Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Australian wildfires have elicited massive charitable donations: $33 million crowdsourced from Celeste Barber via Facebook; $1 million from actor Chris Hemsworth; $700,000 from a bikini model sending nudes on Twitter.

But, but, but: Most of the money is ending up in the coffers of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) — part of the state government — and which last year saw donations of less than $1 million.

  • There is no evidence that the RFS is cash-constrained. Its income comfortably exceeded its expenses last year, and it has not made any pleas for donations this year. In fact, it has said that giving away the money will be a "challenge."

Between the lines: The human urge to donate money in the wake of a disaster — to feel that you're doing something — can be incredibly strong.

Why it matters: Firefighting is a central part of what governments should provide, and to that end the RFS receives hundreds of millions of dollars from the government every year. The RFS is staffed by volunteers, but it is not primarily a charity.

Our thought bubble: Part of the challenge facing the RFS is going to be to spend these funds on things it doesn't need, perhaps just by passing the money on to victims of the fire. All necessities should be covered by standard government funding mechanisms.

Go deeper: Australia's deadly fires: What you need to know

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Americans reflect on Independence Day amid racism reckoning

A Black Lives Matter banner and a United States flag on the facade of the U.S. embassy building in Seoul, South Korea. Photo: Simon Shin/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

America's leaders are rethinking how they view Independence Day, as the country reckons with the historic, unequal treatment of people of color during a pandemic which has disproportionately affected nonwhite Americans.

Why it matters: The country’s legacy of racism has come into sharp focus in the weeks of protests following the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody. From Confederate statues to Mount Rushmore, Americans are reexamining the symbols and traditions they elevate and the history behind them.

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 2,767,669 — Total deaths: 128,951 — Total recoveries: 781,970 — Total tested: 33,462,181Map.
  3. Public health: The states where face coverings are mandatory Fauci says it has been a "very disturbing week" for the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S.
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  5. States: Florida reports more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases, and its most-infected county issues curfew.
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Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

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