Morning mail: midterm clashes, Pacific soft power, thoroughly modern chess champ – The Guardian


Good morning, this is Eleanor Ainge Roy bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Thursday 8 November.

Top stories

The US 2018 midterm election is still not entirely over, with more ballots to be counted in the coming days and weeks. As things stand the Democrats control the House but the Republicans control the Senate, and a “blue wave” did not eventuate – although a pink one did, with more women elected than ever before. Checks and balances for the Republicans are coming, writes Ben Jacobs, with Democrats already firing up to launch a slew of inquiries into Trump’s tax returns and links with Russia. But the president still looks in a position to win the 2020 election, and told a press conference “I am a great moral leader”, before clashing with reporters and calling an African American journalist “racist”.

Read our analysis of how this historically divisive election has changed the political landscape, and how it will affect the Mueller investigation, the border wall, the economy, healthcare, climate change policy and redistricting. The Democrats are now in a position to create a dam, writes Gary Younge, and for the first time since Trump’s election there is the potential for resistance to move from the streets to Congress. Democrats won the popular vote by more than 8% nationally so, no matter what the president says, this is not the win he was hoping for.

As Scott Morrison’s “Sco-mobile” ghost bus has made its way northwards, so too have the Coalition’s hopes of retaining crucial electorates. LNP sources confirm Morrison’s elevation to prime minister alone has put Queensland “back in play”, with early internal polling showing marginal electorates all but written off by the government under Malcolm Turnbull’s tenure as PM once again considered “competitive”. Morrison’s four-day tour of Queensland, from the south-east to Townsville, has been seen as the start of the pseudo-election campaign, with the north crucial to any chance the government has of remaining in power.

Domestic violence services in Victoria fear that the royal commission into family violence will have been “an incredible waste of resources and opportunity”, if the state’s opposition doesn’t commit to implement all 227 recommendations. Victoria’s minister for the prevention of family violence, Natalie Hutchins, says she is furious that her Liberal counterpart, Georgie Crozier, told a domestic violence forum that if elected her party would need further consultation with experts before implementing the recommendations. “It makes me angry that they [the Liberal party] say they need to consult with more experts first, but we had every expert in the sector in the room during the royal commission,” Hutchins told Guardian Australia.

The world’s “oldest figurative painting” has been discovered in a Borneo cave, with analysis suggesting that the animal drawings are at least 40,000 years old. Three beasts believed to be wild cattle adorn the walls of the Lubang Jeriji Saléh cave in the East Kalimantan province – and they are 4,500 years older than depictions of animals that adorn cave walls on the neighbouring island of Sulawesi. There is still room for doubt, scientists say, although the work suggests that figurative art may have emerged in south-east Asia and Europe at about the same time, and remained in step when it shifted from depicting animals to the human world.

Scott Morrison will unveil a $2bn infrastructure financing facility for the Pacific in an attempt to project Australia as the region’s principal security and development partner at a time of rising Chinese influence. Morrison will use a speech at the Lavarack Barracks in Townsville on Thursday to flag the new program of loans and grants for infrastructure development in Pacific countries and Timor-Leste, and the prime minister is also expected to commit an extra $1bn for Australia’s export financing agency. Thursday’s speech will also flag soft-power initiatives, including getting more Australian content on Pacific television, and opening diplomatic missions in Palau, the Marshall Islands, French Polynesia, Niue and the Cook Islands. It will also propose security commitments, such as an Australian defence force mobile training team for the Pacific, more navy deployments and annual meetings between defence, police and border security commanders.

Sport

For the first time since 2009, the Australian women’s cricket team’s cabinet is empty. No World Cup. No World T20 trophy. Just the recognition of being the top-ranked team in the world in both formats. But preparations leading up to the start of this week’s World T20 tournament have run smoothly and Matthew Mott’s side now feel they have unfinished business to attend to in the Caribbean, writes former Southern Stars captain Lisa Sthalekar.

Chess has fallen almost completely from the US public eye in the four decades since Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky waged their cold war proxy battle in Reykjavik. But a new chess star is rising, and millennial Magnus Carlsen is thoroughly modern in his use of hip-hop and yoga in his training routine.

Thinking time

South Africa’s Reeza Hendricks walks off as Australian players celebrate claiming his wicket



Seven in 10 Australian households could not watch Sunday’s one-day international cricket match between Australia and South Africa because only about three in 10 subscribe to the pay TV service Foxtel, which had exclusive broadcasting rights. It is the first time that an ODI involving Australia on Australian soil has not been available on free-to-air TV. Disenfranchised cricket viewers may wonder how this happened, writes Rodney Tiffen. Foxtel has done well out of the tenure of the communications minister, Mitch Fifield, but Australian sports lovers are missing out.

Our fashion choices always reveal something about us, writes Hadley Freeman, even if that revelation is an aversion to any clothing that isn’t jeans and trainers. In the 1990s Julia Roberts unwittingly made a decade-defining fashion statement by attending a movie premiere with unshaven armpits. What did her choice reveal about her inner life, and are we doomed to self-expression by outfit for the rest of our life? Freeman explores.

Whether you will have enough money to retire in comfort is a concern for many Australians. A new report suggests we might be worrying for nothing, but that only seems to be true for homeowners, says Greg Jericho. “That suggests a wave of retirement problems coming down the track. The report found that those in their 40s who are renters will have a much lower retirement income compared with homeowners across all levels of income.”

Media roundup

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The Canberra Times splashes with increasing levels of violence against teachers in ACT schools, with six teachers reporting violent encounters in their classrooms every day. “Hour of Terror” is the front-page headline of the NT News, with the paper reporting on an hour-long riot at Don Dale youth detention facility, which saw guards barricade themselves in their office. And businesses in north Queensland are calling out for a crackdown on sharks, with many tourists now too scared to enter the water after a spate of attacks, the Courier-Mail reports.

Coming up

Malcolm Turnbull will return to the ABC’s Q&A program for his first major interview since losing the prime ministership. He has remained in the public spotlight intermittently but has not made a substantial commentary since his final press conference in Canberra in August.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will give its ruling on whether the proposed merger between Fairfax Media and Channel Nine is likely to substantially lessen competition in Australia’s media market.

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