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US briefing: Australian bushfires, US strikes in Somalia, Hanukah attacks

Monday’s top story: extreme weather feeds bushfires across Australia, where a firefighter has died. Plus, US airstrikes target al-Shabaab in Somalia

by Mattha Busby Dec 30th 2019 · 4 min read
US briefing: Australian bushfires, US strikes in Somalia, Hanukah attacks

Good morning, I’m Mattha Busby with today’s essential stories.

Australia bushfires: mass evacuations as firefighter dies

A volunteer firefighter has died in New South Wales and properties are feared lost after bushfires driven by extreme weather swept across four Australian states. Ten people have now died during one of the worst bushfire seasons in the nation’s history. The extreme weather conditions are expected to worsen today after a horrific day in the East Gippsland region of Victoria, where authorities called for mass evacuations.

Record December heat. Highs of 40.8C in Tasmania have surpassed the previous benchmark set in 1897, meaning that all six states and the Northern Territory experienced temperatures above 40C on Monday.

Two days left to give to the Guardian in 2019 ...

The next US president will shape the Supreme Court for the next half-century – and the future of LGBTQ+ rights, immigration, abortion, guns, religion, dark money and more are in play. As 2020 approaches, we’re asking our US readers to help us raise $1.5m by early January to support our reporting of the coming critical year. Help us reach our goal! Contribute now.

US air strikes target al-Shabaab after Mogadishu bombing

Four “terrorists” from the militant group al-Shabaab have been killed in US airstrikes in Somalia, according to the military, following the deaths of at least 79 people in a car bombing in Mogadishu – the deadliest attack in the country for two years. The rate of airstrikes has risen sharply this year, and the US Africa Command said it killed more than 800 people in 110 strikes in Somalia between April 2017 and April this year.

Iraq airstrikes. The attack comes after 25 militia fighters died and at least 55 were wounded following three US airstrikes in Iraq on Sunday which targeted the Kata’ib Hezbollah militia group, which Washington said was backed by Iran, after a rocket attack on a US base.

Calls for protection after five wounded in Hanukah stabbings

Jewish groups called for increased protection across New York state after the stabbing of five orthodox Jews, two of whom remain in a critical condition, at a rabbi’s home during Hanukah festivities. Visiting Monsey on Sunday morning, as the suspect pleaded not guilty, New York governor Andrew Cuomo condemned the “act of domestic terrorism” and cited a dozen incidents of antisemitism in recent weeks across the state, in addition to the massacre at a kosher grocery store in New Jersey.

Antisemitism. Offensive graffiti was daubed across a synagogue and shops in north London, UK, over the weekend and the Board of Deputies of British Jews called for anti-Jewish hatred to be defeated.

Cheat sheet

Two people were killed in a shooting at the West Freeway Church of Christ near Fort Worth, Texas, and a third person was taken to a hospital in critical condition, according to officials. The motive remains unknown.

A record high overnight temperature for this time of year of 16.8C was registered in northern Scotland after a meteorological phenomenon created cold, wet conditions on one side of the mountains and warm, dry conditions on the other.

Greta Thunberg’s father has told how activism helped his daughter overcome years of depression, but expressed fears over the impact of global fame as the teenager is often the subject of online abuse.

Unseasonable warmth in Moscow led the government to decorate a display in the city centre with artificial snow: ironic since the city usually pays for snow to be removed.


Saving the New York subway

New Yorkers are hopeful that a multibillion-dollar investment can save their subway system from disarray, two years after derailments and delays prompted governor Andrew Cuomo to declare a state of emergency. Legislators had long neglected the state-run, 472-station public transport system, which became characterised by delays, trash and rats.

Turmoil in Latin America shows no signs of letting up after tumultuous year

Mass demonstrations and a failed military uprising in Venezuela left an uneasy state of calm, following 12 months where protests and violence rocked Chile, Puerto Rico, Peru, Colombia and elsewhere, while Bolivian president Evo Morales was forced from office. What next for the region?

Is veganism as good for you as they say?

A plant-based diet has been touted as healthy, cruelty-free and better for the environment. Brands have rushed to offer vegan products and athletes have credited veganism for their improved performance. But high-profile portrayals have been partisan and scientists say the long-term effects of the diet are unclear.

DeRay Mckesson on Black Lives Matter: ‘It changed the country’

The civil rights activist discusses the five years since 18-year-old African American man Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri. Protests ensued, but almost 900 people have reportedly been shot dead by police in 2019. But Black Lives Matter continues to campaign and is encouraging voter registration for the 2020 elections.


From #MeToo to school climate strikes, the power of popular movements can no longer be ignored, writes Rebecca Solnit, the author of Whose Story is it? Old Conflicts, New Chapters.

The climate movement grew in power, reach and sophistication, often led by indigenous people, from the Arctic to Ecuador to the south Pacific and beyond. It became a powerful force that needs to grow yet more so in the next year and needs to win in the next decade.


The defending Super Bowl champions the New England Patriots will have to play in the opening weekend of the postseason in the wild-card playoff round for the first time since 2009 after their defeat against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

In the Premier League, Sadio Mané secured Liverpool their 18th win of the season amidst controversy as the video assistant referee appeared to work in the unbeaten league leaders’ favour, and Chelsea came from behind at the Emirates to spoil new Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta’s first home game in change.

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last updated: 2019-12-30@16:12