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  • Smoke from bushfires covers Melbourne's Docklands precinct on 15 January 2020. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
    environment

    Air quality agony is the new reality

    • Megan Graham
    • 17 January 2020
    1 Comment

    It was my first time at this library. I'd come to escape the heavy smoke and my old draughty apartment. Approaching the service desk upon arrival, I admit to looking deliberately pathetic in the hopes of avoiding a laborious sign-up process to access the wi-fi. I only wanted somewhere I could work safely, breathing in non-toxic air.

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  • From the Depths of Our Hearts: Priesthood, Celibacy and the Crisis of the Catholic Church by Cardinal Robert Sarah
    religion

    Aussie bishops can't shy from celibacy questions

    • Nick Brodie
    • 16 January 2020
    6 Comments

    Cardinal Sarah's scandal-causing book arguing against changes to the rule of mandatory celibacy was a transparent attempt to thwart proposals coming out of the Amazonian Synod of 2019. Whatever the fallout, it should not be allowed to scare Australia's bishops off from discussing the subject during Plenary Council 2020.

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  • Locals in New Delhi protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act in December 2019. (Credit: Sanjeev Yadav / Wikimedia Commons)
    international

    Coal hard truths about Australia-India relations

    • Sundhya Pahuja
    • 16 January 2020
    5 Comments

    It is ironic for those of us who have long wished for a closer and more respectful relationship between India and Australia to be arguing now for caution. But perhaps the time has come for a relationship of political solidarity between the people of India and the people of Australia, rather than the economic expediency that seems to be on offer.

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  • Passengers walk through a square at the Wuchang Railway Station at the conclusion of a past Chunyun. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

    The sacred secular in China's 'Spring travel'

    • Jeremy Clarke
    • 17 January 2020

    More than three billion single trips are taken during the extended period of travel. It is to China's great credit that these journeys occur incredibly smoothly, and on the whole with a convivial spirit. There is too often a tendency to minimise any praise about China's achievements, to the anger of Chinese citizens at home and abroad.

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  • People hold posters showing the portrait of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Major General Qassem Soleimani and chant slogans during a protest outside the US Consulate on 5 January 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

    Perfidy and terror in the slaying of Soleimani

    • Justin Glyn
    • 08 January 2020
    9 Comments

    Trump had asked the Iraqis to mediate with the Iranians and Soleimani, one of Iran's most respected generals and emissaries, was there for the purpose. If this is true, and no-one from the US side has denied it, this was that most ancient of perfidies — a murder under a flag of parley.

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  • US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the US State Department on 7 January 2020. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

    Strategic blundering: Killing Soleimani

    • Binoy Kampmark
    • 08 January 2020
    6 Comments

    With the killing of Soleimani, the US has signalled a redrawing of accepted lines in international combat and diplomacy. Most significantly, the killing will be a lightning rod for attacks this decision was meant to prevent even as it assists Iranian policy in expelling any vestige of US influence in Iraq and the broader Middle East.

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  • Black streaks on sand (Credit: Jose A. Bernat Bacete)

    Bushfire divisions etched in sand

    • Andrew Hamilton
    • 15 January 2020
    11 Comments

    As the sea withdrew, the waves left curling black lines that crossed one another. The beach became a map in which territories were separated from one another. That image reflected the fires and the ways in which they were perceived. They were more than localised events. They affected relationships that spread far beyond the fire.

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  • Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Prime Minister Scott Morrison attend Question Time in December 2019, during the height the push to repeal the medevac bill. (Photo by Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images)

    Allies keeping faith despite Medevac blow

    • Carolina Gottardo and Nishadh Rego
    • 12 December 2019
    6 Comments

    Outside, a Martian-red haze kisses the windows. An ode to the future perhaps. Most of the people present are already aware of the Medevac repeal decision. The room is heavy with silence, the mood is sombre, but far from resigned. We want change, and are willing to have a crack at demanding it.

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  • High school students studying at desk in classroom. (Credit: Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury)

    Disability RC must reckon with education

    • Jane Britt
    • 12 December 2019
    4 Comments

    From the minute we enter the education system, we experience barriers. We are segregated when we arrive at primary school, placed in 'special' units or classes. Here our needs are subsumed into the collective needs of the group. From the outset our educational outcomes are at the whim of the people who are in the position of power.

