Good morning, this is Mike Ticher, standing in for Eleanor Ainge Roy, bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Friday 8 December.
US missions across the Middle East are braced for more violent protests against Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, after widespread clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces on Thursday. Violence spilled on to the streets in cities across the occupied West Bank as international anger grew over Trump’s move. The most violent confrontations occurred in Ramallah, Bethlehem and Hebron, where Israeli security forces fired teargas and plastic-coated rounds and hundreds of protesters threw stones and set alight barricades. In the Gaza Strip, two protesters were wounded by live fire, with one reported to be in a critical condition.
International condemnation has been all but unanimous. A meeting of the UN security council has been called for Friday to discuss Trump’s decision. The EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said the bloc had a united position that Jerusalem must be the capital of both Israel and a future Palestinian state. Arab leaders have condemned the decision. France said it rejected the “unilateral” US decision while the British prime minister, Theresa May, and her foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, described Trump’s announcement as “unhelpful”. The state department has placed diplomatic staff and their families in the region under tight security restrictions in case protests target US interests after Friday prayers.
Survivors and advocates for victims of sexual assault are furious that they have not been told when they will be able to read the report from the child sex abuse royal commission. The commission will hand the report to the governor general next Friday but the government will not say when or if it will be made public. Leonie Sheedy, an advocate for survivors of abuse in foster care and government-run institutions, said she had been trying to find out the information for weeks. “My country doesn’t care to inform survivors and care leavers about the most significant event in our history. Where and when is this report going to be released to the public?”.
A former senior intelligence analyst has called for an urgent review of the NSW education department’s relationship with a Chinese government-affiliated entity, the Confucius Institute. The institute is part of an international network established by Beijing to promote Chinese language and culture and, in the words of a former senior Chinese official, is “an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up”. Amid concern about Beijing’s increasing influence in Australian institutions, the department’s unique arrangement is coming under renewed scrutiny. “I think it is unacceptable,” said Ross Babbage, the former head of strategic analysis at the Office of National Assessments. “This sort of activity has to be put in the picture of the broader programs – propaganda, influence, cyber, even espionage – programs that the Chinese government has been sponsoring into Australia.”
The US senator Al Franken has resigned, becoming the highest ranking US politician yet to step down over allegations of sexual misconduct. Speaking on the Senate floor, Franken said: “All women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously.” But he said his response to the sexual misconduct allegations against him “gave some people the false impression that I was admitting doing things that I hadn’t done. Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember differently.” The Minnesota Democrat insisted: “Nothing I have done as a senator has brought dishonour on this institution.”
The chairman of a British bank has compared Bitcoin to Dante’s Inferno as the digital currency surged above $15,000. Sir Howard Davies, chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland, called on banking authorities around the world to launch a coordinated warning against investing in Bitcoin. “Put up the sign from Dante’s Inferno – ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here’ – I think that’s probably what’s needed,” Davies said. The cryptocurrency, which has increased in value by $3,500 in the space of a week, appeared to be a “frothy investment bubble”, he said. “Central banks are very anxious about it.”
Mitchell Starc has warned England to expect an even tougher time against Australia’s bowlers in the remaining Ashes Tests. Starc has taken 14 wickets in Australia’s back-to-back victories, and believes he and his team-mates are ready to step up another gear as the series moves on to Perth. “The exciting thing is our bowling group can still get better,” Starc said. The quality of Australia’s pace attack is one of the big lessons from the Ashes so far, writes Rob Smyth. “There are no weak links in Australia’s four-man attack; there aren’t even any average links.”
Football in Australia faces recriminations and fresh uncertainty on Friday after the surprise announcement that Fifa would not be taking over the administration of the game after all. The harsh critics of the Football Federation Australia chairman, Steven Lowy, will now be expected to work with him to resolve the crisis, despite the failure of mediation over many months.
While the white ibis has been the focus of controversy in the Guardian’s bird of the year poll, the brush turkey draws equal levels of love and loathing in Australian suburbs. But the loathing is misdirected, according to behavioural biologist Alicia Burns, who says the turkey is “one of the most remarkable birds on the planet”. She says scientists have studied the bird to get an idea of how the dinosaurs may have reared their young. “Which is to say – they don’t,” she writes. “Baby brush turkeys enter the world buried under a metre of compost and have to dig their way out on their own.”
A failed petition to remove a controversial Balthus painting from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is the latest worrying attempt to censor a work of art, writes Jonathan Jones. Liberals used to know where they stood on censorship – unequivocally on the side of artistic freedom – but now very often they are the ones calling for bans, Jones argues. “The case for artistic freedom is as clear cut now as it ever was. It needs to be stated unequivocally: censor art and you shrink the shared heritage and future of humanity. Who attacks art? Isis in Palmyra, that’s who.”
On Thursday more than 100 members of parliament joined 42 senators and nearly 8 million Australians to finally say “I do” to marriage equality. It has been a long journey to get to this point, and it hasn’t always been easy, says Alex Greenwich, “but Australians showed immense leadership in adversity, and the most dedicated volunteers and a skilled campaign team showed amazing professionalism and dignity to deliver a landslide victory for love.”
What’s he done now?
Fresh from setting the Middle East on fire, Donald Trump has moved on to recommending improving literature, in the shape of a biography of Andrew Jackson by the Fox News presenter Brian Kilmeade. It’s “really good”, Trump tweeted.
The long-awaited same-sex marriage vote dominates the front pages this morning, with most papers choosing the moment when Warren Entsch lifted Linda Burney off her feet in parliament as the defining image. The Canberra Times has one of the simplest but most effective treatments. Elsewhere the Australian reports that the tax commissioner, Chris Jordan, has “issued a passionate call to arms” for people to stop paying tradies in cash (passion may not be enough on that one). And the Courier-Mail has its daily prediction that the official outcome of the Queensland election is imminent, imploring the opposition leader, Tim Nicholls, to admit defeat.
The citizenship saga goes back to the high court today for a directions hearing on former senators Stephen Parry (Liberal), Jacqui Lambie (independent) and Sky Kakoschke-Moore (Nick Xenophon Team), while the joint standing committee on electoral matters holds hearings on possible changes to section 44.
Australia’s ambassador to the United States, Joe Hockey, will be speaking at the Australian National University on Australia-US relations and the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency.
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