Morning mail: Isis claims Sri Lanka attacks, Kushner writes off Mueller, veterans’ funding | Australia news

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Good morning, this is Helen Sullivan bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Wednesday 24 April.

Top stories

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka that killed more than 320 people. The claim from Isis came as Sri Lankan authorities were put under further pressure by reports that they had received repeated warnings from Indian intelligence services about a potential suicide attack against churches. It is the deadliest overseas operation claimed by Isis since it proclaimed its “caliphate” almost five years ago, and suggests it retains the ability to launch devastating strikes around the world despite multiple defeats in the Middle East. The Isis claim was not unexpected, Jason Burke writes. The attacks had all the hallmarks of a “subcontracted” operation, in which a “weak but motivated local group” receives logistical assistance, tactical advice and possibly training from an international network.

US detention centres that hold migrant parents and children have been nearly empty for months, despite Donald Trump’s administration repeatedly warning that the US-Mexico border is at “breaking point” because of the surge in Central American families fleeing poverty and violence. Meanwhile, Jared Kushner has played down Russian interference in the 2016 US election, describing Moscow’s attack as “a bunch of Facebook ads” and calling Robert Mueller’s two-year investigation “a big distraction”.

The Coalition has promised to spend $63m on veterans’ initiatives, including wellbeing centres and employment assistance. Scott Morrison will announce the funding today before tomorrow’s campaign hiatus for Anzac Day. The package includes $30m for veterans’ wellbeing centres, with $5m for new locations in Darwin, Nowra, Wodonga, Adelaide and Perth, and to support the existing Oasis in Townsville. In November the Coalition pledged $498m for the redevelopment of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Labor offered bipartisan support for the upgrade, despite criticism that the memorial is already well funded and the RSL calling for spending to be matched by an investment in veterans.


Theresa May

Theresa May after the Easter service at her local church. Photograph: David Hartley/Rex/Shutterstock

Theresa May is preparing to give MPs a vote on the key piece of legislation enacting Britain’s exit from the EU next week, as Labour has accused her of failing to offer any substantive changes to her Brexit deal in cross-party talks, and Downing Street’s hopes of a breakthrough in time to avoid taking part in European elections waned.

The UN has backed a resolution on combating rape in conflict, but excluded references in the text to sexual and reproductive health to appease the US’s hardline abortion stance.

Climbers have been brought in to unfurl protective tarpaulins over Notre Dame to protect it from the rain after last week’s fire left the Parisian cathedral open to the elements.

Supporters of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi have claimed victory after almost 90% of Egyptian voters backed sweeping constitutional changes that could result in him ruling until 2030. Sisi renewed his mandate last year with 97.8% of the vote, amid reports of vote buying in poor neighbourhoods.

Malawi has begun immunising young children against malaria in a landmark large-scale pilot of the first vaccine to give partial protection against the disease, the World Health Organization said.

Opinion and analysis

Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg is applauded after addressing UK politicians, media and guests. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images

“I was fortunate to be born in a time and place where everyone told us to dream big; I could become whatever I wanted to, Greta Thunberg told British MPs, before condemning the UK’s climate stance. “We had everything we could ever wish for and yet now we may have nothing. Now we probably don’t even have a future any more. Because that future was sold so that a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money. It was stolen from us every time you said that the sky was the limit, and that you only live once … And the saddest thing is that most children are not even aware of the fate that awaits us. We will not understand it until it’s too late.” Read her full speech. And Ian Birrell writes that Thunberg offers another powerful message – about autism.

Most of the social media we are in thrall to eventually disgusts us, writes Brigid Delaney.Facebook: so fun, so innocent in 2008. Only a few short years later it became like walking into an ongoing, never ending, tedious high school reunion.” But lately, she’s found whimsy, intimacy, stalkers and crushes in Insta stories. She creates a shrine to her day there and people only visit if they want to, a strong contrast to Facebook and Twitter, which have become the Bad Places.


With a raft of off-season changes to the Super Netball clubs, 2019 is shaping up to be the most unpredictable season yet. The third instalment of the world’s premier netball league begins on Saturday with a double header in Melbourne. Here’s your guide to the season.

The world No 1 snooker player, Ronnie O’Sullivan, has been knocked out of the world championship in a stunning upset by James Cahill, a 23-year-old amateur. Cahill admitted he “could barely stand up” owing to nerves at the end of his staggering 10-8 victory.

Thinking time: The rape trial that galvanised Spain’s feminists – and the far right

'Wolf pack' demonstration

Protesters carry a banner reading ‘We are the wolf pack. It not abuse, it is rape’ during a demonstration in Madrid. Photograph: Pablo Blázquez Domínguez/Getty Images

In the early hours of 7 July 2016, surrounded by throngs of revellers dancing and drinking, an 18-year-old woman suddenly found herself alone. She was standing on Plaza del Castillo, a square in the centre of the northern Spanish city of Pamplona, which was hosting its annual festival, the running of the bulls. As she would later testify in court, she nudged her way past the crowds to a bench on the edge of the square to get her bearings. There, on the bench, a man struck up conversation with her. His name was José Ángel Prenda, a 26-year-old from Seville with a broad face and a paunchy stomach across which he had inked his name in large, gothic script.

Prenda had come to the festival with a group of friends, four men in their mid-20s, who called themselves la manada – the wolf pack. The events of that night would become known as the “wolf pack” case. For the next two years, as the trial approached and more and more details seeped into the press, the story would rarely be out of the headlines.

For many women across the country, even before the verdict arrived, the case had been a moment of reckoning, which laid bare a deep culture of misogyny in Spanish society. But it wasn’t just a transformative moment for feminists – it also became a rallying point for the far right.

Media roundup

The Australian reports that Scott Morrison is “on the verge of securing a preference deal with Clive Palmer that would all but guarantee the Queensland billionaire a Senate spot and help ring-fence marginal seats the Coalition must hold to retain government”. The Daily Telegraph reveals in its front-page splash that 3 million Australians are on antidepressants. The Sydney Morning Herald and the Age lead with the news that Labor has promised to offer 2.6 million casual workers an easier pathway to permanent employment.

Coming up

Bill Shorten remains in Queensland, campaigning in the seat of Herbert, with the focus still on wages, while Scott Morrison is expected to be in Darwin today.

The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, will address the National Armenian Genocide Commemoration, marking the 104th anniversary of the genocide of the Armenians and other Christian minorities in the Ottoman empire during the first world war.

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