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Sydney smoke crisis ‘longest on record’

Australian bushfires have caused unprecedented pollution in Sydney and along the country’s east coast, officials said yesterday, with smoke and dust burning residents’ eyes and prompting a spike in respiratory complaints. Hundreds of bushfires have burned out of control since September along the eastern seaboard, coveringFULL STORY

Canberra to probe foreign meddling via social media

Australia yesterday established an investigation into potential foreign political interference through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WeChat. The review comes amid heightened Australian concerns that China is seeking to interfere in Canberra’s affairs, and after US intelligence analysts found Russia had used socialFULL STORY

New Zealand says non-consensual sex in porn films influencing young people

More than a third of all pornography watched in New Zealand depicts non-consensual sexual activity, a study by the chief censor has found, in the first report of its kind on the country’s sexual viewing habits. Censor David Shanks said the findings were important because, increasingly,FULL STORY

Three charged in Australia’s largest crystal meth haul

Two customs agents and an information technology worker appeared in a court yesterday charged with drug offenses over Australia’s largest seizure of methamphetamine, which had been smuggled to Melbourne from Bangkok in stereo speakers. Police estimate the 1.6 tonnes of the drug, also known as iceFULL STORY

N Korea warns UN against provocation

North Korea on Wednesday told the UN Security Council that it would consider any discussion of the country’s human rights situation a “serious provocation” and that Pyongyang would “respond strongly.” North Korean Ambassador to the UN Kim Song delivered the warning in a letter. Diplomats said thatFULL STORY

N Korea says not just US can attack

North Korea on Wednesday warned that if the US uses military force against Pyongyang, it would take “prompt corresponding actions at any level,” in response to comments by US President Donald Trump. Asked about North Korea on the sidelines of a NATO summit in London onFULL STORY

S Korean son searches for hijacked dad 50 years on

Half a century ago a North Korean agent hijacked the flight carrying Hwang Won — Pyongyang never returned him to his family, but the search has defined his son’s life. Hwang In-cheol was just two when he last saw his father. He knows him only throughFULL STORY

Samoa commences measles lockdown

Samoa yesterday entered a two-day lockdown to carry out an unprecedented mass vaccination drive aimed at containing a devastating measles epidemic that has killed dozens of children in the Pacific island nation. As the death toll climbed to 62, officials ordered all businesses and non-essential governmentFULL STORY

Germany expels Russian diplomats over murder

Germany on Wednesday expelled two Russian diplomats over the brazen killing of a Georgian on the streets of Berlin in August, as prosecutors said evidence suggested that the slaying was ordered either by Moscow or the authorities in Chechnya. The allegation by the German Federal Prosecutor’sFULL STORY

Russian spies used alpine region as rear base: report

A group of more than a dozen Russian spies belonging to an elite unit of military intelligence that carried out operations in Europe, including the attempted poisoning of defector Sergei Skripal, used a French alpine region as a rear base, a report said on Wednesday. AnFULL STORY

Oldest European nuclear plant not yet ready to retire

Europe’s oldest functioning nuclear reactor, at Switzerland’s Beznau nuclear power plant, is to turn 50 next week — a life span deemed dangerously long by environmentalists, who are demanding that it be shut down immediately. Commercial operations began at the plant in the northern canton ofFULL STORY

Russian mercenaries fighting in civil war, UN-backed Libyan officials say

Officials in Libya’s UN-supported government say that they plan to confront Moscow over the alleged deployment of Russian mercenaries fighting alongside their opponents in the nation’s civil war. Libyan and US officials accuse Russia of deploying fighters through a private security contractor, Wagner Group, to keyFULL STORY

Three dead after Pearl Harbor shooting

A sailor on Wednesday shot three civilians, killing two of them, before taking his own life at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu just days before thousands were to gather at the storied military base to mark the 78th anniversary of the Japanese bombing thatFULL STORY

Melania Trump defends son after professor’s remark

US first lady Melania Trump on Wednesday rebuked an academic who used her 13-year-old son’s name to make a point during a hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry into her husband, US President Donald Trump. Constitutional law professor Pamela Karlan invoked Barron Trump to demonstrateFULL STORY

Austerity plays backdrop to ‘Brexit election’ in the UK

As record numbers of Britons are forced to use food banks and homelessness soars, for many people rampant poverty, not Brexit, is the main issue in next week’s general election. In Slough, west of London and just 6.4km from Queen Elizabeth II’s opulent Windsor Castle residence,FULL STORY

Prosecutors, victims urge Afghan war crimes probe

International prosecutors and victims of violence in Afghanistan on Wednesday began a “historic” appeal against a decision to block a probe into war crimes. The International Criminal Court (ICC) in April rejected a demand by its chief prosecutor to investigate crimes committed in the nation sinceFULL STORY

Climate simulations are mostly accurate: research

Computer models used to simulate what heat-trapping gases will do to global temperatures have been largely accurate in their predictions, a study published on Wednesday said. Climate scientist Zeke Hausfather tracked down 17 models used between 1970 and 2007 and found that the majority of themFULL STORY

Parker Solar Probe data arrives, gives researchers puzzle

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, having survived its closest encounter so far with the sun, has sent back a “spectacular trove” of data on its corona, the super-hot outer edge of the sun’s atmosphere, scientists said on Wednesday. The car-sized probe, launched in August last year, isFULL STORY

World News Quick Take

AUSTRALIA Wolf reignites Xmas row Naomi Wolf has reignited her row with Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor, publishing a recording of a heated telephone call with his office. The US author yesterday said that she called Taylor’s parliamentary office requesting a “formal correction” toFULL STORY

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