Good morning, this is Eleanor Ainge Roy bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Tuesday 17 April.
Farmers should prepare for a dramatic reduction in the live export trade, Western Australia’s agriculture minister has said, as the state prepares to mount an animal cruelty case that could render the trade unprofitable. Alannah MacTiernan told Guardian Australia that if the case was successful, live export ships would be unlikely to comply with WA animal welfare laws without improvements such as air-conditioning and much lower stocking density – changes exporters have argued are not economically viable.
Even if those changes could be managed, she said, it’s unlikely they would be in place for the start of the high-risk export season in July, meaning live sheep exports to the Middle East during the northern summer might be blocked. “At this point, what we’re saying is there obviously has to be a very significant change,” MacTiernan said.
The US and UK have blamed Russia for a “malicious” cyber offensive, which they claim appears to be aimed at espionage, stealing intellectual property and laying the foundation for an attack on infrastructure. Senior security officials from the two countries held a rare joint conference call to directly blame the Kremlin for targeting government institutions, private sector organisations and infrastructure, and internet providers supporting these sectors. The decision of the US and UK governments to go public reflects an increasing loss of patience with Moscow.
Complaints about the national broadband network soared more than 200% over the last six months of last year, according to a report from the telecommunications industry ombudsman, with rising customer dissatisfaction about phone and internet services prompting a new government review. The report found there were 22,827 complaints lodged between July and December 2017 about the broadband network – 14,055 about service quality and 8,757 about delays in establishing an NBN connection. The communications minister, Mitch Fifield, said the report showed “telcos need to lift their game”.
Raising two children costs a low-income Australian family $340 a week, including $77 for food, $65 for housing and $61 for schooling, new research shows. The study used a new, more precise method for estimating family costs, and found they were significantly higher than previously thought. Researchers said old models for estimating family costs were now near useless, and the newer study reflected modern attitudes on what constitutes a proper standard of living, capturing shared costs associated with children such as power and rent, and new and emerging costs such as mobile phones. Prof Peter Saunders said the study should prompt a rethink of the adequacy of key social security payments, such as Newstart, which has not increased in real terms for more than 20 years.
Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinks bottles – by accident.The breakthrough, which came about when an international team of scientists tweaked the enzyme of plastic-eating bugs at a Japanese dump and accidentally improved the enzyme’s efficiency, could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis. The mutant enzyme takes a few days to start breaking down the plastic – much faster than the centuries it takes in the oceans. Researchers are optimistic this can be speeded up even further and become a viable large-scale process.
Today marks the 25th anniversary of Nicky Winmar’s proud, defiant gesture during an AFL game at Victoria Park, where the Saint Kilda player stood up to a barrage of racist abuse and changed the face of football. Winmar lifted up his shirt, pointing to his stomach and said, “I’m black and I’m proud to be black.” Jonathan Horn looks back at the iconic moment.
England all-rounder Ben Stokes says he “lived every moment of the Ashes” and was “just as gutted” by England’s defeat as the players in the squad. Stokes told the Guardian’s Ali Martin about his emotional return to the sport in his first in-depth interview since the incident in Bristol last September that cost him his place on the tour of Australia.
Pop’s new democracy created an uneven city in the desert at Coacehella this year, writes Eve Barlow. Rapper Cardi B, art-rocker St Vincent and cosmic jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington were highlights, but others like SZA misfired, and the increasingly mainstream festival suffered from internet-era distraction, Barlow says. “It’s especially hard to move without stepping into the frame of an influencer’s selfie as they document outfits, record friendships and pray for a feature in a Twitter moment.” writes Barlow. “Coachella is now a playground for the global democratisation of pop.”
For years, women with cats have been portrayed as lonely, sexless and eccentric. The origins of the stereotype date back to the middle ages, with the first documented “crazy cat ladies” – witches. “Even before witch-hunts, cats had a bad rep in the western world,” writes Lucy Jones, being linked with heretical sects and the devil. Can millennial ailurophiles reclaim the purr-jorative, or are associations of “crazy” too deeply ingrained?
In the early 1950s, the psychologist Muzafer Sherif brought together a group of boys at a US summer camp – and tried to make them fight each other, in a disturbing experiment reminiscent of Lord of the Flies. The troubling legacy of the Robbers Cave experiment continues to haunt those who were involved, but can Sherif’s work teach us anything about our age of resurgent tribalism?
What’s he done now?
Donald Trump has lashed out at James Comey again, following the explosive TV interview in which the former FBI director labelled the president “morally unfit” for office. “Comey drafted the Crooked Hillary exoneration long before he talked to her (lied in Congress to Senator G), then based his decisions on her poll numbers,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Disgruntled, he, McCabe, and the others, committed many crimes!”
The Sydney Morning Herald reports on a high-profile Sydney lawyer who allegedly stole millions of dollars from a client to fund a gambling addiction. The Conversation’s Michelle Grattan takes a look at the Greens’ proposal to fully legalise cannabis, while the ABC speaks to the chief of the Cameroon Commonwealth Games team, who says he’s heard “nothing” from the eight athletes who went missing last week. Thirteen athletes from Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Rwanda disappeared during the Games, but none are yet in breach of their visas, which don’t expire until 15 May, the ABC reports.
Melbourne magistrates court will hear submissions today from lawyers for Cardinal George Pell and prosecutors about whether he should stand trial on historical sexual offence charges.
The Northern Territory government is expected to announce whether it will lift a ban on fracking. Environmental groups are pressing the Labor government to keep the moratorium, but an independent report has found the risks could be managed.
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