Morning mail: Afghans condemn ‘disgusting’ image, insecure work ‘virus’, 10 summer recipes |

Good morning, this is Tamara Howie bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Wednesday 2 December.

Top stories

Senior Australian special forces soldiers drank beer out of the prosthetic leg of a dead Taliban soldier at an unauthorised bar in Afghanistan. A number of photographs obtained by the Guardian show one senior soldier – who is still serving – sculling from the leg in an unofficial bar known as the Fat Lady’s Arms, which was set up inside Australia’s special forces base in Tarin Kowt, the capital of Uruzgan province, in 2009. The photos have shocked and disgusted Afghan civil society leaders and come as Australia continues its war of words with the Chinese government over an inflammatory tweet about Australian soldiers. France, New Zealand and MPs in the UK have joined Australia in criticising the Chinese government over the tweet, which contained a digitally created image showing an Australian soldier cutting the throat of a child. And Samantha Crompvoets, whose report triggered the Brereton inquiry, has warned Australians should not dismiss the war crimes scandal as just a “few bad apples”.

Donald Trump and Rudy Giulani discussed as recently as last week the possibility of a “pre-emptive pardon”, the New York Times reported. It is not clear what federal crime Giuliani would need the pardon for, though he was under investigation last summer by federal prosecutors for his business dealings in Ukraine. Giuliani tweeted a denial shortly after the story was published. “Fake News NYT lies again,” he wrote. “Never had the discussion they falsely attribute to an anonymous source. Hard to keep up with all their lies.”

Almost 50% of university students do not like online learning and “do not wish to ever experience it again”, according to a wide-ranging report from the higher education regulator. Students said it resulted in a “lack of engagement”, less time overall in class, isolation from their peers, IT issues, and made examinations and assessments particularly difficult and potentially unfair. Particular degrees like engineering, science, visual and performing arts were also especially affected by the lack of practical learning.


A bushfire has burned across half the world heritage-listed K’gari/Fraser Island with potentially catastrophic consequences for its habitats and wildlife. The blaze, which has been alight for more than six weeks, is encroaching on the island’s famous Valley of the Giants – home to trees more than 1,000 years old. Dr Gabriel Conroy, a conservation biologist at the University of the Sunshine Coast, said the island had experienced fire for thousands of years but those blazes would have been less widespread and intense because of the way the Butchulla people lit smaller fires to prevent larger ones. “This is a very large and very hot fire for this island,” he said. “It’s a big fire and it’s the wrong kind of fire.

The secretary of the ACTU, Sally McManus, has labelled insecure work a “virus” and has called for a target to halve the proportion of insecure jobs in Australia by the end of the decade. She says that in 2020 “our levels of casual insecure work threatened the health of everyone and damages the whole of the economy”.

An inquiry into the sports rorts scandal has accused the government of “obstruction” after the former minister Bridget McKenzie refused to appear and her successor blocked the release of advice about the legality of the $100m program.

The world

Two people including a small child have been killed and 15 injured after a driver ploughed his car into a crowd of people in south-west Germany. A 51-year-old man was arrested but police did not comment on whether the crash was deliberate.

Russian investigators claim to have caught the man responsible for killing more than 25 women, previously dubbed the “Volga maniac”. Radik Tagirov, 38, is said to have confessed to murders after being identified using DNA evidence and shoe prints.

Stockholm police have arrested a woman suspected of keeping her 41-year-old son confined to their flat for almost three decades, police and local media have said. The man was found by a relative who entered the unlocked flat and found him hardly able to stand, missing most of his teeth and slurring his speech.

French investigators have opened an internal inquiry into how a Syrian photographer covering a demonstration in Paris was seriously injured. An officer allegedly hit Ameer al-Halbi in the face with a truncheon while the Syrian was covering a protest against France’s controversial global security law.

Recommended reads

Maddi Rose is worried about her future.
Maddi Rose, a teaching student at Victorian University of Technology, is worried about her future. Photograph: Christopher Hopkins/The Guardian

A new cohort of young Australians is facing a perfect storm of uncertainty looking to the future. The opportunities and possibilities they might have once counted on has dramatically narrowed with the arrival of recession in a nation blindsided by Covid-19. Guardian Australia’s new series Dreams interrupted investigates how the pandemic is shaping a generation of young Australians who now find themselves in a recession that will have an outsized impact on the trajectory of their lives. Luke Henriques-Gomes looks at how the problems started long before 2020. Greg Jericho collates all the stats and graphs to survey the outlook for young people, and Madeleine Rose, who is one of eight young diarists, shares the challenges of her day-to-day life, as well as her hopes and dreams.

Every year brings an abundance of delectable new titles to cram your bookshelf but 2021 promises to be an especially fruitful one, considering that many books scheduled for release this year were delayed due to Covid-19. Here’s a curated list of just a few of the many Australian books to look forward to.

From a retro prawn cocktail to a vegan coconut ice-cream, here’s 10 Yotam Ottolenghi recipes in season for the Australian summer. Make these recipes to feed the masses at a socially distanced barbecue or simply to please yourself.


Bounchan Keola risked his life fighting the California wildfires but now faces deportation to Laos, a country he left when he was four. The Guardian US reporter Sam Levin talks to Rachel Humphreys about Keola, who sustained a life-threatening injury on the frontline of a huge fire. Days later, California prison officials notified federal immigration agents that his release would be coming up and the state, records show, made arrangements to transfer him to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Full Story

He risked his life fighting the Californian wildfires, now he faces deportation

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


Coronavirus is wreaking havoc across several sports. Newcastle United’s trip to Aston Villa on Friday has been postponed after the north-east club reported a “significant” rise in positive Covid test results. And Lewis Hamilton is “devastated” to miss Sunday’s Sakhir Grand Prix after contracting the virus.

Media roundup

A man has been arrested and homicide investigations are under way in the top end after a woman was murdered and her body found in a busy suburban street, reports the NT News. South Australia has become the last state to abolish the so-called “gay panic” provocation defence, reports the ABC. The Sydney Morning Herald says millions of people are being encouraged to stock up on Australian wine to take a stand against China, after the country raised tariffs on Aussie wine by more than 200%.

Coming up

The reserve bank governor, Philip Lowe, is to appear at federal economics committee hearing.

The Greens senator Lidia Thorpe is to give her first speech in Canberra.

And if you’ve read this far …

The two-metre-high wooden penis sculpture once stood on the ridge of the Grunten mountain in Germany. The mystery monument has since disappeared.
The two-metre-high wooden penis sculpture once stood on the ridge of the Grunten mountain in Germany. The mystery monument has since disappeared. Photograph: Dpa Picture Alliance/Alamy

It’s been a strange week of unexplained sculptures appearing and disappearing all over the world. German police are investigating the disappearance of a 200kg wooden phallus sculpture from a mountainside where it appeared without explanation several years ago.

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