Morning mail: coronavirus spreads, welfare card 'shame', baboon escape


Good morning, this is Helen Sullivan bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Wednesday 26 February.

Top stories

Iran’s deputy health minister said he has contracted the coronavirus and placed himself in isolation, a day after appearing feverish at a press conference in which he played down its spread in the shrine city of Qom and said mass quarantines were unnecessary. A thousand guests and workers at a hotel in Tenerife have been quarantined after an Italian doctor and his wife tested positive for coronavirus, and as the first cases of the disease were detected in Austria, Croatia, Switzerland and mainland Spain. A further three people have died from the virus in northern Italy according to a local official. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh claimed on Monday that the coronavirus outbreak is being “weaponised” by the media to bring down Donald Trump when in fact it is simply a version of the “common cold”. Follow the latest on our live blog.

The federal government is spending up to $2m buying water from a Queensland agribusiness company, Eastern Australia Agriculture, in a bid to keep an internationally significant wetland from dying, despite paying $80m to the same company three years ago for water rights for the same purpose. The $80m purchase of overland flows from Eastern Australia Agriculture has been controversial and is now under scrutiny by Australian National Audit Office. The extremely large purchase was done without tender by the former agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce, who concluded that the opportunity was exceptional and that it warranted direct negotiations.

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The government’s controversial cashless debit card scheme is causing more harm than good, a new study has found, as are other compulsory welfare income management programs. Researchers from four universities said in a new report released on Wednesday that they had “uncovered an overwhelming number of negative experiences” stemming from the card, ranging from feelings of “stigma, shame and frustration” to practical issues such as cardholders simply not having enough cash for essential items. “Our research is certainly not the first to suggest these set of policy measures require a fundamental rethink,” the study said.

Australia

A baboon, not in Sydney, taking a selfie.



A baboon, not in Sydney, taking a selfie. Photograph: Geoff Bell/BBC/John Downer Productions

Three baboons escaped from their truck in Sydney Tuesday afternoon, while being transported to a major Sydney hospital so one of them could have a vasectomy. Callers to Sydney talkback radio station 2GB were first to report they’d seen primates running about the area of the Royal Prince Alfred (RPA) hospital.

Environmental concerns are getting top billing in the Infrastructure Australia priority list for the first time. In its latest list, released on Wednesday, Infrastructure Australia said climate change was altering the water cycle and was projected to cause sea level rises of 0.4 to 0.6 metres.

Federal government plans to establish a nuclear waste dump in South Australia face a Senate roadblock, as Labor delays a decision on whether to support it and native title holders prepare to come to Canberra to lobby against the nominated site.

Peter Dutton has declared that “leftwing terrorism” includes Islamist extremism after being blasted by Labor for applying false equivalence in the national security debate.

The world

Hosni Mubarak in a cage in court during his trial in Cairo in 2012.



Hosni Mubarak in a cage in court during his trial in Cairo in 2012. Photograph: EPA

Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president ousted during Arab spring has died at 91. Egypt’s autocratic former president ruled with an iron fist for three decades before being toppled during the Arab spring protests in 2011.

Mike Bloomberg has deleted controversial tweets that sarcastically praised dictators in an attempt to damage his rival Democratic presidential candidate senator Bernie Sanders after garnering intense backlash online.

The verdict in the New York case against Harvey Weinstein is only the beginning of his prosecution, with separate charges filed in Los Angeles against the disgraced producer.

Julian Assange was handcuffed 11 times, stripped naked twice and had his case files confiscated after the first day of his extradition hearing, according to his lawyers, who complained of interference in his ability to take part.

Recommended reads

For flu, some hospital guidelines define exposure as being within six feet (two metres) of an infected person who sneezes or coughs for 10 minutes or longer.



For flu, some hospital guidelines define exposure as being within six feet (two metres) of an infected person who sneezes or coughs for 10 minutes or longer. Illustration: Guardian Design

How to protect yourself from the coronavirus. The Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak is a new illness and scientists are still assessing how it spreads from person to person, but similar viruses tend to spread via cough and sneeze droplets. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they release droplets of saliva or mucus. These droplets can fall on people in the vicinity and can be either directly inhaled or picked up on the hands then transferred when someone touches their face, causing infection. For flu, some hospital guidelines define exposure as being within two metres of an infected person who sneezes or coughs for 10 minutes or longer. Here’s what else you can do.

It’s an open secret in the gossip magazine industry that many of the stories are made up, or at least highly exaggerated. With standards such as these it came as a shock when Woman’s Day was rapped over the knuckles by the media watchdog last week for publishing a headline about Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, which it said was “blatantly incorrect”. Dr Megan Le Masurier, a media academic from the University of Sydney, says when she saw the reports she was stumped. So why did they do it? asks Amanda Meade.

Listen

Why is an Australian academic locked up in Iran’s most notorious prison? After being charged with espionage in 2018 and undergoing a secretive trial, Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert is serving a 10-year jail sentence in Iran. She claims the conditions she’s being held in are tantamount to torture. In this episode of Full Story, reporter Ben Doherty explains how she got there, and the complex history of Iran’s political prisoners.

Full Story

Why is an Australian academic locked up in Iran’s most notorious prison?

Full Story is Guardian Australia’s news podcast, released every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or any other podcasting app.

Cook

Jackie Middleton’s Sumac Fish Tacos.



Jackie Middleton’s Sumac Fish Tacos. Photograph: Jackie Middleton

“There’s a time and place to chase authentic food experiences; fortunately, when eating homemade tacos it doesn’t sit high on my authentic foodie radar,” writes Jackie Middleton, as she uses sumac on fish in this taco recipe.

Sport

Dozens of national flags hang down from the roof of Berlin’s cavernous velodrome.



Dozens of national flags hang down from the roof of Berlin’s cavernous velodrome. Photograph: Kieran Pender/The Guardian

The UCI Track World Championships begin on Wednesday in Berlin, where Guardian Australia was given exclusive access to the nation’s top cyclists.

Steve Smith and David Warner return to Newlands in Cape Town to take on South Africa in a cricket match in the early hours of Thursday morning, Australian time. As benign as it seems, the event will mark nearly two years since the sandpaper imbroglio tore viciously at Australian cricket’s cultural seams, sparking a wave of invective, reflection and – it would appear – rehabilitation.

Media roundup

In the Sydney Morning Herald: the Australian government has “activated its emergency response plan to an impending coronavirus pandemic”. “Jurors in child abuse trials will be permitted to hear evidence of the accused’s prior convictions and their sexual interest in children,” the Australian reports. BlackRock chief executive Larry Fink has told the Australian Financial Review that coronavirus will have a greater impact on global trade than Donald Trump’s trade war.

Coming up

The inquest into the 2017 Bourke Street massacre continues with families of the victims expected to give evidence.

The education minister, Dan Tehan, will address the annual Universities Australia conference.



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