Good morning, this is Richard Parkin bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Thursday 23 January.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has referred Bridget McKenzie’s handling of the controversial sports grants scheme to an internal investigation, following the auditor general’s scathing report into the $100m community sport infrastructure grant program. It comes amid new revelations that sports clubs and councils in Tony Abbott’s then seat of Warringah received more than $1m in grants under the controversial sports grants program, with another Coalition MP, Trent Zimmerman, failing to declare his role as patron to a rugby union club that received $500,000. The Queenscliff Surf Lifesaving Club, of which Abbott was a member, received $70,000, with nearby Mosman Rowing Club also being granted $500,000.
Seventeen people have now died from the mysterious Sars-like coronavirus, Chinese authorities have said, as the government unveiled measures to rein in the spread of the disease and advised residents of Wuhan not to leave the city. Officials said China was now at the most critical stage of prevention and control, especially as the nation prepares to celebrate the lunar new year on 25 January and hundreds of millions will criss-cross the country. In Australia, medical staff from the New South Wales health department will be stationed alongside biosecurity staff at Sydney airport to meet the thrice-weekly direct flight from Wuhan, conduct an initial diagnosis of any people on the flight who are exhibiting flu-like symptoms, and if necessary send them to Westmead hospital for testing.
The United Nations are demanding an investigation into allegations that the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, had his phone hacked by Saudi Arabia, with special rapporteurs “gravely concerned” spyware deployed from a WhatsApp message from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was an attempt at surveillance of Bezos in order to silence the Washington Post’s reporting on Saudi Arabia. The crown prince remains under ongoing scrutiny over his possible involvement in the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
More than half of all Australians have been directly affected by the recent bushfire crisis, according to a survey by the Australia Institute. A third of those surveyed across Australia reported a change to their routine, with 26% reporting illness or health effects as a result of smoke haze.
The My Health Record system has cost the federal government nearly $2bn over the past decade – but nearly half of the online medical entries remain empty. 90% of Australians have an e-record – but only 12.9m of these contain any data.
A Services Australia crackdown on people flouting the single parents payment has failed to uncover the savings it had foreshadowed, finding that just over 1% of 75,598 recipients it reviewed had partners. The chief executive of Acoss has criticised the systematic reviews which it says presumes recipients are “untrustworthy”.
Arachnid experts are predicting a “bonanza” of funnel web sightings across Sydney, due to recent wet weather and heat creating conditions in which the world’s most venomous spider thrive.
Terry Jones, founding member of Monty Python and director of three of Python’s feature films has died, aged 77. The behind-camera star of Life of Brian, Monty Python and the Holy Grain, and The Meaning of Life, also found success with the beloved TV series Ripping Yarns, as well as writing nearly 20 children’s books.
Donald Trump has downplayed the brain injuries suffered by US personnel in Iran’s missile attacks on bases where they were stationed earlier this month. “I heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things, but I would say and I can report it is not very serious,” he said.
Emmanuel Macron has been involved in a terse exchange with Israeli security, with the French president asking an officer to leave St Anne, a church in Jerusalem that has been considered French territory since 1896.
“In a country bound by world-famous beaches, there is something incredibly calming about a swim at a waterhole.” But how to find the most stunning and wild places for a dip? Caroline Clements and Dillon Seichik-Reardon have you covered. And for a historical stroll down memory lane, check out these stunning “then and now” pictures of some of Australia’s favourite ocean pools.
At current rates of carbon emissions the world will hit its budget for a 1.5C rise in around 10 years. But with a prime minister more interested in “blathering about adaptation” and an opposition leader choosing his words carefully, how can Australia do its part? Greg Jericho punches the numbers on what kinds of cuts are necessary.
Studies have shown that classical music can help sooth pets suffering separation anxiety. But with Amazon Prime now offering shows specifically for cats and dogs, and Spotify announcing playlists specifically for your pet, is animal entertainment actually a good idea? Kate Leaver takes a look.
As Harvey Weinstein goes on trial for charges of rape and sexual assault, for dozens of women their only recourse against the former film mogul is civil courts. On this episode of Today in Focus, Anushka Asthana speaks with class action participant Zoë Brock.
Run-outs are rarely as slapstick as the one between Aaron Finch and Steve Smith that cost Australia against India. But with both players in top form it’s a timely reminder, writes Jonathan Howcroft, that much of sport is played between the ears.
South Korea has cut strips through a timid Olyroos defence to seal a 2-0 victory in their AFC U-23 Championship semi-final and deny Australia their first chance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Australia can still qualify for the Olympics if they beat Uzbekistan on Saturday.
Tourism executives say the “worst summer on record” has cost Australia $2bn already and could hit the industry for $4.5bn more, the Australian reports. Malcolm Turnbull has accused prime minister Scott Morrison of “misleading” the public over climate change, writes the Sydney Morning Herald. “I don’t know why Scott Morrison has acted the way he has … I’ve known him for 20 years and I can’t explain his conduct.” NSW MP Andrew Constance came out swinging against the Red Cross, Salvation Army and St Vincent De Paul for taking too long to distribute bushfire donations, states the ABC.
NSW fire crews are bracing for the return of severe fire conditions with hot and windy weather forecast across much of the state.
Nick Kyrgios will play Gilles Simon in the second round of the Australian Open tonight.
And if you’ve read this far …
What’s the secret to the perfect espresso? Well forget long conversations with your local barista, because mathematicians reckon they’ve found the formula. “The key to making the shot reproducible is you want the particles just large enough that the flow is uniform and predictable, but as small as they can be to maximise the surface area,” research co-author Dr Jamie Foster.
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