Morning mail: West reverts to diplomacy after Syria strikes
Good morning, this is Eleanor Ainge Roy bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Monday 16 April.
Western powers are switching to back to diplomacy after the weekendâs military strikes against chemical weapons sites in Syria, calling for the UN to launch a broad investigation into the Syrian governmentâs chemical weapons stockpiles. A draft resolution will call on the whole of the UN to try to reinvigorate the stalled peace talks, accept a ceasefire and restore humanitarian access to besieged areas. Many of the UN security councilâs 15 members, who meet on Monday, will urge Russia to stop protecting Bashar al-Assadâs regime from a UN inquiry.
Overnight the US envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, made a surprise about-turn by revealing that US troops would stay in Syria until their mission was complete. Haley told Fox News the troops wou ld stay until Islamic State was defeated and Syriaâs chemical weapons stockpile could not be used to harm US interests. âWe are not going to leave until we have accomplished those things,â she said.
Hundreds of firefighters and residents in south-western Sydney suburbs were waiting on Monday morning to discover the extent of damage from the weekend bushfire that has so far burnt through 2,500 hectares. The blaze was downgraded from emergency level to watch and act about 5.30pm on Sunday as conditions began to ease, and authorities expected lower temperatures and easing winds to help their efforts to control the fire on Monday. The fire, which began on Saturday afternoon and may have been deliberately lit, was fanned by strong winds on Sunday, and the Rural Fire Service said some properties had not escaped unscathed.
Bill Shorten has demanded that charitiesâ advocacy work be exempt from the proposed foreign donation ban, clarify ing Laborâs demands after a bipartisan report suggested the law be rewritten. The comments set Labor on a collision course with the government, which has offered to consider recommendations to amend the bill but refused to completely exempt charities from the ban. In a unanimous report released on Monday, the joint standing committee on electoral matters recommended the electoral funding and disclosure bill should define political expenditure as spending âto influence voters to take specific action as voters, so as not to capture non-political issue advocacyâ. That would apply the foreign donation ban to charities in theory, but in practice allow them to continue to take international money.
A tissue-destroying ulcer once rare in Australia is at epidemic proportions in regions of Victoria, prompting infectious diseases experts to call for urgent research into how it is spread.Writing in the Medical Journal of Australia, researchers said incidents of Buruli ulcer were on the rise but they were baffled as to why Victoria was particularly affected. There have been no reported cases in NSW, South Australia or Tasmania. The disease is most often associated with swampland areas in tropical countries. Prof Paul Johnson, a Buruli ulcer expert, believes it is most likely the bacteria that causes the ulcer, Mycobacterium ulcerans, is being spread by mosquitos and possums.
Voters are divided on whether Malcolm Turnbullâs government should intervene to stop coal power stations closing or subsidise the construction of new ones, but strongly back energy efficiency measures, a new poll has found. The YouGov Galaxy poll, released on Monday, found that 42% wanted the government to intervene to keep existing coal electricity generators open, compared with 33% who opposed it. It found 41% in favour of subsidies for new coal plants or for the government to build them itself, with 37% against. The po ll of 1,000 respondents found that 90% thought it is important or very important for the government to help reduce householdsâ and businessesâ energy bills.
Australia hit 80 gold medals despite late upsets in netball and rugby sevens as the Commonwealth Games concluded on Sunday night, with marathon, squash and basketball golds adding to final tally. But organisers came in for heavy criticism for not providing timely medical assistance to the Scottish runner Callum Hawkins after he collapsed from heat exhaustion while leading the marathon.
Daniel Ricciardo has won his first grand prix of the season in China, carving up the field after a collision with his Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen brought out the safety car. âThis sportâs crazy,â Ricciardo said. âA week ago I was with my head down. Frustrated at the sport, frustrated at all the variables.â
âIt is in the air, the wind, the water and the soil and we find it in as many places as we look.â Australia is drowning in a tsunami of plastic pollution â" even unfrequented and supposedly âpristineâ beaches are lined with plastic rubbish, writes Graham Readfearn. The marine biologist Jennifer Lavers says: âNo location and no species is likely to remain immune for any period of time. It is ubiquitous. We are literally drowning in this stuff.â
The 2018 Commonwealth Games has been hailed as the most inclusive sporting event held to date, with 38 para medal events woven into the schedule alongside able-bodied events. Photographer Carly Earl met several of the stars, includi ng 15-year-old para athlete Kailyn Joseph, who says the shared format is a highlight of the competing circuit. âWe look forward to the Commonwealth Games so much because here weâre just like any able-bodied person. We get to be with everyone else in the same environment â¦ I love it.â
Steph Harmon goes down the rabbit hole of the new Alice in Wonderland-themed exhibition at the the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne, which uses the more than 30 film and TV adaptations of the classic story to showcase the evolution of special effects. Designed by Anna Tregloan, the exhibition intends to be as fantastical as the original text, with creative and immersive rooms that house more than 300 objects from collections and studios around the world. âWe wanted it to be surprising and magical, with curiosity as the main driver,â curator Jessica Bram says. âThe more curious you are, the more youâll find.â
Whatâs he done now?
Donald Trump has again eviscerated the former FBI chief James Comey in a multi- string Twitter rant, calling him a âslimeballâ and suggesting he should go to jail. âSlippery James Comey, a man who always ends up badly and out of whack (he is not smart!), will go down as the WORST FBI Director in history, by far!â
Australia will back renewed efforts by Britain to strengthen its ties to the Commonwealth nations, after the shock of Brexit and growing Chinese influence in Asia and the south Pacific, the Australian reports. The West Australian devotes its front page to the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, which has been widel y criticised for the âinvisibleâ athletes, empty seats, and lack of starpower. The ABCâs Signal podcast finds tens of thousands of Australian workers are stuck in âzombieâ contracts, and have been missing out on thousands of dollars in extra earnings, as well as a raft of benefits and job protections.
The banking royal commissionâs second round of public hearings begins today, focusing on financial planning and the wealth management industry. The first witness is the deputy chairman of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, Peter Kell.
A court will hear an application from the Daily Telegraph and the journalist Jonathon Moran to bring a cross-claim against the Sydney Theatre Company for it to become another defendant in Geoffrey Rushâs defamation lawsuit.
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