Morning mail: bushfires rage on, NT police officer charged, Nadal's great comeback

Helen Sullivan

Good morning, this is Helen Sullivan bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Thursday 14 November.

Top stories

There has been no letup for some exhausted communities across eastern Australia as bushfires continue to flare. In NSW 61 blazes were still burning on Thursday morning, while more than 70 fires were burning in Queensland ahead of predicted worsening conditions this weekend. The Rumba Dump fire had already burned through more than 27,000 hectares by Wednesday afternoon, and remained out of control in a number of places including Killabakh, about 20km north of Taree. In Queensland, where at least 14 homes were destroyed, heavy winds caused havoc through most of Wednesday, whipping fire fronts through thousands of hectares of dry bushland. All told, the hundreds of bushfires across NSW have ripped through more than 1 million hectares. “We were here until 2am, maybe 2.30am this morning,” a Killabakh resident, Ian Wheeler, told Guardian Australia on Wednesday. “That whole mountain across from us was glowing, literally glowing. I have never seen anything like it.”

A Northern Territory police officer has been charged with murder over last weekend’s shooting of a 19-year-old Indigenous man, Kumanjayi Walker. Walker died after he was shot at Yuendumu, 300km from Alice Springs, on Saturday when two police officers went there to arrest him for breaches of his suspended sentence. A 28–year old male NT police officer has been charged with one count of murder. The announcement came after hundreds of people took to the streets in Sydney, Melbourne and other cities to protest against the shooting.

Donald Trump cared more about investigating his political rival Joe Biden than the fate of Ukraine, according to dramatic testimony from the first public impeachment inquiry hearing. As Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair, gavelled the House intelligence committee into session, cameras from every major network carried the proceedings to millions of Americans. Republicans used their questioning time to add credibility to the baseless conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election. Republican counsel also pressed witnesses on Hunter Biden’s qualifications to join the board of the Ukrainian company Burisma. When asked by reporters about the hearing, Trump said, “It’s a witch hunt, it’s a hoax. I’m too busy to watch it. I have not been briefed.”

Australia

Facebook has rebuffed an appeal by the ACTU to take down fake tweets purporting to be from Sally McManus and Bill Shorten, arguing that the content doesn’t violate the social media giant’s community guidelines.

A Wollongong dog breeder was awarded a $205,000 federal grant for an aquaculture project for which he tried to raise more than $5m on the blockchain market by issuing “aqua tokens” that offered a return to investors based on the price of fish.

Australia needs to prepare the ground for a two-sided national energy market, where consumers are rewarded for buying and selling energy in real time, according to the Australian Energy Market Commission.

Federation reform could be the secret to improving productivity in Australia and avoiding blurred responsibility in fields such as health, Josh Frydenberg has suggested.

The world

Two people have died as the highest water levels for more than 50 years caused hundreds of millions of euros of damage in Venice, officials have said, with another surge expected.

Foreign Office ministers have threatened to use new sanctions against individuals in Hong Kong found guilty of human rights abuses during the government’s efforts to suppress street protests.

Two people in China have been diagnosed with plague. The cases being treated at a hospital in Beijing are of the pneumonic form, which is more serious than bubonic plague.

Astronomers have spotted a star heading out of the Milky Way at 1,700km a second, after an encounter with the supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy.

Recommended reads

A firefighter mops up at South Turramurra. Photograph: Sam Mooy/Getty Images

Jim Casey has been fighting fires his entire professional life. “I’ve watched fire behaviour change in recent years – and the science tells us that it’s climate change that’s driving the conditions fuelling catastrophic fires,” the firefighter and former Greens candidate writes. “For those of us who do this day in, day out, the stress can be hard to manage. That can only be more true for those who fight fires part-time or as volunteers. Longer, hotter fire seasons mean that there is more demand than ever on volunteer and paid firefighters, while at the same time resources to support them have been cut.”

The latest wages growth figures released on Wednesday by the bureau of statics show that growth has slowed, writes Greg Jericho, “with the worst results since the middle of last year. The results confirm that, for yet another year, the government will be forced to revise down its overly optimistic predictions.”

If this was a poll on which Australian bird is featured most frequently on homewares, superb fairy-wrens would win by a mile, writes Holly Parsons. “Teacups, plates, tea towels and cushions across the country are adorned with their image. The combination of their tiny size (they weigh about the same as a 20c piece), pointing up tail and the way they cuddle together makes them pretty darn adorable. I’m going to argue though that there are many more reasons that you should vote for them in 2019 than simply ‘they look cute’.”

Watch

Cuba’s strange dual system means that public sector workers and those in private enterprise are paid in different currencies. Laura, a GP, earns Cuban pesos, whereas Rogelio, who was a doctor, now makes more in an hour as a taxi driver than he used to in a month because he is paid in “convertible pesos”, which are worth 24 times more. As doctors and teachers struggle to buy basic goods, is it time for change?

Sport

Rafael Nadal came from 1-5 down in the third set to beat the languid young Russian Daniil Medvedev 6-7 (3), 6-3, 7-6 (4) at the ATP Tour Finals, in one of the great comebacks of his long career.

Jordan have become the Socceroos’ unlikely nemesis, winning three of the five competitive games the two teams have played. If that becomes four from six on Thursday in Amman, the journey for Australia from the second stage of World Cup qualification to the third shifts from comfortable stroll to a more hurried dash.

Media roundup

“The regulator in charge of dealing with complaints about doctors in NSW declined to investigate allegations of eight preventable ­patient deaths,” the Australian reveals. The Sydney Morning Herald details a new foreign interference strategy at universities, which will see Australian institutions “probe suspicious research partners and prevent undue influence of academic activities”. The Courier-Mail reports that Queensland firefighters battling to save properties on the frontlines “are being forced to use bushfire maps from the Western Australian government, claiming the state’s own maps are woefully inadequate.”

Coming up

A Qantas Dreamliner will take off from London today in a 19-hour test-flight to Sydney.

And if you’ve read this far …

Three cows swept off an island during Hurricane Dorian have been found after apparently swimming four miles during the storm.

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