Thursday, October 25, 2018

Democrats targeted in bomb attempts

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



“In the past decade, DNA ancestry testing has grown into a $500 million global industry. With just a cheek swab, testing companies offer to trace your ancestry back generations and across continents. But as the direct-to-consumer testing has boomed, scientists have become increasingly concerned about its methodologies and accuracy.”


“I’d been around heavy cannabis users for years – bogan boys with bongs in fist day and night – but had never been interested. My new friends smoked differently. In circles at parties, listening to Led Zeppelin and Black Flag. Or talking. About interesting things. And laughing. I loved cannabis: there was no vomiting and no hangover. Music sounded incredible. Food tasted incredible. A touch, a kiss. Incredible.”


“Over two weeks late last spring, the weather was unseasonably foul on the southern parts of the Great Barrier Reef. For the scientists and volunteers working there, intense winds made boat trips and diving challenging. Nonetheless, they persevered, buoyed by their belief the largest reef system in the world is worth saving.”


“This week marks one year since members of the media were tipped off about the Australian Federal Police raids on Australian Workers’ Union’s offices, yet we still aren’t any closer to finding out exactly what happened.”


“AWU national secretary Daniel Walton told BuzzFeed News the union has gone to great lengths to get answers. ‘On top of legal resources, we have been forced to hire private investigators to track down individuals and issue subpoenas’, Walton told BuzzFeed News.”


“Robyn’s charted an adventurous path throughout her career, straying far from straight-ahead pop and toward varying strains of dance music, from flashy freestyle to cavernous dark disco. Navigating the less publicised corners of her impressive catalogue can be a bit difficult without a primer on hand – which is exactly why we made one.”

Alex McKinnon
is Schwartz Media's morning editor.