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Oct 4, 2018

Morning mail: Russia cyber attack claims, Kavanaugh report, recycling woes | Australia news I The Guardian


Helen Sullivan


Good morning, this is Helen Sullivan bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Friday 5 October.

Top stories

Russia has been accused of cyber attacks on the international chemical weapons watchdog and a range of other targets, including global sporting bodies and the investigation into the downing of MH17. The attack on the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was disrupted by Dutch military intelligence weeks after the Salisbury novichok attack, the Netherlands defence minister has said. The OPCW was investigating the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK, as well as a chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria. According to the evidence trail laid out in the Netherlands, the UK and the US, four Russian intelligence officers travelled to The Hague in April on diplomatic passports. They were caught by Dutch security services and immediately put on a plane back to Moscow. Their hire car was seized and found to contain technical equipment as well as laptops, phones, maps and cash.
The US government also announced criminal charges against seven Russian intelligence officers, declaring that the Kremlin had ordered a “lengthy and wide-ranging conspiracy” to hack into private computers and networks. As well as the chemical weapons watchdog, the alleged targets included the World Anti-Doping Agency and other sporting bodies. British security officials said the same unit also travelled to Malaysia to attempt to hack the investigation into the downing of MH17. The Russian foreign ministry has dismissed the allegations, claiming the west is gripped by “spy mania”. The UK’s decision to reveal its evidence is “a high-risk strategy that in the short term worsens Anglo-Russian relations”, writes the Guardian’s diplomatic editor, Patrick Wintour.
Key Republicans have expressed satisfaction with the FBI investigation into Brett Kavanaugh after it was made available to senators who will vote on his nomination to the US supreme court. Senator Susan Collins called the investigation into allegations that Kavanaugh sexually abused women three decades ago “thorough”. And Jeff Flake, whose last-minute revolt at a vote last week triggered the investigation, said: “We’ve seen no additional corroborating information.” Both are seen as critical swing votes when the Senate votes on Kavanaugh’s nomination. The judiciary committee’s ranking Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, criticised the report as incomplete. “The most notable part of this report is what’s not in it,” she told reporters.
Two-thirds of Australians believe their household recycling is sent to landfill and 72% said they would recycle more if they knew their household waste was reliably recycled, a survey has found. But the survey, released on Friday by the University of New South Wales, also found that only half of the respondents were prepared to pay more for better recycling services. Of those who said they would be prepared to pay more, four out of five said they would only pay up to an additional $10 a week.
The former high court justice Michael Kirby has blasted the Coalition for failing to release the Ruddock review into religious freedom, warning that secularism is at threat and Australians are right to be “suspicious” of the government’s plans. Kirby told Radio National on Thursday it was “unusual in our information hungry society” that the report had not been released, five months after it was delivered to the government. He also challenged the prime minister over his decision to increase religious schools’ funding and his comments about sexual diversity.
Most voters in Liberal-held marginal seats oppose the schools funding deal, a ReachTel poll has found. The poll of 1,261 residents in marginal seats in Queensland, NSW and Victoria found that almost three-quarters of undecided voters in the eight seats disapproved of the $4.6bn of funding for Catholic and independent schools. About half of undecided voters said they were less likely to vote for the Liberal party as a result of the deal.

Sport

Cristiano Ronaldo has been left out of the Portugal squad for their upcoming international matches after an investigation into rape allegations against the 33-year-old was reopened this week. The Juventus forward has strenuously denied accusations by Kathryn Mayorga that he raped her in a Las Vegas hotel room in 2009. His club has stood by him, praising his “great professionalism and dedication”.
It was a good night for English clubs in the Europa League, with Arsenal winning 3-0 at Qarabag, and Chelsea accounting for Vidi of Hungary 1-0.

Thinking time

How do we change the conversation about drought? First, “Don’t call it a disaster.” In part three of Guardian Australia’s series the New Normal, Gabrielle Chan looks at the history of drought policy and how the conversation is changing. “Away from the glare of nightly television reports showing farmers feeding starving stock, there is a more complex conversation going on among landholders. It discards the idea that policy should be built on the notion of average rainfall, and instead accepts Australia has a drying climate where wet seasons are the exception rather than the rule.”
The black-and-white wedding photos of couples married in communist China used to resemble ID cards. Now a much more elaborate tradition is emerging – pre-wedding photos, which can cost up to $250,000 if shot in exotic destinations such as Paris, Bali or Sydney. “The pre-wedding industry is a moment in time … it’s this real fantasy moment where you are capturing a country dreaming,” says Olivia Martin-McGuire, an Australian photographer whose film debut, China Love, looks at how the Cultural Revolution continues to influence Chinese life.
Has #MeToo gone too far? After the Kavanaugh hearings in the US, we should be poised for a backlash, not surprised or even outraged by it, argue academics Diane White and Paula McDonald. We should expect to hear about “reverse discrimination” or “an attack on fair process”. There will be loud voices hailing a return to sensible, rational discussion; returning balance to a debate tipped too far in favour of the feminist agenda. But, they write: “We have not gone too far. We have not even started.”

Media roundup

The Canberra Times reports that the ACT’s pokies are the nation’s least regulated. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the assistant treasurer, Stuart Robert, has been charging taxpayers more than $2,000 a month for the internet at his Gold Coast home. And the Australian says university chiefs have united against what they call “encroaching threats to free speech” on campus.

Coming up

The Law Council of Australia and constitutional law expert Anne Twomey are among those giving evidence on proposed changes to election funding at a parliamentary committee in Canberra.
The case of accused Isis nurse Adam Brookman, who has been in custody since he returned to Australia from Syria in July 2015, will come before the Victorian supreme court.