Thousands caught in spyware web

A global investigation has revealed that human rights activists, journalists, politicians and lawyers have been hacked by authoritarian governments using military-grade spyware.

What we know:

  • 17 media organisations investigated misuse of Israeli surveillance company NSO Group’s hacking software, Pegasus, which the company claims is only for use against criminals and terrorists (The Guardian); 
  • Pegasus is a malware that infects smartphones to extract messages and photos, record calls and secretly activate microphones;
  • A list of persons of interest selected for surveillance globally by governments include more than 600 politicians including heads of state;
  • 189 journalists appear on the list, with some arrested and defamed and others fleeing their countries due to persecution (Forbidden Stories); 
  • Mexico was most prominent on the list, where more than 15,000 phone numbers appeared, including a journalist’s who was murdered after reporting on corruption (The Guardian); 
  • The two women closest to murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi were among those targeted (Washington Post);
  • Two Indian government ministers and three opposition politicians also appear on the list (The Wire); 
  • Amnesty International performed forensic analysis of phones for the investigation and is sharing its methodology to help further inquiries. 
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States turn screw on Covid

NSW will further tighten its Sydney lockdown restrictions today, while the Andrews government eyes an extension to the Victoria-wide snap lockdown.

In NSW:

  • NSW recorded 105 new cases on Sunday and a fourth death from the current outbreak (SMH); 
  • There are 76 people in hospital, with 18 in intensive care and 7 requiring ventilation;
  • A string of cafes, shopping centres, medical centres and bus routes have been added to potential exposure sites
  • New restrictions include cutting public transport services by up to 50 per cent;
  • All construction work has been suspended and non-essential retail is now closed;
  • A travel ban forbids most residents from leaving Fairfield, Liverpool and Canterbury-Bankstown, although the list of exempt “essential jobs” expanded to include people working at garden centres and bottle shops;
  • Mystery continues to swirl around TikTok comedian Jon-Bernard Kairouz, who has now predicted case numbers for five days in a row (news.com.au); 

In Victoria:

  • The state recorded 17 new cases in the space of 24 hours on Sunday, including one in the regional city of Mildura (ABC); 
  • All the new cases were linked, with more than 200 potential exposure sites identified
  • Sunday marked the halfway point of the state's five-day lockdown, but authorities are yet to decide on whether an extension is needed.
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Hopkins axed after quarantine breach

Far-right commentator Katie Hopkins has been axed from Channel 7’s Big Brother VIP TV show and has had her visa cancelled, after she claimed to be flouting hotel quarantine rules.

In an Instagram video Hopkins claimed she opened her door naked and without a face mask while her food was being delivered (The New Daily).

Hopkins, known for describing migrants as “cockroaches” and calling for a “final solution” policy against them, claimed to her followers that Covid lockdowns were “the greatest hoax in human history”.

Hopkins was in quarantine in Sydney after being controversially granted an exemption to participate in Channel 7’s Big Brother VIP.

Channel 7 dropped her from the reality TV show after condemning “her irresponsible and reckless comments in hotel quarantine”.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews ordered a review of Hopkins’ alleged public health breach.

Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese tweeted “it is a disgrace that this right-wing extremist was given a tick, while over 30,000 Australian citizens are stranded overseas” (Junkee).

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Palaszczuk off to the Games

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has left for Tokyo to lead the delegation pushing for Brisbane to host the 2032 Olympic Games.

Brisbane is expected to be awarded the Games on Wednesday evening, unless a motion delays proceedings (The Courier Mail). 

An online petition with more than 130,000 signatures called for Palaszczuk to be refused permission to travel overseas due to her push to halve the cap on Australians returning home (ABC). 

More than 100 Australian athletes flew to Tokyo over the weekend ahead of the start of the Games on Friday (7News). 

Tokyo Games organisers revealed that 10 Covid-19 cases have been recorded among overseas teams so far, including three athletes.

The positive cases fuel fears that the Tokyo Olympics will be a superspreader event, with the city recording 1410 new infections on Saturday (Inside The Games). 

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Europe counts cost of deadly floods

More than 180 people have died in flooding across Europe caused by heavy rain, with entire communities submerged over the past few days as waters sweep away homes and vehicles.

The worst flooding has been seen in the German states of Rhineland Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia, as well as Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands (Reuters). 

On Sunday, the floods swept into the southern German state of Bavaria, leaving swathes of land buried under thick mud.

The German government has marked more than 300 million euros in immediate relief and billions more to fix collapsed houses, streets and bridges.

The heavy downpours are consistent with projections for increasingly severe wet weather events due to climate change (The New York Times).  

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What turns up is sautéed gherkins and sashimi tadpoles — they’ll accept anything for lunch.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce argues that Labor is willing to commit to net zero emissions by 2050 without having seen the price on the “menu”. Someone really should tell him that once climate change destroys agriculture, tadpoles will be the only thing left to eat anyway (The Guardian).

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Postscript: Plot Is Just Music You Sing In Your Mind: How Popular Rock Songs Can Help Shape Your Novel

Find your song. Figure out your refrain. Show off your bridge. Make it beautiful. Keep it tight. Oh, and most importantly — get out of there with a nice clean ending (LitHub).

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Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.