Morning mail: protests and violence flare across US, Rio Tinto says sorry, a boy's marathon achievement

Emilie Gramenz
Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Good morning, this is Emilie Gramenz bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Monday 1 June.

Top stories

Violence and civil unrest continue to flare in the US after another night of protests over the police killing of George Floyd. Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, has denied that systemic racism exists in the country. His boss has tweeted that the US will be designating Antifa, a militant anti-fascist movement, as a terrorist organisation, continuing a habit of blaming violence during the protests on leftwing organisations. And Floyd’s brother says a phone call from the president did little to assuage his hurt: “He didn’t give me an opportunity to even speak,” Philonise Floyd said. Journalists are reporting and recording being shot at, teargassed, arrested and intimidated and protesters chanting “I can’t breathe” clashed with the Secret Service and police outside the White House overnight. Around the world people are expressing solidarity with the demonstrators and, in Australia, the family of David Dunday – an Aboriginal man who said “I can’t breathe” 12 times before he died while being restrained by five prison guards in Sydney – said they have been traumatised anew by footage of Floyd’s death.

Research shows misinformation about the origins of Covid-19 is far more likely to be spread by pro-Trump, QAnon or Republican bots on Twitter than any other source. The study was commissioned by the Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology. There are fears the US protests could lead to a surge in coronavirus cases. The Minnesota governor urged demonstrators to wear masks and practice social distancing, while in Los Angeles testing centres closed due to safety concerns. Global coronavirus infections have passed the 6m mark as Latin America hit the grim milestone of 50,000 deaths, half of them in Brazil.

The Australian government gave private pathology companies lucrative contracts to test for Covid-19. A Guardian Australia investigation reveals major pathology companies were handed lucrative contracts through limited tenders, closed collection centres were shielded from takeover, and the Coalition provided large subsidy increases after industry lobbying. The health department said the contract was awarded through a limited process due to the urgency of the situation, and the Australian Pathology chief executive says all the measures provided were “extraordinarily critical” to support the sector.

Australia

The mining giant Rio Tinto has apologised to traditional owners in Western Australia’s north after destroying a significant Indigenous site dating back 46,000 years. Rio detonated explosives in part of the Juukan Gorge last Sunday, destroying two ancient rock shelters, which devastated the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people.

The federal government has announced a “limited capacity” return to mutual obligation requirements for Australia’s welfare recipients from next week. Mutual obligations had been paused at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis but the government now says a three-phase reintroduction will begin this month.

Australian unions have warned against any push for effective pay cuts. The union leader Sally McManus gave the warning after the Australian Industry Group called for no increase to the minimum wage amid the coronavirus pandemic recovery.

Scott Morrison has confirmed that he has been in talks with the US about attending the postponed G7 summit. Donald Trump has said the current G7 membership does not adequately represent “what’s going on in the world”, and specifically cited Australia, Russia, South Korea and India as possible additions.

The world

A SpaceX Falcon 9, with Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken in the Dragon crew capsule, lifts off from Cape Canaveral. Photograph: David J Phillip/AP

Two Nasa astronauts have docked the SpaceX Dragon crew capsule to the International Space Station in another milestone moment for their historic mission. SpaceX confirmed docking had been made at 10.16am ET above the China-Mongolia border.

Senior public health officials in the UK have made a last-minute plea for ministers to scrap an imminent easing of the coronavirus lockdown in England. Experts are warning the country is unprepared to deal with any surge in infection and that public resolve to take steps to limit transmission has been eroded.

Prominent figures from across Brazil’s political spectrum have a published a high-profile manifesto calling for a united front to protect democracy and lives. It comes amid growing alarm over President Jair Bolsonaro’s authoritarian outbursts and shambolic response to coronavirus.

Recommended reads

Finally there is real movement on Australia’s climate policy – but time isn’t on our side. Anna Skarbek, chief executive of the independent not-for-profit ClimateWorks Australia, writes that if speed weren’t a factor, we could rely on the market to incentivise green technology at its own pace. But she says we have entered a crucial decade in the race against climate change.

Operation Buffalo, ABC TV’s comedy/drama about nuclear testing at Maralinga, never quite finds its balance, writes Luke Buckmaster. The six-part series is set in the mid-1950s and is inspired by real events in the South Australian outback. With a “uniformly strong” cast and a skilled cinematographer, the series veers between sly comedy and darker drama – and, according to this review of the first three episodes, it doesn’t always stick the landing.

After months of dramatically reduced freedoms, the shock of getting back to normal can be jarring. Take a lesson in readjustment from three people who’ve been through this before – the New Zealand mountaineer Peter Hillary, the astronaut Andy Thomas and the intrepid sailor Jessica Watson. All of them say the process of change brings difficulty and opportunity.

Listen

Full Story examines how a national security law is leading to secret trials in Australia. Last week, in a courthouse in Canberra, reporters were handed a statement by the defendant as they walked out the door. It simply read: “I am unable to say much and you are unable to report much, this is the state of our now fragile democracy.” The Guardian Australia reporter Christopher Knaus explains how this trial came about, and the law that’s allowed this story to be shrouded in secrecy.

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

Sport

The much-anticipated return of the NRL has concluded with a huge win for the Manly Sea Eagles over Canterbury. Tom Trbojevic put on a show, scoring a double and setting up three tries for Manly, seemingly emerging from the lockdown as a better player than when he went in.

Media roundup

The Nationals MP George Christensen set up a website backing his push for a China inquiry which is linked to a business promoting sugar pills to treat urinary tract infections, reports the Age today. ABC News is reporting that fraudsters have been stealing Australians’ superannuation through the Covid-19 early access scheme. The Australian has a story about the suspension of Australia’s immigration pipeline shrinking the economy by up to $40bn a year. And, if you missed it at the weekend, the Saturday Paper examined one Queensland town’s decades-long legal fight against being subsumed by a coalmine.

Coming up

Ben Fordham takes over Alan Jones’ radio show from today.

An appeal judgment is expected over the Northern Territory youth detainee Dylan Voller’s successful defamation action.

And if you’ve read this far …

Nine-year-old Tobias Weller completes the final leg of a 26.2-mile walk he has called his ‘ginormous challenge’. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

Tobias Weller, a nine-year-old boy with cerebral palsy and autism, has raised £60,000 for charity by walking up and down his Sheffield road for 70 days. He originally wanted to do a 1km sponsored walk in his local park but when England’s lockdown descended he decided to complete a marathon by walking up and down the Sheffield road where he lives. His 70-day journey raised tens of thousands of pounds more than his initial goal of £500.

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