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  • Swirling smoke from extinguished candle on black background (Credit: neamov / Getty)

    New year epiphany in a burning world

    • Gillian Bouras
    • 15 January 2020
    4 Comments

    This New Year saw me becoming a Twitter tragic so that I could keep up with the news of disastrous fires in Australia, and fires of a different sort in the Middle East. It all seemed too much. On the day after Epiphany, a major feast day in the Orthodox Church, I found myself outside Kalamata's Church of the Archangels, and went in to light a candle.

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  • The sun sets behind St Mary's Cathedral in smoke-hazed Sydney on 6 December 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

    Christmas in a time of fire

    • Andrew Hamilton
    • 17 December 2019
    14 Comments

    This year the contrast between the original story of Christmas and its Australian circumstances has cut even deeper. Bushfires have taken lives, destroyed properties and spread smoke and ash over cities. If the theme of the first Christmas was one of hope and joy, behind the bushfires this year lurks anxiety about the future of the world.

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  • St Patrick's Catholic Cathedral, Parramatta (Credit: Leelakajonkij / Getty)

    Movement for Church renewal keeps growing

    • John Warhurst
    • 11 December 2019
    50 Comments

    What's going on within the Catholic Church always matters more widely given its size and power. Lay participation in leadership, especially of women, is a major social issue. Observers of social trends should watch this space for its wider public policy implications.

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  • Firefighter stands on the edge of a burning Australia, displaying a sign reading 'climate change' to the rest of the world. Artwork by Chris Johnston

    Australia is the perfect size to lead on climate

    • Tim Hutton
    • 17 January 2020
    1 Comment

    Around 40 per cent of the world's carbon emissions are produced by countries with similar outputs to Australia. Collectively these countries can make a significant difference if each reduces their carbon emissions. While Australia can make a difference as part of a collective, our real ability to effect change actually lies elsewhere.

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  • Sam Mitchell, owner of the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park in the Parndana region, carries a dead koala and kangaroo to a mass grave site on 8 January 2020. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

    Biodiversity loss is a flaming tragedy

    • Cristy Clark
    • 13 January 2020
    7 Comments

    There are so many details about these unprecedented bushfires that I have no idea how to process. But nothing — including the ever-present shroud of acrid smoke that has blanketed my city since November — has brought home the scale of this tragedy quite like the estimation that one billion native animals have been killed.

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  • Chris Johnston cartoon shows Scott Morrison shrouded in smoke pollution in front of a sign that reads Canberra: Where the bloody hell are you?

    Smoke and the city

    • Daniel Sleiman
    • 13 January 2020
    3 Comments

    Canberra has a reputation for being banal, bureaucratic and the 'bush capital'. But come 2020 it was in the news for being the city with the worst air quality in the world. What followed were four days of intense heat, sunless mornings, Blade Runner sky hues and warnings to stay indoors as much as possible. But movement is life.

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  • A Rural Fire Service firefighter Trevor Stewart views a flank of a fire on 11 January 2020 in Tumburumba, NSW. (Photo by Sam Mooy/Getty Images)

    Fire poems

    • Bill Rush, Rory Harris, Collen Keating
    • 13 January 2020
    1 Comment

    It's as though it's suddenly turned winter, the way the earth is covered over and the grey stretch of ash is drawn up to its chin like a blanket. And though it's day, the bird-less quiet is a kind of night, and everything we ever thought we knew has been turned upside down, the first now last, and the last first.

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  • View of Himalayas and blue sky (Photo by Catherine Marshall)

    A Himalayan miracle to carry into the New Year

    • Catherine Marshall
    • 17 December 2019
    4 Comments

    Stopping along a ridge, we beheld the Garhwal Himalaya range as it came into view: a tumble of mountains crowned on the horizon by an irregular, saw-toothed range ... In that brief moment between sunrise and daylight, when a once-secretive world would be illuminated, our wonder at the world was multiplied many times over.

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  • Notre Dame

    Notre Dame de Paris

    • Marlene Marburg, Grant Fraser
    • 16 December 2019
    3 Comments

    It rose in its tall verticals from the grace and welcome of the earth, / That swooned far, far below, / As canny masons hefted the limestone / Into vast beatitudes of grace; / Shipwrights inverted their minds to groom the oak, / So that it would soar, / As if a celtic monk had charmed a serpent into a holy phrase.

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