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Race to flee ‘leave zone’ as bushfire threat looms

Thousands of people are fleeing Australia’s bushfires, in what’s being called “the largest ever relocation” of people away from the south coast of New South Wales. Days of destruction across the state and its southern neighbour, Victoria, have left 18 people dead and razed more than 1,200 homes. At least 17 people are missing. There are further forecasts of ferocious conditions over coming days.

Highways to Sydney and Canberra have been clogged, as tourists respond to authorities’ warnings to leave the southern NSW coast before Saturday. Local media reported hour-long queues for petrol in the town of Batemans Bay, while fuel was being trucked in to the region to offset dwindling supplies. In Mallacoota, Victoria, where thousands fled to the beach on Tuesday, a navy boat is expected to evacuate those cut off from roads. If you’re struggling to get your head around the scale of the problem, here’s a visual guide.

No certainty terror offenders can be ‘cured’

The psychologist behind the UK’s main deradicalisation programme for terror offenders says it can never provide a certain “cure”. Christopher Dean says some who take part in his Healthy Identity Intervention scheme seem to regress because of their complex identities. London Bridge attacker Usman Khan, 28, had appeared to be responding to rehabilitation before his release from prison in December 2018. He stabbed two people to death at London Bridge on 29 November, before being shot dead by police.

Millions hit by rail fare rise

As if a festival of over-indulgence wasn’t enough to raise the blood pressure, rail commuters are paying on average 2.7% more to head back to work after Christmas. Many face an increase of more than £100 for annual passes. Watchdog organisation Transport Focus says after a year of “pretty poor performance” for many, passengers just want “a service they can rely on”. Train operators insist they are investing in improvements while holding fare increases below inflation.

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Army aims to recruit the under-confident

This time last year, the Army was recruiting “snowflakes” and “phone zombies”. Now it’s targeting those who drink, wear make-up or hit the gym to counter low self-esteem, suggesting a military career can instil a “lasting confidence”. The approach might raise eyebrows but top brass say last year’s efforts helped drive an annual increase of nearly 1,600 applications in the year to August. Retention is a problem, though. While 13,520 signed up, 14,880 people left.

The man who disappeared without a trace

By Chaiyot Yongcharoenchai, BBC Thai

Pinnapa “Muenoor” Prueksapan remembers the words her husband told her back in 2014 as if it happened yesterday: “The people involved in this aren’t happy with me… If I do disappear, don’t come looking for me. Don’t wonder where I’ve gone. They’ll probably have killed me.”

When Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen left for work on 15 April that same year, Muenoor didn’t ask any questions. In fact, Billy had gone to… collect evidence to take to lawyers in Bangkok he hoped would prove local authorities in this remote part of southern Thailand were illegally evicting indigenous communities. Three days later, Muenoor got a phone call from Billy’s brother asking if he had arrived home safely. Suddenly she remembered Billy’s words.

Read the full article

What the papers say

A photograph of a kangaroo silhouetted against a burning house captures the ferocity of the Australian bushfires on some front pages. The Guardian says the situation has prompted questions about the country’s stance on climate change. The UK’s annual rail fare increase leads the i, which declares a “rail rip-off”, while the Metro says protests are planned at stations. Meanwhile, the Daily Star says singer Meat Loaf has turned vegan. Read the review.

Daily digest

Breast cancer AI ‘outperforms’ doctors on diagnosis

Discrimination Sacked vegan brings landmark case

Corruption prosecution Netanyahu asks for immunity

Eating disorders Hospital admissions rise sharply

If you see one thing today

Image copyright Mines Advisory Group

Bringing life back to Iraq’s landmine hotspots

If you listen to one thing today

Image copyright Getty Images

Will humans become extinct by the end of the century?

If you read one thing today

Image copyright Getty Images

Is the airborne commute a flight of fancy?

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Lookahead

08:00 The London Stock Exchange opens for the first day of trading of the new year.

Today Talks aimed at restoring power sharing in Northern Ireland are expected to resume.

On this day

1971 Scottish football’s most deadly stadium disaster sees 66 people killed in a crush at a match Rangers and Celtic at Ibrox Park in Glasgow.

From elsewhere

‘Like Armageddon’: Residents thankful more lives were not lost (Sydney Morning Herald)

The Syrian conflict is awash with propaganda – chemical warfare bodies should not be caught up in it (Independent)

The science of how to stick to your New Year’s resolutions (Telegraph)

Sugar Sweet: the pilled-up rave that united Belfast during the Troubles (Guardian)

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