In the United States, authorities have intercepted explosive devices mailed to former president Barack Obama, former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the headquarters of news network CNN and several high-profile Democratic politicians. In a statement, the US Secret Service said it had begun “a full scope criminal investigation that will leverage all available federal, state, and local resources to determine the source of the packages and identify those responsible”. Former US attorney-general Eric Holder, investor George Soros and Democratic representatives Maxine Waters and Kamala Harris were also targeted. In an opinion piece for The New York Times ($), George Soros’ son, Alex, blamed “political leaders who swear an oath of office to protect all citizens instead pursue politics of division and hate” for “the new normal of political demonisation that plagues us today”.
A former Department of Home Affairs official has urged federal politicians to free refugees and asylum seekers from offshore detention. In a letter seen by Guardian Australia, former Home Affairs official Shaun Hanns said his support for Australia’s mandatory detention regime changed as he realised “that the system as it stands in 2018 relies entirely on boat turnbacks”, describing “continuing detention of those on Manus and Nauru [as] not just tragic but meaningless”. “The events of the past few months led me, like many others, to genuinely fear we will see a child dying on Nauru, and this has spurred me into action,” he said.
Foreign minister Marise Payne has reserved the right to stop Australian arms materiel sales to Saudi Arabia over the Jamal Khashoggi scandal. Questioned by Greens leader Richard Di Natale in Senate estimates on Wednesday, Payne said “all options are on the table” for Australia to respond to the murder of the dissident Saudi journalist in Saudi Arabia’s Turkish embassy earlier this month. Khashoggi’s son, Salah, met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh on Tuesday, prompting outrage from human rights advocates. German chancellor Angela Merkel suspended arms exports to Saudi Arabia on Sunday, saying weapons sales “cannot happen given the circumstances in which we are now in”.
The Victorian government has promised to hold a royal commission into the state mental health system if re-elected at the November election. Speaking on Wednesday, premier Daniel Andrews said the two-year inquiry would examine why “we are so far away from a system that the most vulnerable in our community need”, describing Australia’s estimated 3000 deaths by suicide this year as “a national emergency”. Mental health advocate and former Australian of the Year Patrick McGorry said the parlous state of Victoria’s mental health system was “an open secret”, noting that “we are turning away two out of three people from specialist mental health every day”.
And New Zealand’s National Party will hold an inquiry into its internal culture after four women accused high-profile MP Jami-Lee Ross of abuse, harassment and manipulation. Last week a Newsroom investigation published allegations of “brutal and misogynistic” sex, “verbal threats and intimidation”, “implied physical threats” and “grooming” against Ross, who was taken into care at an Auckland mental health care unit on Sunday. Ross was a National MP for seven years before becoming an independent earlier this month following an unrelated scandal. National leader Simon Bridges described the scandal as the party’s “worst week in living memory”, saying the party needed to “make sure women feel absolutely safe”.
Lifeline: 13 11 14