Kabul airport afghanistan
Crowds gather outside Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, 26 August, 2021. (Image: AP/Wali Sabawoon via AAP)

FATALITIES AT KABUL AIRPORT

At least 72 people are thought to be dead and more are injured, the BBC reports, after two blasts outside Kabul’s airport. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack via Telegram, Reuters says. One appeared to be a suicide bombing, US officials confirmed. Among the dead are 12 US troops and at least 60 Afghan civilians, while up to 140 are wounded, The New York Times reports. The Taliban tweeted that it “strongly condemns” the deadly blasts and said they took place in an area where US forces handle security. The tweet continued, “evil circles will be strictly stopped”. US Commander Kenneth McKenzie says the US is working with the Taliban to prevent more attacks.

Thousands of people have flocked to the airport since the Taliban took control of the country’s government, as a dwindling amount of countries airlift people to safety. Photographs of the airport show crowds of people waving credentials at armed Taliban guards, hoping to secure entry to the tarmac. The night before the attack, a senior US official warned of a “specific” and “credible” threat at the airport by an affiliate of the Islamic State. SmartTraveller, the Australian Government’s travel advice site, issued a “do not travel” warning for Kabul airport and advised those on the ground to wait for further advice. ABC’s 7.30 reports a one-year-old Australian boy is among the many seeking a flight home from Afghanistan. No Australian fatalities have been confirmed so far.

BLUE SKY THINKING

Qantas reckons we will be flying overseas by December. CEO Alan Joyce is confident 80% of Australians will be vaccinated by then, which would allow flights bound for Britain, Singapore, Japan, Canada, and even the US to take off, AFR reports. But Joyce warned that states who fall behind in vaccinating residents will be left behind, naming and shaming Western Australia. Just 47.7% of those over 16 have had their first dose in the West. But an angry Mark McGowan hit back, saying Joyce should show some “gratitude” for WA’s conservative border policies, which he says have kept Australia’s economy afloat.

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The country’s worst-affected state, NSW, has now administered 6.2 million vaccines. On a grim day where the state broke the 1000-case mark, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian revealed her treat for the vaccinated only: a picnic. Those living inside Sydney’s 12 hotspots can get together outside (locally) from mid-September, while outside the hotspots, groups of five can get together within 5km of everyone’s home mid-September, as ABC explains. In Victoria, cases have hit an 11-month high with 80 new cases confirmed on Thursday. There’s one more week of Victoria’s lockdown to go, but the CHO said it was too soon to say whether it’ll be extended, The Age reports. Only 39 of yesterday’s cases were isolated during their infectious period, the Herald Sun says.

PEDAL TO THE MEDAL

It’s been a glitteringly gold week at the Paralympics in Tokyo.

Paige Greco won our first gold in cycling, and set two world records along the way, Guardian Australia says. Then there was a gold rush in the pool, The Australian ($) reports, after our swim team picked up eight medals — including four golds — on the first night of finals in Japan. We’ve won 14 medals so far, and no doubt there’s more to come. Day three will see athletics, swimming, cycling, and team sports events — ABC has a great guide to the day’s excitement. Ones to watch today are runner Isis Holt who’s a world-record holder, swimmer Tiffany Thomas Kane who was a star at the Rio 2016 Games, and cyclist Alistair Donohoe who won the 2019 world title.

In a major win for diversity and inclusion, there’s also been a record number of LGBTQI+ athletes competing in the Games this year. At least 28 Paralympians from the community are in Tokyo, Al Jazeera reports, more than three times the number who went to Rio in 2016.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

A pre-internet world is the stuff of marvel for some, but there really was a time where your dad would make a far-out comment about something and you just had to accept it as fact. Some say we’re about to live through the second coming of the internet — known as the metaverse. We would be able to work, socialise, shop, and game inside the virtual world as a digital illustration of yourself, as ABC explains.

It sounds like the stuff of B-grade sci-fi movies but Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is going all in. Two months ago, Zuckerberg told his employees that the overarching goal of all the company’s divisions, from ad sales to virtual reality, was to “help bring the metaverse to life”. Both Fortnite’s Tim Sweeney and Roblox’s David Baszucki are behind it too; the latter said the metaverse is “arguably as big a shift in online communication as the telephone or the internet”.

But will people even use it? Some might remember Second Life, a virtual reality program that attracted big advertising bucks from the likes of Coca Cola before falling short of its hype. Google invested millions in Google Glass, a smart glasses that didn’t really take off either. “When you get down to it, people are rather attached to the physical world,” QUT’s Nick Kelly said. And what a gorgeous world it is — just ask Australian Geographic. They’re about to pick the year’s best natural photograph.

Keep it real this weekend folks. Drop me a line if you’re feeling chatty, share some thoughts about the Worm, or anything — [email protected]

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

We’re living under the same roof, we’re eating together every night, [Scott Morrison’s] very good, he’s actually on the dishes would you believe, because there’s just the two of us there, and after we’ve had dinner we both get the scrubby brush and have a go for it, you might not believe it but it’s true … My wife did have a laugh and said I’m turning up for dinner on time now like I’ve never done at home. She is a bit, she’s a bit jealous of that but she understands.

Josh Frydenberg

The treasurer and the prime minister are locked down in the Lodge together — a “federal frathouse”, as Kochie put it — as the new roomies ride out the ACT lockdown. The ever-loyal Frydenberg, who has made a whopping 24 media appearances in the past week, said he had not measured the drapes yet.

