Morning mail: plane downed by Iran, bushfires flare, songbird discovery

Richard Parkin

Good morning, this is Richard Parkin bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Friday 10 January.

Top stories

The Ukrainian passenger jet that crashed in Tehran on Wednesday was accidentally shot down by Iran, western security officials believe. UK sources told the Guardian they had seen US intelligence that suggests an Iranian anti-aircraft missile was responsible, with US media also reporting that the signature from an Iranian anti-aircraft missile battery had been identified as active shortly before the aircraft crashed, killing all 176 on board. Iran’s aviation authority has confirmed it will give Ukrainian investigators access to the plane’s black boxes.

Residents in large areas of Victoria have again been advised to leave their homes, with “extreme” conditions throughout south-eastern Australia prompting concerns that at least two major fires could merge. NSW is also bracing for severe fire conditions, with temperatures forecast to reach more than 40C in large parts of the state, while in South Australia more than 200 firefighters are battling to contain a fire that has burned more than a third of Kangaroo Island. Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has extended the state of disaster declaration for 48 hours.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex defied instructions from the Queen in announcing their decision to step back from public life, media have claimed, with Buckingham Palace reportedly “blindsided” and senior family members left “disappointed” and “hurt”. Wednesday’s announcement sparked a ferocious response from tabloid media, with some claiming “Megxit” left Prince Charles and William “incandescent with rage”. Readers have shown themselves more sympathetic, with one stating: “The British newspapers have unfairly targeted Meghan Markle since the wedding.”

Australia

Australia wants to try Malka Leifer (right) on 74 sexual assault charges. Photograph: Mahmoud Illean/AP

A psychiatric panel in Israel has found alleged child sex abuser Malka Leifer fit to stand trial and accused her of faking mental illness to avoid extradition, according to her lawyers. Leifer’s alleged victims immediately welcomed the latest development in the five-year Jerusalem court case, which has strained relations between Israel and Australia.

Australians will continue to fly into airspace around Iran that has been blacklisted by US authorities, with Qantas beholden to code-sharing arrangements with Etihad and Emirates for services departing Melbourne and Sydney.

A disability pensioner has told a Melbourne court three police officers punched, pepper-sprayed and hosed him like a “dog”, with the trio facing unlawful assault charges.

The world

Police officers and a forensic technician work at the scene at the Pharr-Reynosa international bridge where a Mexican asylum seeker killed himself after being denied entry into the US. Photograph: STRINGER/Reuters

A Mexican asylum seeker has taken his own life on a bridge across the Rio Grande after being refused entry to the US, in an incident highlighting the often desperate plights of those being turned away by Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigration.

Ten new songbird species and subspecies have been identified on a trio of previously under-explored Indonesian islands in the largest discovery of its kind in more than a century, according to a new study.

An Interpol red notice has been issued for fugitive businessman Carlos Ghosn, with Japan’s justice minister condemning the former Nissan boss’s dramatic escape to Lebanon.

One of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro’s most provocative loyalists is under fire, with the education minister, Abraham Weintraub – responsible for the schooling of millions – being ridiculed for a series of humiliating spelling howlers.

Recommended reads

The Clash’s Mick Jones and Joe Strummer perform in California in March 1980. Photograph: Larry Hulst/Getty Images

They were the genre-hopping punks at the vanguard of British punk rock, but 40 years after their seminal album, London Calling, what are the Clash’s best hits? From their first single, White Riot, to detailing police harassment in The Guns of Brixton, Dave Simpson runs the rule over tracks from Rock the Casbah to I Fought the Law.

As Australia burns, the sheer mendacity of the Morrison government has confronted many people, but for First Nations people, it comes as little surprise that those tasked with responsibility for the bushfires would be fluid with the truth, writes Luke Pearson. “Within my lifetime, I have seen the same lies play out to justify the Northern Territory intervention, to attack land rights, to justify inaction on climate change, to deny the stolen generations ever happened.”

View

All aboard Australia’s Elvis Express – in pictures. The Parkes Elvis festival is held every year in the second week in January in New South Wales. Now in its 28th year, the festival continues to grow – with more than 200 events across five days.

Sport

Nick Kyrgios lifts teammate Alex de Minaur after their quarter-final win against Great Britain. Photograph: William West/AFP via Getty Images

A thrilling last-eight win against Great Britain has seen Australia through to Saturday’s ATP Cup semi-final, after Nick Kyrgios and Alex de Minaur won the decisive doubles rubber against England’s Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury. Either Belgium or Rafael Nadal’s Spain await.

The F1 year is young, but Max Verstappen may have just given Red Bull the boost it needs. Announcing his re-signing with the underperforming team might suggest engine supplier Honda is ready to mount a title challenge, writes Giles Richards.

And, it’s Friday – which means David Squires ... on Newcastle Jets and the Ernie Merrick circus.

Media roundup

Kangaroo Island’s internationally regarded honey industry is under threat as beekeepers race to save remaining hives, reports the Advertiser. The Ligurian bees, introduced from Italy in the 1880s, have seen their numbers decimated by recent fires. A Melbourne underworld figure associated with the Comancheros bikie gang has been shot dead outside a public restaurant on Thursday night, the Age states. And the carcass of a half-eaten shark has washed ashore on Bribie Island, writes the Courier Mail, prompting locals to wonder: how big’s the shark that got it.

Coming up

Gavin Dallow, an Adelaide lawyer who died when New Zealand’s White Island volcano erupted last month, is set to be farewelled at a funeral service in his hometown.

Protests are planned around the country for increased funding for firefighters, relief and aid for fire-affected communities and a rapid transition away from fossil fuels.

And if you’ve read this far …

They’re one of the world’s most mysterious animals – but what makes cuttlefish so lethal at hunting prey? Well, thanks to researchers with a pair of 3D glasses (and too much time on their hands), now we know.

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