Morning mail: European council president condemns 'capricious' Trump

Good morning, this is Eleanor Ainge Roy bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Thursday 17 May.

Top stories

The threat posed by Donald Trump’s administration has been likened to that of China and Russia by the European council president, Donald Tusk, as he condemned the US’s withdrawal from the Iran deal and the rising threat of a transatlantic trade war. Tusk offered a withering commentary on the chaotic US administration, saying: “We are witnessing today a new phenomenon: the capricious assertiveness of the American administration. Looking at the latest decisions of President Trump, some could even think, ‘With friends like that, who needs enemies?’”

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It was clear, Tusk suggested, that Washington could no longer be relied upon. He called on other European leaders to unite behind the tough line taken by the UK, France and Germany – Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel have resolved to stick with the joint comprehensive plan of action with Iran, despite the threats of US sanctions against European businesses.

Julian Assange’s intervention on Catalan independence created a rift between the WikiLeaks founder and the Ecuadorian government, which has hosted Assange for nearly six years in its London embassy, the Guardian has learned. Anonymous sources said Assange’s support for the Catalan separatists led to a backlash from Spain, which in turn angered Ecuador’s government, who responded by cutting Assange’s internet access in March for breaching an agreement not to interfere with other states. Ecuador has been looking to find a solution to what it increasingly sees as an untenable situation: hosting one of the world’s most wanted men.

A “lack of interest” in running for office has delayed the Liberal preselection in the Longman byelection, with party insiders shocked such a “winnable, potentially long-term seat” has attracted so few candidates. Meanwhile, Labor is positioning itself to ruin the Liberals’ chances of taking Mayo from the crossbencher Rebekha Sharkie, with plans to run a candidate in the conservative South Australian seat to boost Sharkie’s vote through preferences, a move that will be bolstered by the Greens.

The shadow environment minister, Tony Burke, has declared that Labor is not afraid to change the law as 371 local branches endorse a motion calling on the ALP to set up an independent agency responsible for proactive environmental protection. A grassroots campaign leading up to Labor’s national conference in July spearheaded by the activist group the Labor Environment Action Network is building support from rank-and-file members for the creation of a federal environmental protection agency, a regulator that could be the decision maker for approvals rather than the environment minister.

Water shortages are likely to be the key environmental challenge of this century, scientists from Nasa have warned, as a groundbreaking study reveals a drying-out of swaths of the globe between the tropics and the high latitudes. Nineteen areas have been identified where water depletion has been dramatic. Australia is among the global hotspots where overuse of resources has caused a serious decline. “What we are witnessing is major hydrologic change,” said James Famiglietti, of the Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

Sport

Heather Reid was the chief executive of the ACT football federation for 12 years and the first woman to lead an Australian state football association. At the time, Australian football had 11% women at state and territory leadership levels – one position out of nine. “I don’t like people talking about percentages of gendered representation,” she says. “I like to know the real numbers because they tell the true story.”

Today is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, and for the Australian rules footballer Hannah Mouncey, it offers a good chance to reflect on what the past six months have taught her.

Thinking time

Nijole Naujokas


“Writing about being on Centrelink payments is a frightening prospect,” says Nijole Naujoka in the first piece of a new Guardian Australia series in which we invite brave new writers to share the day-to-day challenges of living on the breadline. “I am very aware of the possible judgment and backlash I may get.” That fear of judgment is the theme of Naujoka’s first reflection on living on welfare in Australia.

“Since last week’s budget the treasurer, Scott Morrison, has been telling voters his $140bn income tax plan ‘deals with’ bracket creep,” writes Gareth Hutchens. “It doesn’t. It’s a proposed attempt to provide a temporary solution to the problem, not a permanent one.” Guardian Australia’s politics and economics correspondent argues that “the government could eradicate bracket creep if it wanted to, but it doesn’t. Neither does Labor. Both major parties have exploited it for decades and they don’t intend to stop. Why?”

The life coach and bestselling self-help writer Jen Sincero says she can make you a badass – but has it worked for her millions of readers, or is it just a modern twist on positive thinking? Sincero’s You Are a Badass is a bestseller in the US and is making waves in the UK, but her brand of straight-talking tough love aimed at helping you escape your “sucky life” and get rich can rub those in the psychology and wellbeing fields the wrong way.

What’s he done now?

Donald Trump has acknowledged for the first time that he made a payment of $100,000 to his lawyer Michael Cohen in 2016 – a payment that is understood to have been passed on to the porn star Stormy Daniels as hush money for staying quiet about her liaison with Trump. The information was contained in financial statements submitted by the president to the US Office of Government Ethics, CNN reports.

Media roundup

SMH front page

The information officer in the new home affairs super ministry ordered staff to delete information relating to a freedom of information request when he was employed at the NSW Transport Agency, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Police in Tasmania say vulnerable, low-level drug addicts are being used and abused by bikie gangs, and are forced to commit crimes and sex acts to repay drug debts, according to the Hobart Mercury. And the ABC reports that Australian women are being subject to outdated and invasive hysterectomies because gynaecologists have not upgraded their skills.

Coming up

The broadcaster Alan Jones is expected to take stand today in the lengthy defamation trial that he and his employer, Harbour Radio, and the journalist Nicholas Cater are defending against the Wagner family over broadcasts about the 2011 Lockyer Valley floods.

A record number of Melburnians will spend the night on the concrete floor of the Melbourne Cricket Ground in a show of support for young people experiencing homelessness in Victoria.

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