest until after the inauguration. There was a last burst of chaos on Sunday with a bombshell New York Times report revealing an associate of Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani told a former CIA officer a presidential pardon was “going to cost $2m”. At the end of the 45th president’s single term, the US is riven with stark inequalities, rising white supremacist terror and large numbers who believe the election was stolen. The new administration faces a truly daunting challenge. Joe Biden will sign a series of executive orders in his first days in office, attempting to roll back damage done at home and abroad by Trump on climate, Iran, Covid and more. And while the public will not see Trump’s White House records for years, there is growing concern the collection will never be complete: he has been cavalier about the law requiring that records be preserved, with a habit of ripping up documents before tossing them out, forcing White House workers to spend hours taping them back together.


In a new series, Childhood in custody, Guardian Australia investigates the overrepresentation of Indigenous kids in juvenile detention. Today, Louie tells the story of his first, terrifying night behind bars, and how he would pretend to be on the phone to family just to stay a few minutes longer out of solitary.

In a bleak outlook for pay rises, Australians might have to wait five years for a return to 2% wage growth. Deloitte’s new forecast is grim for wages, but paints a bright picture for the economy if Covid rates remain low and vaccines roll out.

Seafood consumers are being urged to stop buying flake to protect sharks. A new campaign highlights laws that permit the harvest of endangered animals, with no legal obligation to label flake by species or where it’s from.

Far-north Queensland residents are bunkering down, with a tropical cyclone expected to bring destructive winds and heavy rain when it makes landfall. Kimi is expected to cross the north tropical coast between Cape Flattery and Port Douglas on Monday morning.

The world

Phil Spector
Phil Spector was convicted of the 2003 murder of actor Lana Clarkson. Photograph: Ringo HW Chiu/Getty Images

Phil Spector, the music producer who changed the sound of pop music in the 1960s, has died at the age of 81. He was convicted of the 2003 murder of a Hollywood actor and died while serving his sentence.

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny has been detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport shortly after returning from treatment abroad for a suspected poisoning attempt on his life by Russia’s FSB spy agency.

The party of the Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine’s party is preparing to challenge President Yoweri Museveni’s election victory. It condemned what it called the house arrest of Wine and his wife: with their home surrounded by army and police, Wine says he fears for their lives.

UK Labour’s former leader has pledged to campaign against Rupert Murdoch’s News UK TV channel. A more “just, free and accountable” media was one of four causes championed by Jeremy Corbyn as he launched his Peace and Justice Project at an online rally.

Recommended reads

Roller-skating’s revival is a rare burst of joy in troubling times – and no one is happier about it than the skaters who kept the sport alive. The pandemic appeal of roller-skates is obvious, writes Doosie Morris. “They’re nostalgia on wheels, evoking exactly the kind of feel-good, kitsch glamour that a plague calls for. The outfits, the exercise, the online community; alone at home or at a safe social distance, it’s the perfect antidote to a world in chaos.”

“The place that I live in and its surrounding towns are – and there’s no delicate way to put this – extremely white.” Elfy Scott made a sea change during the pandemic to an “idyllic town” on the south coast of NSW, but found herself missing the diversity of her old home in Sydney’s inner west. “Suddenly I felt a longing to be settled back in a multicultural neighbourhood where I don’t stand out or feel othered,” she writes. “Often all eyes on the street will be on you and, while I’m not necessarily attributing that to any sort of abject racism, it can be incredibly discomforting.”

Boasting the same storytelling dexterity as her 2020 hit I May Destroy You, Michaela Coel’s first TV series, Chewing Gum, follows a Beyoncé-obsessed 24-year-old on a quest to lose her virginity. Tracey Gordon, played by Coel in what was originally a one-woman stage show, lives in a London council estate with her devout Christian family. Tracey’s character, prone to mistakes and breaking the fourth wall, invites inevitable comparisons to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, but the show is entirely its own. As Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen writes: “The only downside of Chewing Gum is that it’s far too short.”


Author Jennifer Mills reflects on how the idea of breath ties together the three crises of 2020: the climate crisis, racial injustice and the pandemic. In this episode of Full Story, she compares Australia’s “gas-led recovery” plan to Europe’s willingness to embrace solutions to the climate emergency as part of its economic recovery.

Full Story is Guardian Australia’s daily news podcast. Subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or any other podcasting app.


India&#x002019;s Washington Sundar (right) is congratulated by Shardul Thakur
India’s Washington Sundar (right) is congratulated by Shardul Thakur after posting a debut half-century on day three of the fourth Test at the Gabba. Photograph: Patrick Hamilton/AFP/Getty Images

Australia faces a frustrating day after an unheralded India duo put the series decider on a knife edge. England, meanwhile, require 36 to beat Sri Lanka after Jack Leach shone with five wickets.

The most in-form player in the world is bidding to improve on a woeful grand slam record at the Australian Open. It’s Aryna Sabalenka’s moment to underline her potential on the big stage.

Media roundup

Police in Victoria are planning to drop most Covid fines and hand out cautions, reports the Age, but the move isn’t popular with everyone. According to the Australian Financial Review, the RBA has suggested house values could jump 30% over three years, and is standing by for an “asset bubble” fuelled by low borrowing costs. And in the Australian, a business leader has called on Australia’s diplomats to step into the breach amid “Beijing’s bullying”, calling for better alignment of political and economic interests.

Coming up

Prime minister Scott Morrison returns from holiday and is expected to face questions over Covid-19 misinformation.

Australia will play India on the fourth day of the fourth Test, with the series on the line.

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