CRIKEY RECAP

Slow news day: the Herald Sun falls back in the pack

“The ‘Don’t Read the Herald Sun’ campaigners will be eager to claim credit for the masthead’s fall. They’ve been targeting the paper for its critical coverage of Melbourne’s 2020 lockdown. (No doubt that’s why the Daily Telegraph has been more gentle in its reporting of Sydney’s 2021 lockdown.)

“More likely the fall is due to the difficulties that all once-were newspaper companies are finding in building a paying audience online for mass-market tabloid journalism. (A sign of the difficulty is that News Corp has not even tried paywalling its tabloids in the more competitive news markets of London or New York.)”


The long road to prosecution: why did it take six years for police to charge Brian Houston?

“In 1999 the national executive of the Assemblies of God (now known as the Australian Christian Churches) called a special meeting on how to handle the allegation against Frank Houston. The royal commission later concluded that the group’s national executive — composed of nine senior Pentecostal figures from around Australia — had failed to refer the allegations against Frank Houston to the police.

“In 2000 all eight Hillsong elders discussed how to handle the Frank Houston case — or, as they put it, his ‘serious moral failure’ relating to events of ’30 years ago’. The elders were all men who had worked alongside Frank and Brian Houston, and were directors of Houston corporate entities. Five of the men listed in 2000, including Brian Houston, remain as Hillsong elders and are directors of Hillsong entities.”


If not at 70-80%, then when? Get set for the freedom and hope election

“It’s the clearest sign that after months of floundering, the Coalition has sharpened its messaging and is ready for the polls. With most of the country stuck in lockdowns that are, in large part, a result of the federal government’s shocking failures on the vaccine rollout, the promise of freedom is the strongest electoral asset the Coalition has left.

“As we wrote this week, a manufactured political battle between freedom and lockdowns is a cynical bit of framing on the part of the government. But it might well work. Firstly, the electorate is getting pretty sick and tired of lockdowns and want them to end once the Doherty modelling targets are lifted. Two polls published this week suggest as much. Given that, it makes sense to paint Labor as the party of lockdowns.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

England cricket great Ted Dexter dies aged 86 (ABC)

Australian swimmers, cyclists add more medals to Tokyo Paralympics haul (Guardian Australia)

Japan suspends 1.63 million Moderna doses over contamination (Al Jazeera)

New species of ancient four-legged whale discovered in Egypt (BBC)

Capitol Police Officers Sue Trump and Allies Over Election Lies and Jan. 6 (The New York Times)

Delta adds $40b to budget blowout (AFR)

Surfer dies after being pulled from the ocean at Byron Bay (The Australian) ($)

Auckland likely to remain in strict lockdown for several more weeks (NZ Herald)

What makes your pup so cute? It’s all in the eyebrows (The Wall Street Journal)

From doormat to dominant: the unexpected ascension of ‘Sneakers’ McGowan (The Australian) ($)

Blue Origin successfully completes first test flight with no passengers after Jeff Bezos trip (CNN)

THE COMMENTARIAT

In age of identity politics, some less equal than othersHenry Ergas (The Australian) ($): “Let’s be clear: there was nothing specifically religious about this party: it was not held in a religious venue, nor did it have any religious significance. Rather, it was an engagement party attended by people who happened to be Jewish. To call it a Jewish function would therefore make no more sense than calling similar gatherings Catholic, Anglican or agnostic. However, that didn’t stop Victoria’s COVID-19 commander, Jeroen Weimar, from describing the participants not as Melburnians who had attended an illegal party but as ‘members of the Orthodox Jewish community’ …

“Even less restraint was shown by the Seven and Nine networks. Channel 7 displayed an infographic that, in purporting to identify the sources of the COVID cluster in southeast Melbourne, labelled them as an accountant, an architect, a sex worker, a worker in a pizza shop — and ‘Jewish community members’: again, the only case in which the broadcaster appears to have applied a religious descriptor to a purely secular event, while casting an entire community as being caught up in the spread of a dangerous disease that had caused Melburnians, yet again, to be locked into their homes.”

Grattan on Friday: As COVID’s third wave worsens, Scott Morrison pivots to the futureMichelle Grattan (The Conversation): “Frydenberg, who is also deputy Liberal leader, has never hidden his ambition and is hungry for the top job. But he is also loyal. Morrison knows that, unlike prime ministerial predecessors Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull, he doesn’t have to look over his shoulder, even in the bad times. Morrison marked three years as PM this week, and there has been no white-anting.

“There’s more than one path to the prime ministership for Frydenberg. If Morrison loses the election, Frydenberg would be favourite to become leader of the opposition. But that’s the start of a very rocky road; hard work and high hopes can be dashed, as Bill Shorten found. An alternative path is to be well placed vis-a-vis your internal competitors and inherit the post when it becomes available, one way or another … Frydenberg knows Morrison’s moving on in a smooth transition would be his best prospect.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Australia

  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison will meet online with state and territory leaders to discuss the pandemic response.

Byellee, Gooreng Gooreng, Gurang and Taribelang Bunda Country (also known as Gladstone)

  • The Queensland Symphony Orchestra will perform at Symphony Under the Stars, conducted and hosted by Guy Noble.

Yuggera Country (also known as Brisbane)

  • WeAspire CEO Felicity Furey will speak about how businesses can create a more inclusive environment and prepare for the future at Coraggio.

  • QUT’s Lydia Manieson will launch two books about sustainable fashion at Avid Reader.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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