Good morning, this is Lauren Waldhuter bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Friday 18 September.
US president Donald Trump has been accused of sexual assault by a former model as the FBI has warned that Russia is interfering in the 2020 US presidential elections with a steady stream of misinformation aimed at undermining Democratic candidate Joe Biden. In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, Amy Dorris said Trump “shoved his tongue” down her throat while they were at the US Open tennis tournament more than two decades ago. Dorris – who was 24 at the time – said he held her in a grip she couldn’t escape from and began groping her. Trump has denied all the accusations via his lawyers.
Meanwhile FBI director Christopher Wray has told the Democratic-led House of Representatives’ homeland security committee in a hearing on Capitol Hill there has been a “steady drumbeat of misinformation” that could undermine confidence in the result of the 2020 election. He said the bureau had witnessed “very active efforts by the Russians to influence our election in 2020”, through social media, state media and the use of proxies. He said the Russians’ efforts were meant “primarily to denigrate vice-president Biden and what the Russians see as kind of an anti-Russian establishment”.
A flight cap fight is looming at national cabinet meeting today with Scott Morrison adamant that lifting the number of international arrivals is a “decision, not a proposal” that states must accept. Canberra is set to roll over the funding agreement for health services during the pandemic to entice state leaders to accept 2,000 more passengers each week. About 27,000 Australians are believed to be stranded overseas, unable to get flights home because of the strict caps. Western Australia’s premier, Mark McGowan, has already pushed back, saying leaders won’t be “treated like children”. In New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian says she is open to lifting her state’s intake, only if other states follow suit.
The NSW government has been ordered to redo world heritage assessments for the Warragamba Dam expansion that weren’t up to scratch. A leaked report found that WaterNSW did not adequately assess how the project could affect species such as the platypus and echidna. The document is the latest in a series of state and federal environmental assessments that have found significant deficiencies in the work carried out by the state government owned water agency.
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has personally taken credit for a $23m taxpayer-funded federal grant to build a stadium in Rockhampton. Labor has accused the Morrison government of helping One Nation and the LNP campaign together in the Queensland election.
Victoria’s former police chief has denied pushing the use of private guards for the state’s problematic hotel quarantine scheme. Text messages, shared at a public inquiry, reveal Graham Ashton believed it was part of a deal made by the premier’s department.
A damning audit has found that Australia’s political watchdog isn’t doing enough to punish donors that break the rules. The audit has urged the Australian Electoral Commission to take a much tougher approach.
The World Health Organisation has warned of “alarming” transmission rates of Covid-19 across Europe, which are now higher than during the pandemic’s peak. More than half of European countries reported case increases of 10% or more during the last fortnight.
California’s governor has issued a stark warning about climate change as unprecedented fires rage across America’s west coast. Smoke has now reached Europe from the blazes which governor Newson said were the result of a “human activity-induced” wildfire season. There’s hope forecast rain could help crews on the fireground in coming days.
A man found asleep at the wheel of a self-driving Tesla car in Canada has been charged with dangerous driving and speeding. Police say the car was doing 140km an hour down a highway in Alberta while its front seats were completely reclined and two occupants asleep.
JK Rowling says a villain in her new book – penned under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith – who wears women’s clothes is based on two real-life murderers. Rowling has been heavily criticised for her stance on trans issues and her new novel has sparked further accusations of transphobia.
It seems we’re getting better at talking about the death, shaking up our grieving ceremonials and letting in more light. It’s a fertile time for “death disruptors” – relative newcomers to the field who are breathing new life into death. Meet two women who are trying to scrap the “McFuneral” and provide more tailored experiences for families farewelling their loved ones. For Caitlin Wilks it meant considering whether her partner’s love of death metal could be incorporated into his memorial.
“Dear America, we too have seen red skies in Australia and we can tell you what happens next,” writes Brigid Delaney in a letter to those affected by huge wildfires ravaging the west coast of the US. It’s an uncomfortable and raw sense of empathy. “We too lost homes and loved ones, mourned ancient forests and wildlife, watched the sky and breathed the rancid air with tightened throats, and read the nightmarish dispatches from the frontlines also with tightened throats.”
At a Senate reef inquiry we saw Australian politicians show arrogance and ignorance, write three top scientists. Ian Chubb, Geoff Garrett and Ove Hoegh-Gulberg offer their take on the handling of the inquiry into the impact of water quality on the Great Barrier Reef. “It is beyond regrettable when [scientific] evidence is ignored or its weight diminished because it doesn’t fit the apparently predetermined view of a couple of Senators.”
Katharine Murphy and Adam Morton discuss the government’s gas plan. Scott Morrison has been talking about the importance of gas in Australia’s energy market since the beginning of the year – but his speech this week raised more questions than it answered.
Polish cyclist Michal Kwiatkowski has won stage 18 of the Tour de France in La Roche-sur-Foron after breaking clear with teammate Richard Carapaz. Overall leader Primoz Roglic maintained his hold on the yellow jersey.
Andy Murray has backed calls to remove Margaret Court’s name from the tennis arena at Melbourne Park. He says Court’s opposition to same-sex marriage and trans athletes are at odds with the game’s values.
The Australian reports that jobseeker recipients may have to look for eight jobs a month under a commonwealth plan to get 1.35 million people back to work. Police camera footage may soon be used as evidence in court to convict domestic violence offenders, The West Australian reports, as part of sweeping state law changes. The LNP could be preparing to preference the Greens and put Labor last in the upcoming October state election, according to a story in the Courier Mail.
National cabinet is meeting via teleconference with a focus on international flight caps.
Federal health department secretary Brendan Murphy and other senior bureaucrats are due to appear at aged care royal commission hearing.
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