Morning mail: explosions rock Beirut, Swan v Trump, a love letter to Melbourne

Good morning, this is Emilie Gramenz bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Wednesday 5 August.

Top stories

Two huge explosions have rocked central Beirut, leaving at least 50 people dead and 2,750 wounded, shattering windows, knocking down doors and shaking buildings across the city. The blasts ripped through a section of the Lebanese capital’s port, sending an enormous blast wave across the city. Lebanon’s interior minister, Mohamed Fehmi, says the explosion appeared to have been caused by “huge quantities of ammonium nitrate” being stored at the port.

Today marks 28 days since stage three restrictions were reintroduced across Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire, and in that time coronavirus cases in Victoria have quadrupled. The reins are tightening, but will it be enough? Kids Helpline, the free 24/7 counselling service for young people, is reporting an 8% increase in demand in Victoria last month. Infrastructure Australia has warned projects in Victoria could become a lower priority because stage four restrictions and capacity constraints will limit the ability to deliver them. Nurses in the state are still asking for urgent PPE supplies, and more than 730 health workers now have Covid-19.

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Coronavirus victories remain fragile around the world, six months after the pandemic began. We are past the initial shocks but still without a clear end in sight. Officials in France and Germany have issued fresh warnings about the risk of losing control. Greece has reported its highest single-day increase in infections in weeks. And English councils with the highest Covid infection rates have launched their own contact-tracing operations to plug holes in the UK government’s “world-beating” £10bn system.


Scott Morrison will use a speech in the US to counsel both China and America to uphold common rules designed to enhance both regional and global stability. He will appear at global national security conference the Aspen Security Forum by video-link this morning.

Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen says the federal opposition has to significantly narrow its policy offering ahead of the next election. He says it must reframe climate change as an economic issue if it wants to convince Australian voters to change the government.

Flooding in localised areas around Sydney will happen almost every week by the middle of this century because of human-caused sea-level rise, according to a study by scientists at the Bureau of Meteorology.

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Rio Tinto has told a Senate inquiry it could have chosen one of three options to expand its iron ore mine that would not have damaged a 46,000-year-old highly significant Aboriginal heritage site in Juukan Gorge, but chose a fourth option that did damage the rock shelters “in order to access higher volumes of high-grade ore”.

The world

Kylie Moore-Gilbert

Australia’s ambassador to Iran says detained British-Australian academic Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert is in good health and has access to food, medical treatment and books inside Qarchak women’s prison. The ambassador, Lyndall Sachs, was granted a visit with Moore-Gilbert on Sunday. But the academic has previously told human rights advocates, “I can’t eat anything, I feel so very hopeless … I am so depressed”.

Donald Trump floundered over key issues in an interview with reporter Jonathan Swan for the news website Axios. When it was put to Trump that a thousand Americans were dying a day, he responded “it is what it is”.

The FBI has been passed information from a witness claiming to have seen the Duke of York at a nightclub with a woman who alleges the pair had sex when she was a teenager. Virginia Giuffre, now 36, has claimed she had sex with Prince Andrew on three separate occasions, and was aged 17 on the first occasion. Andrew has denied her claims.

Joe Biden’s election campaign unveiled a plan to address the economic inequalities facing Latinos in America amid financial turmoil caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has disproportionately harmed communities of colour.

Recommended reads

Aileen Moreton-Robinson wrote Talkin’ Up to the White Woman: Indigenous Women and Feminism

It’s 20 years since the release of Talkin’ Up to the White Woman, and the enduring significance of the work is ready for another generation of First Nations thinkers. Author Aileen Moreton-Robinson was born on Queensland’s Stradbroke Island, Quandamooka Country, in 1956. Her innovative text made a serious intergenerational intellectual impact here and overseas. Now, for its anniversary reissue through UQP, Moreton-Robinson has supplemented the text with new analysis and reflections.

“Despite undertaking rigorous exams which demonstrate intellect, some medical students simply lack the professionalism and human skills to become a sound doctor,” writes Ranjana Srivastava. What happens when a university kicks the can down the road, and makes the failing medical student someone else’s problem?

Brigid Delaney has written a love letter to Melbourne from the rest of the country: “I’ll confess the relief, the guilt and the shame for not sticking around – for posting pictures of winter swims at Bondi beach and plates of food in restaurants, while my brothers were allowed out for an hour a day, and my parents stood nightly on a busy road to wave at the grandchild they could not touch.”

In the latest chapter in a series of essays by Australian writers responding to the challenges of 2020, Melanie Cheng writes that thepandemic exposes the source of true fear: our utter powerlessness.


How Covid-19 laid bare the cracks in Australia’s aged care system. With more than half of Covid-19 deaths in Victoria associated with aged care facilities, the Australian Medical Association has called for a royal commission into the situation. Experts say there were warnings about the sector’s vulnerability stretching back many years. So how did this happen?

Full Story

How Covid-19 laid bare the cracks in Australia’s aged care system


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Alyssa Healy

Alyssa Healy, the world’s second-ranked ODI batter, put the recent Covid-related downtime at home to good use: she consulted with sports apparel manufacturer Asics on the development of a women’s cricket shoe. The growth in demand for women’s specific cricket equipment is another sign of how far the game has come in recent years and for Healy, it sends an important message to women that they are welcome in the sport.

The 2020 international tennis calendar has dwindled to a handful of events after the Madrid Open became the latest and least surprising casualty of the pandemic. The Italian Open in Rome, the other important warm-up event before Roland Garros, is still set to begin on 20 September but there are no guarantees.

Media roundup

The Reserve Bank of Australia has revised its forecasts, according to the AFR, and says unemployment will hit 10% and the rebound in economic growth will be much more subdued. The Age reports families are “on the edge” over childcare with new restrictions looming. And the ABC has a story about a team of international researchers creating a blood test that diagnoses Alzheimer’s disease with 96% accuracy.

Coming up

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will (virtually) address the US 2020 Aspen security summit.

Most Victorian students return to remote learning under new restrictions.

And if you’ve read this far …

Donald Trump may have given the Free World a Rockin’ for the last time. Neil Young is suing the president’s election campaign for alleged illegal usage of his music at a rally. Young has “continuously and publicly” objected to his music being used by Trump going back to 2015.

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