A ring of bushfires around Sydney is causing the city to experience record levels of hazardous particulates in the air, with smoke expected to linger across New South Wales for weeks. The NSW environment department reported that ($) safe guidelines for the most harmful form of small particulates were exceeded by 22 times on Tuesday, and the worst affected areas in the south-west of the city reaching levels The Daily Telegraph ($) equated to 34 cigarettes a day. “People who have heart conditions, asthma or pregnant women should be careful as the air quality would be dangerous for them,” said University of Sydney respiratory diseases scientist Dr Brian Oliver. Experts recommend staying indoors is the best form of protection, with only certain types of face masks and air purifiers effective. Guardian Australia reports that 20 per cent of the Blue Mountains world heritage area has burned in this season’s bushfires. The news comes as a new report forecasts 50 degree Celsius summer days for Melbourne and Sydney as the norm by the end of the century if carbon emissions are not dramatically reduced.
Australian students fall behind world: The 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report, published on Tuesday, finds that Australian schools have recorded their worst-ever results in reading, maths, and science. The study found Australian students are 3.5 years behind Chinese counterparts in maths, and more than a year behind Singaporean students in reading. Students in South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory fell below the OECD average for the first time, with the ACT and Western Australia the only states and territories to exceed the average. Education Minister Dan Tehan said “these results should have alarm bells ringing” and urged ambitious action at next week's meeting of state ministers and education leaders in Alice Springs to discuss education strategies. Labor's Tanya Plibersek said the test scores had fallen on the Coalition’s watch.
Samoa measles outbreak: The measles outbreak in Samoa is a sign of the expansion of an increasingly predatory anti-vaccination movement, medical experts have warned SBS News. “We’re going to see them continue this predatory behaviour, identifying communities, island nations even whole countries in order to drive down vaccination coverage so it’s a very serious threat now to global public health,” warned United States vaccine specialist Dr Peter Hotez. Anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr visited the country in June and met with fellow sceptic, the Australian-Samoan blogger Taylor Winterstein, and there has also been an escalation of social media campaigning related to Samoa, along with anti-vaxxers sending vitamins to the country. More than 50 people have so far died from the disease in Samoa, where just 30-40 per cent of the population is vaccinated.
Macron and Trump trade blows: French President Emmanuel Macron and United States counterpart Donald Trump have had a tense meeting in London. Trump at one point told Macron he could send him some “ISIS fighters” if he wanted them. Trump has criticised European countries for refusing to take back ISIS fighters captured in Syria. Macron said the number of relevant fighters was a “tiny” part of the overall problem. The two also disputed issues relating to NATO and Turkey. World leaders are in London to mark the NATO alliance's 70th anniversary.