First Thing: coronavirus has brought the US 'to its knees'

Tim Walker
Photograph: Callaghan O’Hare/Reuters

Good morning. Coronavirus hospital admissions hit record highs in seven US states on Tuesday, as case numbers continued to surge across much of the south and south-west. In Washington, the director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr Robert Redfield, told a congressional hearing that “one little virus” had exposed the paucity of the US’s public health infrastructure and “brought this nation to its knees” – adding that spending on the Covid-19 crisis would probably top $7bn.

At the same hearing, the infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci said officials had never been directed to slow their testing for the virus, contrary to Donald Trump’s recent claims. “In fact, we will be doing more testing,” Fauci said.

Don’t discount Trump’s re-election chances, say strategists

Trump inspects a section of his coveted border wall during a visit to Arizona on Tuesday. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty

His poll numbers have slumped disastrously. His response to the pandemic and the protests over George Floyd’s death have been widely criticised as pitiful. The economy is experiencing its worst months since the Great Depression. Yet Trump is still in with a chance of re-election, according to about a dozen veteran Republican strategists and operatives spoken to by the Guardian.

On Tuesday, Barack Obama warned Democrats against becoming “complacent or smug” about the presidential race, as he made his official return to the campaign trail – albeit in virtual form – joining Joe Biden for an online fundraising event and helping to secure some $11m in donations.

  • Trump’s brother is suing to block a book by his niece. Robert Trump reportedly filed a request for a temporary restraining order over Mary Trump’s forthcoming family memoir, which is said to describe “a nightmare of traumas, destructive relationships, and a tragic combination of neglect and abuse”.

Congressional partisanship is killing hopes for police reform

Mitch McConnell with fellow GOP senator Tim Scott, the author of a police reform bill described as ‘woefully inadequate’ by Democrats. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Hopes that serious police reform legislation may emerge from Congress before the November election appear to be fading, after House Democrats and Senate Republicans both vowed to block each other’s bills drafted in response to the nationwide protests over police brutality and racial injustice.

Washington’s failures have not deterred grassroots activists, however. University students across the US are demanding that their institutions sever ties with outside law enforcement agencies and divert campus policing funding to community-based alternatives, housing and mental health initiatives.

  • Online harassment of American minority groups had increased by 3% since 2018, even before the recent protests, according to a survey by the Anti-Defamation League.

  • Hollywood should divest from the police and invest in black communities: that’s the message of an open letter to the entertainment industry from about 300 black artists and executives, including Viola Davis and Idris Elba:

The way that Hollywood and mainstream media have contributed to the criminalization of Black people, the misrepresentation of the legal system, and the glorification of police corruption and violence has had dire consequences on Black lives.

Help us to investigate America’s water crisis

A bottled water brand manufactured and sold by Whole Foods contains potentially harmful levels of arsenic, new testing by Consumer Reports (CR) has found. The nonprofit organisation tested dozens of brands and found that Whole Foods’s Starkey spring water contained at least three times as much of the harmful chemical as every other bottled water brand in the study.

Though a single bottle of Starkey is unlikely to cause harm, say experts, regular consumption over extended periods could increase a person’s risk of serious health issues. That’s the latest finding from a a major new series by The Guardian, in partnership with CR and others, on America’s water crisis.

In other news…

Great reads

The Spanish conquistador statues that ‘celebrate genocide’

The battle over statues that commemorate problematic figures from US’s past has reached New Mexico, where Native Americans say effigies of the Spanish conquistadors glorify the subjugation and genocide of their ancestors. Samuel Gilbert reports from Santa Fe.

Richard Dreyfuss: ‘I don’t have any power as a movie star’

The star of Jaws and Close Encounters tells David Smith about coming up with Spielberg, his years of Hollywood hell-raising and his brush with the #MeToo movement: “She said I was using my power as a movie star… I don’t have any power as a movie star.”

How the US Postal Service lifted my family out of poverty

As a boy, David Ferguson would beg his mailman grandfather to take him out on his morning rounds in the Appalachian foothills. The US Postal Service gave their family and countless others a route into the middle class. Now, it is facing a fight for its life against the conservative ideologues who want to see it privatised.

Opinion: The US is China’s partner in persecuting the Uighurs

In his new book, John Bolton claims Trump told Xi Jinping he agreed with the Chinese leader’s mass internment of his country’s Uighur Muslims. Yet the US’s role in stoking Islamophobia in China began long before the Trump administration, says Sean R Roberts.

China shifted its discourse about suppressing Uighur dissent in late 2001, claiming that it was combating an international terrorist threat linked to al-Qaida, a justification that was endorsed by the international community.

Last Thing: end of the road for the Segway PT

A Segway tour group on the Mall in Washington DC. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

The Segway PT, whose creator claimed it would revolutionise personal transport, is to cease production in July after more than 20 years. The two-wheeled contraption – used mostly by tourists and security guards – has become best-known for its high-profile accidents, involving the likes of Usain Bolt and George W Bush.

Sign up

First Thing is delivered to thousands of inboxes every weekday. If you’re not already signed up, subscribe now.